Sunday, June 17, 2007

A Reply to Hershael York on "PPL"

A few days ago, Hershael York left the following comment on another post on this blog:
David: You probably don't even know who I am, but like so many others I am tremendously indebted to your dad who mentored me and encouraged me so much. I have just posted a lengthy article about why I affirm the IMB position on speaking in tongues in private (I don't use the PPL nomenclature). I welcome lively but loving discussion and debate. I have strong convictions on this, as you will see. BTW, I am going on the IMB as a trustee and you can count on my prayerful support and encouragement. I hope to see you on the mission field one day.
My comment in response to him was:

Welcome to Love Each Stone. I have been somewhat aware of you due to other references I have seen in the blogosphere and Baptist Press. I am happy to hear of my Dad's impact in your life and ministry. I miss him very much, and am pleased to hear, as I do often, of how others have been blessed by him. I read your article. I congratulate you on doing a good job of articulating clearly your position. It is one of the better articles arguing against the use of "PPL" that I have read.

Although I don't have the same academic credentials as you, I have also studied and written quite extensively on this same subject. I imagine we would both be in agreement that it is ironic that the whole subject of "tongues," which Paul says is the least important of all the gifts, would lead to so much discussion. I wish that didn't have to be the case. I think there are far more important things to spend our time on. However, when such things as the sending of missionary workers, and fellowship with other believers, are affected by the positions we take, the discussion all of the sudden finds a way of becoming much more relevant.

In light of your invitation to "lively but loving discussion and debate," perhaps when I find the time to do so, I will write some response to your article. In the meantime, I would be honored if you would interact more directly with some of the things I have written here at Love Each Stone, both on the subject of "PPL" as well as other matters.
I do look forward to meeting you on the mission field, and thank you for your support and encouragement.
Although, quite frankly, I am getting a bit tired of talking about PPL, I will now acquiesce one more time and post here my contribution to the "lively and loving discussion and debate" on this issue to which I understand Brother Hershael to be inviting me in his comment. Because my response is too lengthy to post on his own blog, I include here the original text of his post (in normal font), and my response, at various places throughout the text in bold italic font.

"It's Not a Language, It's Not Prayer, and Now It's Not Private Either," by Hershael York

HY: Tongues was dead, to begin with. There is no doubt whatever about that. The register of its burial was signed by the clergyman, the clerk, the undertaker, and the chief mourner. Southern Baptists signed it. And the Southern Baptist name was good upon 'Change, for anything he chose to put his hand to.

Old Tongues was as dead as a door-nail.

Mind! I don’t mean to say that I know, of my own knowledge, what there is particularly dead about a door-nail. I might have been inclined, myself, to regard a coffin-nail as the deadest piece of ironmongery in the trade. But the wisdom of our ancestors is in the simile; and my unhallowed hands shall not disturb it, or the Convention’s done for. You will therefore permit me to repeat, emphatically, that Tongues was as dead as a door-nail.

And then it made a reappearance. Not a resurrection such as God performs, but a hollow, emaciated, transparent apparition of its former self. No longer the powerful means of gospel proclamation God intended, but now a self-edifying self-gratification of a self-centered self-indulgent generation. The gift that God gave as a sign to unbelievers has given way to the ecstatic gutterances of the prayer closet more enamored with emotion than expression.

I hope to make a clear statement with the goal of accomplishing several things. First, I will lay out the textual case against so-called private prayer language. Exegetically, that is not what the text says. I will not here make the case for the cessation of supernatural gifts because I am agnostic on that issue. I cannot say with all confidence that the proper understanding of the New Testament inexorably leads me to conclude that tongues have ceased. What I can say with certitude is that what Southern Baptists are debating today is NOT the tongues of the New Testament, but only the poor imitation of it, the only benefit of which is the emotional experience of the practitioner. In addition, I am going to walk through those verses that most use to defend this practice and show that they actually indicate the opposite.

Second, I will show that the use of tongues in private prayer negates the stated biblical purpose of tongues. Evangelistically, that is not what the world needs.

Third, I will argue that this is a new phenomenon and that makes it suspect. Historically, it is not what Baptists have believed, and the fact that today 50% of SBC pastors consider it a valid gift is cause for repentance, not rejoicing.

Finally, I will argue that the IMB policy is precisely correct because we are not charismatic. To open this door a little is to open it all the way. Under no logic, biblical or philosophical, could one argue that tongues are acceptable in private but not in public. How could we consistently affirm missionaries that believe in speaking in tongues, but censure or eliminate those who believe they have the gift of prophecy? Philosophically, that is not what Southern Baptists need.

The Exegetical Case

HY: I was incredulous when I read Dwight McKissic's blog in which he argued that the primary motivation for rejection of tongues was emotional prejudice that needed to be abandoned like the SBC's former affirmation of slavery. He wrote: "How could a convention that is usually biblio-centric (sic) and exegetically accurate reject plain, clear, scriptural, authoritive (sic), inerrant and infallible biblical truth regarding the Spirit’s gifting of some believers to pray in tongues in private according to the sovereign will of God (I Corinthians 12:7,10, 30; 14:2, 4, 5, 13-15)?" Don't charismatic denominations ask that same question with regard to public tongues in a worship service?

But before I examine these verses, I am going to be a fool. I feel like Paul felt when he compared his resume with those of his opponents. I don't think that my academic credentials are necessary for proper biblical interpretation. In fact, I think the obvious and natural meaning of the words and their context are readily intelligible, but just in case someone may put stock in such things, I will share that I am well schooled in Greek and the New Testament. I studied Greek for two years as an undergraduate at the University of Kentucky. Twice I won the National Greek Examination Award. In my senior year I won the Classical Award from the department. Then I did a master's degree in Classical Languages, concentrating entirely on Greek. By the time I got to seminary I already had more Greek study (approximately 50 hours) on my transcript than any of my seminary professors (not counting their years of teaching it, of course!). It was classical Greek, however, and not koine, so my MDiv and my PhD in Greek and New Testament helped me make the transition to the Greek of the Bible and I have applied myself to studying it, reading it, and teaching it ever since. I am currently writing the commentary on 1 Corinthians for Kent Hughes' Preaching the Word series published by Crossway, so I have no light interest in these things.

Now with that out of the way, let's look at Paul's argument. He is clearly writing to a church that has abused, misused, and misunderstood the gifts God has given them. The gift of tongues was perhaps the most misused of the Corinthians' gifts. In response, Paul reminds them of certain parameters within which the gifts should be used. Three truths about the gifts emerge: first, a sovereign God gives them to whomever He chooses. Consequently, one should find no reason for either boasting or jealousy in one's gifts or lack thereof. Second, Paul makes it clear that the one who has the gift is in control of the gift, or else prescribing the way to use it would be nonsensical. "The spirit of the prophets is subject to the prophets" (1 Cor. 14:32) means that no one ever falls into a trance and is uncontrollable or merely passive in the use of the gift. Third, the purpose of the gifts is the edification of the church.
DR: Although one of the principal uses, and quite likely the principal use, of spiritual gifts is the edification of the church, I see nowhere it is specifically stated that the only purpose of the gifts is the edification of the church. It is true that 1 Cor. 12:7 in the NIV says “the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.” However, the correct translation of this verse is not quite so clear, as evidenced by versions such as:

The Message--"Each person is given something to do that shows who God is: Everyone gets in on it, everyone benefits."

Young’s Literal Translation--"And to each hath been given the manifestation of the Spirit for profit."

Holman Christian Standard Bible--"A manifestation of the Spirit is given to each person to produce what is beneficial."

King James Version--"But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal."

Also, there is a very real sense in which, as each one is edified individually, the end-result is the overall edification of the Body at large.
HY: After explaining the prerogative of God in dispensing the gifts (1 Cor. 12:1-11), he immediately launches into the purpose of God, which is to be used in the body (1 Cor. 12:12-31).

But what is the gift of tongues? Simply put, the gift of tongues is the ability to speak in a human language that one has never studied or learned. The gift of tongues is clearly defined in Acts 2:4-12. People from all over Europe, Asia, and Africa were present, and each one heard some of the 120 members of that first church preach the gospel in their own language.
DR: Tongues is not defined in Acts 2. Rather, a specific occurrence of the use of tongues is described.
HY: Paul affirms this as the purpose of tongues in 1 Corinthians 14:22 when he writes, "Thus tongues are a sign not for believers, but for unbelievers."
DR: My understanding of 1 Cor. 14:21-22 is that tongues as a “sign for unbelievers” is not precisely as an aid to evangelism, as much as it is a sign of judgment (see Isaiah 28:11-12).
HY: Speaking ecstatic utterances in a personal devotional setting simply does not meet this biblical criterion. With Corinth's unique position on the isthmus between mainland Greece and the Peloponnese, sailors and citizens from all over the Mediterranean world would either live or work there. Ships would often dock on one side of the isthmus, have their cargo carried four miles overland to be put on other ships in order to avoid the treacherous sailing around the land mass. The world came to Corinth, and God graciously gave many in that church the gift of tongues for the purpose of spreading the gospel. The problem arose when they began to use their gifts indiscriminately and for their own benefit. They would speak in tongues when no one else there could understand. They would pray in tongues.

So Paul's correction can be summed up as 1) you must never use tongues when no one can understand you. Either be quiet or make sure an interpreter is present. 2) You must use tongues to proclaim the gospel to unbelievers.
DR: The biblical evidence does not actually point towards tongues being used for an evangelistic purpose. Beyond 1 Cor. 12-14, the only clear mentions of tongues in the Bible are in Acts 2, 10 & 19. In Acts 2, the unbelievers gathered in Jerusalem heard the disciples “declaring the wonders of God” (v. 11), quite possibly, praising and worshiping God. However, the actual gospel proclamation was done by Peter, presumably in either Aramaic or Greek. In Acts 10, tongues was not used for an evangelistic purpose, but rather, apparently, as a confirmation of the baptism of the Holy Spirit (vv. 44-48). In Acts 19, practically the same thing occurred (vv. 4-7).
HY: I am trying to be as understanding as possible, but I confess I cannot fathom how someone who reads 1 Corinthians 14:13-19 can reach the conclusion that Paul is saying exactly the opposite thing. If words have meaning at all, Paul says that praying in tongues without understanding makes one's mind "unfruitful" (v. 14). Is that what we're going for? He further says that he chooses to pray with his spirit and his mind. Now if he just said that praying in a tongue makes his mind unfruitful, and if he now says that he chooses to pray with both his spirit and his mind, the only conclusion one can draw is that Paul is saying it's better to pray with words and a fruitful mind than to use the gift to express what you don't understand.
DR: Is it not possible that “praying with the spirit” and “praying with understanding” here are not necessarily simultaneous, but rather two separate types of prayer, both of which are regarded as legitimate? Or that “praying with the spirit” and “praying with understanding,” if understood as both simultaneously, is specifically enjoined here as the preferred or required option in the context of the assembly, but not necessarily as the only option in one’s private prayer life?
HY: He even goes so far as to call them "children" in their thinking for their use of the gift in this way. Bro. McKissic often interprets Paul's rather sarcastic statement of the situation (in 14:2, for instance) as a prescriptive or normative statement with almost imperative force.
DR: Is it not an assumption on your part that Paul’s statement in 14:2 is “sarcastic”? What are the specific hermeneutical clues that point to this verse being sarcastic?
HY: That simply doesn't jive with rest of the chapter, especially after he just told them to grow up in chapter 13!
DR: Is it not possible that the specific “childish” behavior (among others) for which Paul chastises the Corinthians is speaking in tongues publicly without an interpreter?
HY: In all candor, Paul's statement in 14:4 that the one who speaks in a tongue edifies himself ought to be enough to settle the argument. In the verse immediately preceding it and in the phrase immediately following it, Paul contrasts this use of tongues with the superior motive of edifying, encouraging, and comforting others. Where in Scripture are we ever told to use our gifts to edify ourselves?
DR: Jude 20. "But you, dear friends, build yourselves up in your most holy faith and pray in the Holy Spirit."

Although I do not necessarily understand “praying in the Holy Spirit” in Jude 20 to refer exclusively to praying in tongues, and thus, not necessarily a reference to spiritual gifts, it is clear from this passage that it is not necessarily a bad thing to “build ourselves up” or “edify ourselves.” It is also curious, though, the similarity of the language used in 1 Cor. 14:15 “pray in the spirit” (almost certainly alluding to tongues) and Jude 20 “pray in the Holy Spirit.”

Actually, Paul, in 1 Cor. 14:5, immediately after saying that “he who speaks in a tongue edifies himself,” says “I would like every one of you to speak in tongues.”
HY: Isn't this akin to Satan's first temptation of Christ, that He use his power to satisfy Himself? Yet Jesus' life was so other-centered that He never got angry for how He was treated. He never asserted His rights. He never used His miraculous power to satisfy or comfort Himself. Why would we ever think that God has given us gifts to give us the warm fuzzies? By the way, I am not alone in this understanding of the passage. John Stott, John MacArthur, and many, many others see it exactly this way, which makes the charge of exegetical ignorance rather absurd.

Forgive the fingerpointing, but I am sensitive (as well as dubious) of Bro. McKissic's criticism that the IMB policy and those who agree with it lack "exegetical precision." I doubt he means to be arrogant when he says that, but he paints with so broad a brush that it just feels like he thinks we don't take the Scripture seriously--and he does. Now, I don't mind anyone disagreeing with my view of a text, but don't suggest I am not doing my best to derive my view from Scripture.

If Bro. McKissic or anyone who is seriously searching this issue wants me to deal with a text about this subject that I have not done here, please let me know specifically and I will do my best to oblige within the limits of my schedule.

I have a few questions to ask of those who uphold speaking in tongues in private. If God gives the ability to some to pray in tongues in private, does He also give some the gift of prophecy to use in private?
DR: As I understand the gift of prophecy (see Wayne Grudem, "The Gift of Prophecy in the New Testament and Today"), there is a sense in which God’s gifting is conferred privately (the actual "revelation" received --though not revelation on the same level as God's infallible revelation in Scripture), although it does not technically become prophecy until it is communicated to others. However, the "revelation" received from God, before it is communicated as prophecy to others, may be of benefit privately to the one who receives it.
HY: Does He still give the entire list of gifts in 1 Cor. 12:8-10?
DR: I personally believe that yes, he does.
HY: Why the preoccupation and prominence of this one?
DR: I imagine because of the same immaturity and lack of balance present in the Corinthian church.
HY: And if you claim to have this gift, how will you deal with those who claim to have some of the other gifts?
DR: With the same discernment, spiritual balance, and deference to sound doctrine that one should use when testing the gift of tongues.
HY: At the core of this whole issue lies a big exegetical and practical question. Is there just one kind of tongues--i.e. known human languages--or are there two, also ecstatic utterances that defy any linguistic analysis? Since the Bible never clearly states that tongues in 1 Corinthians is different from the tongues in Acts, I accept only one kind of tongues.
DR: Yet 1 Cor. 12:10 says there are “different kinds of tongues,” and 1 Cor. 13:1 speaks of the “tongues of men and of angels.” Also, it is possible that the miracle of Acts 2 was a miracle of hearing as well as one of speaking. I am not necessarily arguing in favor of this interpretation, merely pointing it out as one possible explanation.
HY: I usually go with the law of first mention as a hermeneutical principle. In other words, when something is defined at its first occurrence or mention in the Bible, you can take it that same way in all subsequent mentions unless otherwise explicitly stated.

I don't need to know what baptism means in 1 Corinthians, for example, if I know what it means in the gospels.

But for the sake of argument, let's just say there are two. Let's say that God does both. Let's suppose that somewhere between Acts and 1 Corinthians, God also allowed believers to speak in tongues when no unbelievers are around and they themselves don't know what they are saying. Let's also say that He still gives this gift today. My question is this: why do we hear exclusively about this one? Shouldn't we have a few missionaries that we don't have to send to language school. Wouldn't it seem odd that God gives this unverifiable and unintelligible gift so often and seldom bestows the gift that makes even unbelievers sit up and take notice as they did in Acts 2? I think I would find it more plausible to accept the lesser phenomenon as a continuation of New Testament practice if I still saw the more patently miraculous phenomenon on occasion.
DR: I do not consider it to be my prerogative to analyze and pronounce my personal judgment regarding the sovereignty of God in the way He chooses to distribute the gifts.
HY: To summarize, Paul rebukes the Corinthians for their self-edification and reminds them that the focus of the gift of tongues should be on reaching unbelievers. That was the purpose then and if that gift is still given today, that is its purpose even now.

The Evangelistic Case

HY: When I was a child, I could not wait until my father let me mow the yard. We lived in a parsonage next door to the church he pastored and so the church had a riding mower to cut both yards. That was their idea of taking care of the pastor, I suppose. Anyway, I used to love to drive it. After I got old enough to mow the yard, mowing lost its appeal. I still loved to ride the tractor around though; I just hated using it for its intended purpose.

Speaking in tongues to oneself or to God is to enjoy the ride without fulfilling the purpose. Again I ask, even if one were allowed a self-edifying use of tongues, shouldn't he at least use it for an evangelistic purpose some?

If tongues has two purposes, why are we arguing about it for only one use, and that one the most easily self-induced? That leads one to the strong suspicion that this alleged speaking in tongues is a learned behavior, a phenomenon duplicated around the world in many cultural and religious contexts. Preaching the gospel in a language you've never studied--now THAT is impressive and undeniable, exactly what God intended on Pentecost.

Every time Christians use the gift of tongues in Acts, unbelievers of some kind are present.
DR: This is only technically true in Acts 2. In both Acts 10 and 19, it was actually the new believers who were speaking in tongues in the presence of older believers. The text says nothing about unbelievers being present.
HY: Jewish Christians who didn't believe Gentiles should be saved or unregenerate people who didn't believe in Jesus would see this miraculous gift bestowed and it would give them pause. God even used it to speak to Peter's heart at Cornelius' house. When Peter realized that God was giving them the same experience and gifts that he had enjoyed on Pentecost, he knew it was of the Lord (Acts 11:15. Note that tongues aren't specifically mentioned, but Peter says the Holy Spirit fell on them "just as on us at the beginning.").

Everything in the book of Acts and in 1 Corinthians points to the inescapable conclusion that the purpose of tongues is evangelism, and the need is no less desperate today. People throughout the world need Christians who can declare the mighty acts of God in their heart language more than they need Christians who have just had a warm, if incomprehensible, experience.

The Historical Case

HY: My father used to warn me that if I thought I discovered something in the Scriptures that was new, something that no one had ever seen before, I had better be careful. "Don't run too far ahead of the pack," he would say, "or you might discover that you aren't even on the right trail." That was and remains good advice. Though our practice is determined and regulated by Scripture and not experience or history, we nonetheless need to ask why a fence is where it is before we tear it down. Should it not trouble us that none of the founders of the SBC claimed to have a private prayer language? I am not much of a church historian, but I suspect that very few ever claimed such a thing before the Azusa Street revival. Baptists have always been wary of charismatic claims, sometimes to the point of disregarding the Holy Spirit, to be sure. But on the other hand, Baptists (sic) theologians have either ignored or rejected speaking in tongues since it made a reappearance in the early 20th Century.

So what are we to make of the fact that 50% of SBC pastors seem open to speaking in tongues in private? Well, we have to take a historical look at that. The real question is, "What changed?" I doubt anyone would seriously dispute that at the inception of the SBC almost no one of the founders would have looked favorably on the claim that one could pray in tongues. Likewise at 1900 or 1950. So what has happened in the past six decades? In the same way, I am confident that if Lifeway cared to do the research, they would find that a startling number of church members and even pastors today are inclusivists, believe that people who never hear the gospel don't go to hell, and don't think it terribly wrong for a couple who love each other to have sex before marriage. I shutter to think that one or more of those beliefs would make it into the majority category. In my own Association is a pastor who denies the Trinity, mocks the notion of a substitutionary atonement, and believes in a postmortem offer of salvation for everyone.

That fact that we have strayed so far from our historical position on this issue is cause for alarm. Amazingly, some of the very ones who are so intent on leading the convention back to the beliefs of the founders don't mind innovating in this area.
DR: Consistency on this argument would lead us to also reject the Protestant Reformation, the Radical Reformation (including believers baptism by immersion), and the abolition of slavery.
HY: Let's illustrate it another way. Imagine that the issue is not speaking in tongues in private, but snake handling in private. Now I understand that it's not the same thing. I know the justification for snake handling comes from a spurious passage in the longer ending of Mark. I also know that no one in the SBC is clamoring for this practice. But bear with me. Since none of us believe it nor have we encountered it much, we haven't explicitly denied it in any statement of faith. The IMB probably doesn't have a policy against it for candidates. But let's imagine that it begins to catch on, not with uneducated Appalachian Pentecostals, but with some of our best friends. They are people we love and respect. They aren't pushing it as a mandatory practice; they just do it in private as a personal demonstration of faith and as a discipline of trust in the Lord. They are sincere, godly people with a heart for the Lord and a love for His Word. They express that if God has something more for them, then they want it, because they want all that He has for His people. One sincere pastor who does it speaks in a Southern Baptist seminary chapel service and says that God has used it in his life.

What would we do? He appeals to a text of scripture in his KJV as evidence. He has a great track record as a pastor and a godly leader. We like him. Well, I know what we ought to do, but I also know that some, perhaps many, would think that perhaps God does give this man that gift. Who are we to sit in judgment on him?
DR: There is a difference. Snake-handling does not have a clear Scriptural precedent. It actually runs counter to the principle enunciated by Jesus, when tempted by Satan to cast himself from the pinnacle of the temple, to “not tempt the Lord thy God.” Snake-handling exposes one to clear physical dangers.
HY: But we cannot let personality and friendship dictate our understanding of Scripture or our practice of it. If Southern Baptists haven't seen this as a legitimate practice for nearly 150 years, we probably don't have much of a case to start now. It's either right or it's wrong, but it's not seasonal.

The Philosophical Case

HY: The IMB did exactly the correct thing when it adopted the guidelines forbidding missionaries from speaking in tongues unless it is a supernatural gift of God enabling them to preach in a known human language. Imagine the money we could save on the language schools and the year of study we make missionary families endure! The question is certainly not whether or not God can do it, but whether or not He chooses to. To my knowledge, all of our missionary candidates who go to non-English speaking countries have learned their languages in the conventional ways.

Had we experienced a missiological crisis with indigenous Baptists as a result of sending missionaries who accept and advocate this practice the Board would have been reprimanded by Southern Baptists for being asleep at the wheel. By using foresight and vigilance, however, they are criticized for trying to come up with a workable policy before the crisis occurs.

Again I ask each reader to go down the road of imagination with me. Imagine this time that the IMB allows SBC missionaries to speak in tongues in private. Let's just pretend for a moment that the IMB agrees that a biblical case can be made and we should not forbid the practice. Please tell me by what logic, exegetical or ecclesiastical, we could then forbid its public use or the use of the other gifts by those who claim they have them?
DR: By the same logic used in the old, and still extant IMB policy: "Conditions for termination… A persistent emphasis of any specific gift of the Spirit as normative for all or to the extent such emphasis becomes disruptive to the fellowship."

Because the use of tongues is so controversial among Southern Baptists, the public use of tongues or other gifts may well become “disruptive to the fellowship.” On the other hand, there was no reason that the private use of tongues be “disruptive to the fellowship.” On the contrary, it would seem to me that it is rather the prohibition of the private use of tongues that is proving to be “disruptive to the fellowship.” Before the prohibition, there were no “disruptions to fellowship” regarding tongues of which I was aware in the IMB.
HY: At that point we are simply charismatics who believe in eternal security.
DR: Although the term “charismatic” may mean different things to different people, my usual understanding of the term includes the experience of speaking in tongues as a necessary confirmation of a post-conversion “baptism in the Holy Spirit.” This is a clear difference, beyond merely a belief in “eternal security,” between most Southern Baptists who believe in the present-day practice of tongues, whether private or public, and “charismatics.”
HY: Missionaries certainly have a right to that opinion, but they shouldn't go to the field as Southern Baptist missionaries if they do.

I love the Holy Spirit, and I do not want to do anything to cheapen His marvelous work. I long for revival, for an outpouring of the Spirit to deluge our convention and sweep our churches into the streets with a heart to reach the lost, to cool fevered brows, to lighten heavy loads, to mend broken homes, and to feed hungry bodies. I would love to see the Spirit work in an undeniable tidal wave of gifts that are truly supernatural. But when that flood comes, it won't be private and it won't be personal. I would do nothing to quench the Spirit, but neither am I going to attribute to Him that which I can easily explain by the power of man. I want to see an outpouring of God in our day, but I'm not going to call a puddle an ocean just so I can pretend I'm at sea.

My apologies to Charles Dickens for ripping him off in my first three paragraphs.

posted by Hershael W York @ 9:48 AM


alex said...

I can't help thinking that York leans rather too heavily on the argument "Not in 150 years so not ever". Is he open to the possibility that every believer should desire to speak in tongus, as the apostle desired in his day? Or is he only open to the possibility that every believer shouldn't?

In baptising only believers Baptists are always flying in the face of historical Christian practice so we of all people should be open to the possibility that the Scriptures teach things that the Church has largely missed. Just open, that's all.

Lastly a point often missed is that if you place on one side the Christians who don't believe in speaking in tongues and on the other side those who do you will note the following: The first group is very much bigger and contains almost all the liberal Christians there ever were. The second group is a lot smaller, a lot more evangelistic and contains a vastly higher proprtion of people who trust scripture.

Considering on most counts Southern Baptists belong in the second group there is pause for thought I would imagine.

jeff w. said...


Thanks for posting this item and your comments. It did tax my attention span!

I found Dr. York’s analysis well-stated and your comments well-placed. But what I found more interesting is the dogmatic nature of the arguments. Dr. York is probably correct in chastising Dwight McKissic, if Rev. McKissic inferred that those who disagreed with him were not honoring God’s Word. I find that Dr. York has really made the same argument himself, however, especially when he finds that the fact that 50% or so of SBC pastors disagree with him, “is cause for repentance”.

I believe that God is quite clear on a host of areas in His Word. There are, however, in my opinion a number of areas where God chose to be less than clear. I believe that this was God’s choice in His sovereign will. I may believe God’s Word is clear in some areas, but where my arguments have a lot of “yes, but” in them, I have to stop and wonder if the clarity is in the Word or just my understanding of it.

Now in the “tongues” debate, there are a lot of dogmatic opinions – but how these various opinions play out in the SBC is the important issue. Those who believe that tongues still exist in some form want a place at the table and the right to participate. At least some of those who believe that tongues don’t exist or, at least not in the form that others believe they exist, want this issues to be a determinative factor in who sits at the table and who participates.

Is this an area that is clear enough in God’s Word to determine the right to participate in the work of the SBC?

I wonder how far we can go limiting participation based on our “clear understandings” of God’s Word, before we find ourselves alone and relatively irrelevant. Perhaps if only 50% of SBC pastors can agree on an issue, we have gone too far?


Debbie Kaufman said...

David: This statement by Dr. York caught my eye. Dr. York said:

My father used to warn me that if I thought I discovered something in the Scriptures that was new, something that no one had ever seen before, I had better be careful. "Don't run too far ahead of the pack," he would say, "or you might discover that you aren't even on the right trail."

I don't believe this is new at all. New to some Southern Baptists. But scripture must be read in it's full context not pre-text. I realize that I have not said anything new here. But neither are the truths of scripture anything new, new to some maybe. If we are not willing to grow, learn and change our minds continually based on the reading of the Bible, there is something wrong. I hope to continually see things in scripture I have not seen before until I am in heaven.

Debbie Kaufman said...

I might add that your answer David to this statement by Dr. York is well stated. I know you are tired of writing on this subject as Alan Cross was, it's taxing but I for one appreciate that you took the time to answer Dr. York's post on this.

Strider said...

Good work David, I left a very unconvincing comment on Dr. York's blog. What I wish I could insert into this debate is humanity. The opponents of ppl often want to demonize the 'enemy'. One commenter on Dr. York's blog said it outright that ppl practitioners were demonically influenced. But once you talk to and work with, and pray with some who practice ppl all that falls to nonsense. When people love each other and discuss these things then the arguments based on fear fall away.
I pray for the day when our understanding of the scriptures leads us to Jesus and a love for the brethren instead of gloom, doom, and judgement of those for whom we should be thanking God for.

Lu said...

David, thank you for taking on this subject! I'm impressed with your restraint in not swatting at the gnats Dr. York lets loose but rather keeping to the most salient points.

It concerns me greatly when I hear leaders painting a picture of God as being so distant, stoic and dispassionate as Dr. York's. The God I serve does give me, and all His children, gifts to just to "give us the warm fuzzies." I guess Dr. York has never given his wife or his children gifts just because he knew it would make them happy and feel loved; gifts that served no other purpose than to bring them joy. I guess he only gives them gifts that will also "edify others." How sad. Jesus said even we who are "evil" know how to give good gifts to our children. So how much more will our Father who is perfect give us good gifts, gifts that do nothing more than bring us joy?

God gave me a car. He didn't have to, He could have just told me to buy a bike. But He gave me a car. And He could have just given me a functional car. Its only 8 miles to work and 10 miles to church, with everything else I do somewhere in between those two stops. So I don't really need a fancy car. But God chose to give me one anyway; an incredibly beautiful, cute, sporty, red Honda that I fell in love with the moment I drove it. I love that car. It gives me the warm fuzzies every time I get in it! And I thank God for it every single time. I've had it a little over a year and every day, I thank Him for it. Yeah, the car can also edify others (I can give them rides, etc). But any old car would have done that. Yet God didn't give me just any old car. He chose to give me this one JUST because He knew it would give me the warm fuzzies. He also once told me He flung the stars into the sky just because He knew I would spend my life gazing up at them in awe and wonder. A Sunday School teacher once told me that Jesus died just for me; if I was the only person on earth He still would have died. That kind of gift wouldn't edify anyone but me. Yet God has made it clear to me over the years that that Sunday School teacher wasn't mistaken. He would have died even though the only one to be edified by that gift of life and salvation would have been me. I have continued to tell everyone I meet that if they were the only person on earth Jesus would have died just for them. If that isn't the ultimate "warm fuzzy" gift I don't know what is!

It makes me sad that Dr. York can't experience the amazing, passsionate, wild, crazy love of God who gives us good gifts just to make us warm inside, just because He loves us.

He also says, "Speaking in tongues to oneself or to God is to enjoy the ride without fulfilling the purpose." Again, this so denies the rich and passionate love of God. Goodness, when I enjoy the ride I AM fulfilling my purpose. My purpose is to glorify God and there is nothing that brings more glory to God than one of His children truly enjoying the ride of Life He's put them on! Oh my goodness, what a dark, sad view of God that we cannot just enjoy life; that we must always be "doing" something; must always be conciously edifying others, even when no one else is around to benefit from our efforts; that we in and of ourselves do not bring joy and glory to Him just being who we are. That breaks my heart.

Dr. York also says, "Shouldn't we have a few missionaries that we don't have to send to language school.

Uh, we do. In my time in India I served alongside a woman who became nearly fluent, and was at the very least completely conversant and literate in Hindi within the first two months we were there, without any formal training and without ever having read, spoken or even heard Hindi before we arrived. She literally astounded every person we met, especially nationals as she spoke it as if she were a native and read and wrote Hindi as if she were already at grammar school level. She was just able to pick it up, read it, understand it and write it without any study effort on her part. If you think that's not supernatural, you try doing it. Let's see how far you get in six weeks. Granted, her gift of "tongues" did not manifest itself exactly as it was in Acts 2, an instantaneous speaking, but it was still a very obvious gift of a foreign (and known) tongue by the Holy Spirit.

Just my two cents.... for the whole penny its worth. :)

R. L. Vaughn said...

David, I was glad to find a link to your comments from Hershael York's site. In a general way, I am much closer to his view on tongues (as far as I can tell). But his view of tongues as an evangelistic tool misses the mark, as you point out. That thought prompted me to write Tongues--an evangelistic tool? I just don't see that is a defensible position.

Tongues is not defined in Acts 2. Rather, a specific occurrence of the use of tongues is described.

This seems like somewhat of a quibble. Tongues is certainly not defined in the sense of a Webster's Dictionary, but it is clear that this case involves known human languages. That's the way I took the statement -- defined in the sense of showing it is human language.

Also, it is possible that the miracle of Acts 2 was a miracle of hearing as well as one of speaking. I am not necessarily arguing in favor of this interpretation, merely pointing it out as one possible explanation.

I used to hold this position -- that the miracle of tongues on Pentecost was not a miracle of speaking but rather one of hearing. That seems to be fairly defensible on the face of it, but the language of Acts 2 doesn't support, in my opinion (at least the language is what made me abandon the position; e.g. "they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance").

Although the term 'charismatic' may mean different things to different people, my usual understanding of the term includes the experience of speaking in tongues as a necessary confirmation of a post-conversion 'baptism in the Holy Spirit.'

I once worked with a United Pentecostal preacher and a lady who was a member of a charismatic church. In their cases, the UPC preacher believed tongues as a necessary experience related to the baptism of the Holy Spirit, and that it was evidence of one's salvation. The charismatic lady believed that tongues was not necessary for all persons, though she did associate it with the baptism of the Holy Spirit (not sure how well she reflected the theology of her church). I'm sure you are right are the terminology varying with different people in different places.

Enjoyed reading your thoughts.

Tim Patterson said...


On the field I have observed a couple of instances where a group heard the gospel message presented to them in a trade language but responded in their heart language with spontaneous praise. I have often wondered if that could be a present day example of what happened in Acts 10 and 19.

I am not sure... what do you think?

Steve Sensenig said...

Mr. York wrote:

I usually go with the law of first mention as a hermeneutical principle. In other words, when something is defined at its first occurrence or mention in the Bible, you can take it that same way in all subsequent mentions unless otherwise explicitly stated.

This is very interesting to me. First of all, I didn't know that it was a "law". Who made it a law, and when?

Secondly, it seems to me to be a very artificial imposition on Scripture to create such a law.

Thirdly, does this "law" take into account the actual chronology of the writing of different portions of Scripture?

Anyway, thank you, David, for your excellent responses to Mr. York's essay. I had read his essay when he mentioned it here in the comments of an earlier post, and I found it to be a bit wearying.

There are some good points in there, I'm sure. But a lot of overstatements and presuppositions. I don't have the time to construct a response to it, but if I did, it would include much of what you wrote here.

Anonymous said...

With all due respect to Rev York,I think you are talking to a brick wall here. Your graciousness in dealing with him is to be applauded. When I hear he and others on his side of the issues talk about "revival", and then with there rhetoric and backroom politicking trample on any call for unity such as the one so eloquently and passionately delivered by Frank Page, I tend to think this call for revival is hollow at best. These people know one thing and that is fussin and fightin, they cant exist without it. The most devisive thing you can say to them is lets get together.
say it aint so

ml said...

Dr. York, I am not sure if anyone is still following this thread or not; however, I am wondering about your hermeneutic of first mention. Do you mean first mention textually or chronologically? If it is by text placement I find that suspect conceptually and developmentally. If it is by time rather than placement in the canon of scripture, then we must read Acts in the light of Paul rather than the other way around. you seem to want to explain Paul via Acts. I think this would break your hermeneutic rule. Just an observation.

Joel Rainey said...

I'm afraid you are due a correction on Dr. York's character and intentions. Like you, I find myself strongly disagreeing with him regarding a host of issues of late. Unlike you, I actually know the man, have sat under his teaching, and have observed (and admired) his leadership.
I am aware, as you are, that there are quite a few "politicking" folk in the Convention who cannot, as you put it, exist without the presence of dissension. Hershael York is NOT one of those people, and I hope you will accept my gentle rebuke here.
I don't agree with him (at least in his practical applications) anymore than you do, but stick to the issues and stay away ad hominem attacks. If his character is still the same as it was when I was a student at Southern, it is impeccable.

WatchingHISstory said...

It seems we treat I Cor 12-14 as though the problem is with the carnal undisciplined Corinthian believers and their abuses of the spiritual gifts.

Rather the real problem may be the neglect of the brethern to appreciate the prophetic activity. Wouldn't it be interesting if in the "primitive" community there were already men (brethern) who relished the glamor of expositing a text of scripture before the whole Church. They would demand the attention of the seemingly feeble, those members they thought less honorable and those members who embarrassed the community.

Paul seems to be addressing these brethern as hinderances to the edification of the body. He uses words we consider politically incorrect. They are ignorant, barbarians, foreigners, unlearned, stupid, unbelievers (unbelieving believers).

This is not evangelistic activity because probally sinners would not even want to be in this community nor would the community want sinners in their mist.

The caution for order is for the ignorant not to be futher confused and that probally by chance they might sense the real presence of God in their midst rather than just the glory of their textual comprehension.

Gladly this was a problem for the primitive community and we have graduated way beyond these problems.

Paul says, but if a man be ignorant let him be ignorant.

Anonymous said...

True story:
On the misison field a young man was confused about the gift of tongues and charismatic issues. His cousin had become involved in a charismatic church tha teaches a propserity gospel along with the idea that in order to reach the world it does not matter how young people dress - they need to be salt that dissolves in the world aorund them - so immodest dress, etc. are noan issue. (You must realize that in many places it is NOT just the issue of tongues - there are many other issues that are intertwined and inseparable from it). The onfused young man went to an IMB misisonaroy that he respected a that misisonary shared with ihm about his own prayer language that he had not asked for but God had jsut miraculously given him. This misisonary had shared this with others as well. The young man then came to IMB misisonary 2 who told him something completely different. Because of the justification of the first misisonary and his cousins experience he had come to accept the entire charismatic package and yet because of his respect for the second misisonary and his Christian walk - he was completely confused. As much as a person wants to keep a PPL private - for some reason (I have an idea what but will not state lest I be accused of judging) the PPL user cannot seem to keep it private - if he did none of this discusison would even matter. And I think it is because of this confusion that results that the IMB wants to try to prevent the resulting confusion that comes when IMB personnel are sending strong messages on eithe rside as to what is Biblical. No one issue has caused more division in the country where I serve than this issue and each side (both with well intended people) clings tenaciously to their position obviously because they have strong conviciotns aobut it. I say let Baptist be Baptist and focus on winning people in our noncharismatic way and then let those who wish to be charismatic serve in charismatic churches and lets bless them as they try to reach people as well. Then churches are not torn apart and convention fellowship disrupted. I can fellowship with a Methodist in my country even though we disagree on the issue of baptism - but because we do that is why he is Methodist and I am Baptist. I can fellowship with a AoG charismatic even though we disagree on charismatic issues. But I do not want to he Methodist coming into my church and telling my I need to be sprinkling any more than I want an AoG coming in a telling me that I need to have a second filling or that my salvaiton is not eternally secure.

David Rogers said...


Just curious. Are you an IMB 'm' yourself?

Also, what if instead of PPL, it was a question of say, Calvinism vs. non-Calvinism? One missionary gives a Calvinist answer. The other gives a non-Calvinist answer. Would you say we need to get rid of one group or the other in order to avoid confusing believers on the field?

Anonymous said...

I struggle with this issue. I'm aware of how it may look foolish to the culture today, and yet I cannot deny the fact that I myself have experienced this private prayer language (I have also been present when a public message in tongues along with an interpretation was given... two completely different things by the way). I guess it comes down to this. It's a lot easier to be sure of something that HAS happened than something that hasn't. I truly wish scripture had spelled this out for us along with all the things that it DOESN'T mean, but that doesn't happen too much in scripture (if ever). Therefore the only thing we can do is individually ask the Lord to give us wisdom and help us think rightly on this issue.... and work out our salvation with fear and trembling.