Among frequent comments registered in the debate throughout the blogosphere in recent months regarding the new IMB policy on "private prayer language" have been those expressing the sentiment that, as Baptists, we should be planting "Baptist" churches and not "Charismatic" or "Pentecostal" ones. I personally believe these comments reflect some false presuppositions and unfair stereotyping about who we are as Baptists, as well as who are those who may either practice or allow for the practice of a "private prayer language."
It is often assumed that all those who "speak in tongues," whether publicly or privately, are either "Charismatic" or "Pentecostal." But this is not the case. In the book, Are Miraculous Gifts for Today?: Four Views, editor Wayne Grudem, while not dealing exclusively with the gift of tongues, describes the following five categories of belief and practice regarding spiritual gifts in the contemporary church (two of them, the Pentecostal and Charismatic views, are later treated together as one):
1. "The cessationist position argues that there are no miraculous gifts of the Holy Spirit today. Gifts such as prophecy, tongues, and healing were confined to the first century, and were used at the time the apostles were establishing the churches and the New Testament was not yet complete."
This view is defended in Grudem’s book by Richard B. Gaffin, professor of systematic theology at Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia.
2. "Pentecostal refers to any denomination or group that traces its historical origin back to the Pentecostal revival that began in the United States in 1901, and that holds the following doctrines: (1) All the gifts of the Holy Spirit mentioned in the New Testament are intended for today; (2) baptism in the Holy Spirit is an empowering experience subsequent to conversion and should be sought by Christians today; and (3) when baptism in the Holy Spirit occurs, people will speak in tongues as a ‘sign’ that they have received this experience."
3. "Charismatic, on the other hand, refers to any groups (or people) that trace their historical origin to the charismatic renewal movement of the 1960s and 1970s and that seek to practice all the spiritual gifts mentioned in the New Testament (including prophecy, healing, tongues, interpretation, and distinguishing between spirits). Among charismatics there are differing viewpoints on whether baptism in the Holy Spirit is subsequent to conversion and whether speaking in tongues is a sign of baptism in the Spirit."
Both the Pentecostal and Charismatic views are defended in Are Miraculous Gifts for Today?: Four Views by Douglas A. Oss, professor of hermeneutics and New Testament and chairman of the division of Bible and theology at Central Bible College (Assemblies of God) in Springfield, Missouri.
4. "In the 1980s a third renewal movement arose, a movement called The Third Wave by missions professor C. Peter Wagner at Fuller Seminary (he referred to the Pentecostal renewal as the first wave of the Holy Spirit’s renewing work in the modern church, and the charismatic movement as the second wave). Third Wave people encourage the equipping of all believers to use New Testament spiritual gifts today and say that the proclamation of the gospel should ordinarily be accompanied by "signs, wonders, and miracles," according to the New Testament pattern. They teach, however, that baptism in the Holy Spirit happens to all Christians at conversion and that subsequent experiences are better called "fillings" or "empowerings" with the Holy Spirit. Though they believe the gift of tongues exists today, they do not emphasize it to the extent that Pentecostals and charismatics do."
The defense of the "Third Wave" view is given by C. Samuel Storms, at that time president of Grace Training Center, a Bible School connected with the Metro Vineyard Fellowship of Kansas City.
5. "There is yet another position, held by a vast number of evangelicals who think of themselves as belonging to none of these groups. These people have not been convinced by the cessationist arguments that relegate certain gifts to the first century, but they are not really convinced by the doctrine or practice of those who emphasize such gifts today either. They are open to the possibility of miraculous gifts today, but they are concerned about the possibility of abuses that they have seen in groups that practice these gifts. They do not think speaking in tongues is ruled out by Scripture, but they see many modern examples as not conforming to scriptural guidelines; some also are concerned that it often leads to divisiveness and negative results in churches today. They think churches should emphasize evangelism, Bible study, and faithful obedience as keys to personal and church growth, rather than miraculous gifts. Yet they appreciate some of the benefits that Pentecostal, charismatic, and Third Wave churches have brought to the evangelical world, especially a refreshing contemporary tone in worship and a challenge to renewal in faith and prayer… For the purposes of this book, we have called it the open but cautious position."
This view is defended by Robert L. Saucy, Distinguished Professor of Systematic Theology at Talbot School of Theology in California.
It is my position that we, as Southern Baptists, are not Pentecostals, and certain Charismatic interpretations of Scripture seem to clash with traditional Baptist interpretation. The "Baptist Faith & Message" states, for example, in the section on God the Holy Spirit, that "at the moment of regeneration He baptizes every believer into the Body of Christ."
At the same time, I believe there is room in SBC life for much (though not all) "Third Wave" belief and practice, as well as that of the "cessationist" group and the "open but cautious" group. Nowhere have Southern Baptists officially defined ourselves one way or another, in relation to the continuation of all of the spiritual gifts present in the New Testament church. Neither have we defined ourselves regarding our understanding of the nature of the gift of tongues, whether it is always expressed in the ability to speak known human languages, or whether or not it includes as well "languages" that cannot be translated by normal human means.
Wayne Grudem, editor of Are Miraculous Gifts for Today?: Four Views, is not completely neutral regarding his own perspective on these issues. He does try to remain as objective as possible in his moderation of the different views presented, but is widely known as a leading proponent of the "Third Wave" position. Although Grudem has in the past been involved in the Vineyard movement, he is currently, as I understand it, a member of a Southern Baptist church. Apparently, Grudem does not see his "Third Wave" theology to be incompatible with being Southern Baptist.
Grudem’s Systematic Theology, together with Millard Erickson’s text, is one of the leading theology textbooks used today in Southern Baptist seminaries. The following is a quote from Southwestern Seminary President Paige Patterson:
"Systematic Theology by Wayne Grudem is a fair-minded, thorough text in systematic theology--the best I have seen in recent years in terms of convenient organization, clarity, and a willingness to tackle the most salient issues of the day. This is an admirable blending of the scholarly and devotional elements seldom achieved in academic books."
Apparently, Paige Patterson does not think that Wayne Grudem is either naïve or shallow in his theological convictions.
I, personally, when I read each of the four views, find something compelling in each one. I find myself almost being convinced by the arguments presented for each view. At times, I wish Scripture were clearer on these issues. But God, in His sovereignty, has chosen to give us a record that can be interpreted differently by different scholars, each of whom is fully dedicated to the Lordship of Christ, and fully committed to the authority of His inerrant Word.
After carefully thinking through, and searching the Scriptures, I have come to the conclusion that my own understanding lies somewhere between the "Open but Cautious" and "Third Wave" view. Of the four views defended, Sam Storms’s "Third Wave" exegesis is the most convincing to me personally. However, due to what seem to me to be certain excesses and abuses commonly associated with the "Third Wave" movement, I also identify closely with the "Open but Cautious" view defended by Robert Saucy. It is not my purpose on this post to defend my personal position, but rather merely to point out that there are those, like myself, who hold to these different positions, and who, at the same time, consider themselves to be good Southern Baptists.
Lately, some seem to be suggesting that perhaps the view I, and/or others like me, take is out of line with traditional Southern Baptist interpretation; and thus, those, like me, who hold to it, would be better off in other denominations. I believe the new policy on "private prayer language" at the IMB is a reflection of this opinion. It also appears to be the opinion implicit in the paper written by Paige Patterson, Keith Eitel, & Robin Hadaway referenced several days ago on this blog.
I do not personally speak in tongues, either in private or in public. However, my interpretation of Scripture is essentially the same as many who do. I believe the gift of tongues is valid for today. I also believe that the gift of tongues may be legitimately used as a "private prayer language." In my opinion, the only reason I do not have a "private prayer language" is because God, who in His sovereignty distributes each gift to each one "just as he determines" (1 Cor. 12.11), has not chosen to give me this particular gift.
On the basis of the information given here, I would like to ask two questions:
1. In your opinion, are the views I take on these issues compatible with service in the IMB?
2. In regards to IMB service, what is the practical difference between someone like me, who holds these views, and does not practice a "private prayer language," and someone else, who holds the same or similar views, and does practice a "private prayer language"?
Sam Storms: Speaking in Tongues and the Southern Baptist Convention (part 1)
Sam Storms: Speaking in Tongues and the Southern Baptist Convention (part 2)
Wade Burleson, The Point Is Being Missed Yet Again
Wade Burleson, What Students at Our Seminaries Learn About Tongues