Science in Christian Perspective
The Behavior of Tongues
MARVIN H. MAYERS
Department of Sociology and Anthropology
Wheaton, Illinois 60187
From: JASA 23 (September 1971) 89-95.
American society is experiencing a period of disenchantment with the church. Many are looking to tongues movements to do for them what the church had done and more besides, in revitalizing their spiritual lives.
Tongues is a linguistic and cultural phenomenon. Its practice is not explained fully in linguistic and cultural terms, but such factors need to be taken into account in understanding the phenomenon and attraction to tongues. Much has been written regarding the approach of theology to the tongues phenomenon. There is some material, such as Pattison's which deals with the linguistics of tongues. Very little has, as yet, been written on the behavior of tongues.
The following discussion is designed to focus on the linguistic and cultural behavior of tongues-not so much what people do, but rather why they do it as explained in linguistic and anthropological concepts. Language is learned behavior and tongues is a kind of language. The precise nature of tongues as language is not fully known at present: it is a dialect of the main language spoken by the practitioner; it is a language in and of itself; it is a pseudolanguage; or it is a non-language.
Those who practice tongues have a potential for extremism in their life experiences. The practice of tongues itself is in part an expression of sociocultural conflict or a source for conflict. Such conflict may be either resolved or reinforced by participation in tongues movements. Tongues movements may be able to return to a Biblical usage of tongues as signs to unbelievers, rather than as a means of proselytizing from other religious groups, by extending their ministry to societies that are "spirit oriented".
Perhaps the most effective understanding of tongues comes to us through our value system. A "dichotomizing" person will likely not be attracted to tongues, whereas a "wholistic" person will likely be and will be able to approach God far more effectively through tongues than through any other medium of expression. The dichotomist, however, will not only be disinterested in tongues, but he may find them totally distasteful and contrary to his understanding of Scripture.
American society is experiencing a period of disenchantment with the
disenchanted are looking to other movements, to other programs, for
One place to which some are looking is to the drug subculture in American society. Another is to the far eastern religions: sitting at the feet of the Indian gurus, practicing the body posture of yoga and other related elements of religious ritual. Many, while remaining nominally within the established church, are in fact turning to the small group movement. Some go so far as to call it the "home church", They find the major part of their spiritual development growing out of such a fellowship. Still others are looking to the charismatic movements which stress healing and tongues, i.e., glossolalia, as valid manifestations of the Holy Spirit.
In the United States today, glossolalia is practiced by over two million people. Among the lower social classes, particularly in the primitive remote regions of the South, glossolalia is only part of a full range of snake handling, convulsionary, hysterical behavior. On the other hand, among urban middle and upperclass churches, glossolalia is practiced as an isolated phenomenon by physicians, college professors, captains of industry, even psychologists, who sit in full composure and dignity while speaking in tongues!1
Much has been written about glossolalia. The historic theological
this phenomenon centered on its divine or devilish origin. Many theologies have
come out strongly against tongues, perhaps the Calvinist and Reformed being the
most outspoken. Part of the reasons stem from their perception of it as being
illogical and irrational. Other reasons include the apparent loss of control of
the physical powers with
no guarantee that the loss of control is then picked up by the "good"
supernatural forces of God.
Those theologies encouraging the use of tongues are quick to point out the experiences of the New Testament Church and thus validate their theological positions from such a "biblical" perspective.
My own interest in this study is not to attempt to go hack through the history of the church and deal with the various movements which stressed glossolalia. Nor is my purpose to discuss the theological implications or the pro's and con's regarding such manifestations within the movements which stress tongues. Rather, from the point of view of an anthropologist and linguist, I would like to take a look at the human behavior associated with such movements and especially deal with a theory of human behavior that might provide us tools to explain such behavior within the contemporary world.
The Linguistic Behavior of Tongues
The structural linguistic data suggest that glossolalia has specific linguistic structure based on the language tongue of the speaker, that the linguistic organization is limited, and that the capacity to speak in this type of semiorganized language can be replicated under experimental conditions. Thus glossolalia does not appear to be a 'strange language', but rather the aborted formation of familiar language)
According to Pattison, in at least English-speaking subjects,
glossolalia is composed
of the basic speech elements of English, the major difference
consisting of lack
of organization of the basic phonemes into the syntactical elements necessary
for intelligible speech. Further, the paralinguistic elements of
breaths, intonations, etc. are markedly reduced and modified, resembling more
the early speech qualities of young children prior to the organization of all
the variables associated with adult language. Finally, there is a reduction in
the distribution of phonemes, i.e., the basic units of speech.
As a speech form, glossolalia can be classed with other disordered patterns of language and/or speech, the final production being vocalizations in the forms of words or segments of words which have no denotative or referential sense. Thus, they appear to be like jargon aphasia, the schizophasia of the mental patient, the speech of the sleep talker and the neologistic stage of speech development in children. This does not mean that they are necessarily disorded patterns of language or speech; rather, they are classed with this kind of speech.
Psycholinguistic considerations suggest that glossolalia is associated with childhood experiences and unfilled wishes; may be a product of the enGoding of inner speech into external or spoken language; and finally, since pausing is associated with verbal planning, that selection is eliminated in continuous and rapid vocalization which would he the result of practice and would occur in the use of well-learned sequences of words.
Language is Learned Behavior
Any form of language, either actual langauge or partial language is learned through the process of socialization and enculturation.
when the glnssolalic phrases which have been heard and stored in memory are brought into awareness, they are practiced over and over again in inner speech until an acceptable form of glnssolalia is mastered. With its mastery, the inner speech is re produced externally and the spontaneous glnssolalic
utterance may be heard for the first time1
Language is a System of Reciprocating Statements and Responses
The communicative process of which language plays the major role, assumes a statement on the part of the enGoder (the speaker) being heard and responded to by the hearer precisely as the speaker intended. The hearer responds in a way that indicates to the original speaker that he was heard, that he was further comprehended in the precise way intended. This message response may be "heard" by nonverbal means such as the shrug of the shoulders or a smile, but the message must be true to that intended, else the communication process has broken down. Anything more or less than this reciprocal communication process is either not language or it is only partial language.
As a speech form, glossolalia can be classed with other disordered patterns of language and/or speech, the final production being vocalizations in the forms of words or segments of words which have no denotative or referential sense.
Certain exegetes disclaim a distinction between the tongues of Acts and those of Corinthians, but within the linguistic context it becomes clear that in the New Testament period, there were two kinds of "tongues". The first of these was definitely language in that there was a reciprocating relationship between the speaker and hearer. The hearer comprehended that which the speaker intended whether the speaker knew precisely what he was saying or not. There was no intermediary needed. As many as spoke that tongue or language heard and comprehended precisely what each of the other hearers was comprehending.
The Book of Acts has no less than six references to tongues as language. The clearest and most complete account is on the day of Pentecost when the disciples spoke to people whom they did not know, in a language that they probably had not learned previously.
An interesting theory that tantalizes the linguist is the possibility that the disciples had had extensive ethnic experience prior to the day of Pentecost. In other words, their cultural backgrounds were varied and mixed so that the Holy Spirit needed only to bring the languages of these ethnic contacts to mind and let the men speak. To many, this would negate the power of the Holy Spirit, but to a linguist, this would enhance the Spirit's working in the normal processes of speech.
It is more likely, however, that the kind of experience spoken of during the day of Pentecost came from some kind of Spirit impulse within the lives of the disciples. They were thus able to speak directly to men of different languages and be understood by them in precisely the way that they each intended. Everyone who spoke that particular language could understand the disciple speaking it. Each disciple could also ascertain that he was being fully understood. Such an experience of reciprocal communication is being shared today by any missionary in a true language learning and scientific translation setting.
The second kind of tongues is not a two-way, but rather a one-way phenomenon. The person speaking likely does not know what he has said, nor does anyone in the audience know what he has said. If no one else knows, the speaker himself will turn to the interpretation. If someone else knows, then that one will interpret. There is never more than one other person who can respond "correctly" to the stimulus of the primary utterance. No one else can validate the message nor the intent of the message as was possible in the case of the reciprocating communication.
One-way tongues are not true language. They are based on partial language in the sense that only one person at a time has a chance to comprehend and interpret. There are many indications in the Bible that it was this second kind of tongues experienced by the Corinthian Church. We, therefore, have an interesting division between the tongues experience of the Christians in the Book of Acts who shared in the two-way tongues or language, and the Corinthian Christians who experienced, apparently, one-way tongues or ecstatic utterance.
Tongues Result in a New Dialect or Language
Besides certain manifestations of tongues resulting in partial
language, the partial
language forms a system that becomes in itself a dialect or a language. This is
a dialect of glossolalic speech which has its own sound, grammatical, semantic
reference and paralinguistic system. In the words of Pattison,
". . . glossolalists
develop their glossolalic speech from ill-formed structure to
practiced and polished
This is the same process followed in the actual development of language. In other words, the question is not, "is glossolalic speech real language or not, i.e., English, German, Turkish?", but rather, "is glossolalic speech a language?" It should not be compared with other languages to see if it is in reality that particular language or not; rather, it should be studied by an analytic or descriptive linguist who seeks to find the patterned regularities of the language itself. The sound system should be described, with special attention to the system of stress, pitch and duration. The grammatical system should be investigated with order and arrangement of the parts in mind. Concern should be given to the function the various grammatical units play
We have an interesting division between the tongues experience of the Christians in the Book of Acts who shared in the two-way tongues or language, and the Corinthian Christians who experienced one-way tongues or ecstatic utterance.
within the whole, i.e., are there clauses and phrases of different types? And
finally, the semantic system should be looked at to see if certain
parts of utterance
have some correlation with meaningful expressions in the
of the tongues. Thus, we await a full linguistic description of a glossolalic
tongue; and for that matter of the various tongues to see if there are dialects
of glossolalic tongues. Until this is done, no claim that a certain utterance
of speech is or is not language can be sustained: and further, there
is no indication
that this is in fact language or partial language or just gibberish.
The Behavior of Extremism
As one reads the story of the Corinthian church in the book of I Corinthians, it is easy to be impressed with one kind of behavorial expression, that of enthusiasm for what one is doing. The Corinthian church seemed to go to extremes in every aspect of life. They were an enthusiastic, hard-hitting, hard-living extremist group. Whatever they did, they did it with everything they had.
Their enthusiastic eating habits carried over into the communion.
Their enthusiastic sexual practices violated the incest taboo.
Their enthusiasm in discussion propelled them into debate and argumentation; to fragmentation into cliques or faction.
Their enthusiastic development of a self-image brought Paul's response, you're "puffed up".
Their enthusiasm in worshipping God expressed itself in ecstatic utterance or "tongues".
Paul was forever saying, "Cool it! Why are you forever arguing and debating?" Or, "Cool it! I have spoken tongues, more than you all, but you go beyond anything that I, a normal person, hope to experience. And not only are you doing it in public, but you are doing it in a way that lends itself to oddness and strangeness. You are doing it without interpretation. How can anyone be expected to comprehend, to be part of the experience if they cannot understand."
And so in a variety of ways, Paul was saying, "Listen, you Corinthian characters, you are just going whole hog! You're way out! You're extremists! Hold back! Cool it! Relax a bit! Many of the things you are doing are uncalled for." A more Biblical term that he uses is "carnal".
The Sociocultural Behavior of Tongues
Another important aspect of human behavior that is involved in the experience of tongues is the source of need for such manifestations within society and how tongues fills such need.
A number of sociocultural aspects of tongues suggested by other writers in the field are: a means of protest, an expression of people with a marginal socioeconomic position in society, a technique of recruitment for a group, a method of organization, and a means of demonstration of the effect of behavioral change. To this list could be added others including the validation of new leadership with qualities of leadership not called for in the established church, a means of escape from unpleasantness, and an expression of people in conflict with their sociocultural backgrounds and present situations.
Jennings2 mentions this latter possibility in his March 1968 article but does not elaborate on it. It is this aspect of tongues that demands more consideration at this time.
People in Our Contemporary World Live in Extremes of Sociocultural Conflict
Conflict arises because of the multiplicity of cultures and subcultures existing in our world. Every time a person has difficulty moving from one to another, he is thrown into conflict. Any time a person seeks to instill one aspect of a given culture or subculture in another, he can throw someone in that second culture into conflict. For example, if I take an alcoholic beverage in my home but teach in a school that prohibits this, then tension can develop very quickly between my family or private life, and my public or professional life. I can be put into conflict that will in time affect me, my employers, and my other associates, and result in my suspension or withdrawal. Such conflict can arise in any aspect of life, and conflict in one aspect can serve to reinforce conflict in another. People in conflict have not only one conflict within their lives, but they will have many, each reinforcing the others.
In the lives of many people today, there is such a conflict existing between their own personal interests; their personal interests and the interests of others; the individual interests within a family; the various interests expressed within the context of the church. The church is labeled today, "the established church". It becomes part of the "establishment" or "system". The established church seems to be traditional in its ways, impersonal in its approach to outsiders and even towards its own members. It appears to be like a machine that is interested more in keeping moving and keeping its gears oiled than in developing spiritual insight and experience in the lives of its members. Especially young people want to be thought of not as a part of a machine, but as unique persons. They thus become disgruntled with the church and its practices. At this point they seek out more personal organizations, leaders who relate to them more individually and personally, who treat them as valid persons, and who communicate personalness to them.
I am not suggesting, by this, that these people are emotionally disturbed. I am suggesting that there are varying stages of conflict that may or may not result in emotional disturbances. But more, these people are ready for a new experience; one that promises them vitality, involvement and participation. They are ready to flee from some bad experience or some bad situation.
A study of the source of membership of the tongues movement groups can reveal whether the tongues have brought in unbelievers to find something striking in their lives as was the case in the New Testament times, or if they are rather beckoning to dissatisfied Christians. My impression, based on informal research techniques of participant observation and interviewing rather than on any formal research such as by formal questionnaire, is that they attract other Christians. Tongues become, perhaps, a functional equivalent of prophesying in the New Testament church for the edification of the Christian, rather than a functional equivalent of the tongues of the New Testament time which were a sign to the unbeliever. This means that the contemporary tongues movements must rely on existential proof for their validity rather than Biblical proof. They can only be "proven" Biblically if the Biblical material is taken out of context.
I do not object, either as an anthropologist or as a theologian to the existential validation of the contemporary practice of tongues.
It is clear that
is with us for very good sociological and spiritual reasons. The
church has been
praying for revival. Revival has come, but sometimes it has come
outside the doors
of the established church, e.g., the small group movement or the
The fact of success claimed by such groups indicates that it is meeting a real
need felt in contemporary society. These are not particularly small movements.
sizable. They pervade our entire society. They are existing side by side with
spiritual people and unspiritual as well, They are where mature people are and
where there are immature people. They cut through the church
irrespective of distinctions
of age, of sex, of spiritual or social maturity. They are needed because people
are healthy and want to go deeper into the experience with God. They are also
needed because people are in conflict, and there needs to be some resolution of
I do not object, either as an anthropologist or as a theologian to the existential validation of the contemporary practice of tongues.
Resolution of Conflict Through Encounter with the Holy Spirit Movements
There is healing in the Bible. This healing is both physical through miracles of healing, as well as emotional through sound interpersonal relations. There is resolution of conflict in the Bible. This involves both spiritual peace, "... we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ," as well as sociological peace, let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing." There is acceptance in the Bible since God takes us "as we are". Too often, in the impersonal established church the individual feels unwanted, rejected, alienated. Holy Spirit movements reverse this process. The key is involvement, participation, the bringing of the individual into the total experience.
The Holy Spirit movements tend to be dogmatic and authoritarian. Our society has moved away from authoritarianism and dogmatic pronouncements toward a certain permissiveness. It has moved from assured self-confidence to uncertainty regarding what to do in certain situations and with certain problems. In these areas of concern, the Holy Spirit movement comes with a fresh air of authority. Many of its leaders are "dictators". Even though they claim to rely on the Holy Spirit, much of the development within the group is through their own whim.
Even though there is release of conflict within the Bible, not all of the release from conflict is made available through these groups. In fact, in certain cases, the group helps resolve some of the conflict in the life of the adherent but introduces new conflict as well.
In one such group young people were aided for a period of time. Certain conflicts within their lives were resolved. Then the emphasis of the group turned toward giving oneself wholly to God. This resulted in a number of students leaving their college programs and determining to spend much time in prayer and Bible reading. This was fine so long as the leader was with them to encourage them in their flight from the formal education that had been a life long expectation for them. When the leader left, the young people realized that they had been living below their potential. They realized that in reality they had taken the easy way out of their tension involvement, which had developed from a demand to study and to think. They returned to school and have come into a whole new awareness of Christ in their lives in keeping with what they are, in keeping with them as whole people.
The Holy Spirit never leads toward irresponsibility in life, rather, responsibility. The Holy Spirit never leads one to abandon one's obligations, rather to fulfill them to the full. The Holy Spirit never leads one to destroy trust. It is our society that more and more, through some malfunctioning of the system of society, is training our youth to cop out on life, to shirk responsibility, to abandon one's obligations. When a youth under the so-called leadership of the Holy Spirit leaves a responsibility unfulfilled, he is more than likely yielding to the training of his culture, rather than yielding to the Spirit of God.
The American utilizes three main means of resolving his conflict: withdrawal, conformity for conformity's sake, and forming a new group. The young person withdrawing from his society may be seeking to escape from some problem too great for him to handle. He may be fleeing from one set of problems to another. The person conforming just to get along will likely lose his self-respect, for he very readily abandons the principles upon which his life is based. He thus again compounds his problems. The person who forms a new group to get out from under his conflicts is well off so long as that group turns outward. If it turns inward, reinforcing its boundaries by ritual practices and other forms of group identification, and developing an ingroup feeling that borders on an ethnocentrism, the person involved may very quickly find himself cut off from all those groups of which he had formerly been a part. This is a minimum problem if it involves only changing friendships. It is another problem indeed if one's family is involved. Further conflict develops.
When the resolution of one's conflicts leads to the way of peace, both with man and with God, then there is Biblical evidence for the working of the Holy Spirit. When the end result is only more conflict, there is serious reason to suspect some other movement than that of the Spirit of God.
If a person is dichotomistic and polarizes life, it is likely that he will never be led of the Spirit to Praise God with tongues. Tongues grow out of a wholistic world and life view.
Tongues as a Manifestation of Holy Spirit Power are Needed in Certain Mission
Tongues groups are needed where the people are oriented to supernatural powers and who see their "spirits" more powerful than the "spirits" of the missionaries. A tribal group in the island of Mindanao in the Southern Philippines is one such group. They resisted the missionaries and the message carried by them primarily because they saw no "power" in the new religion nor in the lives of the messengers. Later the missionaries came under the influence of a Holy Spirit movement and began practicing healing and tongues. When they returned to their people, there was enthusiastic response to the evident demonstration of power in the Christian faith and a turning to the God of the Bible resulted.
It is not known lust how influential the Holy Spirit movements could be in such
settings since no research is available on the subject and also since by their
very nature, Holy Spirit movements have not made an impact in such
The contemporary tongues movement is both young and characteristically does not
work through established missions. This means that their influence is not felt
much beyond the boundaries of the so-called civilized world. Certain holiness
and Pentecostal groups have had some success in Christian outreach
but again mainly
where some "western" type religion has gone previously, as in Chile,
However, such a Holy Spirit movement might be useful on the mission field. Two problems dissipate their influence. The first of these lies behind the previous thought that the tongues movement does not work through established missions. Very simply, they do not feel that these missions are really of the Lord. The second is in a way a reinforcement of the first. They must work with the same tools and techniques that the missions do when they go into another society. These include tools of cross-cultural communication involved in the studies of anthropology, sociology and psychology. The tongues movements characteristically ignore such disciplines feeling that they undermine the true working of the Spirit. They therefore cannot benefit from the studies that can help them in the cross-cultural communicative process and therefore they seldom achieve an impact within the setting in which their influence is so needed.
The Behavior of Tongues Involving Basic Values
Perhaps the most significant aspect of the behavior of tongues lies in the area of value orientation. Every individual lives a life based on the valuing of one thing over against another. These values are ranked in a hierarchy of value to the individual. Some have called this a person's priorities. The ranking of values controls how the person applies his value orientation in specific situations. A choice between two values is involved. One becomes more important to him than the other. Decisions are made on the basis of this choice.
Underlying a person's value system, involved in social, political, economic or religious choices, are more basic values. A person may wish to worship God and this is a high value to him, but a more basic value controls the total experience of worship. If a worship experience is timed so that it is designed to fit into an hour and each part is timed so as to take only a part of the total experience and not all of it, then a time-oriented person can worship God with no tension. Someone who is not time-oriented, but values the lived experience above the time it takes and when it begins and ends, is frustrated by such a restricting worship experience. He, in essence, cannot worship God. His mind is distracted. He finds himself far from the place of worship, if not in body, at least in mind. In other words, though a man might value worshipping God, the experience of worship is controlled by a more basic value of which the individual is not even aware, the value of time over the experience itself.
A person can wish to praise God with tongues. Underlying this value is a more basic value which controls it. If a person is dichotnmistic and polarizes life, it is likely that he will never be led of the Spirit to praise God with tongues. Tongues grow out of wholistic world and life view where the object is not set off from another object, but where the object is seen as part of the whole.
If you were to ask a dichotomist a question he would likely answer by suggesting two or possibly three points. But, if you ask a whobst a question he would likely respond in terms of one point with its larger considerations within the area focus of the question. Francis Schaefer of L'Abri Fellowship is clearly a dichotomist. Within a five minute period of speech, he will have indicated a whole variety of dichotomies. The difference between a person who is dichotomistic and a person who is wholistic is no problem whatsoever in the society so long as the dichotomist accepts the wholist as a wholist. The moment he tries to force the wholist into a point of view where all of life is defined by dichotomies, binary pairs, point one vs. point two, this or that, black or white, right or wrong, here or there, then the wholist has to abandon principle and in essence he becomes a relativist. Now he is subject to the leading of the dichotomist. The same can be true the other way, where a wholist is irritated with the overly sharp distinctions of the dichotomist and tries to get the dichotomist to look at life through the wholist point of view.
The Camera Lens Analogy
Generally speaking, the dichotomist is linear in the sense that B must follow A, and C must follow B. If a subject is discussed, there will be a sequencing of points. You can't talk about trade in ocean-going vessels until you clarify the fact that there is an ocean, and then you define what a vessel is, and then you move on to talk about the trade that is involved in ocean-going vessels. Very frequently, the nonlinear point of view is associated with the wholist where it doesn't matter which comes first, A, B, or C, so long as you have C as part of the whole. A way of getting at this problem as far as its application to tongues is concerned, is to consider the way a motor-driven lens camera works. When an object is in sharp focus, it is set over against the background of which it is a part. It is clearly distinguished from that which is next to it. We will call this the sharp focus of the dichotomist. Now, when the object itself is not of concern, we can move the lens out of focus a little bit until the whole background is in equal focus with the part with which we are concerned. These are base points along a continuum so that we can sharpen the focus of an object and set it off from the background, or we can adjust the camera to focus equally on the background and on the object.
There are ways that the camera lens can move along the continuum to overly sharpen the focus on one end or to completely blur the focus on the other end. As we move along the continuum, towards extremely sharp definition or sharp focus, we come to a point where there is almost an over-focusing, where the subject becomes almost unreal. Moving along the other extreme end of the continuum, we have the blurring of focus until nothing is distinguishable. We can thus talk about the lens malfunctioning at one end of the continuum by getting such sharp focus that the object appears unreal. Or we can talk about the camera lens malfunctioning by focusing beyond the point that we want to see in relation to the whole. This lack of focus produces simply a blur.
The motor driven lens can give us another kind of problem when the lens jams. In order to maintain sharp focus, we must keep the object and camera at the exact distance as when last properly focused. If
the camera moves away from the object or the object from the camera, a change in focus is obtained which is not corrected by the lens.
Applications of the Analogy
Let's see how this applies to art. For example, when you have sharp focus in art you have realism. When you have focus overly sharpened so that the object is overly defined from other objects, you have something like the unreality of the Dutch painters. The people painted are almost unreal because they are so sharply defined. Move toward the other end of the continuum, and you have impressionistic art where the part is conceived in relation to the whole. Or you have abstract art, where there is a beginning blur. You are not sure where one part is distiguished from the rest or these from the whole of reality. If you continue along the continuum to absurdity in distinction, you have the blurring of everything until there is simply "slop".
Let's apply the same illustration of the motor driven lens camera to language. The dichotomist, in his approach to language, seeks for clear distinction of sound from sound; a clear distinction of order and arrangement so that one knows precisely what a part of speech is. One is concerned with semantic definition so that something is defined clearly as distinct from something else. Now there are those who are what we call pedantic, who are so concerned with the sharpness of distinction between sound and sound, grammatical part and grammatical part, meaning and meaning, that they're overprecise in definition; they're overly careful in their grammatical usage. Such people are a real drag in a conversation because they pay more attention to how something is said than to what is actually said. You are forced to go along with them in this procedure frequently against your will. Let's move the camera lens the other way in speech and you'll find a blurring of distinction of sound with sound, of grammatical part with grammatical part, and of meaning with meaning. In other words, it won't be important that you clearly distinguish one thing from another. What is important is that something is placed within its total relationship to language and speech. Now if you move the camera lens further along the continuum you come to a blurring of speech where there is no concern whatsoever with sound distinguished from sound or with meaning distinguished from meaning. The average person using speech uses it as a diehutomist would use it. Some use it as a wholist would use it. But when we get the phenomenonblurred speech, we are further along the continuum of wholism toward some extreme, we've moved toward a blurring of speech, toward the point of inability to recognize sound from sound, or sound at all, or definition at all. It's this experience of usage of language that is reproduced in ecstatic tongues.
Let's go to the New Testament experience. I believe Paul is a wholist, not a dichutomist. A number of things indicate this. When he went to Mars Hill he did not try to distinguish the image to the unknown god from some other idol, but he simply said, "I perceive that along with all of your worship experience, you have established something in relation to the whole."
There are other indications that he is a whohst, but let's move to his concern in speech. You see, what he is saying in Acts is, "I use speech more like a wholist does. I'm concerned with what I say in terms of the whole. There are times when I move away from this sharper definition of speech to a more blurred speech. I do this in private, and I don't do this very much, You Corinthians, you do this a great deal, not only in private but in public. In fact, you've gone so far along the continuum of blurring of speech that no one can distinguish what you are saying. Now when you go this far, it is absolutely necessary that you have an interpreter to tell others and yourselves what you are saying." Here the responsibility of the interpreter is not to translate from one language into another. The responsibility of the interpreter is to get the general impression of what a person is speaking and to indicate this impression to the audience.
What am I saying by way of this illustration? What I am saying is that tongues is an expression of a subculture that tends toward an extreme along the dichotumistic-wholistie continuum, so that those who are tongues-people tend to be wholists, and further tend to move somewhere along the wholist end of the continuum (whether a mild form or an extreme form). No one who is a diehotomist will be really attracted by tongues, unless in certain aspects of their lives they tend not to be dichotomistic but tend to be whulistic. A person can have a total life style of dichotomism or parts of his life can be dichotomistic and others wholistie. But here the ranking of values comes in, for often a diehotomistic person is diehotumistic with regard to the higher valued parts of his life and wholistic toward others.
We can now ask a number of questions. In what areas of behavior is a person dichotomistie or wholistic? If the higher valued areas are dichntnmistie, will a person yield to tongues involvement? Which religious traditions are dichotomistic and which are wholistic? If a certain diehotomistic tradition is geared to tongues, does that mean that tongues is a feature of dichotomism, or is there an element of vholism within the dichotomistic tradition? Further, are these wholists compatible or incompatible with the tradition?
Asking this kind of question, we now come to take a look at the Reformed Church for example. In its major pronouncements, I perceive it to be specifically linear and dichotomistic. The tongues movement has a minimum impact on the Reformed tradition, but I would hypothesize that the impact it has is due to there having been, by chance, wholists included among the diehotomists. Now, let's look at the non-Reformed traditions stemming from Arminius and suggest that these are more wholistic points of view which can be established in a variety of ways. The tongues movement, generally speaking, dominates these particular groups or lies very close to the heart of these particular groups. But still they stand at a particular point along the continuum toward dichotomism, whereas the Pentecostals and the contemporary Holy Spirit movements tend further toward the wholistic end of the continuum.
The motor driven lens camera has given us a way to evaluate, to understand, what happens with language. We gain an understanding of the blurring of the distinction between sound and sound, grammatical part and grammatical part, meaning and meaning, by the wholist. By one extremely wholistic, the blurring is so great that the average person is unable to understand the speech and therefore needs an interpreter.
Tongues and the tongues movement can be used of God for wholistic people opening more to God, and for people in conflict who tend toward the wholistic end of the continuum. Those who are dichotomistic in terms of their underlying value motivations can open up to God through other means than by glossolalia. They need to find ways natural to them to praise God and edify their fellow Christians. By all means, each can accept the other in Christian love, else the message of the love of God is lost in selfish rejection and ethnocentrism.
1Psttison, E. MEnsell, "Behavioral Science Research on the Nature of Glossolalia", Journal ASA, 20, 73 (1968)
2Jennings, George, "An Ethnological Study of Glossolalia", Journal ASA 20, 5 (1968)
See also: Burdick, Donald W., Tongues to Speak or Not to Speak, Moody Press, 1969.