Monday, November 13, 2006

Private Prayer Language

Those of you who have followed this blog for any length of time know that I am not in favor of the new IMB policy passed about a year ago eliminating from consideration for missionary service those who admit to having a “private prayer language.” As I have also stated here previously, I personally do not have a “private prayer language.” I do, however, believe in the continued validity, until the return of Christ, of all of the spiritual gifts mentioned in the New Testament. This includes the possibility of a legitimate “private prayer language,” which may be something other than a “known human language.”

A stereotype exists in the minds of certain Christians, leading them to suppose that those who claim to find Scriptural warrant for the continuation of all of the spiritual gifts do so out of a need to justify their personal experience of “speaking in tongues.” I can assure you that is not the case with me.

Since my youth, I have been interested in the topic of spiritual gifts, especially as manifested in the Charismatic Renewal movement, both because I have seen how different views on this subject have divided conservative evangelical believers who are in agreement on practically every other issue, as well as because of the great impact Christians who believe in and practice miraculous gifts have made towards world evangelization. This interest has led me to do a thorough study on this topic, with the intention of being as objective as possible in my interpretation of Scripture. I have read many books and articles on both (and sometimes more than two) sides of the various issues involved. I have carefully studied the texts of the Bible that are related in one way or another to this topic. Although I will be the first to admit that my understanding of Scripture is far from infallible, I have no problem in affirming, on the basis of my investigation, my belief in the continuation of all of the spiritual gifts, not only as a possibility, but as a reality today.

I do not, however, consider myself to be either Charismatic or Pentecostal in my theology. I do not believe that all Christians should seek for the gift of tongues. I do not believe that speaking in tongues is the sign of a supposed post-conversion “baptism in the Spirit.” I do share some doctrinal views with what many have termed the “Third Wave” movement, yet, at the same time, feel uncomfortable with many of the extreme practices that have sometimes accompanied this movement.

Up until the announcement of the new policy last year, “private prayer language” was not a major item on my “radar screen.” Perhaps my understanding of Scripture has led me to be somewhat more open to fellowship with some on the more Charismatic/Pentecostal/Third Wave side of the spectrum than some of my other colleagues in the IMB, or others in the SBC at large. Beyond this, however, I consider myself to be very much in the “mainstream” of current conservative evangelical Southern Baptist life. I have never sensed my views on this topic to have caused any conflict whatsoever with my missionary colleagues.

However, my conviction on the biblical soundness of my beliefs in this area, as well as my concern over the negative effect of this new policy, have led me to speak out more and more on this issue. In addition to the various posts on this blog (here, here, here, here, here, here, here and here) related in one way or another, I have also commented frequently on several other blogs, several of which take positions in support of the new policy and against a bibical interpretation that allows for the continued practice of a “private prayer language” in today’s Church. These include Brad Reynolds, Jerry Corbaley, Baptist Theologue, and Bart Barber (here, here, here, and here). Rob Westbrook, on whose blog I also commented, takes a different view. Many of my personal views based on my study of Scripture can be found on my comments on these posts.

I have not yet taken the time to write a thorough biblical defense of my view. However, of the many different people writing on this topic on the blogosphere, one person stands out in my mind as doing an extremely admirable job of representing a position that, to date, is almost exactly, if not exactly, the view that I hold. That person is Alan Cross.

Alan is currently working on a series of posts that gives a more thorough, systematic defense of the view I, and others like me, hold. I strongly recommend that you read Alan’s first three posts that are available here, here, and here, and continue reading as he posts more information in the coming days.

I also think Dwight McKissic does an excellent job of presenting essentially the same view (with the exception that he actually claims to have a "private prayer language") here and here.

In case this post sparks anyone’s interest in doing a more in-depth study of this question, I recommend the book The Kingdom and the Power, edited by Gary S. Greig and Kevin N. Springer. I do not agree with every single thing written here, but it does give a more in-depth review of various issues associated with the Third Wave movement from a more scholarly perspective than many other books on the subject.

What is the purpose of this post? To lead you to seek after a "private prayer language"? No. I believe that is entirely between you and God. To convince you of the continualist interpretation? Not so much as to at least convince you that the continualist interpretation is not incompatible with a high view of biblical authority, nor with continued participation in Southern Baptist life, and service with the International Mission Board. If after giving an honest, objective study of these questions, you come down on the side of not accepting the legitimacy of "private prayer language," I can respect that, and have no problem working together with you to help see the Great Commission fulfilled, as long as you can respect those who hold the same view as me, and work together with us. Another purpose is I would like to see as many people as possible read Alan Cross's posts.


Todd Nelson said...

Amen! Alan is doing us a great service. May his tribe increase! And thank you, too, David, for adding your articulate and gracious voice on behalf of "continualists" and "third wave" sympathizers.

Bart Barber said...

Thanks, David,

I was unaware of the discussion over at Alan's place. I stopped by.

Publius said...

I have not read Alan's posts in depth (but will do so shortly), but I wanted to say how refreshing it is to see a vigorous defense of a non-favored (within current SBC 'leadership') theological position, from the perspective of unity and cooperation.

That may have been confusing, so to restate - while you certainly have a more nuanced position than I at this point, it seems to me that your post publicly and deliberately embraces a portion of our Southern Baptist brethren who have felt increasingly ostracized. And it does so not to condemn those who disagree, but to accept everyone of various positions on this matter of conscience, for the sake of unity.

Here's an idea: Instead of demanding everyone read and sign the BFM2000, how about they read and sign Romans 14?

Publius said...

Just finished reading Alan's posts. His defense of continualism is reasonable and persuasive to me. And as far as I know, I do not have the gift of tongues.

It seems the loudest criticism of continualism is its association with "charismatic" churches, which may sometimes be prone to error and excess in their theology (unlike we Baptists, who have it all down pat). It reminds me of Catholic criticism of early Reformation churches, saying in effect, "The Protestant Reformation is bad because some reformed churches are going too far and getting into bad theology." It was painting with too broad a brush. Sure, some Anabaptists went a little wacky, but the Reformation overall was getting at a truth the Catholics just didn't get (grace by faith over works). Likewise, I think we Baptists may be missing out on an aspect of the truth alive today in the Incarnate Christ that so-called charismatics get, and we just don't (the present supernatural reality of God).

Alycelee said...

David, I read every one of these post.
I'm overwhelmed and perplexed and perhaps and I think often when I'm on these blogs how thankful I am that God made me women :) for to me the issue is simple.
1. One who is a continualist and
views in that light :)
2. One who is a cessationist and their
view is through that lens.
Each post attempts to move one to another's tent but I didn't see much movement.
What is really troubling to me is not that we disagree, but that because of those disagreements we are now saying those of a different opinion are "spiritual inferior" "biblical unsound" or "doctrinal babies" and therefore could not possibly serve, not only on the mission field, but in any leadership position in the SBC.
I believe this is the optimity of pride and in light of the scripture that we are to "in humility consider others better than yourselves" and this attitude contrast having the mind of Christ.
We are told to look at the fruit.
In saying all this, I do appreciate you speaking on behalf of all those people who sit silent, praying to God in their closets. I know many of them. Some of them are my mothers and fathers in the Lord, men and women who bear fruit to this day.
... I hear you David. Thanks

Alan Cross said...


Since you said you had read all of the posts that David mentioned, and my posts were in there, I want to make sure I am not misunderstood. You said,

"What is really troubling to me is not that we disagree, but that because of those disagreements we are now saying those of a different opinion are "spiritual inferior" "biblical unsound" or "doctrinal babies" and therefore could not possibly serve, not only on the mission field, but in any leadership position in the SBC."

I am decidedly NOT saying that. Spirituality IS NOT dependent upon your view of the gifts. It is dependent on loving God and others and your character. Even though I disagree with cessationists, I am fine with them serving on the mission field or leading in the SBC. I have no problem with that at all and WELCOME the diversity on this secondary issue. It sharpens us all, as long as we focus on the gospel.

However, I do think that they are wrong. I would not limit them or break fellowship with them over it, but you have to have an opinion on some things. It is not divisive to have a conviction that is thought out and different from another's, yet still make the decision to fellowship and work with that brother because you know that your difference is not on a core issue.

It needs to be reiterated again and again, before last November and the change in policy at the IMB, I was very happy to NEVER bring this up. I would be happy to drop it today. But, not while those of a continualist position are being marginalized in SBC life for what they believe. I am not trying to change anyone's minds. I am just trying to get them to stop pushing us out.

Maybe I misunderstood you, but I wanted to be perfectly clear in my position, lest anyone think I am just interested arguing doctrine.

Alycelee said...

Funny when you hang around blog land long enougn and read pretty regularly you get a feel for people, who they are. I have "read" you many time and I didn't get that from you at all. Nor do I think "ALL" cessationist are that limited in their viewpoints on leadership qualifications. However most (that I read) are.
Many issues brought to the forefront here are:
how far to we go in accepting one another as brothers and sisters. That being said what do we see "qualifies" one for leadership.
To that second question-I say doing justly, loving mercy and walking humbly. (that has nothing to do with their doctrine)
I'm a political conservative but I like Joe Lieberman because I believe he is wrong much on issues, but I also believe he is a man of integrity.
However when it comes to integrity-I don't question yours.
Sorry for the miscommunication.

Anonymous said...

Dear David,
Thank you for your kind discussion of a very difficult subject. I am a 54 yr old Presbyterian(in pastorate w/my husband for 30 yrs.). Thought I'd throw my little story into the discussion...for whatever it's worth!
A few years ago, God began to draw me deeper into intimacy with Him in prayer and in my Bible reading. I was so thirsty, so dry from many years of "just doing it" in life and ministry, (very American of me)....that I was willing to allow God to reveal Himself to me experiencially as well as intellectually. It's a little scary. But we Presbyterians are great believers in a sovereign God who is larger than our conceptions of Him. In my continued pursuit of God and even more, HIS pursuit of me, I have enjoyed more and more the happy engagement with Father Son and Holy Spirit through both His Word and His Spirit. Yes, I have a new prayer language but that is way down the list of importance. The best fruit of all this is a deeper love and joy in Christ. In my four years of praying with and loving new friends in the Charismatic Movement as well as my Reformed friends, I have seen first hand that the heart of the matter is loving God and loving one another. The funny thing is, for years I was only loving God with my mind and heart was not fully engaged. It's a lot more fun to live out of the gospel and love God with heart, mind and strength!
with thanks,
Kathy (missionary in London)

canawedding said...

Ac 2:8: "And how hear we, every man, in our own language wherein we were born?" 1Co 13:1: "If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels but have not Love, I am become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal." The apostles always spoke in legitimate languages and so did Paul. Paul knew the tongues of angels as well as the tongues of men since he was "caught up even to the third Heaven."

What is behind the so-called "tongues" of today? Everyone, including the "tongues" people, should read 1Co 12:13: "For in One Spirit were we all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether bond or free and were all made to drink of One Spirit." Did you drink your baptism? This is the one and only New Covenant baptism Paul always described, yes, even in Ro 6 and Col 2 which were also described as spiritual circumcisions, not physical water baptisms. Read Eph 4:4-7.

In Jn 8, Jesus Christ said His true disciples, who hold to His Teaching, will know His Truth and they will be set free from sin. Why then is there so much confusion over simple Gospel Truths that everyone should understand and agree upon? Simple. Jesus Christ commanded everyone to seek first God's Kingdom and God's Righteousness but almost no one has believed, repented and obeyed His command, Mt 6:31-33. Have you found what He commanded you to find? What did you find that is in plain sight?

In Gal 1-6, Paul warned that everyone, who changes God's Gospel Truth, will be eternally condemned as will be their followers. In 2Co 11, Paul warned everyone that " even Satan fashioneth himself into an angel of light. It is no great thing, therefore, if his ministers also fashion themselves as ministers of righteousness, whose end shall be according to their works." In these Last Days, multitudes have a form of godliness but deny God's Power because they have surrounded themselves with false teachers who told them exactly what their itchy ears wanted to hear, 2Ti 3-4. All of God's warnings about these Last Days have come true and they have been true for a very long time.

If you have not found what Jesus Christ commanded everyone to find in Mt 6:31-33, then you are on the wide road to eternal destruction. You don't think so? Why not try to answer all of the following simple questions correctly:

Daniel 12:1-10, "the Man clothed in linen” describes the wise and the wicked. * (ASV, public domain)

1. “And at that time shall Michael stand up, the great prince, who standeth for the children of thy people. And there shall be a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation, even to that same time. And at that time thy people shall be delivered, everyone that shall be found written in the Book. [Read Jn 5:1-14; Jn 8:1-11; 1Jn 3-5. God, through His Son, made it possible for adults to “sin no more.” Why have so-called Christians continued to sin? As prophesied, most of them no longer believe in God’s exact original Gospel Truth. False teachers, who love their paychecks, power and pride, have been teaching false gospels. Soon, God’s amazing patience will come to an end. Most people, who think their names are written in the Lamb’s Book of eternal Life, will find out that isn’t so when it is too late to change. Read Mt 7:13-29; Mt 22:1-14. What is “good fruit?” What is the “wedding garment?” Will many be saved?]
2. And many of them, that sleep in the dust of the Earth shall awake, some to everlasting Life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt. [Do you understand the following quote from Rev 3? “I know thy works … that thou hast a little Power and didst keep my Word and didst not deny my Name.” Read Jn 5:15-47; Jn 8:12-59. Only God’s exact original Gospel Truth will save those who believe, repent and obey.]
3. And they that are wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament, and they that turn many to Righteousness, as the stars forever and ever. [In Mt 6:31-33, Jesus Christ commanded everyone to seek first God’s Kingdom and God’s Righteousness. Have you obeyed His command? Read Mt 3-7; Mt 11; Mk 1:14-15; Lk 8-12; Lk 16:15-17; Ro 1:16-21; Ro 4; Ro 10:3-4; 1Co 12:13; Eph 4:4-7; Heb 11:1,6. How do we begin to be saved? Read Lk 24:44-53; Jn 20:19-31; 2Ti 3:12-17. What is the goal of “every Scripture inspired of God?” What will the Godly “wise” have and do that makes them “shine as the brightness of the firmament” according to Mt 13; Mk 4; 2Co 3-5; Php 2:1-18? What is the “treasure in earthen vessels?”]
4. But thou, O Daniel, shut up the Words and seal the Book, even to the time of the end. Many shall run to and fro and knowledge shall be increased.” [Use a good concordance and see how critical words and their variations are used in the full context of the Scriptures. Do not trust any man-made definitions for such words as “Faith”, “Hope”, “Love”, “Grace”, “Peace”, etc. There are two kinds of “knowledge” as there are two kinds of “works”. What is the major difference between the two kinds of “knowledge” and “works”?]
5. Then I, Daniel, looked and behold, there stood other two, the one on the brink of the river on this side and the other on the brink of the river on that side. [Read Dt 32:1-6; Ps 1; Pr 23:23; Isa 55; Jn 3-4; Jn 7:37-39; Jas 1-3; Rev 7; Rev 21-22. What is the “Water of Life?” Who “freely” gives the “Water of Life?”]
6. And one said to the Man clothed in linen, who was above the waters of the river, “How long shall it be to the end of these wonders?” [Read 1Th 5 about “times and the seasons.” Few have paid careful attention to what really matters—their own salvation! Who is “the Man clothed in linen?” Why is He “above the waters of the river?” What was being symbolized? Read Mt 14:22-33. Who walked on physical water?]
7. And I heard the Man clothed in linen, who was above the waters of the river when He held up His right hand and His left hand unto Heaven and sware by Him that liveth forever, that it shall be for a time, times and a half. “And when they have made an end of breaking in pieces the Power of the Holy People, all these things shall be finished.” [How can someone break “in pieces the Power of the Holy People?” Why would God allow it? Read Mt 10-12; Mt 24-25; Mk 13; Lk 19-21; Jn 14-16; Heb 8-13.]
8. And I heard but I understood not. Then said I, “O my Lord, what shall be the issue of these things?” [Read Col 1-4. The Words were sealed until the New Covenant Gospel Truth was preached as the New Testament writers described. Read 1Pe 1-5; 2Pe 1-3. How are the souls of the saved “purifed” according to Peter’s Epistle? How are the saved “begotten again” according to Peter’s Epistle? What “Water” do the “springs without Water” not have? What does the “dog” symbolize? What is the “vomit”? What does the “sow”, the pig, symbolize? What is the “mire”? Read Mk 5:1-20. How did the “swine” die?]
9. And He said, “Go thy way, Daniel, for the Words are shut up and sealed till the time of the end. [In Jn 6:45, Jesus Christ said, “It is written in the Prophets: ‘And they shall all be taught of God.’ Everyone, that hath heard from the Father and hath learned, cometh unto me.” Read Ac 13; Ro 1:1-8; 1Th 1-5. How long did it take true believers to become effective witnesses? Did they attend Bible colleges or seminaries? Did the apostles command anyone to establish such institutions or to trust in them? Read Jer 2:11-13; Jer 17:5-18; Mt 23:8-12; Jn 6:44-45; Ro 12-15:21; 1Jn 2; Rev 1-3. How do the “wise” “overcome the evil one?”]
10. Many shall purify themselves, and make themselves white and be refined but the wicked shall do wickedly. And none of the wicked shall understand but they that are wise shall understand.” [Read Jn 17-21. Jesus Christ said He sends His true followers as His Father sent Him. Where can we read that the Father sent His Son to baptize with physical water? Read Ps 51; Isa 1-2; Isa 55-59; Jn 15:1-17; 1Co 6; Jas 4-5. How is a true Christian washed “whiter than snow?” How do true Christians “purify themselves, and make themselves white and be refined?” Read Mt 23; 2Co 11:1-15; 2Th 1-3; Jude. What is the lie that “the lawless one” uses to deceive? Read 1Co 1-3. True Christians will know the answers to all of these simple questions. Do not be deceived! The wicked will suffer the “shame and everlasting contempt” of Isa 66:24!]

Serving “The Lord our Righteousness” for the Glory of God the Father,
anne robare / canawedding at aol dot com / * “Daniel” was written approximately 530 B.C.