Speaking in Tongues: Its Power and My Dilemma


Paidion, what a coincidence! I grew up in Calvary Temple and recall a similar rebuke, but not the later vindication. I wonder if I knew your sister! In any cases, much of what I have and will report in this thread either happened in that church or in programs sponsored by it.
Even one of my reported humorous church incidents happened there!

(1) Modern speaking in tongues can at times express modern languages. At age 19, a street witnessing organization called “Youth with a Mission” [YWAM] came to Calvary Temple and I joined them in their bus journey through Toronto and Montreal. YWAM’s founder, Loren Cunningham, drove the bus and he shared this testimony with me. He and his group were traveling through the Amazon with a translator, who did not understand the language of a tribe they encountered. At one point, Loren was approached by a woman with severe cataracts and he was given a message in tongues in her language and she was instantly healed! Loren said that this miracle opened an evangelistic door there, but I don’t recall the details of how this developed.

(2) At Calvary Temple, I learned about a similar example of xenoglossy in a sister church in Saskatchewan. A family received a message in tongues in Swahili, the language of the remote tribe where their daughter had been very sick, but could not be contacted. An African present in the meeting confirmed that the message in tongues was in Swahili. It confirmed that the daughter was OK and would return home soon.

(3) In his book “Jesus in Beijing,” NYT reporter David Aikman reports a message in tongues in Hebrew in a Pentecostal church in Amonte, CA. The preacher’s wife who gave the message didn’t know Hebrew, but the message was understood by a visiting American Jew. It called Dennis Balcombe to be a missionary to China. After a military stint in Vietnam, Dennis learned Cantonese and got involved in Bible smuggling into China. Eventually, he agreed to secretly visit house churches there, at time being carried in a coffin and at other times disguised in woman’s clothes. The result? 80 million illegal Chinese charismatic house church Christians in one of the greatest revivals of all time. Sometimes, the Holy Spirit just fell on the Chinese without prayer or the laying on of hands and they just burst into tongues! Such examples could be multiplied.

But as I said, I’d estimate that only 10% of tongues manifestations are authentic, and so, this manifestation has not fared well in scientific linguistic research into this phenomenon. Most of the time, Pentecostal churches lack the linguistic diversity to determine whether human languages are being uttered. But that is not the decisive factor that determines whether speaking in tongues is authentic. It can be gibberish from our perspective or, as Paul believes, angelic speech.


Just a plug for the TV show of Katie Souza Ministries, from the UK. I find her interesting and she appears occasionally, on a TV ministry. She is heavily into, the gits of the spirit. And came out of prison, as a former drug user.

Katie was a career criminal most of her life, was convicted on a number of felonies and sent to federal prison for twelve years. While serving what would be her final prison sentence, Katie encountered God in a way that forever changed her life. In 2003 the Lord miraculously released Katie from prison 7 years early. A year later she married her husband Robert and together began building what is now an International Prison Ministry serving over 3500 prisons and more than a half million inmates world wide!

Here’s an article from today’s email:


Expanding on this point of two types of tongues: first, there is a “Gift” of Tongues, imparted to few, used to prophetically communicate from God to man (needing interpretation into the vernacular language); and second, there is a “devotional” tongues, adjured for all, used to communicate from man to God:

Two Categories of Tongues-Speaking

  1. Tongues-Speaking as Prophecy

Also referred to as “The Gift of Tongues,” this manifestation of the Holy Spirit allows God to speak to man. In other words, the communication is coming down from Heaven to earth.

This gift is always to be accompanied by the Gift of Interpretation of Tongues. The pair of gifts, in concert, is functionally equivalent to the gift of prophecy:

1 Corinthians 14:5-6, 13
He who prophesies is greater than one who speaks in tongues, unless he interprets, so that the church may be edified.
Now, brothers, if I come to you and speak in tongues, what good will I be to you, unless I [successfully] bring you some revelation or knowledge or prophecy or word of instruction [down from Heaven to earth]? … 13 For this reason anyone who speaks in a tongue should pray that he may interpret what he says.

If there is no one with the Gift of Interpretation present in the assembly, then the person with the Gift of Tongues is not to raise his voice in utterance; he is to be quiet. His use of this gift by itself is inappropriate, and would cause confusion.

As is the case with the other gifts of the Holy Spirit, the Gift of Tongues is not given to all Christians:

1 Corinthians 12:11-12
All these [gifts] are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he gives them to each one, just as he determines. The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body. So it is with Christ.

  1. Tongues-Speaking as Prayer

In complete distinction to tongues-speaking as prophecy, when people pray in tongues, they are praying directly to God in the Holy Spirit. This gift allows man to speak to God with supernatural fluency. In other words, the communication is going up from earth to Heaven.

Resident in all believers who have been baptized in the Holy Spirit is this self-edifying capacity to pray perfect prayers, beyond our natural understanding, through the supernatural aid of the Holy Spirit.

When we pray in tongues, the language used is unknown to us, perhaps precisely to prevent our intellect from being an obstacle to God’s Spirit engaging with our spirit (although we should certainly have a sense of our own focus in prayer and thanksgiving, viz. 1 Cor. 14:15; Eph. 6:18). Stepping out in faith for the initial manifestation may require an extra measure of grace—and humility.

Of this type of tongues, Paul makes this clarification,

I thank God that I speak in tongues more than all of you [in private]. But in the church…(1 Corinthians 14:18-19).

Consider well: probably the greatest Christian leader of all time was the chief tongues-speaker of his day. Does his frequent self-edification by praying in tongues perhaps account for his biblical eminence?

This blessed capacity to pray in tongues is also referred to as “praying in the Spirit.”

Christians are commanded:

And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. (Ephesians 6:18)

And elsewhere:

But you, dear friends, build yourselves up in your most holy faith and pray in the Holy Spirit. (Jude 1:20)

Speaking to God in a tongue unknown to us is the same thing as “praying in the Spirit.”

For anyone who speaks in a tongue does not speak to men but to God (1 Corinthians 14:2).

If you are praising God with your spirit, how can one who finds himself among those who do not understand say “Amen” to your thanksgiving, since he does not know what you are saying? (1 Corinthians 14:16)

Clearly, there still exists today the same confusion as at Corinth—confusion which prompted Paul to write and clarify the distinction between the appropriate use of tongues as prayer, versus tongues (with interpretation) as prophecy!

To reiterate: The terms “praying in tongues” and “praying in the spirit” are synonymous.

PLEASE take note: “…If I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays…” (1 Cor. 14:14).

Can a genuine Christian be demonized?

My sister’s name was Lorraine.

I am familiar with YWAM. My friend Jürgen Schmutz was involved with them. But that was not so long ago, so you probably have not met him.


I have shared the life-changing contribution that praying in tongues has made in my life. But here is another neglected function of this gift:

“Likewise, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we don’t know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes for us with groanings to deep for words (Greek: “stenagmoi alaletoi”)….The Spirit intercedes for us according to the will of God (Romans 8:26-27).”

The Latin equivalent of “stenagmoi alatetoi” can be determined by the Latin translation of 8:26 in the Vulgate. One of Paul’s contemporaries, Lucan (Civil Wars), uses the Latin equivalent of this phrase as an allusion to the groaned gibberish uttered by the prophetess of Delphi that needs a male prophet’s gift of interpretation to be expressed as a coherent divine message. So prayer in tongues is a way to “pray in the Spirit” (Ephesians 6:18) and thus a way for the Spirit to guide the flow of our incoherent prayers, so that we pray for what God wants us to pray rather then for our notion of God’s will at a given moment. In this way, praying in tongues can makes intercessory prayer more effective.

The meaning of obscure ancient Greek expressions must be determined by the use of such phrases in the culture of the period. I presented an academic paper on this in a NT doctoral seminar and my [non-Charismatic] professors agreed with my thesis.


Consider this argument that Christian should strive to speak in tongues. How to do this striving will be the subject of another post.

  1. Paul twice commands us to “strive for spiritual gifts (12:31; 14:1)” and, in both cases, then focuses on the gifts of speaking in tongues and prophecy. The obvious implication is that speaking in tongues is one of the gifts that must be an object of our spiritual striving.

  2. But does 12:29-30 imply that gifts like tongues and prophecy are not available to every believer? No, Paul is simply alluding to actual participation in these gifts. Indeed, he goes on to say, “Strive…especially that you may prophesy (14:1)” and “you can all prophesy one by one (14:31).” Similarly, Paul wants us all to speak in tongues (14:5) and adds, “I thank God that I speak in tongues more than you all (14:18).” In other words, we should strive to speak in tongues and prophesy because those 2 gifts are for every believer. Paul’s expressed preference for prophecy applies only to the context of corporate worship in which outsiders are present who might take offense at speaking in tongues (14:5).

  3. Paul commands us to “pray in the Spirit (Ephesians 6:18),” i. e. pray with the Spirit’s direction, and praying in tongues is his example of what this means (1 Corinthians 14:15).

  4. In 1 Corinthians Paul commands us: “Be imitators of me (4:16).” Such imitation includes demonstrated spiritual power: “I will find out not the talk of these arrogant people, but their power. For the kingdom of God depends not on talk but on power (4:9-20).” Paul has in mind the power that derives from exercising spiritual gifts, not from personal charisma.

  5. To avoid Paul’s directives about these spiritual gifts is to risk blasphemy against the Holy Spirit by acting as if some of the Spirit’s gifts are of little value.


Pentecostals often seek to speak in tongues as a drug-like spiritual high, and when they do, they develop the same kind of openness as people playing with a Ouija board. The problem with Ouija boards is that you never know what is coming through–your unconscious, a discarnate spirit, a demon, etc. The dean of our school of education once asked me what I thought of such boards. I replied that demonic entities sometimes come through. The dean was disturbed by this reply because, the preceding night, the education faculty had been playing with a Ouija board at a party, when a demonic entity had taken over and begun talking about Hell. Pentecostals often pride themselves in their deliverance ministries, but these ministries often exorcise evil spirits that have possessed believers through their wrongly motivated pursuit of tongues.

Yet just occasionally, Ouija boards can be the means of genuine contact with the dead. Harvard professor William James is considered by many the father of modern psychology. He was a good friend of Prof. James Hyslop of Columbia U. Both men had studied parapsychology and pledged that whoever died first would try to contact the other from beyond the grave to verify that he was still alive. WJ died first and, since a year passed with no contact, Hyslop thought contact would never be made.

But then Hyslop was contacted by an unknown couple in Ireland. They had been playing with their Ouija Board, when an insistent message from a William James came through: “Find James Hyslop and give him this message: remember the red pyjamas!” The Irish couple had dismissed this message as too weird, but it was continually repeated and this made them curious enough to research the names. At first, Hyslop dismissed this message as nonsense, but then he recalled an academic conference he and WJ had attended in Paris. It was a cold wintry day when they arrived and Hyslop had forgotten to bring pyjamas. The only kind he could find were a gaudy red pair and WJ had mercilessly teased him about his loud taste. Evidently WJ had been trying for a year to communicate this to Hyslop because it was so concrete and therefore hard for Hyslop’s unconscious to distort. So WJ apparently succeeded where Houdini had failed to keep a promise of postmortem contact.


I know folks here, would be GREATLY disappointed…if I didn’t share the non-denominational site, Got Questions perspective:

And even the Calvinist site CARM perspective:

Can a Christian use a Ouija board?


When I was a boy, I was mesmerized by the interpretations of tongues during our Communion services. The Risen Lord was allegedly speaking eloquently to our congregation. I thought these messages should be recorded and collected for further reflection. So I asked an elder if this was being done and he said No, adding, “Messages in tongues bring inspiration and excitement to our services, but they shouldn’t be taken too seriously because they’re not Scripture.” My response: “They either come from Jesus, like they purport, or they don’t. If they don’t, they should be banned as false revelation. But if they do, they should be revered, recorded, and later studied.” I concluded from his remarks, that even many Pentecostals don’t actually believe that these messages from tongues come from the Lord–and they don’t even recognize their skepticism about this fact.


This is not my experience. Praying in tongues has always sharpened my thinking and praying. My dullness comes from neglecting tongues, not overindulging. Indeed, I would argue it is impossible to overuse this capacity, since it is our spirit praying perfect prayers under the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

As I mentioned above:

Tongues being misused? Yes, when causing distraction or confusion to other people. But overused? No: underused; neglected; misunderstood; wrongly rejected.

Sorry to seem disagreeable, Berserk, but here again…I must disagree.

I believe occult techniques are prohibited by the Holy Spirit for our own good.

I don’t care if it’s channeling, or past lives regression, or Ouija boards, these occult techniques are inspired by demons. And all evil spirits are lying spirits. These fallen angels observe us, and may try to influence us and capture us, even with amazing and genuine information:

17 She followed Paul and the rest of us, shouting, “These men are servants of the Most High God, who are telling you the way to be saved.”

18 She kept this up for many days. Finally Paul became so annoyed that he turned around and said to the spirit, “In the name of Jesus Christ I command you to come out of her!” At that moment the spirit left her.

19 When her owners realized that their hope of making money was gone, they seized Paul and Silas and dragged them into the marketplace to face the authorities.

Acts 16:17-19.

(Thanks for the links warning about Ouija boards, Holy-Fool-P-Zombie.)

PS Seeking to be contacted and counseled by deceased saints, who dwell in heaven (or who are purported to surround us here on earth, à la, ‘the great cloud of witnesses’ of Hebrews 12:1), seems to be all the rage in some charismatic circles. But again, I think this trend is deceptive and most probably demonic.


The essence of evil deception is tell the truth to set up a lie. That is what the Serpent did in the Garden. The Ouija board can be the source of astounding authentic contact with the dead. But this authenticity can quickly become just a deceptive tool to draw seekers into deception.

In my experience 90% of charismatic manifestations are of the flesh, but the 10% that are authentic still make the quest for spiritual gifts eminently worthwhile. Spurious tongues can do more harm than good, though, and can lead to cynicism and disillusionment with the Christian faith by raising questions about the work of the Holy Spirit in general.

A major reason why most glossolalia is of the flesh is the way seekers are pressed “to just speak it out.” People have short attention spans and are unwilling to spend lengthy periods in prayer vigils to receive the Spirit’s gifts. So they are admonished, “Just step out in faith, speak it out, and the Spirit will take over your tongue.” Well, the Spirit doesn’t jump just because we crack our whip! And it is the Spirit Who chooses the time and place of our blessing. By forgetting this, and impatiently speaking prematurely in tongues, most Pentecostals succumb to the flesh and utter uninspired gibberish.


I’m reading a very good book on tongues right now. The author’s thesis is that biblical tongues are always human languages, NEVER gibberish. I highly recommend it. https://www.amazon.com/Tongues-Confused-Confusing-Historical-Perspective/dp/0980870364?keywords=david+swincer+tongues&qid=1534529858&sr=8-1-spell&ref=mp_s_a_1_1


3 points in reply:

(1) If you read the learned article on glossai in Kittel’s massive multi-volume Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, you will find ancient examples of the use of glossai as a reference to the gibberish spoken by the Delphic prophetess that need to be interpreted by a male prophet. As a reference to ecstatic speech, glossai need not refer to human languages. And that is the cultural background of Corinthian glossolalia.

(2) As many scholarly commentaries recognize, Paul identies tongues as “angel language” in 1 Corinthians 13:1 and thus labels Corinthian tongues speakers as “zealots of spirits” in 14:12. “Spirits” is a standard term for “angels” (see Hebrews 1;7).

(3) The tongues spoken at Pentecost are not normative for later examples of tongues. The tongues in Acts 2 are label “prophesying” because they are understood by outside observers. The tongues elsewhere (Acts 19:6 and 1 Cor 12 and 14 are carefully distinguished from prophesying and are therefore gibberish as far as the speaker knows. Remember, the tongues spoken in Cornelius’s house (10:44-47) and at Ephesus (19:1-6) are neither understood nor interpreted and are therefore gibberish to the speakers. But Paul interprets his gibberish as angel speech (1 Cor 13:1; 14:12).

Orb course, I have given examples in which some modern tongues are known human languages.


NEVER! Rather demons occasionally impersonate some deceased person.

What follows is a true story. My sister-in-law had a friend—we’ll call her Susan. One day, Susan went to her friend’s house for a visit—we’ll call her friend “Betty.” Susan and Betty didn’t have anything to do, and so they thought they would fool around with the Ouiji board that belonged to Betty’s mother. To their amazement, words were spelled that the girls hadn’t deliberately made. A supposedly deceased person gave his name and the years in which he lived. They looked the name up in a history book and found it! —though it was in modern spelling in the history book, whereas the Ouiji board spirit used an archaic spelling. The history book stated that the person had been a criminal and had been executed. When they asked it what had been its crime, the whole board jumped around—which the girls had interpreted as anger.

Then the spirit asked the girls an unusual question, “Is there still a God?” Now many people have asked, “Is there a God?” but I doubt that any human being has ever asked, “Is there still a God?” The question implies that the inquirer once knew that God existed, but something happened so that he never experienced God thereafter, and wondered whether or not He still exists.

My view is that an evil spirit impersonating the deceased criminal, communicated with the girls via the Ouiji board. I believe that demons (evil spirits) are fallen angels. When they were angels, they knew God existed. But after they departed from God they have never experienced God in any way. So they sometimes wonder if He still exists.


Or the demon is simply imposing a clever - but simple question…for the purpose of causing a person to doubt, the existence of God.

So I paraphrase this from memory.

“Without faith it is impossible to please God”

Just a footnote here. In Native American spirituality, there are centuries of communicating with spirits. But NEVER has a Native American, used an Ouija board.

Or maybe an Ouiji board has a simple, scientific explantion - called the ideomotor response. Which Matt Slick from CARM mentioned, in a previous link.


How do you know that no Native American has ever used an Ouija board?


It’s not part of their spiritual tradition. And I have hung around enough Native Americans and ceremonies. It’s NOT part of Native American spirituality. Of course, those not on a spiritual path - can do anything. Whether Native, Chinese, Zombie, etc.

Interesting article. I have STRONG issues, with anyone being a spiritual medium. But their warning on demonic forces - is very interesting.


Seems like quackery to me.


Your example is irrelevant given my concession that a Ouija board can put one in touch with tdemonic impersonators and my warning not to use this board. But you have no idea whether this is always the case and the William James case may well be an important exception. After all, there is solid evidence that the righteous dead sometimes manifest their survival to the living.


The Wiki article I alluded to, will present different perspectives - on the Ouija board… Anywhere from a scientific perspective, with the ideomotor response… To speaking with the dead or demons. Personally, I seek scientific explanations first. Then I look for supernatural ones. Even when it comes to zombies, from the possible Zombie Apocalypse.

And supernatural happenings is like describing snow to Africans - before mass communication. Just because they haven’t seen it - or experienced it - snow is real, nevertheless.

True. But in the Native American world, where spirits are an integral part of the equation…they don’t use Ouija boards in ceremony. NOT that what you say, may well be possible. But in most cases, a scientific explanation will suffice. After all, before the Roman Catholic Church conducts an exorcism…That have medical experts certify first, that there is no organic disease or abnormal psychosis present.

“A leader takes people where they want to go. A great leader takes people where they don’t necessarily want to go, but ought to be.”-- Rosalynn Carter