Summarize the Baptist belief of speaking in tongues.

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marilynn07 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Some history is in order. According to the Bible in Acts Chapter 2, those who followed Christ were waiting together, praying, and the Holy Spirit came into the room like a rushing wind. Tongues of flame appeared over the heads of those gathered in the room, and they were able to speak in languages that they had not known previously.

The Bible in Acts 2, for example, describes the followers of Jesus Christ gathering on Pentecost after Christ ascended to heaven, when:

"...suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance."

There are some denominations that continue the practice of glossolalia or speaking in tongues. Some call this a "private prayer language" while others believe this is actual understandable language meant for the spiritual strengthening of the person who is able to understand the message. There are some rules given to the Church  regarding spiritual gifts in 1 Corinthians Ch 12 and 13. The point is that the gift of tongues is not the only way to Christ.  Some denominations believe that if you do not speak in tongues, then you are not saved. Other denominations believe that tongues are gibberish and nonsense...something to attract attention.

Baptists believe in something called dispensationalism which means that there are different elements or eras of Biblical time. After the written word was finished and the Bible was complete, so the need for this glossolalia went away. So, baptists mainly believe that this is not "baptist" doctrine or belief. There are nine gifts listed in the Bible in the book of 1 Corinthians Chapter 12. Of these nine, two of the gifts concern "other tongues" speaking and the other interpreting.

"I have opposed (speaking in tongues) for all of these years because I think it's an erroneous interpretation of the Bible," Patterson said. "Southern Baptists traditionally have stood against what we feel like are the excesses of the charismatic movement. All we're doing is restating where we've always been."

The modern forms of pentacostalism all have their roots in the Azusa Street Revival in 1906 in Los Angeles, California. William J. Seymour, Clara Lum and Florence Crawford began the Azusa Street Mission and a newspaper called The Apostolic Faith at this time.  (

In the Bible, there is no statement that speaking in tongues is something that will disappear when the Bible is complete, nor is there anything to indicate that a person "must" speak in tongues in order to show evidence of salvation.  It is and has been a point of contention in various denominations for some time.

linda-allen eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Speaking in tongues, or glossolalia, is not a Baptist belief, per se, but a belief held by many pentecostal denominations. As the preceding poster notes, the belief is based on the event in Acts 2 when the apostles were speaking to the crowds in Jerusalem, and all the people could understand what they were saying, as if the apostles were speaking each person's native language.

Many pentecostals believe that the "tongues" are the language of the angels and that God is speaking directly through them. When people speak these "tongues," they seem to be in almost a trancelike state and need someone to interpret what they said.

In my opinion, the belief in glossolalia is a misinterpretation of 1 Corinthians 12:10: "to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues," which lists the spiritual gifts that will be given to believers. I believe that "tongues" refers to languages that already exist; otherwise, the gift would not be very useful.

michaelpaulheart | Student

Taking St. Paul's counsel in 1 Corinthians 14:37b-38:  "If any one thinks that he is a prophet, or spiritual, he should acknowledge that what I am writing to you is a command of the Lord.  If any one does not recognize this, he is not recognized."

The command is (1 Co:14:27-33):  "If any speak in a tongue, let there be only two or at most three, and each in turn; and let one interpret.  But if there is no one to interpret, let each of them keep silence in church and speak to himself and to God.  Let two or three prophets speak, and let the others weigh what is said.  If a revelation is made to another sitting by, let the first be silent.  For you can all prophesy one by one, so that all may learn and be encouraged; and the spirits of prophets are subject to prophets.  For God is not a God of confusion" (here the word is from "akatastasia"--i.e. "instability", "disorder", "confusion", "commotion", "tumult", "uproar", "crowd noise or babble") "but of peace."

He also said (1 Co 14:22)  "tongues are a sign not for believers but for unbelievers, while prophesy is not for unbelievers but for believers."

From this it follows that:

1.if tongues are manifest it is because of unbelief,

2. if many are speaking in tongues all at once it is because they are disobedient to "a command of the Lord",

3.if they are speaking in tongues and no one gives the interpretation they are disobedient to "a command of the Lord",

4.and if they suddenly speak in tongues without any control over the occurance of the utterance God is not the source of it.

Tongues occurred in Acts 10:44-48 in the presence of believers who did not believe that the Holy Spirit could be poured out on Gentiles or that even Gentiles could be baptized.  This was a sign to those who hadn't believed it possible.

Tongues occurred in Acts 19:2-7 in the presence of those who had believed only in John's baptism of repentance and had never heard of the Holy Spirit.  This was a sign to those who hadn't believed in the Holy Spirit.

The First Epistle of John states (4:1)  "do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are of God; for many false prophets have gone out into the world."

Most Baptists believe that tongues, visions, apparitions of angels and saints are not from God and are not to be believed, taking St. Paul's counsel in 2 Corinthians 11:14: "even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light"; and in Colossians 2:18-19a:  "Let no one disqualify you, insisting on self-abasement and worship of angels, taking his stand on visions, puffed up without reason by his sensuous mind, and not holding fast to the Head"; and in Galatians 1:8:  "But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to that which we preached to you, let him be accursed."

NOTE:  The Catholic Church (Catechism of the Catholic Church n. 66) does not require any belief in tongues or prophesies outside of the Bible.

Bible texts quoted from the RSVCE.