Thursday, October 19, 2006

SWBTS and Speaking in Tongues

The Trustees of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary of Forthworth, TX have voted to include a doctrinal statement effectively banning any faculty member or trustee from speaking in tongues even as a private prayer language (see BP News). The actual wording is that professors cannot "promote" practices such as speaking in tongues. That might sound ambiguous, but "promote" here has the obvious meaning of "admit to doing it", i.e. no member of SWBTS can admit to having a private prayer language. This is in response to a sermon preached by Dwight McKissic, pastor of Cornerstone Baptist Church in Arlington where he admitted to speaking in tongues and took issue with the IMB for refusing to hire missionaries who did have a private prayer language.

HT: Denny Burk

Before I make an extended tirade on this point let me preface my thoughts with two points:

One: I'm not a Charsimatic, I don't speak in tongues and I'm not sure what to make of all that untie-my-bowtie-who-stole-my-honda stuff. Yet I'm not a cessationist either, so I'm open to what the Spirit will do in the life of other believers.

Two: I'm mad. I'm raging mad that an evangelicalesque institution would turn "private" prayer language, not tongues in public worship, but private prayer language into a make-or-break issue, an issue about what separates the good guys from the bad guys, an issue about who is wearing the white hats and who is wearing the black hats, an issue about who is of the Jedi and who is the Sith, and issue about what defies the bonds of fellowship and partnership.

On second thoughts, I won't go into my tirade, less I write in anger. But Joel Willitts and I are about to publish an essay (or perhaps manifesto might be a better description) called Solum Evangelium which is a call to make one's understanding and expression of the gospel the basis of fellowship and ministry partnership: it commeth! In the mean time if you're in a SBC church and if you're preaching this Sunday (sadly I'm not) this is what I BEG you to do: preach Galatians, the epistle of liberty and life in the Spirit. To those who would shackle and fetter us with the tyranny and bondage of neo-Fundamentalism I say let them hear the word that they fear to hear: Freedom. As Jesus said, "He has sent me to proclaim freedom to the captives"; as Paul says, "It is for freedom that Christ has set us free!" As John says: "if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed"; Or even as Ernst Kasemann put it, "Jesus means Freedom"! So preach freedom, the freedom of Christ Jesus, the freedom of the Spirit over the letter, the freedom to differentiate between areas of conviction and areas of command. The freedom to major on the majors and to minor on the minors. The freedom to agree to disagree. The freedom to walk hand-in-hand with those whom you don't always see eye-to-eye with on every controversial topic. If you preach freedom in the face of the prayer-police they will accuse you of being a liberal-clauset-charismatic-democrat-voting-pseudo-evangelical-compromiser. In response, preach Galatians some more, preach it until they cover their ears and call down curses on you. Then preach Galatians again and again. And if they preach back at you with a gospel of Jesus + cessationism or Jesus + anything else, then you must out-preach them! Let the gospel of grace and liberty fall from your lips like in did in the days of John Owen, of John Knox and Jonathan Edwards. Make it clear that we stand shoulder-to-shoulder with ALL of our brothers and sisters in Christ no matter what ecstatic utterances they pray in. At the end of the day, if one prays in tongues, he does so unto the Lord. If one does not pray in tongues, he still prays unto the Lord. But tongues or no tongues, we all pray to the same Lord, yours and mine, theirs and ours!

Update: see the post by Wade Burleson on the issue.

Soli Deo Gloria

8 comments:

tony siew said...

Dear Michael,

I am saddened to hear that a SBC College is ruling out tongues as a private prayer language. They are fighting against the Holy Spirit who gives gifts to whomever He chooses. No one fights against God and win! But I must humbly say that I spoke in tongues three weeks after my conversion and still speak in tongues as a private prayer language as the Spirit moves me to. I would not think Christians who don't speak in tongues any less spiritual than me as not all speak in tongues, so says Paul.

I did not seek to speak in tongues after my conversion. I did not even know what tongues were then (1982) but during a prayer meeting, I felt a power descending on me and I started speaking in tongues later that evening. It is a blessed gift and certainly helps my prayer life especially when I run out of words to say to the Lord or when I feel spiritually dry. Maybe to these 'neo-fundamentalist' Baptists I say "You err for you know not the Scriptures nor the power of God' (Mat 22:29). Mike, if you feel what I have written is too offensive please feel free to delete my comments. Thank you for bringing this matter to attention in your post.

Matthew D. Montonini said...

Mike,
Very well said.
It deeply offends and saddens me that we as Christians feel the need to sanction something as ludicrous as glossalia in private prayer time.
Maybe it is high time for a bit of introspection when these issues take precedence over such things as feeding the hungry, clothing the naked and giving the weary a place to rest their heads.
I'm quite sure that these miniscule issues bring no glory to God!

Michael Westmoreland-White said...

Thanks for this, Mike. This kind of thing is why I, though still a Baptist, am no longer a Southern Baptist.

I am a (reluctant) charismatic. What is disheartening is that people who should know better, like Jim West, are siding with SWBTS and attempting to override biblical and Baptist freedom.

slaveofone said...

In my mind, this is a very clear and very potent statement that said Seminary is not educating its students or helping them to think through things on their own--it's goal is one of control and programming. I can see no better reason to drop out or tear up one's application for admission--no matter how I feel about tongues itself.

Michael Westmoreland-White said...

slaveofone, you have just described the entire mindset of the fundamentalist (post-1992) Southern Baptist Convention and all 6 of its seminaries--mind control. It's why so many of us had to leave for American Baptist, Alliance of Baptists, Cooperative Baptist Fellowship or non-Baptist circles. The SBC has broken from the Baptist World Alliance. It is now just a giant cult and mindcontrol unit masquerading as a Baptist denomination.

Billy V said...

The stance taken by SWBTS is biblically ignorant. I am not very proud of the institution where I studied. I would never be allowed to teach at Southwestern because of my views on women in ministry, tongues and perhaps creation. Very sad...

Jesse said...

Decades ago the evolutionary scientists declared that they had found the missing link. They quickly produced models of it and every school science book had a picture right there for everybody to see. It was declared to be the APE/MAN that connected the two in proof positive that we evolved from gorillas. Years later it was discovered that all they really found was one little bone. Okay, so what if the models were created from just one little bone? We know that this is what it looked like - they cried. Later it was discovered that the one little bone was actually from a pig.

So - did they remove the drawings from the textbooks? No. Did they admit that what they had created was not based on reliable documentation? No. They said, "We don't care if it is a pig's bone - we still believe that there was a missing link and if we had any evidence of it - this is what it would look like.

SWBTS stands for the truth revealed in God's Word. It trains and teaches pastors, missionaries, church leaders to understand what the Bible says and then to live it and teach it. The "private prayer language" doctrine has been created without any Biblical support. The Romans 8 passage says that the Holy Spirit intercedes in groans which are "unuttered". That means that this ministry of the Spirit does not come out of my mouth, but is a communication of the Holy Spirit directly to the heart of Father God telling Him what we really need when we don't even know what we need. It is a confident declaration that we have living in us an advocate who understands and carries our needs to the throne of God.

Doesn't Paul say not to "forbid tongues"? Yes - but where do we find the first mention definition in Acts 2 changed to a personal "prayer language"? Paul was encouraging the expression of this gift as the "supernatural ability to praise God in a known language that you have never learned in the presence of unbelievers who know that language." Paul was all over that! Give me more of that! But he was not referring to personal self-edification, or extra Biblical messages. The Corinthians passages only deal with the issue of the gift of languages because of the errors that had been created by the "super spiritualists" in the church who saw Paul come into town and "praise God in a known language that he had never learned in the presence of unbelievers who knew that language" - my definition of the Acts 2 - gift of languages and its context.

What Paul did as an evangelistic miracle they twisted into a fleshly act of spiritual elitism. So, Paul has to spend a great deal of time in 1 Corinthians 12 & 14 to correct the abuses of this evangelical gift.

I have other concerns about the nature of "private prayer language" that are also dangerously troubling. As I was taught how to do this as a new believer in a Pentecostal church for a year or two. I was told to let my mind go blank and just start making sounds until it gets out of my control. Hmmmm - I learned how to make the noises and act really spiritual, but I always had this question in my mind - "Why does God need me to shut off my mind so he can talk to himself?"

God wants our will, our hearts, and our minds to love Him. Not just our vocal cords.

SWBTS did not seek to draw this line in the sand, but since others did they are making it clear that this practice is not based on sound exegetical interpretation of Scripture, is practiced by non-Christians, Satanists, and the insane around the world, and is dominated more by the flesh than the Spirit. And as such - is not approved by them.

Finally - examine the spiritual gifts and you will discover that they are all outward focused. A teacher uses the gift of teaching to bless others, one who serves does not serve themselves, but others. A "private prayer language spiritual gift" would be focused on edifying self, not the Body which Paul clearly declares to be the purpose of the spiritual gifts.

Jesse said...

Decades ago the evolutionary scientists declared that they had found the missing link. They quickly produced models of it and every school science book had a picture right there for everybody to see. It was declared to be the APE/MAN that connected the two in proof positive that we evolved from gorillas. Years later it was discovered that all they really found was one little bone. Okay, so what if the models were created from just one little bone? We know that this is what it looked like - they cried. Later it was discovered that the one little bone was actually from a pig.

So - did they remove the drawings from the textbooks? No. Did they admit that what they had created was not based on reliable documentation? No. They said, "We don't care if it is a pig's bone - we still believe that there was a missing link and if we had any evidence of it - this is what it would look like.

SWBTS stands for the truth revealed in God's Word. It trains and teaches pastors, missionaries, church leaders to understand what the Bible says and then to live it and teach it. The "private prayer language" doctrine has been created without any Biblical support. The Romans 8 passage says that the Holy Spirit intercedes in groans which are "unuttered". That means that this ministry of the Spirit does not come out of my mouth, but is a communication of the Holy Spirit directly to the heart of Father God telling Him what we really need when we don't even know what we need. It is a confident declaration that we have living in us an advocate who understands and carries our needs to the throne of God.

Doesn't Paul say not to "forbid tongues"? Yes - but where do we find the first mention definition in Acts 2 changed to a personal "prayer language"? Paul was encouraging the expression of this gift as the "supernatural ability to praise God in a known language that you have never learned in the presence of unbelievers who know that language." Paul was all over that! Give me more of that! But he was not referring to personal self-edification, or extra Biblical messages. The Corinthians passages only deal with the issue of the gift of languages because of the errors that had been created by the "super spiritualists" in the church who saw Paul come into town and "praise God in a known language that he had never learned in the presence of unbelievers who knew that language" - my definition of the Acts 2 - gift of languages and its context.

What Paul did as an evangelistic miracle they twisted into a fleshly act of spiritual elitism. So, Paul has to spend a great deal of time in 1 Corinthians 12 & 14 to correct the abuses of this evangelical gift.

I have other concerns about the nature of "private prayer language" that are also dangerously troubling. As I was taught how to do this as a new believer in a Pentecostal church for a year or two. I was told to let my mind go blank and just start making sounds until it gets out of my control. Hmmmm - I learned how to make the noises and act really spiritual, but I always had this question in my mind - "Why does God need me to shut off my mind so he can talk to himself?"

God wants our will, our hearts, and our minds to love Him. Not just our vocal cords.

SWBTS did not seek to draw this line in the sand, but since others did they are making it clear that this practice is not based on sound exegetical interpretation of Scripture, is practiced by non-Christians, Satanists, and the insane around the world, and is dominated more by the flesh than the Spirit. And as such - is not approved by them.

Finally - examine the spiritual gifts and you will discover that they are all outward focused. A teacher uses the gift of teaching to bless others, one who serves does not serve themselves, but others. A "private prayer language spiritual gift" would be focused on edifying self, not the Body which Paul clearly declares to be the purpose of the spiritual gifts.