Archive: Books to Help You

Here are some books other Methodists have found helpful and stimulating

Conducted by Associate Editor Michael Walker, Associate Minister, Walnut Hill United Methodist Church, Dallas, Texas

What About Tongue-Speaking? by Anthony A. Hoekema (Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1966, $3.50) is reviewed by Bob Stamps, Associate Minister, First Methodist Church, Carrollton, Texas.

The author’s opinion is perfectly obvious from the very outset of the book. He opposes speaking in tongues. His opposition is based on the theological assumption that the miraculous gifts of the Holy Spirit were eclipsed in the life of the Church after the death of the Apostles.

The stated purpose of the author is to “make a Biblical and theological evaluation of the phenomenon of tongue-speaking.” His evaluation begins with a look at church history. “When did tongue-speaking begin?” “Among whom did it occur?” “When did it end?” “When has it re-occurred?” Such are the questions he asks of the church historians.

The author points to the fact that reference to tongue-speaking is scanty indeed after the first 200 years of the Church. And when it does appear, it seems only to occur “on the fringe,” never in “the mainstream” of the historic Church. This was so, of course, until 1901 and the outbreak of the modern Pentecostal movement. And, more recently, the rise of the neo-Pentecostals among the older, established denominations. This study of church history relevant to the issue at hand is quite valuable, especially regarding the “charismatic revival” of this generation.

From church history, Dr. Hoekma turns to the opinions of the Pentecostals themselves. He attempts to point out, as clearly and precisely and objectively as possible, what significance tongue-speaking has for Pentecostals. His method is a careful examination of their own works and testimony. This section of the book is well documented and thoughtfully developed.

Next, the author exposes the Pentecostal position and experience to the light of Scripture and finds it wanting. He constantly insists on the necessity of adjusting and interpreting experience by the standard of Scripture, rather than molding an interpretation of Scripture by experience. This is certainly a valid insistence and must be heeded by both Pentecostals and non-Pentecostals alike.

He exposes as invalid the traditional Pentecostal dictum that all should and must speak in tongues to be truly spiritual. He also points out that nowhere does Scripture tell us to seek to speak in tongues. In fact, he insists that Scripture places the experience as the least desirable of the gifts of God. He further renounces as non-Scriptural the notion held among many Pentecostals that the Holy Spirit does not enter the life at Conversion, but rather at the time of a later work of grace. Also he brings out many excesses and abuses of this gift and calls them to Scriptural order.

Dr. Hoekema follows his Scriptural evaluation of tongue- speaking with a theological one. In this section, he makes some rather interesting and forceful statements in contradiction to Pentecostal theology. Most of his statements are well thought through, substantiated by fact, and persuasively presented. However, at the heart of all his theological reasoning is the statement: “It cannot be proved with finality that the miraculous gift of the Spirit, which include tongue-speaking, are still in the Church today.”

Several arguments are advanced to defend this statement, but the whole discussion seems to revolve around the purpose for the Divine dispensation of Charismatic gifts upon the Church. Dr. Hoekema contends that God’s purpose in giving them was essentially to authenticate the authority of the Apostles. Thus, the gifts themselves were no longer needed by, nor given to, the Church after the death of the Apostles. Dr. Hoekema is hard pressed to support such a position by Scripture. At this crucial point, his argument limps feebly. It appears that Hoekema himself has become guilty of a gross blunder – that is, stretching Scripture to suit his theology.

He attempts to close his book positively by pointing out what we can learn from our “Pentecostal friends.” But his polemic dies hard. However, he does acclaim the zeal and warmth of the Pentecostals as desirable for the “whole church.” Also, he stresses that the Church should never reach the place that she does not feel the need for more of the Spirit.

What shall we say finally as regards this volume? Pentecostals and Neo-Pentecostals would do well to read it and heed its sound criticisms. Non-Pentecostals should read it critically and objectively, keeping in mind that nowhere does God tell us to despise any of His gifts, not even the least of them. Certainly even the least of God’s gifts is greater than the most desirable gifts given by men. One should keep in mind, as well, that even to the abusive Corinthian church, Paul said, along with stem admonition, “forbid not speaking in tongues.”

Wesleyan Christians can find added insight in the words of John Wesley concerning the miraculous gifts of the Spirit:

“And these gifts, the Apostle allows to be desirable; yea, he exhorts the Corinthians, at least the teachers among them, … to covet them earnestly, that thereby they might be qualified to be more useful either to Christians or heathens … It does not appear that these extraordinary gifts of the Holy Ghost were common in the Church for more than two or three centuries … The cause of this was not, (as has been vulgarly supposed,) ‘because there was no more occasion for them,’ … The real cause was, ‘the love of many,’ almost all Christians, so called, was ‘waxed cold.’ The Christians had no more of the Spirit of Christ, than the other heathens … This was the real cause, why the extraordinary gifts of the Holy Spirit were no longer to be found in the Christian Church; because the Christians were turned heathens again, and had only a dead form left.”

(Sermons on Several Occasions Vol. II, New York: Carlton & Phillips, 1854. p. 266).


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