Wednesday, May 13, 2009

A Bishop of the ACC reflects on the Charismata

Recently I sent my Bishop Ordinary, Bp Brian Iverach, the links to the posts Fr Hart and I wrote concerning the gifts of the Spirit, and asked for his feedback. His very encouraging reply is given here, with his permission.

Dear Father Matthew,

I have read the posts in the above Subject on The Continuum with great delight. Personally, for many years now I have taken it quite for granted that the Charismata are an essential part of our ministry in Christ to the world in the Anglican expression. Ever since experiencing the power of the Holy Ghost, having asked to receive the gifts of the Spirit at a Jesuit run retreat, now decades ago, my life has been in heavily reliance on Him for guidance and comfort. Prayer language is a normal for proper balance in prayer life. Our disciplines of Prayer Book and Breviary are well complimented by glossolalia. There are times when there is no other appropriate expression than glossolalia when I am using the Anglican Breviary in Oratory. There is nothing to fear when the Holy Spirit Himself prompts in public either.

In the Philippines ministry the healing and glossolalia gifts were not uncommon. Many miracles were witnessed as a result of Holy Unction and Holy Mass.

I have witnessed men healed instantly from addiction by laying on of hands and prayer, in other countries too. The men wanted to be delivered.

I have seen in America communicants healed by the Blood of Christ, in one case from the holy chalice administered as 'the healing cup of salvation' (not the authorized administration admittedly, but one prompted by the Spirit for the occasion). As if in a message in confirmation of gifts in God's grace, the man communicated came back the following Sunday to witness personally to healing of mind in his search for employment. He had been unemployed for almost a year flunking many interviews. He had obtained excellent employment after the administration of the Blood of Christ. Only one example of so many healings know, not accounting for many unknown.

Lana [the Bishop's wife] had the damage to her eye caused by a sharp stick healed without the necessary opthalmic surgery. A miracle of healing that set her on the path to 13 years of healing prayer ministry at the Church of the Resurrection, Dallas Texas. Her neighbour came to her after the accident in her home and prayed for the healing of her eyes and God answered the prayer that night to the amazement of hospital emergency attendants the next morning. God used Lana in His special way for His ministry to the sick in mind, body or spirit. She introduced the Order of St. Luke the Physician into the Roman Catholic Diocese of Dallas.

In Kenya we have taught the ministry of healing from Scripture, reason, tradition, and from Agnes Sanford's The healing gifts of the Spirit ISBN 0-06-067052-5. Esther Ndegwa, the wife of Fr. John Ndegwa heads up the healing ministry at Good Shepherd in the slums of Korogocho in Nairobi Kenya. Many miracles of healing are taking place in that distressed country.

It is better to have a confident faith in the Gifts of the Spirit, obviously, than to disparage them, or worse still, abuse the gifts of the Spirit. But even then, God often chooses whom He chooses and heals when He wills. An over concern for protocols of liturgy can backfire. In an Episcopal congregation in Dallas, TX the vestry appointed a committee (flies on the back wall as they became later known) to vet any attempt at prophesy from the nave. All prophesy ceased thereafter and many other spiritual gifts as well. A president confident in the Spirit should be able, in his spirit, to discern when God chooses to move in His Spirit. There is a holy hush that comes upon the congregation at such times, and the Spirit is not going to disrupt His own worship. On rare occasions someone of vocal compulsion might stand to deliver a word not from God, but there being no interpretation, the person is seated by silence without recrimination. It is most likely to be the humble quiet person that God chooses to give prophetic utterances during a worship service and the voice will be clearly heard in every corner. If God chooses to do this in the middle of Holy Missal Mass so be it. Even though Holy Mass in the Anglican Missal exudes the Holy Ghost, it is but a liturgy, the best man can devise. We must be careful to worship God in the fullness of the Spirit and not worship the liturgy. All in good order. The blessed Apostle was addressing some gross misbehaviour in the church of his time, most unlikely in an Anglican Catholic congregation properly instructed.

All of these experiences really came as no surprise after reading the Venerable Bead's History of the English Church. The miracles he recorded in gifts of the Spirit date much later that the lifetime of the Apostles. Such wonderful Anglican precedents exist for application of the gifts of the Spirit in our continuum. Bishops, should, because of the charismata of both ordinations and consecration, be active instruments of the gifts of the Holy Spirit. But the gifts are not limited to the ordained alone. The gifts of the Spirit are given to the priesthood of believers who seek them of the heart, as God's chosen vessels. First they must hear and/or read about the gifts of the Spirit and believe. To be so chosen after prayerful request is no occasion for pride. One simply does what he is called to do, such as has been told to us by Jesus Christ and handed on to us in the traditions of the Church. Normal Christian practice to the glory of God.

In Christ,


+Brian


50 comments:

Brian G. said...

"Prayer language is a normal for proper balance in prayer life."

Really? What evidence is there that this has ever been a "normal" practice of the church catholic?

And I'm quite sure that if you started mumbling nonsense syllables during prayers in Canterbury Cathedral in the 16th century, you would (at best) be pitched out on your backside. If we are supposed to be continuing the faith of the Anglican Church in the days of its orthodoxy, then I don't see how such practices have any place at all.

Fr. Robert Hart said...

Brian G. wrote:

If we are supposed to be continuing the faith of the Anglican Church in the days of its orthodoxy, then I don't see how such practices have any place at all..

Well, the place that such practices have are explained in I Cor. 14; and if the Bible is not enough to satisfy Anglican orthodoxy, I ask, what is?. The real question that the bishop's remarks raise have to do with public expression, since no valid objection exists against private prayers in tongues. If he who prays in an unknown tongue edifies himself (I Cor. 14:), this is fine and good; and that this is true is beyond doubt, as it is written in Scripture and written simply and clearly. So, again, the only question is one of public expression.

The model of modern Charismatics and Pentecostals need not be the only model. If our Anglican liturgy is only the best of man-made liturgy (and to some degree, of course, it is not man-made, but words of Scripture formed into prayer), then perhaps it is not wrong to suggest that their liturgy might not be perfect either.

For example, "he that prophesieth speaketh unto men to edification, and exhortation, and comfort." (v.3) Why should this have to come during a liturgy? There ought to be many ways to create or discover a forum or venue in which this kind of communication takes place. It has been quite a long time since I have been present in Charismatic circles (speaking in this case of the "movement"); and in the churches that expected such gifts, they were practiced during a time when they were not an interruption, and when they were allowed, or even encouraged, by the celebrant himself. This was quite orderly. It was not, however, always truly edifying.

Nonetheless, if we remove this subject from our theology, we are left with very little, indeed nothing, to commend Confirmation as it appears in the book of Acts.

Really? What evidence is there that this has ever been a "normal" practice of the church catholic?.

I Corinthians 14 for starters, then the Didache, and then writings by Saint Irenaeus, by Eusebius, St. Basil and others. The evidence is quite weighty, and I am surprised by the question. The real question is, what do these ancient witnesses have to say to us in our time?

The answer cannot be based on what we consider normal, but on the scriptures themselves. This, also, has to do with what people in a congregation understand, believe and accept. Surprising a congregation with such expression is very unwise. Nonetheless, it is a subject that is in the pages of Scripture, and therefore deserves honest examination.

And I'm quite sure that if you started mumbling nonsense syllables during prayers in Canterbury Cathedral in the 16th century....

Well, consider this: If it is real it is not nonsense, but has meaning (why else is there a gift of interpretation of tongues in the Bible?). And, the 16th century, when Christians were having each other burned at the stake, is not, I hope, normal for the Church. Again, the Scriptures are not silent on this subject, and neither is the witness of the Ancient Church. Either we examine the Bible, or we come up with the wrong answer.

Again, I say the question that Fr.Kirby and his bishop have raised here is the question of public expression. Frankly, Bp. Brian Iverach's statement is not easy either to adopt or to dismiss. What creates difficulty is how he relates such things as tongues, interpretation of tongues and prophecy to public liturgical worship.

However, these gifts may be very much with us without having to adopt the "liturgy" of the Charismatic movement. Confirmation has been around forever, and I am sure that in every age it has borne fruit.

Anonymous said...

Brethren,

I appreciate at some level the thrust of the post, though I do have some severe reservations about what is popularly expressed in Pentecostalism/Charismatic circles (not that the bishop is advocating such things). I don't subscribe to cessationism, so my comments aren't rooted in a theology devoid of the Spirit moving where and when He wills, gifting as He determines -- it is more a concern that said gifts overshadow or displace Christ and His cross in the interest of the Spirit "moving".

I have no reason to doubt the good bishop's testimony, and and I confess there are sundry times appropriate to the Spirit manifesting His power in exceptional ways. We need corporately, I believe, a great moving toward holiness and fear of the Lord, and a deepening fire of love for one another and the lost... but so long as "Christ and Him Crucified" is the anchor. Apart from this our existence as a body is meaningless, revivals notwithstanding.

With that said, so long as the catholic faith is being upheld, all is done in order and decency, and done in love, I say with Paul, "Don't quench the Spirit..."

Blessings.

St. Worm

Brian G. said...

Is there any reason to believe that the mumblings of today's charismatics are the same type of phenomenon as the tongues of the New Testament? Where is the proof?

Since St. Paul is concerned largely with prophecy in I Corinthians 14, such proof would logically take the form of authentic revelation. Prophesy and tongues are clearly supposed to go together. So until someone can produce a prophet that is wholly accurate, per Deuteronomy 18:22, I see no reason to put much stock in glossolalia.

Fr. Robert Hart said...

Brain G.

Explain from where you draw your criterion. I cannot accept it as a proper measure or standard. The churches throughout the Empire did not boast of men who received revelation like the Apostles themselves; and the prophets in the New Testament do not receive revelation of doctrine. Agabus taught no revelation, but spoke words that prepared the Church for a famine. "Edification, exhortation and comfort," not doctrinal revelation, are the marks of prophecy.

The gifts I have witnessed have produced visible miracles that have resulted in authentic conversion. That includes a miracle of healing that involved the gift of tongues. Who but God would do that?

Fr. Kirby has brought up this subject, and my life's experience, and decades of Biblical study, cannot give me one reason to state a theological objection. I am forced to acknowledge the very opposite. Yes, these are indeed the gifts we read about in scripture. If we should think not, then we must be given a reason more persuasive, and at least equally drawn from Scripture, to weigh against it.

Fr. Robert Hart said...

Come to think of it, let me rephrase something. I do not claim to know what goes on in the Charismatic movement anymore. My Biblical study forces me to one conclusion relevant to the subject of the gifts mentioned here: These gifts have never been withdrawn from the Church. But, a blanket approval of everything that passes for them is not possible, since each prophecy, by scriptural standards, must be tested and proven.

Have I seen accurate predictions in prophecies? Yes, indeed. That alone would not prove them, because the content itself needs to be examined. So, my answer is a theological answer, not an endorsement for some group we may call "today's Charismatics."

Nonetheless, "edification, exhortation and comfort" have nothing to do with doctrinal revelation. The Canon is closed.

poetreader said...

I too have a little difficulty with the bishop's thoughts about charismata in the public liturgy. St. Paul, in writing to the Corinthians seemed to be aware of the same problems I observed when I was a Pentecostal pastor. Order was threatened and individuals put forth their own egos, with an end result of the beginning of division in the church. Yes, I have observed all this in great detail, and fled the open practice, though certainly not the use of such gifts.

But please note that though St. Paul was severe in the regulation of these excesses, he did not forbid such things even in the liturgy itself, but did put them under serious restriction -- and in this context he declared how often he himself spoke in tongues. Unless one takes the rather tortured view of 1 cor 13 that asserts that 'what is perfect' has come already (Fundamentalists take that. rather improbably, to mean the closing of the Scriptural Canon), there is no Scriptural warrant for the cessation of any of these gifts, including even tongues, at any time before the parousia.

Did they cease? Read the lives of the saints. Miracles of healing have graced the ministry of many or most of them. Supernatural gifts of knowledge and of wisdom have abounded.

Prophecy in the true sense of a Spirit-filled proclamation of the Word of God is at the very heart of Christian ministry. Fr. Hart is quite correct that this gift has never been seen as the revelation of new doctrine, but rather as the revelation the power of what has been revealed in the here and now.

And what of tongues? Why is one so certain that the phenomenon seen today is not the same as that of the first years? Does St. Paul not make it clear that neither the speaker nor the hearers (if there be no interpreter) understand what is spoken? Have you, Brian, paid close attention to the speaking in a charismatic setting? Linguists have noted that some, at least, of what they heard certainly did sound like a real language. I've been overheard (to my embarrassment -- I try to keep these prayers private) while praying and singing in tongues, and have been asked what language that was. It's not mere 'mumbling', but has far more internal consistency than would be so if that were all there was to it.

Did it ever cease? Again, read the lives of the saints, especially of the first millennium, and especially in the British Isles. There are constant tantalizing hints of prayers in the tongue of the angels, preaching on the language of the animals, various prayers that couldn't be understood. Unless one approaches these lives with the foolish 20th century attitude that the miraculous needs to be discounted, such instances are hard to overlook.

Did they call it 'speaking in tongues'? I've never seen such a phrase, but neither did the non-Pauline NT writers write of it that way. It was one gift among an uncountable many, and no one made a big deal of it. And there is the fatal flaw of the modern Pentecostals, and also of their opponents -- both parties did make a big deal of it.

The reception and use of any particular charism does not make one a better or more important Christian than another, but merely one who is able to use a different tool. It's as humdrum as that.

St. Paul was insistent that public use of the gifts be regulated, but he was equally insistent that they not be forbidden.

The 16th century, as Fr. Hart observed, is certainly not the right time to look for healthy expression of the faith. There was a Reformation because one was needed. That Reformation in itself produced other problems that needed to be corrected. The normalcy of the NT Church has not yet been full re-expressed in the church life of this age, and we thus have 2000 (more or less, the last figure I heard) distinct bodies of Christians.

What does this mean practically for the liturgy? Well, I do believe the bishop's willingness that they be publicly expressed at Mass is fraught with difficulties. How difficult will it be for members who have no experience of such things to accept? How difficult will it make for brethren from sister churches to worship with this body? Will it disrupt people's ability to worship? Will it perhaps produce a tendency toward division? These and many other questions need to be dealt with. Until that point, I think it wise to allow and even encourage Christians to exercise their gifts,
but probably not, for the most part, in the liturgical environment.

All this is partial, clumsily expressed, and far from infallible.

ed

Anonymous said...

"for many years now I have taken it quite for granted that the Charismata are an essential part of our ministry in Christ to the world in the Anglican expression."

"Essential" is a very big word. What does it imply for those of us who do not have or desire to have these alleged gifts, but who have have numerous opportunities to observe them as divisive and disruptive? I have encountered more than a few spiritual exhibitionists who sit on the front pew in order to show off their "gifts" and turn around frequently to see who is watching.
I have known of divided parishes and ruined pastorates, but I have yet to hear of a congegation which truly benefitted from this stuff.

We have agreed, I believe, on another thread that the conclusion to Mark's Gospel is part of the Canon. There we hear of tongues and snake-handling as spiritual gifts. Now we are told that the gift of snake-handling was exercised by St Paul in the isolated incident in the last section of Acts. Maybe so. But if "tongues" is an "essential" gift, to be regularly and publicly practiced, then equal latitude must be given to snake-handling.
I ask only for consistency.

Brian is quite right in asking for evidence that modern glossalalia episodes have any continuity with what we read of in the NT. "Tongues" are nowhere described in the NT as a "prayer language," but are in Acts are rather a sign. In 1 Corinthians, tongues are simply a problem in the notoriously corrupt church in Corinth.

Whatever role "tongues" held in Corinth, and whatever can be dug up in Christian literature, this "gift" is at most marginal in the life of the Church in all her branches. For real Catholics, that fact has meaning. "Semper, ubique, et ab omnibus" does not include snake-handling, baptism of the dead, or tongues.
LKW

Dcn. Steve said...

As another alumni of the Charismatic movement, I have to say this letter intrigues me. After reading what Ed had to say, I will make note that the most powerful move of the spirit I have been involved in happened at a bible study meeting at my father's house.

The gifts are there to be used, not to be squandered, or ignored. However, there is a proper place for them. Certainly, if God is moving during the Liturgy, it is not wise to ignore him. But the liturgy does provide a few places that are ripe for the Spirit to move.

For instance, after Mass on Sundays at Blessed Sacrament, where I assist, we have unction. This is a perfect time for the spirit to move, and to cause supernatural healing. There are other times, like when the chalice is being cleaned, when everything is quiet, when the Lord can use people to speak his encouragement to his people.

I believe it is possible to mix these two expressions of Christianity (really, its just one expression, given the weighty evidence from the Saints and Church Fathers) without letting it get out of hand.

There are those out there who don't believe in the living gifts of the spirit. Who say that they were for a short time only, and died with the Apostles. They are certainly entitled to their opinion. It doesn't make God any less than the ruler of the universe.

I think before we are hasty to judge whether to use these gifts or not, we should prayerfully go to God to see what he wants.

Fr. Robert Hart said...

Now we are told that the gift of snake-handling was exercised by St Paul in the isolated incident in the last section of Acts. Maybe so..
That was not at all what I said. I said that Mark 16:9-20 includes a line that is explained when Paul was bitten by a poisonous snake quite by accident. That is in Acts 28, and unlike "snake handling" he had not tempted God and reached for the thing.

The Bible and the testimony of the Fathers gives us no right to reject any of the gifts we read about in Scripture. I Cor. 14 does teach about the gifts mentioned earlier in chapter 12; it says nothing about snake handling or drinking poison; but rather about the things that edify the Church. The fact that God has preserved some people from accidental harm on the mission field is another subject entirely, and so no inconsistency has been raised.

By the mid 1970s I had experienced every gift mentioned in I Cor. 12; and whereas some may question the tongues and prophecies, the words of knowledge and the visible miracles of healing are proof that it was very real. If this were inconsistent with scripture that would create a problem; but that it is consistent with scripture and the testimony of the saints throughout Church history, makes it quite conclusive.

So does the radical and lasting conversion of the alcoholic man whose wife came home with a shoulder no longer deformed. His conversion was the greater miracle, greater than the shoulder that was straightened before my eyes, and the eyes of several people, as I looked her in the eyes and spoke words I did not understand (knowing I was following a direction from above, and certain ahead of time as to what would happen). Am I to forget that these things happened? Can I fail to align them with the miraculous stories in the Bible? That would be impossible. it all fits, and what it fits is Scripture.

When my mother was overheard speaking in tongues in the year 1976, the tongue was identified as Navajo. She never learned Navajo, but she could speak it fluently. An interpretation was heard as well, and it matched what a Navajo man recognized as a valid translation.

You may as well try to convince me that the Grand Canyon is make believe, simply manipulated pictures. But, I have been to the Grand Canyon five times, so I know the truth of it.

The question for me is not the power and reality of the gifts of the Spirit mentioned in scripture. Like Ed, my problem is with the public expression endorsed by the bishop. But, even in that, I have to acknowledge that the Didache could be used to correct me.

Fr. Kirby, why did you get me into this?

Anonymous said...

"I didn't used to believe in female priests, but when I was in the hospital, a lovely female priest brought me Holy Communion, prayed with me, anointed me. I just know in my heart she really is a priest."

"I used to hate gay people, and when Mary and Janice moved next door, I would not have anything to do with them. But they invited me and my wife to their bonding. Somehow it just felt right and I overcame my homophobia."

"I wasn't raised to speak in tongues, but then at a Bible Study I saw people doing it. They showed me how. It felt good and I just know its a Spiritual Gift. Now I have the Full Gospel and I pray privately for those who have not received this gift. This gift has made me into a real prayer warrior."

I am not persuaded by arguments from personal experience. And neither am I convinced by a few citations from writers in the Patristic period. Migne's Patrologia Graeca and Patrologia Latina fill many volumes and I know of no one who claims to have read them all. Has Quasten or Pelikan or any real Patristic expert come forward to promote the neo-Penteostal (perhaps pseudo-Pentecostal is a better term) movement? Patristic arguments have been advanced to promote labyrinth spirituality, "Celtic" spirituality, and goodness know what else.

Purely exegetical arguments have not been conclusive either. Richard Gaffin comes out one place, Wayne Grudem another, and J Rodman Williams yet a third. (Gaffin is my man in that contest.)

My own approach would be the exegetical, reading the NT in the mainstream of Christian thought.
Whatever the gift of tongues was or is, it has been peripheral and eccentric. I know of no attempt to suppress it (apart from Paul's severe limits set in 1 Cor 14), in spite of frequent claims of such from the advocates of "tongues." It just went away after the first century. Attempts to revive it atificially have generally been less than edifying.
LKW

poetreader said...

I'm rather glad the question has been raised. Much of what we Anglicans talk about seems to be a bit dry and apparently centered on our understanding of doctrine and our proper application of practice. Such matters are, of course, of high importance, and we are indeed bound to do our best to 'get it right' -- but it isn't all about our doing and our understanding. It is all about God, and He is not bound to limit Himself to what we can readily understand. He's not a tame godling, but the Mighty Lord of the universe who is able to do as He will and to use His people as He will.

This is what seems to me as important in a discussion of spiritual gifts, of charissmata, yes, of signs and wonders -- not so much the things that happen, as the fact that God is able to do them, and that they are outside what we readily grasp. We have been left responsible to follow Him in as orderly a fashion as possible, but we are not entitled to proceed as though we understand all His workings.

When my praying slides into unknown tongues, I am not showing off (I'd rather be unobserved), I'm not just making foolish noises randomly, but I am acknowledging before Him that I do not know how to pray ir what to pray for, nor do I truly comprehend the One whom I am touching. When I speak what I did not know and it turns out to be right, I've done nothing, but I have been privileged to watch God reach out through me. Likewise when I witness a healing at my hands, or any other manifestation of God's power. It's not about me. It's not about my great and wondrous knowledge and understanding. It's not about some power that I possess. It is about God sovereignly working through my pitiful weakness, and I stand in awe.

I don't believe we need to come up with a reasoned theology or philosophy of these phenomena. In two millennia the Catholic Church has never done so, but has quietly watched them go on, working, as in all things, to avoid excess, but yet to allow God to have His way. We need to acknowledge that He can and will do so, to examine instances as to whether they are indeed compatible with revelation, and to go on, winning souls for Him.

ed

Brian G. said...

Father Hart,

Getting back to my first comment, your references do not prove that prayer languages have ever been "normal" for most Christians most of the time. (Even in I Cor. 14 it is only some people who exhibited this phenomena, so it couldn't be said to be "normal for proper balance in prayer life" at that place and time.) But if in the primitive Church this had somehow been a "normal" practice on the order of the Holy Eucharist, then undoubtedly most of the world's millions and millions of Christians would be mumbling to themselves today. Yet that simply isn't what we see, is it? So either the practice is stopped, spurious or the Holy Ghost has denied this once-normal occurrence to most Christians today for reasons of His own.

With my second comment, I am merely stating that there (a) we need proof (and none has been given) that today's glossolalia is the same phenomenon spoken of in the NT; and (b) that there should be some documented evidence of valid prophesies if these so-called gifts are as central to the life of the Church as is claimed. The verificiation of authentic, biblical prophesy is that it comes true dramatically. Every time.

In any case, these phenomena are not and never have been part of the Anglican tradition. We can point to fringe Charismatic Movement experiences and certain NT passages all we like, but that doesn't change anything. We can't continue what was never there in the first place. We loose the right to call ourselves the Continuing Church when we adopt foreign practices. If someone believes "the gifts" to be so essential, perhaps he should do the intellectually honest thing and join the Charismatic Episcopal Church?

Canon Tallis said...

Having no background in the Pentecostal movement or churches, my first contact with things of this sort were experiences of my own which pushed me to the writings of mystics and ascetics, Orthodox and Anglican. This caused me to be asked - at far too early an age and level of experience - to counsel a woman who had the gift of tears. That said, I rejoice that Father Kirby and Father Hart have both handled this question and the assorted actions of the Spirit in the Church in a completely positive and competent manner.

It used to be said in England that if you had something of this manner happen in your parish you, at least, were able to put them on a train to Mirfield, Kelham or Nashdom where the problem would be handled competently. In the Continuum our clergy are hard pressed to have any knowledge or experience of same, but at least we now know that we have those to whom we can turn when the need arises.

Anonymous said...

I can feel the weight of Fr. Wells' misgivings about this. We have to deal with the miraculous through the grid of Scripture. Our experiences cannot be the definitive thing: Mormons and mystery religions enjoy glossalalia as well, but we wouldn't confirm their theology thereby. Yet, it seems unlikely God would phase out supernatural giftings simply because the Canon has arrived, so I can't doubt what Fr. Hart has related.

The most charitable thing, IMHO, is to not forbid the brethren so inclined to these things, as long as the peace and unity of the church are not disrupted and that the centrality of Word and Sacrament are kept intact.

Anonymous said...

Is it possible that we have made the same mistake in these post that has been made in the Charismatic Movement – in that we have focused almost completely on tongues?

I was not born and raised in the Anglican Tradition so I have quite a bit of experience in the Charismatic Church – even to the point of being told I was “not fully saved” because I did not display the gift of tongues. As I read to respond to that statement – I came to understand what many here probably already know – and that is the importance of 1 Corinthians 13 being placed in between chapters 12 & 14. The focus should be on the love of God and the edification of believers. Once we start focusing on any one particular gift (positively or negatively) we get our eyes distracted and errors happen.

There are many gifts listed – some are quite mundane and others quite glamorous. The gifts are used for the mission of the whole church and not one individual. I have seen the “glamorous” gifts abused – I have witnessed complete chaos under the guise of “the move of the Spirit”. I have also truly experienced the presence of God in some of the services.

How does that fit with our structured liturgy? I noticed that many of my friends in the Charismatic Movement waited on (or forced) the gifts as a proof that God was in the service. Well, we already believe that and proclaim it through the Consecration. Many protestants (as noticed in the earlier documents on grace and sacraments) truly yearn for the assurance and presence of God that we experience in the sacraments. I was in that boat. I thought the assurance and “positive feelings” depended on music, preaching, the mood, etc.

Going back to Saint Paul – he seems at least in my reading – to stress the difference between private prayer life and public worship (as has been brought out here). Also, maybe because of the misuse it is appropriate for us to be hesitant. However, we should not be totally dismissive.

First time to post – be gentle in the reproach :-)

Fr Jamie Danford

Fr. Robert Hart said...

I am not persuaded by arguments from personal experience. And neither am I convinced by a few citations from writers in the Patristic period..
.
The difference is this: The experience I mentioned is completely compatible with scripture and the Catholic Tradition of the Church. To equate homosexual "marriage" and priestesses with a miracle that led to the salvation of a man and his family, that caused him to awake from his drunken slumber and put on Christ, makes no sense whatsoever.
.
It just went away after the first century. Attempts to revive it artificially have generally been less than edifying..
I have see attempts to revive it artificially, and they are,as you say, less then edifying. But, I have experienced the real thing, and seen it happen many times. These two things should not be confused. The problem with many people back then was not what they experienced, but their insistence that everyone else needed to have the same experience. They needed to read the closing verses of I Cor. 12. "Do all...?"

Fr. Robert Hart said...

Brian:

I am not endorsing all of what Fr. Kirby's bishop wrote to him. But, if you take a look around you may notice that many of your fellow Continuing Anglicans would not be who they are and where they are without first having awakened in their faith through the Charismatic movement of the 60s and 70s. The real value of what happened in that whole movement is not to be found among the people who are in their "Charismatic" circles today; it is to be found among those who came to life because of an outpouring of the Holy Spirit that no man could manufacture, and who later moved on into deeper things within the Church. Of those of us who owe so much to what happened, these words of St. Paul ring true.

"Wherefore he saith, Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light." Eph. 5:14

If all the people who were awakened in faith and became true disciples of Christ, because of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit in those days, were eliminated, you might see only half of the numbers we currently have in the Anglican Continuum, and in other serious church bodies. They did move on into deeper things, which is even more evidence of when and where it was authentic.

Getting back to my first comment, your references do not prove that prayer languages have ever been "normal" for most Christians most of the time..
I never said they did; and I am not sure that Bp Brian Iverach did either. He seems to be writing about what is normal in his own life.
.
But if in the primitive Church this had somehow been a "normal" practice on the order of the Holy Eucharist, then undoubtedly most of the world's millions and millions of Christians would be mumbling to themselves today..
Having experienced the real thing, I find these constant phrases, "mumbling to themselves" and other such dismissive terms, to be dangerously close to blasphemy. I suggest refraining from making light of what you ought to approach with respect, if only for the Biblical words about the subject.

And, you would be surprised to know how many people in our various congregations still use the gift of tongues privately, perhaps almost silently during the very services you mention. Indeed, in the Church worldwide, "millions" actually do. And, it does not cause a problem.

So either the practice is stopped, spurious or the Holy Ghost has denied this once-normal occurrence to most Christians today for reasons of His own..
Is this not about what I said above? Is it not really about the people who insisted on treating their experience as some kind of standard, or who thought everyone needed the same? As I said, they overlooked those last verses of I Cor. 12. "Do all speak with tongues?" Of course not> That was what they missed in their zeal.

With my second comment, I am merely stating that there (a) we need proof (and none has been given) that today's glossolalia is the same phenomenon spoken of in the NT....
Sorry, but the burden of proof is on the other side. A Biblical gift is in evidence, and so you must prove it is not the same. The Bible teaches this: "forbid not to speak with tongues." Are you going to forbid it, even when a bishop in Australia uses it in his own life of prayer? If so, on what Scriptural basis, and why?

But, if what follows a Biblical pattern, such as the story from my own experience about that one (of several) miracles that led to a man's lasting conversion, are to dismissed as "experiences," so would accurate predictive prophecies (which I also have witnessed). The deformed shoulder was certainly healed by supernatural power, and instantly. The woman's husband was certainly transformed after the sight of her suddenly healed shoulder was used, by the Holy Spirit, to convict him of his own need to turn to the real and living God.

The fact is, this fits the Biblical pattern; therefore, it needs no proof. The burden of proof is on the prosecution. If it did not fit the Biblical pattern, it would be nothing more than an argument from experience; fitting the Biblical pattern, however, it takes on a theological dimension.

And, why would you close your eyes to the many witnesses throughout Church History who have written their testimony to many like things? Miracles have never ceased, and miracles are in the same category of charismata in the same chapter 12 of I Cor. in fact, so is the teaching that the Church is the Body of Christ. How much of this charismatic reality "simply vanished?"

In any case, these phenomena are not and never have been part of the Anglican tradition..
The Anglican Tradition is to weigh everything by scripture and Antiquity, not by the 16th century.

I did not bring this whole subject up, and I am not endorsing everything in the the bishop's e-mail to Fr. Kirby. But, I cannot deny the Biblical evidence that my own experiences are genuine, as are many others. Above all, once God got our attention, we awoke and rose from the dead, and Christ gave us light. We have moved forward since then into deeper things, including all of the theological Anglican writings I have been content to write about.

(Again, Fr. Kirby, what you have gotten us into?)

Anonymous said...

We need to get the discussion back to the original post, if we are to avoid talking past each other. It seems to blend together two different issues: (1) Divine healing through the activity of the Holy Spirit, and (2) glossalalia (a word which never occurs in the NT).

In my experience (if you wish to argue on that basis, I can play that game too), the advocates of (2) try to smuggle it in by attaching it to (1). I hope we all believe in Divine healing. If we did not, we would not have carried home the oil which our Archbishop rblessed for us at the recent Synod. When I got mine home, I discovered how last year's supply was almost gone. I regularly use oil when I visit the hospital, and frequently administer the sacrament of holy unction at the Altar Rail, when there is a call for it. But I am leery of claims for spectacular healings, with an undercurrent of disrespect for professional medicine. Our Lord's command, "Tell no man," still has relevance.

I am surprised at the suggestion that glossalalia is necessary somehow to "balance" our liturgical and sacramental life. Since I have prayed and lived by the historic BCP for over half a century, I do not take kindly to a bold suggestion that our liturgy is "unbalanced." As far as I am concerned it is quite balanced between Word and Sacrament, Scripture and Tradition, Catholic and Evanglical. Any new-fangled attempt to "balance" the spirituality of the Prayer Book will almost surely upset the excellent balance which is there.

That language "the Charismata are an essential part of our ministry in Christ to the world in the Anglican expression" is troubling to me. Most writers on the subject (and I bought a book by Michael Green today) deal gently with the whole matter, along the lines of "forbid them not" as long as they keep it at home and out of sight. How short a distance from
"forbid them not" to "essential." I accept the apostolic sacramental ministry of bisops as "essential."
I except two sacraments as "generally necessary to salvation." I could expand the list of "essential" things. But glossalalia?

I am familiar with the Holiness sects with their extravagant claims of a second blessing. I have seen up close the damage done and misery inflicted, when such sectarian ideas are imported into
mainline churches, both Presbyterian and Episcopal.
So with all due respect to Bishop Iverach, I will answer with a polite but firm "No."

I happen to know something (no I really know quite a lot, and my anonymity forbids me to say exactly how) about "healing from addiction." Anyone who talks about "instant healing" of addiction is placing lives and souls in danger.

And this is all supported by my personal experience.
LKW

Anonymous said...

Fr Hart writes:
"I am not endorsing all of what Fr. Kirby's bishop wrote to him."

Could you break this down and tell us, line by line, what you acree with and what you do not?

As for the onus probandi, there is no prosecution here. Some are making some unusual claims, others are frankly sceptical. Obviously, the man who claims to have seen a pink elephant flying over his house is under a greater burden than his incredulous listener.
LKW

Fr. Robert Hart said...

Fr. Wells:

I placed the burden of proof on Brian because he appears to believe that the specific gifts that Bishop Iverach mentioned have ceased. If he said this to St. Paul, he might think that he has claimed that the resurrection is past, and lump him in with those heretics; for the obvious meaning of his prediction, "as for tongues they shall cease," is that they will cease on the Last Day when Christ returns. He has not returned, the resurrection is future, therefore tongues have not ceased.

Now, anyone who promises that an addiction will be healed automatically is a liar and a charlatan. But, to note that a miracle did happen in an individual's experience is no different from noting that a blind man suddenly could see. There is no intention to slight the medical profession implicit in such a testimony. Like Ed, I want us to know that God is still God, and we cannot tame him.

The idea is to glorify Christ just as records of miracles in the Book of Acts also glorify him. I could ignore and keep silent forever about miracles, and have done so most of the time; but even though on some occasions the Lord wanted certain individuals not to impede his movements by telling, the time came for the stories to be written down in scripture itself.

On the following, Fr. Wells and I are in complete agreement:
.
I am surprised at the suggestion that glossalalia is necessary somehow to "balance" our liturgical and sacramental life. Since I have prayed and lived by the historic BCP for over half a century, I do not take kindly to a bold suggestion that our liturgy is "unbalanced." As far as I am concerned it is quite balanced between Word and Sacrament, Scripture and Tradition, Catholic and Evanglical. Any new-fangled attempt to "balance" the spirituality of the Prayer Book will almost surely upset the excellent balance which is there..
To that I say amen.

On the following remark I must make a remark.
.

That language "the Charismata are an essential part of our ministry in Christ to the world in the Anglican expression" is troubling to me..

If it means public speaking in tongues, with or without interpretation, then I must agree with that too. These things cannot be essential, and we have no way simply to make them happen unless we fake it. And, I have seen it faked, especially by the kind of people who lack the wholesome assurance of sacraments, or who, having the sacraments, fail to be assured as they ought.

But, the charismata is a word bigger than the gifts of tongues and prophecy. The Sacraments of Confirmation and Orders are charismatic. The Holy Communion is charismatic; Absolution is charismatic; the whole sacramental system is charismatic through and through, even though it is not spectacular, at least not usually.

I cannot accept the condemnation of "second blessing" the way that many Protestants do. That is because what they reject, when analyzed thoroughly, is the sacrament of Confirmation.

However, if speaking about Pentecostals, they mean an experience that swept them off their feet, and either its valid or invalid effects (each case standing on its own merits-to use that dirty word), and somehow make it a standard for everyone, then they are wrong. Once again, even when the experience was a true conversion and the work of the Holy Spirit, what some individuals fail to grasp is those words at the end of I Cor. 12, those words I now bring up for the third time (vs. 29-31).

The gifts, including the spectacular ones, seem to come and go throughout the history of the Church, and they certainly were very obvious and apparent in the 60s and 70s in the western world, as they are (from what I hear) in Africa today. In parts of Africa every missionary is in the battle that Elijah fought with the prophets of Baal. The God who wins is the God who has the power; and there is no other way in some places even to get a hearing.

But, to call such gifts "normal" creates a problem. Does the bishop mean to imply that anyone who does not speak in tongues (or to use his words, "a prayer language") is abnormal? I hope he does not mean to imply any such thing. Frankly, tongues are neither normal nor are they abnormal. Some people have this gift, and some do not. That is all we can know, and all that we say from scripture.

I have seen people in personal agony because they could not speak in tongues. To them come words from this same 12th chapter: "If the foot shall say, Because I am not the hand, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body? And if the ear shall say, Because I am not the eye, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body? If the whole body were an eye, where were the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where were the smelling?
But now hath God set the members every one of them in the body, as it hath pleased him." (vs. 15-18)

I have seen people treat those who do not have this one gift as abnormal. To them come the words from the same text: "And the eye cannot say unto the hand, I have no need of thee: nor again the head to the feet, I have no need of you." (v. 21) This kind of "second blessing" mentality we do not need.

I have heard people speak of "the Baptism in the Holy Spirit with the Scriptural evidence of speaking in tongues" (an expression Rev. Don Basham used all too often). And, they get this from Acts 10, but fail to consider that the whole scene was a direct act of God meant to be exactly like what happened on Pentecost (in Acts 2), to make it clear that even upon the uncircumcised Gentiles was the gift given; and this had very important meaning beyond the significance of tongues as such. It was about the fact that Gospel is to be preached to all nations.

Frankly, the Catholic faith and the Anglican expression of it are very large, so large that there is room for those who have spectacular gifts and for those who do not;

"That there should be no schism in the body; but that the members should have the same care one for another. And whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it; or one member be honoured, all the members rejoice with it. Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular." vs. 25-27

poetreader said...

Thank you, Fr. Hart, for an exquisite and well-balanced statement.

I had read the previous posts and had to run out for a few hours. I was formulating in my mind what I would want to respond. I have no need. You've spoken precisely what I would have wanted to say, and have said it much better.

ed

Fr Matthew Kirby said...

One problem with the present line of discussion is that people are treating the letter as a doctrinal treatise deliberately written in a precise and didactic mode. It was in fact a personal letter of a pastoral and encouraging nature, subsequently posted at my suggestion. What is called "normal" for balanced prayer in such a letter between two men who speak in tongues is not therefore being mandated for everybody else in their prayer-life. It is not unreasonable that those with the gift should in fact use it privately as St Paul did, and consider this normal and an integral part of their prayer-life.

Another problem is that people are forgetting the other aspect of the basic context of the letter, which is Bp Iverach's "great delight" in our earlier posts on the subject, posts which were in a didactic mode and originally designed for public instruction. Now, these posts specifically noted that St Paul did not say all had to speak in tongues, and listed many charismatic gifts such as healing, teaching, evangelising, and various forms of artistry that are non-controversial. Additionally, we noted the necessity of "decency and order" and the fact that being "filled with the Spirit" is not meant to be a once-for-all, never to be repeated/continued event, nor is it confined to any particular outward manifestation.

Fr Wells protests the statement that "the Charismata are an essential part of our ministry", and then explains this protest by saying that tongues are not essential. Fr Hart has noted the illogicality of this argument. Teaching is a charism, as mentioned above. Does Fr Wells deny its necessity to the Church?

Finally, Bp Iverach's statements on the liturgy seem to go one step beyond what I had said. He does this by saying that the congregation could operate in word-gifts at times discerned by the celebrant, with the qualification that God might well inspire somebody to speak at an unexpected time, but not in such a way that interrupted worship. I had suggested one point in the liturgy where time could be given for such ministry. However, I do not deny that God can do what He likes. Nevertheless, I would not see this unexpected speaking as a normal event. And Bp Iverach does not say it would be: "If God chooses" are his words, as are "[a]ll in good order".

Fr Matthew Kirby said...

Fr Wells,

You argued as follows:

"We have agreed, I believe, on another thread that the conclusion to Mark's Gospel is part of the Canon. There we hear of tongues and snake-handling as spiritual gifts. Now we are told that the gift of snake-handling was exercised by St Paul in the isolated incident in the last section of Acts. Maybe so. But if "tongues" is an "essential" gift, to be regularly and publicly practiced, then equal latitude must be given to snake-handling.
I ask only for consistency.

... "Tongues" are nowhere described in the NT as a "prayer language," but are in Acts are rather a sign. In 1 Corinthians, tongues are simply a problem in the notoriously corrupt church in Corinth."

The first paragraph makes no sense. Just because Mk 16 mentions both tongues and escaping harm from snakes together does not prove that the extreme rarity to virtual disappearance of the latter must be shared by the former. If it did, this supposed restriction would also apply to everything else listed in the same passage, including healing and exorcism. Yet healing is the very gift you wish to affirm as continuing.

St Paul does not use the phrase "prayer language" for tongues but he teaches in perfect accordance with it in 1 Co. 14.2,18,19,27,28. To say that in this letter of St Paul tongues are "simply a problem" is reprehensible eisegesis, since the Apostle says "I would like every one of you to speak in tongues" and "I thank God I speak in tongues more than all of you", as you must be aware. Far from being merely problematic, this gift is specifically said to be edifying to the pray-er in 14.4.

I have no wish to fight or argue, but I do not resile in the least from what I have written previously nor do I regret beginning this discussion. Despite the cautions and qualifications that have been given by us, it seems that the very subject of tongues causes some to take on a bunker mentality. This is no more healthy than the egregious claim that those who do not speak in tongues are not fully Christian.

When you compare Fr Hart's and the Bishop's arguments, which are manifestly both from Scripture and Tradition and from observation, to arguments for female ordination and homosexual marriage from experience, you appeal to a false analogy. When you go further and refer to "unusual claims" analogous to purporting to see flying elephants, it is difficult not to see this as casting aspersions on the veracity of Fr Hart and Bp Iverach in their stories of the miraculous. I hope this is not the case.

Is it wrong to exhort our people to be filled with the Spirit? How can it be, given St Paul's injunction? And how can it be wrong to encourage them to seek the gifts of the Spirit and determine what God would have them contribute to the ministry of the Church, also in line with St Paul's instructions? Why, then, should any of the gifts be avoided or their orderly exercise frowned upon? Is it permissible for us to fear disorder (or what we don't seem to control or cannot understand) so much that we discourage or disdain everything outside the predictable? Would God be pleased with this?

Anonymous said...

"Now, anyone who promises that an addiction will be healed automatically is a liar and a charlatan."

Had anyone else said that, the Tone Police would have come after him. But this time it is "well-balanced and exquisite." But I am glad you said it because it needs to be said.

"But, to note that a miracle did happen in an individual's experience is no different from noting that a blind man suddenly could see."

Reciting such incidents is surely tantamount to an implied promise
that "it can happen to you too, if only you have enough faith." Sorry to be tedious on the point, but I have known too many people who were led or misled out of 12 step programs by well-meaning preachers (not all pentecostals) who promised miracles and spiritual healing. Those clergy are going to have a lot to answer for.

"There is no intention to slight the medical profession implicit in such a testimony."

There is a distinction between intention and consequence. We both know of a strong anti-medical attitude (running all the way from Appalachian snake-handlers to the gentility of Christian Science) which exalts Spiritual healing to the disparagement of conventional medicine. Some language in the article tends strongly in that direction, e.g., "to the amazement of hospital emergency attendants."

"Like Ed, I want us to know that God is still God, and we cannot tame him."

Go read some Karl Barth (Lasst Gott sei Gott!) and you will be healed of this anxiety! Have a nice day!

LKW

Anonymous said...

Fr Kirby: You entitled the Bibsops letter A Bishop of the ACC reflects on the Charismata." We took the word "reflects" seriously. Do you wish to revise the title?
LKW

Anonymous said...

I am sorry that my argument was too subtle for you. If you will open your Bible and read the final verses to Mark's Gospel, you will find that it says nothing about"escaping harm from snakes," but rather, "they will speak in new tongues, they pick up snakes in their hands." The two charisms are parallel. I simply point out that if one is still present in the church, the other should be present also. We cannot be selective in which charisms we promote. No cafeteria charismatics, please!
LKW

Fr. Robert Hart said...

Reciting such incidents is surely tantamount to an implied promise
that "it can happen to you too, if only you have enough faith."
.
Yes, but reading the Bible is dangerous for unintelligent and untaught people. And, more can be gleaned from that than from anyone's testimony of any incident. The issue is one of teaching.

We both know of a strong anti-medical attitude (running all the way from Appalachian snake-handlers to the gentility of Christian Science) which exalts Spiritual healing to the disparagement of conventional medicine..
Again, most Anglicans are not stupid, and most have been taught better.

The two charisms are parallel..
There is no charism of taking up snakes on purpose: St. Paul picked one up by accident and was preserved supernaturally when he should have died from the bite. There is no parallel for another reason: The Bible has a record of churches having actual experience of the gifts mentioned in the Book of Acts and in I Cor. 12-14.

With proper teaching none of these problems exist. It is only among the almost illiterate and terribly ignorant that such problems may arise. This is why we never saw this sort of thing among even the most radioactive Charismatics in the 70s.

Anonymous said...

"When you compare Fr Hart's and the Bishop's arguments, which are manifestly both from Scripture and Tradition and from observation..."

Fr Hart has been fairly clear in distancing himself from the bishop's letter. And could you clarify what you mean by "observation"? I also have had opportunity to make observations.

Context in the original article makes it clear enough that the "charism" referred to as "essential" is the "prayer language" called by the non-Biblical word glossalalia.

Speaking of "reprehensible eisegesis," an example would be the unproved and unwarranted assumption that the "tongues" mentioned in Acts are the same gift as the "tongues" mentioned in 1 Corinthians 12 and 14.

In Acts, "tongues" occur on Pentecost as a sign to the multitude. The tongues were no heavenly speech, but rather "we do hear them speaking in our own tongues the mighty works of God." That is emphasized by being stated twice, in Acts 2:6 and 2:11. Nothing whatever about a "prayer language." The Fathers saw this (I feel rightly) as a reversal of the Genesis story of the confusion of tongues at the Tower of Babel. The "tongues" were a sign that the Genesis curse had been removed.

The Pentecostal gift occurs exactly twice in the remainder of the long book of Acts. First, in Acts 10:46, and again in Acts 19:6.
In both instances a new group was being incorporated into the New Israel. First, the Gentiles, secondly, the ecentric little group of "disciples" (not necessarily Christians at all, probably disciples of John the Baptist). These two events show the Pentecostal event catching up with these special groups. In neither case is there even a hint that such a gift of tongues was normative; in both cases it was regarded as something exceptional.
It is conspicuously absent from other similar stories in Acts, such as Acts 8:17, when the Samaritans received the Holy Ghost.

Linking "tongues" in Acts with the strange goings-on in 1 Cor makes no more sense than the Fundamentalists who take Paul's language in 1 Thess about Christians being "taken up into the air" at the Parousia, and yoke it to the language in the Synoptic apocalyptic passages about those "left behind," and come up with the fantasy of the Rapture.

As for the material in 1 Cor, we need to keep in mind that there is much we do not know about the Corinthian Church. For example, we know very little about the "Baptism of the Dead." 1 Cor 12 and 14 are, to say the least, obscure passages. But I find no sure evidence there that (1) Paul himself spoke in tongues, or that (2) he wanted others to do so. If it had not been a serious problem to the good order of the church, it would not have come up at all. When Paul wrote, "I speak in tongues more than all of you," he was quite possible saying something like "being all things to all men." Paul was fond of spinning the meaning of words and making word-plays. He was highly adept at re-casting his message for different audiences. He spoke one way in Lystra, a very different way in Athens, another way to the Philippian jailor. Only a woodenly literal fundamentalist proof-texting use of Scripture would make 1 Cor 14:18 to prove that Paul spoke in tongues. At most, Paul said "do not forbid." That directive is clearly subordinated to "desire earnestly to prophesy" and "let all things be done decently and in order."

Paul is emphatic that "tongues" (under the severe limits he sets) are for a "sign" "not to believers but to the unbelieving." Here he seems to be thinking of the three episodes in Acts in Acts 2, 10 and 19. It would seem that he was contrasting Pentecost with the Corinthian chaos. The entire passage is concerned with what happens when the church assembles, not with what individuals do in their private devotions. Not a single text deals with private prayer. To a truly Catholic mind, anything unseemly in public worship is probably questionable in private as well.
LKW

Anonymous said...

"Again, most Anglicans are not stupid, and most have been taught better."

I'm not sure how large a statistical field you are using for this statement. But "most Anglicans" evidently believe a lot of things you and I do not, for example, that one must be in communion with Canterbury to be an Anglican, or that woman can be priests. As P.T.Barnum once said, No one ever went broke by over-estimating the stupidity of people. And the Biblical ignorance of our people is legendary.

"The Bible has a record of churches having actual experience of the gifts mentioned in the Book of Acts and in I Cor. 12-14."

I would point out again that the ONLY NT church where tongues are mentioned is the particularly corrupt Corinthian church. It was just one item on a long grocery list of problems for Paul to deal with: blatant immorality, profanation of the Lord's Supper, denial of the resurrection, general divisiveness.

Glossalalia does not authenticate itself as a gift of the Holy Spirit, since it is also found among certain Moslem sects. Something like it was found at the Delphic oracle. Conceivably, it represented an example of early religious syncretism, in which a pagan practice was brought into the Christian community. (Paul also had to deal with the matter of meat offered to idols.)

In Acts, "tongues" were a sign (on only three occasions) of a mighty act of God. In this argument, they are defended as a private "prayer language." Talk about "taming" God!
LKW

Sandra McColl said...

I have held my tongue on this matter and given it some reflection. I come from a background of profound suspicion of what might be called the 'spectacular' gifts. Like many thinks, as pop psychologists would say, this goes back to my childhood, in particular my teen years. At that time, the '70s, and not a good time in liturgical history, the Vicar apparently unilaterally started up a 'healing ministry', and expected a great movement of the Spirit at Evensong on Sundays (which became less and less like Evensong as the years progressed). There was talk of the charismatic movement, and talk of tongues (though not IN them), and it was all greatly discomforting for those who saw everything familiar and helpful being eroded while none of the promised goodies appeared in its place.

I, who am totally non-mystical, totally without experience of spectacular gifts (except, perhaps, for an experience of an RC Mass where the priest went into occasional short bursts of what sounded like Brian G's 'nonsense syllables'), but blessed (thank the Lord!) nevertheless with an ounce of commonsense and, despite my patchy theological literacy, a jolly sharp heresy-detector, tend to be a bit suspicious of mystics (for whom Christian orthodoxy, or Christianity itself, is not a necessary qualification) and those who, more on-topic, profess to have been involved in miraculous healings or to have spoken ecstatically in tongues. Part of the mistrust arises from my childhood, part from my experience of practitioners and experients of the more spectacular gifts tending to be from, or to go to, happy clappy baptist sects.

Nevertheless, when someone who is culturally Anglican, and in whose catholic orthodoxy my heresy detector can't find a crack, and who, moreover, has no reason to lie, tells me of direct experience of such things, I'm perfectly content to believe him. I take it as a matter of faith that these things happen. That doesn't mean that I don't shy away from people who seem (as happened in my teens) to be chasing the signs and wonders and not merely content to have the Lord in their midst.

But above all it does mean that it is a profound matter of faith with me that the Lord has a blessing in store for those who have not seen (the signs and wonders) and yet believe (in Him).

The price of my silence is an eventual rant, I'm afraid, but I hope it may assist in building something of a bridge between the more and less spectacularly gifted of us. None of us should have cause to fear the other.

Fr. Robert Hart said...

I think the overall context of I Cor. 12-14 does indeed lead us to the logical conclusion that Paul prayed in tongues, and esteemed its benefits. "I will pray with the spirit, and I will pray with the understanding also." The context makes it clear he means sometimes in tongues, sometimes not. The only thing he corrected in Corinth was confusion and disorder. He certainly never discouraged tongues as a gift itself, but rather encouraged them to move forward into prophecy so as to edify others. It is evident that he spoke of the normal practice of the Church regarding such things as prophecy, etc. It is much more likely, from the text, that these gifts, then, were common in the whole Church all over the empire in those days (cp. Galatians 3:5). We may thank the Corinthians for making so many mistakes, because otherwise the whole Epistle, with its teaching, would not exist. They did, in fact, speak in tongues and prophesy in Ephesus; but having not the disorder caused by division among the Corinthians (which was the root of every problem they had), the Church in Ephesus afforded no opportunity to write the same instructions that became part of Holy Scripture when sent to Corinth. It is obvious that the problem in Corinth was not the gifts, which were by no means unusual; the problem was lack of unity caused by lack of charity. The Epistle must be read as a whole.

It seems evident, as well, that the gift of tongues in I Cor. is indeed no different in substance from what we see in Acts 2, 10 and even 19 despite the different situation in the latter (which only strengthens the case). Otherwise, it would have made no sense for Paul to write to the Corinthians about their own gifts of tongues, that this was a sign for unbelievers. That fits perfectly the story in Acts 2.

I believe any other interpretation of these passages is so unlikely as to be forced upon them rather than drawn out of them. That's here I stand on I Cor.

If you want a list of problems and faults of both Pentecostals and Charismatics (two rather different groups), you may actually glean that list from things I have written over the years. Many failed to separate from the heretical Anglican bodies; some accepted priestesses; some pushed an unprincipled ecumenism, ignoring theology in such a way as to make it easy to ignore all principles. Some went into "Faith and Prosperity," while others assumed they should force their own experience on everyone.

One fact stands out about spiritual gifts, and that fact is predestination. It can't be man-made or manufactured. It does not rest on human desires or decisions. The Spirit gives as He wills.

A theological and prophetic theory for consideration...It seems odd that so much attention is given, once again, to tongues. I think that Fr. Wells has actually supplied the very thing I was going to introduce as a solution to a mystery:

The Fathers saw this (I feel rightly) as a reversal of the Genesis story of the confusion of tongues at the Tower of Babel. The "tongues" were a sign that the Genesis curse had been removed..
.
"And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come." Matt. 24:14

"And they sung a new song, saying, Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof: for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation; And hast made us unto our God kings and priests: and we shall reign on the earth."
Rev. 5:9,10

Let us consider the possibility that Fr. Raniero Cantalamessa
(http://anglicancontinuum.blogspot.com/2008/03/tunic-was-without-seam.html) was onto something very true and profound in his Good Friday sermon of 2008.

For a century now, we have seen the same thing repeat itself before our eyes on a global scale. God has poured out the Holy Spirit in a new and unusual way upon millions of believers from every Christian denomination and, so that there would be no doubts about his intentions, he poured out the Spirit with the same manifestations. Is this not a sign that the Spirit moves us to recognize each other as disciples of Christ and work toward unity?.
.
Let me add another thought to my theory to understand why tongues. This is a gift that millions upon millions of Christians suddenly experienced (to their own surprise) as a sign from God that it is time to get on with fulfilling the Great Commission. There are nations waiting to hear the Gospel.

If this was His message, many missed it. They enjoyed their experience and fell short of hearing what was being said to them, and through them to all. Tongues are a sign for unbelievers. The message to the Church, a message found in the nature of this one rather unspectacular gift (compared to miracles), is that the whole Church must get serious about the Great Commission. If it is a sign from God (as I believe it is), this is what it means: "Go ye therefore, and teach all nations..."

The reason so many failed is that they focused on the experience and despised any theological implications it has.

Fr Matthew Kirby said...

Fr Wells,

You state: "I am sorry that my argument was too subtle for you. If you will open your Bible and read the final verses to Mark's Gospel, you will find that it says nothing about"escaping harm from snakes," but rather, "they will speak in new tongues, they pick up snakes in their hands." The two charisms are parallel. I simply point out that if one is still present in the church, the other should be present also." But your argument is neither subtle nor valid, it is simply a reductio ad absurdum, as I pointed out. The sentence you refer to says "they will cast out demons, ... speak in new tongues, ... pick up serpents, ... lay their hands on the sick ... [who] will recover." So, if the cessation or extreme rarity of miraculously safe snake-encounters demonstrates the cessation of the gift of tongues, it demonstrates the cessation of healing and exorcism as well. Since it is a matter of Catholic Faith that the latter two definitely have not ceased, your appeal to these verses proves nothing whatever against the continuation of the gift of tongues.

As for your exegesis of 1 Corinthians, seldom have I seen a greater disrespect for and more clear attempt to explain away the manifest sense of Scripture. Anybody reading chapters 12 to 14 honestly, especially 12.4-11, should see both immediately and upon further reflection that the gift of tongues St Paul refers to as still operative is a genuine gift of the Holy Spirit. The very fact that he says there is a gift of interpretation shows that he believed in a form of tongues that did not require to be automatically understood by those surrounding (cf. Acts 2) in order to be real. Importantly, the "Paul did not mean what he said about speaking in tongues and that he would like them to do so"-interpretation is clearly a novum, a piece of exegesis that could not be found, I believe, anywhere in the Fathers. Even the "cessationist" St John Chrysostom accepts the gift was continuous with that of Acts, real and used by the Apostle. To imply the gift used in the Corinthian community and spoken of by St Paul was a "pagan practice" is without doubt blasphemous toward God and, of less importance, derogatory of the Apostle who would then, on your theory, be saying "forbid it not" about a pagan practice.

The reason I am using strong language is because I firmly believe it to be an objectively true description of your position and because that position is not merely wrong but spiritually dangerous, including to you. This is no exaggeration or piece of rhetoric. Do you not fear to take up an interpretation so marginal when it necessitates such negative and contemptuous claims about what is a gift of the Holy Spirit on any other interpretation? I cannot claim to know the state of your soul, Fr Wells, but what you have said in this thread is of such a nature that I cannot take up the stance of mere academic debate. I have no desire for personal animosity or to accuse a fellow priest, but I cannot but see your argument under the category of serious, vincible error and perhaps objective mortal sin. I pray that subjectively things are different. (Please note, it is not your cessationism or virtual cessationism to which I attach these moral censures, though I believe your cessationism to be erroneous, but these latest exegetical claims.)

If I have somehow misunderstood your meaning, I am sorry. Perhaps you could tell us what in our original 3 articles you do agree with, what you do recognise as an obligation for us as Christians who should be "filled with the Spirit", and give your own positive statement about Christians, including the laity, and the ministry gifts of the Holy Spirit? Might this not bring us closer to understanding and theological reconciliation?

May God have mercy on both of us, and keep our hearts open and soft to His inspiration, and our minds enlightened by His Word.

In Christ,

MK+

Anonymous said...

Fr. Kirby,

I think Fr. Wells is far from blaspheming the Spirit, as undoubtedly he relies on the Spirit of God to open his mouth to proclaim the mysteries no less than you do. The rhetoric is getting a little overblown at this point.

Fr. Wells' concern is legitimate. I don't buy his exegesis of 1 Corinthians, but let's not translate this into some sort of creeping anti-Holy Spirit theology, such rhetoric I heard in spades as a Pentecostal against the "frozen chosen" when I was a teen.

In closing, I do believe a greater fervency in reliance on the Holy Spirit is in order, and I believe there are genuine, orthodox mystics in our church to whom the Spirit speaks and directs in a phenomenal matter, but I wouldn't make this the bar of spirituality or maturity, not by a long shot...

In Jesus,
St. Worm

Fr. Robert Hart said...

"But all these worketh that one and the selfsame Spirit, dividing to every man severally as he will." I Cor. 12:11

I meant I what I said about predestination; not of the question of who is among the Elect, but about the fact that the gifts of the Spirit are conferred as God wills, not as we either will or try to experience.

It is important to remember that "cessation" can speak of one of two things:

1) At certain points of Church History there were those who noticed that these gifts were no longer so prominent as they had been through at least the time of Ireneaus. This is simply an observation of "cessation" as a fact, (and then only about specific gifts rather than all of them). The fact is, this has happened in periods of the Church's history, and we cannot tell why, at least not with certainty.

2) Those who have a doctrine that God has permanently withdrawn these gifts, and they have ceased forever because they were for a special time only.

The latter view has no Scriptural support whatsoever, and it contradicts the clear meaning of I Cor. 13: 10 in its surrounding context, part of which speaks of the day in which we shall receive perfect knowledge of all things. Until Christ returns and the dead are raised, these gifts have not ceased.

The question, getting back to what I said a couple of comments up, is what does it mean? I believe the huge out-pouring of the Holy Spirit with these gifts in evidence in the 20th century (with direct effects in this century among those of us who are still here) has been a call from God to intensify our focus and efforts on the Great Commission, and that too few understood this.

Fr. Robert Hart said...

Although Fr. Wells and I have been doing some sparring here, I can well understand why a priest, trying to be a good pastor, formed a very negative view of the people in the Charismatic movement. Many were overtly difficult, and tried to make their experience a standard for everybody. Others were far from orthodox, and that in many ways, basically too presumptuous to learn from anybody; and it got worse with the "Signs and Wonders" movement of the "Vineyard" churches. I think he probably met more than a few "Corinthians" himself.

I do understand.

poetreader said...

I agree with Fr. Hart's last comment, with the proviso that recognizing all-too-common abuses is not justification for angry denunciation of those earnestly seeking to allow God to manifest Himself as He will. I left Pentecostalism in part because just such abuses seemed to have become institutionalized therein. That in itself is troubling, but I cannot and will not deny that which God has done in my life and in that of many others. To be skeptical is one thing -- I myself approach these phenomena with a very skeptical mind -- but not to leave room for God to work is perilously close to resisting Him.

ed

Fr. Robert Hart said...

It is helpful, especially for those of us in the ACC, to heed the wise words of our Archbishop. Writing to me, Archbishop Haverland has said:

Dear Father Hart,

The Continuum might or might not be interested in some thoughts of mine about neo-pentecostalism.

First I would like to say that I very much admire Canon Kirby and Father Wells. While I know both are not unduly perturbed by vigorous theological exchange, I sometimes regret that they don't seem to appreciate one another as much as I appreciate them both.

On neo-pentecostalism, my own views on the subject were shaped early by an unforgettable lecture that I heard in about 1980 by Carmelite Father William McNamara. One of McNamara's basic ideas was that the neo-pentecostalist movement has to be judged in the context of the Church in which it arises. When a religious body is dead or dying, neo-pentecostalism may be a sign of relative health or possible hope. When the Catholic faith is alive and well, however, neo-pentecostalism tends to be at best unnecessary and at worst divisive.

So, for instance, in the context of the post-1976 Episcopal Church, a body in which Catholic faith and order were either dead or under attack at almost every level, the neo-pentecostlist movement could be a sign of hope. As Bishop Mote of blessed memory used to say after doing jail time with pro-life 'Charistmatics': 'They believe in the reality of God, the power of God, and the goodness of God.' Those are three very important beliefs.

However, the premium that neo-pentecostists tend to put on personal religious experience tends in turn to lead to division, whether in 1st century Corinth or among the ancient Montanists or in 21st century America. While the defenders of neo-pentecostalism writing to the Continuum are well-aware of this fact, perhaps they underestimate how very often the danger seems to arise. The tendency may not be inevitable or even intrinsically connected to the experiences in question. However, the tendency is common enough to give any bishop or pastor pause.

About tongues I vividly remember McNamara saying of the gift of tongues that the most important recipient of that gift of whom he knew was Fulton Sheen.

About the Pauline evidence, I believe it was McNamara who pointed out that, while S. Paul in the epistles to the Corinthians may emphasize more personal, ecstatic charismata, the later Pauline epistles tend to emphasize more official, institutional gifts. I think the observation is correct and significant. I am inclined to agree with those who note the general turbulence of the Corinthian church, and from that fact conclude that whatever Paul's own personal gifts, he certainly was concerned to control and limit severely 'tongues' and the like. Personal religious experience is vital, and when hearts grow cold in the Church God may well send a S. Francis or S. Teresa or Padre Pio to work in ways that supplement the graces poured upon the Church through the normal means of grace. But as my wise predecessor, Brother John-Charles, often observes: 'Normally God behaves normally.' Normally God uses the objective, known means of grace, and the charisms and experiences that accompany our own non-sacramental prayer lives are usually individual, personal, private, and of their nature rather incommunicable.

I am not a 'cessationist'. I believe in miracles and do not doubt that God can infuse knowledge of unknown tongues or prophecy. I do not presume to judge any man's personal religious experience, except by the proper standards of charity, of consistency with the known and authorized teaching of the universal Church, and of the spiritual fruit of Christian living. But I also believe that where the faith is truly taught and the sacraments are rightly administered, personal religious experience is mainly of private significance.

+MDH

I responded:

Your Grace:

I believe that your position is very much the same as what Ed Pacht and I have tried to say, especially the last part. I was drawn into answering a cessationist argument, and tried very hard to adjust the subject and bring it around to something else. I know what these gifts did to revolutionize my own life, and without them I probably would not be where I am today. But, I have probably gone for years at a time without experiencing them (i.e. the more overt gifts), and have not missed them. However, in my private life I find myself praying in tongues when alone far more often than in all the last ten years or so combined. This may last a while, or not; I do not know. Either way, I do not see it as a problem. I have tried to leave the subject, in general, as "some do, some don't. 'You are the Body of Christ and members in particular.'"

The views of Bishop Iverach, if misused and misapplied, could move some people to try to force into the context of our time and our churches something that no human being can manufacture. Also, many "Charismatics" despise theology, and it makes me think of G.K. Chesterton's observation about the same sort of phenomenon, or at least some fairly exotic piety, in the Middle Ages (I think in The Dumb Ox), "When religion could make men mad, theology kept them sane." However, this too is not across the board; there have been some very good theologians who have taught some of the Charismatic circles in the past.

And, as always, The Continuum is interested in whatever you have to say for our benefit.

Obediently,
RH+

poetreader said...

Fr. Hart, you assumed correctly is implying that I would rejoice in ++Haverland's wise words. This is a marvelously well balanced statement, even if I would prefer to fine-tune it (in ways I will refrain from discussing). Would that extremists in both directions would listen closely. We need every good gift the Spirit chooses to give us, and we just as strongly need the ordered governance that He also provides.

Thank you. Archbishop, for your input.

ed

Anonymous said...

Dear friends in Christ:I deliberately refrained from responding to any of Fr Kirby's earlier articles, and embroiled myself in this debate with deep misgivings ab initio. The reason was that I have been debating with the advocates of alleged spiritual gifts for quite a few years, off an on. My first encounter was in the early 60's, before Fr Kirby was a gleam in his daddy's eye. I have never before been accused of mortal sin simply for having a different opinion.

In summing up my observations, I will leave with three points:(1) No one has even begun to prove that the "tongues" in Acts are identical to the "tongues" of 1 Cor 12--14. (2) No one has even begun to prove that 1 Cor deals with one's private prayer life. (If it were only a form of private piety, why would it have become a church-rending problem? And if tongues are truly a blessing, why hide this light under a bushel?)(3) No one has dealt seriously with the original article. Fr Hart clearly distances himself from it and Fr Kirby seems to apologize for it.Fr Kirby seems shocked by my handling of 1 Cor 12--14. He might experience the same level of horror were he to read Michael Green's "I Believe in the Holy Spirit." Canon Green is much closer to Fathers Kirby and Hart than he is to me and takes a definitely pro-charismatic, pro-tongues posture. Yet he has the intellectual honesty to write,(p. 219)."Paul is well aware that the gift of tongues could be easily abused and become a danger rather than a blessing in the Church. I could lead to pride and divisiveness; it could lead to a theology of two-stage initiation; it could distract attention from the main purpose of the Holy Spirit, to make us Christlike. It could contribute to a fascination with a gift rather than the Giver, and with the bizarre rather than the ethical..... Paul is clear that some of his Corinthians friends speak in tongues that are not at all given by the Holy Spirit, but are a relic of the demonic influences upon them in their pagan days."So, dear Fr Kirby, please add Canon Green's name along with mine to your prayer list. There are many exegetes of 1 Corinthians who differ with you, so of your charity, pray for us all.

Laurence Knox Wells

Fr. Robert Hart said...

There is much about the demonic and idolatry in I Cor., but I see no connection between those passages and the passages that deal with tongues.

Fr Matthew Kirby said...

Fr Wells,

I acknowledge my words to you were liable to be taken as an accusation that you had personally committed actual mortal sin. The words themselves do not mean that, but ascribe heresy and blasphemy to certain positions you had apparently taken, understood in their own nature as propositions put. While I tried to distinguish between what these propositions were in themselves ("perhaps" objectively and seriously sinful) and what you had done in putting them (the subjective aspect), it is clear I did not succeed in communicating this, and possibly only muddied the waters by introducing the term "mortal sin". For this I am very sorry.

MK+

Now, as to the issues themselves ...

Fr Matthew Kirby said...

(1) No one has even begun to prove that the "tongues" in Acts are identical to the "tongues" of 1 Cor 12--14. (2) No one has even begun to prove that 1 Cor deals with one's private prayer life. (If it were only a form of private piety, why would it have become a church-rending problem? And if tongues are truly a blessing, why hide this light under a bushel?)(3) No one has dealt seriously with the original article. Fr Hart clearly distances himself from it and Fr Kirby seems to apologize for it.Re: (1).

There are two reasons for this. First, there is no obligation upon us to prove what has been assumed by almost all exegetes throughout the history of the Church and is the straightforward implication of the fact that the same phraseology and context in Acts is repeated in 1 Corinthians. That is to say, in both: the same words describe the phenomenon, it is caused by the inspiration of the Spirit (Ac. 2.4, 1 Co. 12.10-11), and it is related to prophecy (Ac. 19.6, 1 Co. 14.5). Second, whether the tongues St Paul refers to are absolutely identical in nature to those in Acts 2 is irrelevant to the main point, which is that they are a gift of the Spirit. Indeed, the tongues in Act 19, for example, do not appear to have been naturally understood by those around them, as occurred in Acts 2, so even they were perhaps not identical in that sense.

Re: (2). 1 Co. 14.4,18,19,28 are conclusive in this regard. "He who speaks in a tongue edifies himself ... I thank God that I speak in tongues more than you all, but in church I would rather speak five words with my mind ... if there is none to interpret, let each of them keep silence in church and speak to himself and to God." Clearly, speaking in tongues directly to God outside the public, church-context was both permitted and practised by St Paul. The reason they had become an ecclesial problem is that they had been used ecclesially without interpretation. St Paul explicitly says they can be used publicly if there is an inspired interpreter (1 Co.14.13,27). Apart from this they were supposed to be normally private piety, but had not been, hence the problem. Tongues are, as St Paul specifically says, a blessing ("edifying") to the one using them (14.4) but not (normally) to others hearing them, which is precisely why it is good to use them privately but not publicly except in certain circumstances.

Re: (3). I have explained how the letter ought to be read, which is to say, not in isolation, if its meaning is to be understood.

Fr Matthew Kirby said...

Fr Kirby seems shocked by my handling of 1 Cor 12--14. He might experience the same level of horror were he to read Michael Green's "I Believe in the Holy Spirit." Canon Green is much closer to Fathers Kirby and Hart than he is to me and takes a definitely pro-charismatic, pro-tongues posture. Yet he has the intellectual honesty to write,(p. 219)."Paul is well aware that the gift of tongues could be easily abused and become a danger rather than a blessing in the Church. I could lead to pride and divisiveness; it could lead to a theology of two-stage initiation; it could distract attention from the main purpose of the Holy Spirit, to make us Christlike. It could contribute to a fascination with a gift rather than the Giver, and with the bizarre rather than the ethical..... Paul is clear that some of his Corinthians friends speak in tongues that are not at all given by the Holy Spirit, but are a relic of the demonic influences upon them in their pagan days."So, dear Fr Kirby, please add Canon Green's name along with mine to your prayer list. There are many exegetes of 1 Corinthians who differ with you, so of your charity, pray for us all.The quotation from Canon Green does not say that all tongues to which St Paul referred in 1 Corinthians were not really a gift of the Spirit but a pagan residue, nor does it say that St Paul did not really speak in tongues. You, on the other hand, Fr Wells, do appear to say these things. As I noted above, it is this interpretation, if indeed this is what you hold, seems to be a novelty.

Have I misunderstood you? I want this to be the case. Can you clarify

Fr Wells, if you would just say that you do not mean to deny that the gifts of tongues and interpretation listed in 1 Co. 12.10b (and then mentioned elsewhere in the same letter) were "inspired by ... the ... Spirit" as St Paul explicitly states in verse 11 immediately afterwards, then I would be partly reassured. If you would explain that you are and always have been willing to denounce as objectively blasphemous any intimation that what is referred to in those verses was either a false statement of fact by St Paul (since, unlike the other gifts listed, these no longer really existed) or a description of evil practices, then I would be less afraid that a dangerous line had been crossed. If you would deny that St Paul in saying "do not forbid speaking in tongues" was referring to an evil pagan ritual, and state that the contrary position is impermissible and certainly not held by you, I would be relieved. It is not differing exegesis that I am afraid of, it is manifest denial of what has been Divinely Revealed, or saying that what St Paul proclaimed to be of the Holy Spirit is just the opposite.

poetreader said...

I have to concur, at least in all main points, with Fr., Kirby's last two posts.

One may point out a certain unwisdom in open demonstration of these gifts (particularly tongues) in liturgical context. That's where I would stand in almost all situations, believing order to be one of His primary gifts.

One can caution against allowing the possession of any spiritual gift (yes, including the charisms of ordination itself) to support pretensions to be a 'better Christian' or whatever. I can be fierce indeed on this point. One can be very wary of anything that comes with divisive tendencies. I am.

One can even take the kind of cessationist stance that certain of the Fathers do seem to have taken.

One can present a case for such a position ans can present it well. I used to do that pretty effectively before I found it necessary to revise my views.

What one cannot do, however, is to support a view one would like to believe true by means of such eisegesis as I believe Fr. Wells has given us. One of the things indeed that loosened my objection and caused me to examine the phenomena more closely was the almost identical arguments I heard often thirty years ago - No,
Fathers, they aren't new with Fr. Wells - they sounded wrong and foolish then, and they still appear that way.

Fr. Wells, I really hope you're only grasping at straws in presenting those ideas. I hope you will present a more temperate and reasoned defense of your cessationist view than what you have presented. It is certainly acceptable to hold such an opinion, and let me venture to say that one thing those charismatically inclined do need is a good body of skeptical clergy to keep steering us all away from excess.

ed

Anonymous said...

I am new to your website but find it fascinating since I have been attending an Anglican Church in APCK. Having been raised in the pentecostal faith and having endured countless alter calls in my family's church and watching and listening to the "speaking in tongues" of which sounded more like jiberish than any language one could ever interpret, I have to ask the question. Please remember that I am a layperson not a theologian and one who runs from the charismatic style with people worshiping as mainline protestant type churches with their speaking in tongues because of what I have witnessed my whole growing up life until I was nearly 40.

My question: when I read Paul talking about those who speak in tongues and then saying that someone must be there to interpret it I take that seriously. The more I read it and I pray about it and think about it the more I keep getting this:
The Holy Spirit imparted gifts upon the Apostles giving them the gift of tongues to spread the Good News. In my thinking this means that they were given the languages of other cultures in order to teach and preach the Good News of Jesus Christ so that the other cultures would understand. I believe that the same is true for those in 1 Corth. when Paul states that someone must be there to interpret. What is the point of having a language that no one understands including the one uttering it? How can God and I communicate if I am speaking something that I do not understand nor does anyone else? What purpose does that serve?

In His Service as His Humble Servant
TeriLyn Dillon
St. James Anglican Cathedral
Fresno CA
San Joaquin Diocese

Fr. Robert Hart said...

What is the point of having a language that no one understands including the one uttering it? How can God and I communicate if I am speaking something that I do not understand nor does anyone else? What purpose does that serve?.
.
Somehow we may balance these two statements of I Cor. 14 that seem self-contradictory, by remembering two things: 1) Paul was too sane to actually contradict himself, and 2) the Holy Spirit who inspired the Scriptures never contradicts Himself. The two statements are:

"He that speaketh in an unknown tongue edifieth himself," and "For if I pray in an unknown tongue, my spirit prayeth, but my understanding is unfruitful."

The distinction between Acts 2 and I Corinthians 14 appears to be the distinction in these two statements:

"For he that speaketh in an unknown tongue speaketh not unto men, but unto God: for no man understandeth him; howbeit in the spirit he speaketh mysteries." (I Cor. 14:2)

"And they were all amazed and marvelled, saying one to another, Behold, are not all these which speak Galilaeans? And how hear we every man in our own tongue, wherein we were born? Parthians, and Medes, and Elamites, and the dwellers in Mesopotamia, and in Judaea, and Cappadocia, in Pontus, and Asia,Phrygia, and Pamphylia, in Egypt, and in the parts of Libya about Cyrene, and strangers of Rome, Jews and proselytes, Cretes and Arabians, we do hear them speak in our tongues the wonderful works of God." (Acts 2:7-11)

Perhaps they spoke mysteries to God, but those mysteries were in "a tongue understanded" by foreign people only.

Of those who did not understand them, come these words:
"Others mocking said, These men are full of new wine." (Acts 2:13) This corresponds also to I Cor. 14:23:

"If therefore the whole church be come together into one place, and all speak with tongues, and there come in those that are unlearned, or unbelievers, will they not say that ye are mad?"

The real meaning of I Cor. 14 about Tongues is really not about tongues, but about the difference between charity and selfishness. Can we fail to see the connection between these statements from the same overall large portion, the same text, of I Cor.?

"When ye come together therefore into one place, this is not to eat the Lord's supper. For in eating every one taketh before other his own supper: and one is hungry, and another is drunken." (11:20,21)

"Follow after charity, and desire spiritual gifts, but rather that ye may prophesy. For he that speaketh in an unknown tongue speaketh not unto men, but unto God: for no man understandeth him; howbeit in the spirit he speaketh mysteries. But he that prophesieth speaketh unto men to edification, and exhortation, and comfort. He that speaketh in an unknown tongue edifieth himself; but he that prophesieth edifieth the church. I would that ye all spake with tongues, but rather that ye prophesied: for greater is he that prophesieth than he that speaketh with tongues, except he interpret, that the church may receive edifying." (14:1-5)

We are missing the point of the Epistle itself if we think that Paul's main concern was tongues or prophecy. It was neither of these; it was charity. Edify others more than yourselves.

From the start he corrects them for their divisions, and then for their selfishness, whether in tongues or in the Lord's Supper.

"That there should be no schism in the body; but that the members should have the same care one for another. And whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it; or one member be honoured, all the members rejoice with it. Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular."
12:25-27

Whether or not anyone anywhere ever speaks in tongues again, the message of I Cor remains: "Charity...seeketh not her own...Even so ye, forasmuch as ye are zealous of spiritual gifts, seek that ye may excel to the edifying of the church."

poetreader said...

Dear Teri,

If you've read all that's been said here, with all the comments (If I remember correctly, there are four separate threads now), you'll have noticed that there is no solid consensus among Anglicans as to the meaning of these phenomena or the related Scripture. The three of us moderating this board, Frs. Kirby and Hart and me, the layman Ed Pacht, as it happens have all has experience of such phenomena in our own lives, but have rather different views, apparently, as to theor place in the Church, while others, notably the good Fr. Wells, are thoroughly opposed to them. One false impression you may have gained from how much space has been spent on this if late, would be that they occupy a central place in our thinking. That would be false. I think we would reach a consensus on that point. This distinguishes us forcibly from Pentecostalism and from a large part of the Charismatic movement, for whom the gifts (and especially tongues) are seen as a defining issue.

God gives whatever gifts and abilities that He grants according to His own will, for the advancement of His own purposes, purposes He has revealed to be closely related to the Catholic and Apostolic Faith. When the matter of what gifts one has received and the championing or forbidding of any particular gift takes center stage, division results. When God is allowed to have His way, BOTH in allowing His good gifts to be used AND in the exercize of real discretion and charity by those who believe they have received such gifts, then God reveals Himself in the life of His people. As in all things, the real Anglican way is to find the truth that lies between opposite errors.

I'm going to refrain from more of my personal testimony here. There's probably been too much of it already. If you want to discuss it with me, my email is openly displayed in my profile.

Briefly, though, there are indeed various interpretations of St. Paul's words, all of which are plausible to certain people, and all of which are hotly denied by others. It's simply not a decided matter. I think it is clear that the loud uninterpreted speaking in tongues (whether real or feigned - O've seen both) is out of place in public, producing little but confusion. However, as a form of wordless prayer, it can be of great value to those so gifted. I've found it so. No one, of either opinion, has a right to use the presence or lack of such things in such a way as to speak of superiority or inferiority or to wreak division in the church -- a thing both sides of the question have done. In all things, as the Apostle tells us, we are to prefer one another.

In short, we've been spending a lot of time and effort on this matter, and, I guess it has been fitting to do so, but this is not the only, or the most important, or, in truth, even a truly major issue, or shouldn't be.

This is too long already. I'll stop.

ed

Anonymous said...

Thank you Poetreader (Ed) and Fr. Hart for your kind replies.
I have struggled with this particular issue it seems my my whole adult life from the time I was in 8th grade up and until now.

I have witnessed far more abuses of this particular gift which makes it very difficult to accept it when I hear it as genuine. I really feel that people like myself have this same issue because those that may have the gift often do use it in worship services and it can make one feel a bit put off or as if the other individual is using to show that he/she has been given the gift and to "look at me" sort of.

I struggle more it seems now than I have in the near past (1998 until now) and maybe because our Dean is stopping in the middle of Eucharist, just before post communion prayer to hear a word from the body. I feel that that is an intrusion into my private prayer and solemn time with the Lord after receiving \His most precious Body & Blood in His sacrifice. I have gotten up and left right when he starts this because I do not feel comfortable listening to scriptures being spouted out, or fluffy words from someone who wants to be heard and especially when someone starts singing in the spirit. So when I read these kinds of things and realize what is taking place in my own church on Sundays....I start asking the question....is it just me or is it really the Holy Spirit or is it what St. Paul was talking about in 1 Corth.?

Yes I have talked with my Dean about this and so has my husband with no reply nor real discussion...in other words deaf ears and then each Sunday there we are. I truly believe that God talks to us all in different ways and when He speaks in whatever ways He deems fitting for us to hear Him or get what it is He is trying to get across to us we will know it because we will understand it. The we will know how and when to share it for the edification of the Church if He reveals that to us other wise it is for our own edification.

Thank you again for your kindness in talking with a newbie to not only your site but to the Continuum Anglicans I have come to love so much. I only wish I had been raised in this faith instead of the very harsh pentecostal one I was born into.

Many Blessings & Prayers
In His Service
As His Humble Servant
TeriLyn Dillon
St. James Anglican Cathedral
San Joaquin Diocese

poetreader said...

Thank you Teri for the graciousness with which you approach a subject so difficult for you. As I've testified, I have expereoenced some of these gifts and do continue to do so. O am convinced that they are (at least sometimes) real. Having said that, I would be very uncomfortable indeed with what you describe in your Cathedral. I'm not qualified to sit in judgment, but, if I were there, I would likely want to have words with the Dean. This sounds rather like the problems St. Paul faced in Corinth, and appears to be destructive to some faithful souls. My counsel is, above all, to pray for the man and for the church, for those bringing such "words" and especially for those whose faith is being hurt rather than helped by them.

The Holy Spirit does indeed want to do more than we imagine among us, but, as I often preached as a Pentecostal pastor (often to the displeasure of certain unruly hearers, the Holy Ghost is a gentleman. He does not abuse His people.

Hang in there.

ed