Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Speaking in Tongues: How Widespread is Faking?

I know I'm not supposed to ask that. And I am certainly not claiming that all people who speak in tongues are faking; how would I know? But sweeping any problem under the rug only makes it worse, and I suspect that this one has become a sizeable problem.

Here are some things I have noticed:
  1. I personally know someone who admits she faked speaking in tongues to "get along" in a Pentecostal setting;
  2. This same person was not intending to "fake it" but, when the leader saw she did not speak in tongues, the leader took it upon himself to privately coach her into speaking in tongues;
  3. I found out that this was not exactly a one-of-a-kind incident when I read this post mentioning a Pentecostal leader coaching people into speaking in tongues at an entirely different time, place, and setting.
  4. Adrian Warnock (who would likely disagree with this post, btw) recently mentioned that one draw to "spiritual gifts" is as an answer to the question his Calvinism simply cannot answer: "But, the question remains, how can I KNOW that I am one of the chosen ones?" In response, I suppose a true gift of tongues would settle the question of whether you have the Holy Spirit; but it also tremendously increases the pressure to "fake it" if you believe you have no evidence of your own salvation outside of this.
Consider this quote from the above-linked post by Paul Whiting (who, by the way, is still noticeably fond of the Pentecostal movement)
Unfortunately, my conversion-initiation didn’t follow the script the Pentecostal church I went to expected of me: I didn’t pray in tongues. So to remedy that defect, a church leader took me to a room behind the baptismal font and told me to repeat "she blah blah blah" after him until it "flowed naturally." I couldn’t do it.
Because those who do not speak in tongues are typically seen as less spiritual -- some will dispute even the salvation of those who do not speak in tongues -- the pressure to pray in tongues is substantial. The fact that the leadership was involved in both these cases makes me wonder if this is a systematic problem. The fact that privacy was involved in both these cases makes me think that it happens to far more people than is generally realized. To me, all of this at least suggests the possibility that there is a large amount of faking going on, and that it is kept quiet. And again the fact that modern "speaking in tongues" bears a striking resemblance to babbling also lends to this suspicion. Based on off-the-record conversations, I have reason to believe the problem is widespread.

I am not a "cessationist" in that I'm sure God will give what gifts He wants when, where, how, and to whom He pleases. Neither am I any kind of anti-Pentecostal. But as Christians, it falls to us to clean up our own houses before we evangelize. What do you say, Pentecostals? Ever heard of anybody faking? Did someone coach you the first time? Ever feel pressured to do the "tongues" thing? Ever doubt the reality of the gift? Or have you always been completely sure of its reality in your life?

Update: Related post on people who have tested the tongues and translations, or admitted they were faking.


Chris HH said...

Hi, I'm a first time visitor to your blog, and although I am charismatic and speak in tongues, I do not attend a church in the Pentecostal denomination. I hope you will indulge my comments nevertheless.

You have raised some good questions and some valid concerns. I think these erroneous and worrisome practises arise from the following errors.

1) The gifts should never be used as a sign that someone is saved!

I personally was a Christian for 9 years prior to speaking in tongues, and I never doubted my salvation once. Our confidence is in the word of God. If you believe in your heart, and confess with your mouth, you shall be saved.

2) The gifts should never be used to measure someone's spirituality

The gifts are just that: gifts. Unmerited expressions of God's grace distributed according to his will. They are not earned. It is by a man's fruit that we judge him. This is obvious from 1Co 13, where if you speak in tongues but do not have love (the first fruit of the Spirit) you are just making noise.

3) The gifts are tools not trophies.

Speaking in tongues is a gift God gives us to build ourselves up in faith. We operate in a realm of the Spirit that exercises faith and bypasses the doubts of the mind. It is not a badge that says we have joined the charismatic club.

If these facts were grasped correctly, I think it would go a long way to ease the pressure on those receiving and those ministering to feel they have to obtain a "result". Fake tongue speaking doesn't help anyone, and just gives extra fuel to the cessastionists.

I'm glad to say that in my circles, I have not come across anyone who has felt the need to fake it. Genuine tongue speaking and powerful baptisms in the Holy Spirit are common enough that I think people genuinely want the real deal, and would rather come back again for more prayer than fake it to please anyone.

I have sometimes wondered about some who only seem to have a handful of words they say over and over - but (like you say) who am I to judge? And if it is not genuine then I certainly don't believe they are deliberately faking.

My own experience of tongue speaking came neither by coaching or by laying on of hands, but as I was seeking God in prayer on my own. It was an experience I can best describe like a cork popping out of a champagne bottle. Not that I couldn't help but speak in tongues, but something stirred up within me so strongly that I had to let it out.

You can however suppress the gift, even when God has given it to you, and I think that is where "coaching" for want of a better word has a place. People need to understand that it is up to them to take the first step in giving expression to the welling up of the Spirit on the inside, and that God will not take them over and move their lips for them.

Weekend Fisher said...

Thanks for commenting. Do you have any experience as to whether these subjects are discussed openly in Pentecostal churches?

If you made those suggestions that you put forward at a Pentecostal church, do you have any gauge for how they would be received?

BK said...

I personally am very suspicious whenever I see people speaking in tongues (and I spent several years as a member of a foursquare Gospel church and never spoke in tongues myself). While I certainly believe that speaking in tongues can be genuine, and know personally many people who speak in tongues who I do not think are faking, I think that there is some faking of tongues in the church.

I think my doubting ways come from when I was a teenager and got taken involuntarily to a meeting of The Way International at their headquarters in Ohio, and I remember that they were speaking of a class on "how to speak in tongues." Since I understood it to be a gift of the Spirit, I did not see how it could be taught. Thus, I became quite suspicious of the entire venture.

Guess I'm being a little too set in my ways, but that experience has stuck with me.

Weekend Fisher said...

That's now the 2nd time I've heard reference to a "class" on how to speak in tongues. That has the smell of "organized institutional fakery". I'm willing to allow that people organizing such a class may have good intentions. But not a clue of what the good news actually is.

TheCreature said...

I think those who coach "how to speak in tongues" generally are third wave pentecostals - and generally believe that ALL believers have the ability to speak in tongues, but may simply be inhibited by, well, their inhibitions. These people probably feel that by modeling and gently eliciting an "attempt" at speaking in tongues, that the real gift which they feel is residential inside every believer will then emerge and present itself.

When I first began speaking in tongues, I personally *felt* like I was faking. I guess this is because I expected tongues to be some sort of "being taken over" type experience where I wouldn't feel like I was generating the words as much as they were being foisted upon me by the Lord or something. Because of this, even though I had spoken in tongues a few times, my own self-suspicion led me to suppress this gift and not use it much.

Then one day I was having a crisis and I was praying with some friends who encouraged me to "use my tongues." I humored them, and was speaking random syllables at a very fast speed, as were they - still doubting that I was doing anything inherently spiritual, but figuring that God would allow me to take the risk of attempting it - at the very worst I was simply making a fool out of myself.

While we were praying these very fast random syllables, I and the guy across the table from me, started saying the exact same thing at the exact same time - and we were going WAYYYYY too fast and random for either of us to be able to copy the other person.

After that, I had a number of experiences with tongues where I started to understand what Paul said about my "spirit being edified" - basically, you know how you can walk into a room of people worshipping and sense the overwhelming sense of the Lord's presence at times - well, this started happening when I spoke in tongues.

So between those two things, I decided that even my seemingly "fake" tongues were in fact quite real.

Jason Dawson said...

I think you address a conern all of us have who don't have the gift. However I just don't see in the bible where it has ceased. I don't know that it's used properly or the way the church in the 1st century understood it either however that doesn't mean that it does not exist aboslutely.

Anonymous said...

According to Act 2 when the believers were filled with the HOLY Ghost they begin to speak in tongues as the Spirit gave them utterrance.

Anonymous said...

According to Acts 2 when the believers were filled with the Holy Ghost they began to speak in tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance,

Stephen John French said...

Interesting article. I myself have been 'coached' into speaking in tongues after I told my pastor I once spoke gibberish in a meeting to fit in. To my shock, my pastor said I should continue doing so. Long story short - to justify his reasoning, he pointed to Acts 2:4 and said "'._.they began to speak in other tongues', the Holy Spirit didn't do it for them!" to which I thought to myself, "Hmm, it does go on to say 'as the Spirit gave them utterance' though." It would appear when looking at scriptures, the Holy Spirit's prompting (or stirring, as one commenter aptly) is necessary for when the more miraculous gifts of the Spirit manifest. I personally think David Platt's teaching on tongues if the most honest and Biblical, look it up if you have the opportunity. :)