Science in Christian Perspective

Letter to the Editor



From: JASA 20 (September 1968): 93.

George Jennings' paper on glossolalia serves to demonstrate that, like many psychological experiences, glossolalia is complex. The more be and others study the phenomena and attempt to correlate all the data into an organized pattern of explanation, the better. Glossolalia participants should have no fear of a thorough explanation of their experience.

At the same time, as a glossolalist, I must insist that the non-glossolalist must not think that he can come to a complete understanding of the phenomena by looking at the mere externals from the outside in. The statement, "That bizarre utterances occur in non-Christian cultures emphasizes the fact that the practice is not self-authenticating," is misleading. The practice is not self-authenticating so far as its externals are concerned; but to the participant, the Holy Spirit bears a witness that is as self-authenticating as one's consciousness of existence. It is not ethnocentrism that leads the Christian to insist that his experience has an ultimately unique element, but rather it is the witness of the Holy Spirit.

I think that all who write (and who read) papers on the psychological factors in glossolalia should familiarize themselves with the psychology of conversion literature that exists, and reflect upon it. In Ferm's book alone (The Psychology of Christian Conversion) one sees that psychologically, Christian conversion is nothing unique. Similarly, much of this literature ties conversion to emotional instability, etc., as Jennings and others tie tongues to emotional instability. But, no Christian is going to admit that his conversion can be reduced to a mere psychological experience that occurred because of emotional instability. He rather suspects that the psychologist doesn't really understand and is just rationalizing.

The uniqueness of Christian glossolalia, like Christian conversion, is in the witness and operation of the living Spirit of God. To ignore this essential factor is to fall into a reductionism that must forever come short of the truth.

Paul H. Seely
1651 E. Willow Grove Ave. Philadelphia, Penna.