Sunday, March 26, 2006

They Don't Even Say Much in English

An article in this morning's The Tennessean highlights a growing division within the Southern Baptist Convention over the issue of speaking in tongues. The article describes the controversy at one point as one between conservatives and liberals in the denomination, but that is not a fair characterization. Indeed, most of those quoted in the article as taking a position on either side are conservative Baptists. They are just different kinds of conservatives.

Speaking in tongues is historically a practice largely limited to Pentecostal, and later charismatic, churches, but it has been a growing trend among other evangelical groups in recent years. Baptists have traditionally not condoned the practice, and standard biblical interpretation would not favor it (for a good summary of the issue, see J.I. Packer's Keep in Step with the Spirit). However, as modern Baptist worship trends have moved in the direction of less biblical content and more emotionally oriented worship, it is becoming more difficult for Baptist leaders to oppose the practice. In fact, much, if not most, of the music utilized in contemporary style churches is written by charismatics. Much of that music focuses on an emotional response to coming into the presence of God, without any content related to the basis or meaning of coming into his presence.

Indeed, in defending the practice of speaking in tongues and opposing Southern Baptist leadership, Franklin pastor Rick Smith doesn't bother to refer to a biblical basis at all. He only speaks to a need for "diversity."

Southern Baptists sometimes make curious decisions as to what issues they choose to make front and center. Speaking in tongues has become a hobby horse for some that perhaps has been moved in front of other matters of greater significance. The more central issue, in fact, is that Baptist -- and much of evangelical -- piety is increasingly distanced from bibilical moorings. Anymore, it is more or less every man -- or woman -- for himself. What passes for worship is merely a different variety of "if it feels good, do it."

1 comment:

Kat Coble said...

Preface this by saying that although I didn't grow up charismatic, I had a charismatic grandmother.

I've never understood the modern version of "speaking in toungues." I've always understood the scriptures to require that an interpreter be present, and that most examples in scripture refer to actual languages being spoken.

My experience with modern tongues worship is that it is a faux-language rooted in emotion with no interpreter present. I don't understand the purpose.