Wednesday
January 26, 2005
vol 16, no. 26

Musings on the Charismatic Movement

Part Six Speaking in Tongues, A sign of Renewal or Judgment?

      The tongue-wagging proliferation of this manufactured charism is really a childish gibberish likened to yada, yada, yada = nada.

    by Kevin M. Tierney

The gibberish of tongues is a sign that a generation is in dire straits, not that a "new springtime" is just around the corner. It is a sign of judgment rather than a sign of renewal.

    "Rather than a sign of coming renewal, Peter directly quotes from the Prophet Joel's discourse on the "great and awesome day of the Lord", the Day of Judgment. There are those who escape God's judgment of the world (the elect) but the rest of the world does not. This judgment is ushered in by the young speaking in prophesy, and the visions of those older. These are not signs of improvement, but signs of things getting worse. In better days, such extraordinary signs would not be necessary. By speaking in tongues, St. Peter was passing in judgment. His speaking of tongues ushered in the New Covenant, judging the ways before, but also judging the ominous future ahead."

    When measuring the success of the Charismatic movement, many times it is said that since many people are speaking in tongues, this is proof that the Charismatic movement is true. That if you go to these meetings, and see hundreds of people all speaking in tongues, this must be true. (Indeed as I have witnessed such.) As was discussed in my previous musing, the idea that the entire congregation speaks in tongues together was foreign to the idea of St. Paul. There was also another reason why he did not want the faithful to eagerly desire this gift. The gift was not a sign of renewal, but of judgment. This holds true for any type of tongue speaking.

    The idea that speaking in tongues is connected to judgment is normally something that is overlooked. Yet the thought permeates the Scripture verses which speak about tongues. First, let us deal with the day of Pentecost, in Acts 2. Peter gives the following sermon during the event where the Apostles spoke in one language, and were understood by all:

    " But Peter standing up with the eleven, lifted up his voice, and spoke to them: Ye men of Judea, and all you that dwell in Jerusalem, be this known to you, and with your ears receive my words. For these are not drunk, as you suppose, seeing it is but the third hour of the day: But this is that which was spoken of by the prophet Joel: And it shall come to pass, in the last days, (saith the Lord,) I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams. And upon my servants indeed, and upon my handmaids will I pour out in those days of my spirit, and they shall prophesy. And I will shew wonders in the heaven above, and signs on the earth beneath: blood and fire, and vapour of smoke. 20 The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the great and manifest day of the Lord come" (Acts 2:14-20).

    Rather than a sign of coming renewal, Peter directly quotes from the Prophet Joel's discourse on the "great and awesome day of the Lord", the Day of Judgment. There are those who escape God's judgment of the world (the elect) but the rest of the world does not. This judgment is ushered in by the young speaking in prophesy, and the visions of those older. These are not signs of improvement, but signs of things getting worse. In better days, such extraordinary signs would not be necessary. By speaking in tongues, St. Peter was passing in judgment. His speaking of tongues ushered in the New Covenant, judging the ways before, but also judging the ominous future ahead.

    Even more clear is St. Paul's warning in 1st Corinthians 14:21, which quotes Isaias 28:11:

    "In the law it is written: In other tongues and other lips I will speak to this people; and neither so will they hear Me, saith the Lord."

    Now to modern minds, which know almost nothing about the Old Testament, such a passage seems oddly placed. As Paul is stressing the primacy of prophecy over the gift of tongues, he brings up a reference to the Prophets about the occupation of Israel. Yet when we dig a little bit deeper, the meaning becomes all the more clear, and the conclusion about tongues becomes all the more evident.

    First, let us quote what Isias 28 has to say:

    "Woe to the crown of pride, to the drunkards of Ephraim, and to the fading flower the glory of his joy, who were on the head of the fat valley, staggering with wine. Behold the Lord is mighty and strong, as a storm of hail: a destroying whirlwind, as the violence of many waters overflowing, and sent forth upon a spacious land. The crown of pride of the drunkards of Ephraim shall be trodden under feet. And the fading flower the glory of his joy, who is on the head of the fat valley, shall be as a hasty fruit before the ripeness of autumn: which when he that seeth it shall behold, as soon as he taketh it in his hand, he will eat it up. In that day the Lord of hosts shall be a crown of glory, and a garland of joy to the residue of his people"

    First we notice that the picture painted of Ephraim (the 10 tribes of Israel) is not going to be positive. Here the Prophet outlines all the good that was given to them, and how they have wasted such through their pride.

    "And a spirit of judgment to him that sitteth in judgment, and strength to them that return out of the battle to the gate. But these also have been ignorant through wine, and through drunkenness have erred: the priest and the prophet have been ignorant through drunkenness, they are swallowed up with wine, they have gone astray in drunkenness, they have not known him that seeth, they have been ignorant of judgment. For all tables were full of vomit and filth, so that there was no more place. To whom would He teach knowledge? And to whom would He interpret the message? Those just weaned from milk? Those just taken from the breast?...So the word of the Lord to them will be ‘Order on order, order on order, line on line, line on line, a little here, a little there,' that they may go and stumble backward, be broken, snared, and taken captive."

    The Kingdoms of Judah are condemned here as childish. Their Pride makes them as children, unable to learn the wisdom of God. The unbelief of these people had become so extreme, they had become so childish, God was done speaking to them, at least in ways they understand. The phraseology "order on order" also has certain significance. Traditional Catholic Apologist Robert Sungenis mentions the following:

    "The phraseology "Order on order, order on order, line on line, line on line, a little here, a little there" are Hebrew monosyllables resembling the babbling of a baby. The sound would be something like: "tsa, latsa, tsa, latsa, ka, laka, ka, laka." Because they have rejected His clear words, God will now speak to them in gibberish, like that of a baby, only the words will not come from a gentle infant but from the fierce mouths of their Assyrian oppressors."

    While some might view this exegesis rather comical, the point becomes clearer when we notice that God is calling them childish in the preceding verses. Since in their childish unbelief they have refused to listen to God, God will not speak to them as if they had knowledge, but speak to them as ignorant children. After this we are then told that God will speak to the people of Israel with a foreign lip and tongue, something they would not understand.

    Now let's fast forward to the Church of Corinth. As was said before in the beginning of that Epistle, that Church was deeply divided. There was nothing but problems in that Church. They stopped listening to the word of God and sound principles. Almost every paragraph of Paul's Epistle is an indictment of that Church. It is in this context the eruption of what is viewed as the gift of tongues emerges.

    St. Paul clearly outlines such a wild usage as proof they are not listening to the commandments of God. Indeed, it's placement over the clear words of prophecy indicates that just like the Jews of old, they threw away the clear teachings of the law and prophets. The sign that they threw away the solid teaching was that of tongues, and those tongues were a sign of judgment for rebellion against God's laws. As has been demonstrated by the Spiritual Master of the Church St. John of the Cross, the Charismatic movement has promoted a spirituality that throws away the clarity of St. John of the Cross and the rest of the great Catholic mystics.

    When viewing tongues from that context, one could say it becomes all clearer why the wide proliferation of tongues in modern times started in Protestantism. Biblical principles tell us that those who are in rebellion to God's laws or those who are not strong in the clear teachings of prophecy receive tongues in judgment. Likewise this is so with Protestantism. Their mass promotion of tongues as evidence of them possessing the Holy Spirit actually became evidence that the work of the Spirit was absent from them. It is this absence the Catholic Charismatics sought. It is this sign of judgment that is widely promoted as a positive sign in the Church today. Truly they are still childish rather than child-like in understanding how the Holy Ghost works in us.

In Christ,

Kevin Tierney



    January 26, 2005
    vol 16, no. 26
    Lex Orandi, Lex Credendi