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How to Answer Protestants Forum: AOG churches

by Catherine Frakas 16 Aug 2002

AOG churches QUESTION from Mr. Campbell on March 29, 2002 I agree with the vast majority of your response regarding this subject; the Assemblies of God are unquestionably anti-Catholic, and it is not in a Catholic's best interest to try to get fed in such venues. However, I do question the following text, taken from your response:
speaking in tongues. This is where someone claims to be inspired by the Holy Spirit to speak in a strange language (sometimes a foreign language, mostly totally unintelligible)to deliver a message from the Lord. The problem is that this experience cannot be credibly traced any further back than the Great Revival of the 1800's. Most of them believe of course that this is what the Apostles spoke on that first Pentecost (hence the name), though a quick reading of Acts shows that the words spoken were cl
Your definition of speaking in tongues is here included to clarify the topic of discussion. Here you discredit this phenomenon with three points: 1) that it cannot be traced back further than the 19th century, 2) that it practice is based solely on the Pentecost event in the Acts of the Apostles, and 3) that speaking in tongues began and ended on that first Pentecost.
Before going on, let me clarify that I do not wish to be contentious. I will outline my own objections to these points, toward the end of either (depending on appropriacy) your correcting my faulty understanding of scripture or correcting your misunderstanding of the issue. Therefore, I ask your patience.
First, you say that the practice of speaking in tongues cannot be traced back further than the 1800s. In this I assume you are referring to speaking in tonguesas used in worship, apart from any specific purpose of preaching to someone who understands the language used by facility fo the Holy Spirit.
1Corinthians, 12, 8-10 To one is given through the Spirit the expression of wisdom; to another the expression of knowledge according to the same Spirit; to another faith by the same Spirit; to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit; 10 to another mighty deeds; to another prophecy; to another discernment of spirits; to another varieties of tongues; to another interpretation of tongues.
Here, Paul refers to a gift of varieties of tongues, as one possible way that the Spirit might give manifestation to an individual. As this took place after the first Penticost, its inclusion seems to suggest that it was given on an ongoing basis. Note also the mention of interpretation given as a gift of the spirit, which I take to mean that none in the congregation understands the tongues by natural means, necessitating not only an interpreter, but a divinely inspired interpreter.
1Corinthians, 13:1 If I speak in human and angelic tongues 2 but do not have love, I am a resounding gong or a clashing cymbal.
Here, in the context of a discussion of spiritual gifts, Paul mentions not only speaking in the tongues of humans but also of angels. I take this to mean that there are some tongues which one has a gift of speaking which have no purpose in preaching (of course, there is no need for us to preach to the angels).
1Corinthians 14:2 For one who speaks in a tongue does not speak to human beings but to God, for no one listens; he utters mysteries in spirit.
Here, in the context of extolling prophecy (here apparently meaning divinely inspired messages) above other spiritual gifts, Paul states as one of the weaknesses of the gift of tongues that it is understood by no one else in the congregation. Again, in making the same point, verses 4-5: Whoever speaks in a tongue builds himself up, but whoever prophesies builds up the church. Now I should like all of you to speak in tongues, but even more to prophesy. It seems that here Paul is proposing a gift of tongues whose purpose is individual, personal edification, rather than preaching to those of foreign languages. Further, he expresses that it would be desirable for the entire Church at Corinth to recieve this gift of tongues. In verse 18, Paul states, I give thanks to God that I speak in tongues more than any of you. Please note that Paul here speaks in the present tense.
In verses 27-28, Paul goes further by way of practical instruction, If anyone speaks in a tongue, let it be two or at most three, and each in turn, and one should interpret. But if there is no interpreter, the person should keep silent in the church and speak to himself and to God. Again, Paul seems to be suggesting that there is a legitimate gift of tongues even when no one can understand them, and that if no one understands and no one can interpret then such a person should remain silent.
I have always interpreted the above verses (and others, as this is an issue of particular concern in 1 Corinthians chapters 12 and 14) to mean the following: 1) Some early Christians apart from the 12 at Pentecost did practice speaking in tongues. 2) This gift of tongues was not necessarily for preaching to foreigners (in fact the term, speaking in tongues, was not used scripturally in reference to the 12 at Pentecost) but for personal edification and, in the presence of one with a corresponding gift.
If I am mistaken in my understanding of holy scripture and you correct me, you will be correcting a great error on my part. Through context and my understanding of exegesis this view of the issue of speaking in tongues seems clearly apparent to me. Therefore, if I am wrong it probably means that I have an improper understanding of how scripture is interpreted, and have probably misinterpreted other passages as well. So if I am mistaken it may be no small matter. If this is the case, please help me to understand.
If you have been mistaken on the matter, I would appreciate your further thoughts on it, in light of these passages and your understanding of our Church's doctrine. I am a Catholic, and wish to have an authentically Catholic (Christian) understanding of scripture. God bless you for your work.
Yours in Christ,
ANSWER by Mr. Troy Martz on May 12, 2002 Dear Jeff:
I think that your understanding of the relevant Scripture is sound. I also think that my original answer overlooked one important point: most people in the AOG (and other Pentecostal churches) believe that EVERYONE must speak in tongues as a sign that they have been filled with the Holy Spirit. I have seen it go so far as to question someone's salvation and faith (when they weren't around of course) because they never spoke in tongues during any service.
That kind of peer pressure often creates artificial experiences -- our minds creating a delusion to make us think that we are speaking from the promptings of the Holy Spirit when we are really only trying to fit into the crowd. This type of false spirituallity is not only making a mockery of the real gifts, but dangerously gives power to speak a Word from the Lord to anyone. If delivered with enough conviction and charisma, such utterances are often treated as divinely inspired Gospel that must be obeyed. I believe that these types of experiences are the seeds of such evil delusions as Jim Jones and David Koresh -- a charismatic leader who starts out claiming to have special knowledge divinely granted and eventually ends up claiming to be God.
Not that every Pentecostal experiences that -- extremely few do. What many do experience is relying on the high emotional experience of feeling the Spirit move and the lows and doubts that come and fill the empty void when the emotions fade.
I do believe that these gifts of the Spirit are indeed active in the Church, but these experiences are not the center (nor the litmus test) of our Christianity. The gifts of the Spirit that we should focus on are Faith, Hope, and Love. [By the way, none of these are emotions that are out of our control. They are decisions that we make to cooperate with God's Grace in our lives.]
I hope that clears up the misunderstanding. I should have been more clear the first time.
Pax Christi,
Troy Martz
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