Saturday, November 11, 2006

Speaking in Tongues

I myself have never spoken in tongues, although I believe that I very often feel intensely the presence of the Holy Spirit.

I believe that speaking in tongues is a valid way of communicating with God on the spirit level. It is certainly Biblical. I know a number of people who do speak in tongues on a regular basis, and I have been in services in evangelical churches when they did, both in the United States and in Mexico.

In the church I belong to (Methodist), we don’t speak in tongues, although officially, the church has nothing against it, as far as I know. Recently, the Southern Baptists have decreed that they will not encourage the speaking of tongues. I feel fairly sure that people in my church would not encourage it. I think many of them might be shocked if somebody began speaking in tongues in a service.

According to the web site “Religious Tolerance,” "’Speaking in tongues’ forms a major part of Charismatic and Pentecostal Christian life. This behavior is linked to an individual's salvation, and subsequent ‘Baptism of the Holy Spirit.’

Although the phenomenon of ‘tongues’ plays a large role in the lives of many tens of millions of conservative Christians, little attention has been paid to it by the scientific community. It is also essentially ignored or looked upon with suspicion by many other Christians.”

My friend TS wrote an interesting entry in his blog, “Wayfaring Stranger,” about this phenomenon. He quotes a New York Times article that describes a scientific study done at the University of Pennsylvania about brain activity during the singing of spiritual songs and speaking in tongues.

The study found that when people are engaged in these activities, the blood flow in the brain measures higher. The frontal lobes of the brain, which control language use and willful thinking, appear to be fairly calm, and this spiritual activity is driven by some other area of the brain that is hard to pinpoint.

Too, the area of the brain that controls motor and emotional activity appears not to be active, the study showed. The author of the study said, “It may be that practitioners, while mindful of their circumstances, nonetheless cede some control over their bodies and emotions.” In other words, deep within their brains, they somehow give over control.

How does that work? The thing is, it seems pretty clear that the Holy Spirit has the controls, doesn’t it? I can understand that, and it happens to me pretty often. But not in tongues. I feel a little bit . . . left out? Incomplete? Am I somehow missing the boat, so to speak?

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