Monday, March 22, 2010

Glossolalia in the Acts of the Apostles

In chapter 2 of his Pneumatology: The Holy Spirit in Ecumenical, International, and Contextual Perspective, Karkkainen schemed through the Old Testament, the Inter-Testament literature, and the New Testament to list out how do these literatures describe (Holy) “Spirit”.

There is one citation of Moltmann which Karkkainen seems to patronize to centralize the role of tongue in the establishment of the church. He wrote, “Jurgen Moltmann argues that the Christian church was born with the speaking in tongues.” (31).

I think there is a qualification needed here which Karkkainen did not provide. It should be noted that glossolalia as recorded in Acts is NOT identical in its theological outlook, function and social significance with most of today’s Charismatic movement. Most of current practices of glossolalia are directed inwardly for personal edification (based on Rom 8.15 and 1 Cor 14.2) rather than directed outwardly for the establishment of the church. This contrast is well seen in 1 Cor 14.4, “The one who speaks in a tongue builds up himself, but the one who prophesies builds up the church.”

So Moltmann was not wrong to say that the church is born with the speaking in tongues, but there is a need to qualify the entirely different connotation of that phenomenon happened in Acts from the phenomena among today’s Charismatic movement.

1 comment:

clement said...


I am interested in the subject of speaking in tongues.

I disagree with you that speaking in tongues in today's charismatic movement (in all Catholic, Orthodox and Protestant) is "inwardly-directed for personal edification". This is because speaking in tongues is typically used to pray over someone, a sort of intimate conversation with God over the person being prayed over, and thus is "externally-directed".

However, I do note that this "external-directed" is still qualitatively different from the event recorded in Acts. The "external-directed" in Acts is externally directed towards men, the "External-directed" of modern charismatics is toward God.