This is a confusing practice for mainstream Protestant denominations: speaking in tongues.
It is undeniably present in the early church, confirmed in the Acts of the Apostles and addressed by Paul as a congregational problem. The underlying problem is addressed by Paul in Galatians, but it seems that Paul never gets control of it.
It is still active in churches today. These charismatic forms of Christianity are the most rapid growing around the world.
Dr. Johnson looked at the nature of speaking in tongues in terms of what it represented in the early church.
- It seems to be a sincere expression or manifestation of the Holy Spirit, just as it does today.
- There are patterns tot he utterances, and the followers who are able to exhibit glossolalia tned to follow a pattern of speech similar to the church or spritual leader who performs it most consistently.
- In looking at cultural influences, ecstatic speech is usually a subversive and divisive activity of the church.
Paul prefers prophesy to the unintelligible speech of those who use the utterances of speaking in the unknown tongues. He states that it is prophecy, perhaps something like teaching or preaching, that builds up. He compares glossolalia to the a practice associated with the pagan mystery religions, and is therefore not as beneficial.
However, it is evident the this is a powerful and persistent manifestation of spiritual activity.
Dr. Johnson states that it is always associated with religious reform and revitalization.
Even if our denomination does not value these types of charismatic gifts of the Spirit, can we learn from those who do?
When are hearts are warmed or when we are moved during a service of worship or during prayer, what form of response do we have to the Spirit of God in us? Once we feel it, where does it take us?