Today in Christendom there is war over the charismata. The weapons are not physical but carnal. The instruments of war are words and ideas. The casualties do not bleed, but they are wounded all the same. Finally, that mystical church, which is the body of Christ worldwide, suffers most. The warring factions are easily identified, though these people may have attended the same church for years and, indeed, may look alike and be related in the flesh.
The positions are rigid and well fortified. On the one hand, there are those who say that tongues have ceased. And by their assured logic it is certainly clear to them that speaking in tongues has ceased. The sign gifts of the Holy Spirit are not for today. The supernatural is no longer needed. Instead, great care must be taken to "rightly divide the word of truth." Certainly every word of the Bible is true and verbally inspired. But it should be understood that we today live in another dispensation
The opposing army has its position, too. After you are converted to Christ you must certainly experience the "baptism of the Holy Ghost." The evidence of this experience is "speaking in tongues." Everyone may speak in tongues; everyone may have all the gifts of the Holy Spirit. And those who disagree, along with those who are uninitiated, are both cold and unspiritual.
The collision between these two forces of evangelicalism is both loud and painful. Recently I heard the controversy described this way: One group of God's people is in the ditch on one side of the narrow way. And the other group is in the ditch on the other side. They are shouting back and forth across the narrow way at each other, "Our ditch is the best ditch!" To fully document the argument is wholly possible, but not especially necessary.
As one brother has said, "There is a wheelbarrow full of literature on the subject." But what I will do is supply excerpts from a book on each side.
I should make clear that these authors do not reflect any rancor or bitterness in the expressions of their views. The books are well written, without emotional overtones.
New Testament Teaching on Tongues, by Merril F. Unger, pretty well enunciates the fundamentalist, dispensational view. On the charismatic side I have chosen The Holy Spirit and You by Dennis and Rita Bennett.
The no-tongues view excerpted from a number of pages is set forth by Dr. Unger as follows:
Tongues at Pentecost were a witness to events inaugurating a new age.
Tongues at Pentecost bore no direct relation to the baptism of the Spirit.
What occurred in Acts 2 can be interpreted as a second experience after salvation only if the introductory nature of Pentecost as the inauguration of a new age is completely overlooked.
What occurred in Acts 2 can be construed as a second experience after salvation only if Pentecost is interpreted apart from the total testimony of Scripture, especially the great doctrinal Epistles of the New Testament.
What occurred in Acts 2 can be construed as a second experience after salvation only if an intrinsic and inseparable element of salvation is severed from its place and made something in addition to that salvation.
What occurred in Acts 2 can be construed as a second experience after salvation only if terms that radically differ in meaning are confused and used to denote the same thing.
The temporary character of speaking in tongues is suggested by the mention of it only in very early lists in an early Epistle.
The temporary character of speaking in tongues is also suggested by its inferiority to other gifts in the matter of usefulness.
The temporary character of speaking in tongues is definitely declared by the apostle in contrast to the other gifts in the matter of usefulness.
The temporary character of speaking in tongues is definitely declared by the apostle in contrast to the permanency of love (1 Corinthians 13:1-8).
Tongues were to cease because in contrast to ever enduring love, they often fail (1 Corinthians 13:8).
Tongues were to cease because. like prophecy and knowledge. they were to be replaced by something better (1 Corinthians 13:8).
Tongues were to cease because like prophecy and knowledge, they belong to a period of partial revelation before there were any New Testament books in general circulation (1 Corinthians 13:9, 10).
Tongues were to cease because the completed revelation of Scripture in the canonical books of the New Testament would eventually make prophecy, knowledge, and tongues unnecessary and useless (1 Corinthians 13:11,12).
Speaking in tongues in its temporary character was limited to the apostolic church.l
The pro-tongues view, excerpted from several pages, is also clear enough.
You don't have to speak in tongues to have times of feeling filled with the Holy Spirit, but if you want the free and full outpouring that is the baptism in the Holy Spirit, you must expect it to happen as in the Scripture, and to do what Peter, James, John, Paul, Mary, Mary Magdalene, Barnabas, and all the rest did!
"But that would just be me speaking!" Exactly! God does not speak in tongues - people speak in tongues, as the Spirit gives the words. On the day of Pentecost we read: "They began to speak - in other languages - as the Spirit gave them utterance." So you must begin to speak, in other languages - not your own language or languages - as the Spirit gives the utterance, or the form of the words, to you - and He will! Just like a child learning to talk for the first time, open your mouth and speak out the first syllables and expressions that come to your lips. You must begin to speak just as Peter had to get out of the boat. God will guide you when you dare to trust Him by stepping out in faith.
We are convinced, from the Scriptures and after praying with thousands of people to receive the baptism in the Holy Spirit over the past ten years and more, that there is no believer who cannot speak in tongues, if he or she is properly prepared, and really ready to trust the Lord.
However, after the fullness and overflow of the Spirit, any or all nine gifts may be manifested frequently and in power through the life of the believer.
Though all baptized-in-the-Holy-Spirit believers can and should speak in tongues daily in their prayers, not all will minister the gift of tongues in a public meeting (1 Corinthians 12:30).2
In these two books not only are the views clearly set forth, but the intense feelings of those who adhere to these views are also evident. Perhaps the most controversial and emotional subject that evangelicals can discuss these days is that of speaking in tongues.
However, you may still ask, why take the time even to partially document such views when you don't agree wholly with either of them?
I intend to set the stage for what I call the "third view of tongues."