Teach me how to live when the tongue is done

On speaking in tongues

my chrismation-editedI was brought into the Orthodox Church through chrismation.  In this liturgical ceremony, the priest anointed me with chrism oil and prayed that I would receive the Holy Spirit.  In charismatic circles, we would probably call this a “baptism of the Holy Spirit,” just without the speaking in tongues.

My view on speaking in tongues has changed since my charismatic days.  It was taught to me that the only sign that the Spirit has come upon somebody is that they speak in tongues.  Now, I believe that the fruit of the Spirit is even more critical than the ability to speak incoherent words in an unknown language.

I am reminded of a song by Kirk Franklin in which he relates his young adult life.  He attended an energetic, “Spirit filled” church, but his life was a wreck with ruined relationships, insecurities driving him over the edge, pornography addictions, etc.  With a gripping honesty, he states, “The church taught me how to shout and speak in tongues, but preacher teach me how to live when the tongue is done.”

The “fruit of the Spirit” means the outcome of things.  If I am truly Spirit filled and walking with the Spirit daily, then this fruit should be evident in my life and in my relationships with my spouse, coworkers, strangers on the street, comments in online communities, etc.  The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Gal 5:22-23).

Growing up charismatic

depressed_by_stengchen-d5es7ymWhile this is not meant to be an attack on the charismatic movement, it is meant to explain a bit of my story.  Like Kirk Franklin, I found that speaking in tongues could only get me so far.  It seemed good when I wanted to pray but didn’t know what to say (now I have the Jesus Prayer for that).  But there was still so much wrestling with doubts, with sin, and with a fierce insecurity.  I often hated myself and I felt dirty.  I was certain that I was a disappointment to God.

While a deeper understanding of the Father-love of God helped heal many of those wounds of insecurity and self-hatred, I still was left feeling an emptiness.  There was something missing.  I knew I needed Christ in way I had not experienced Him, but if the charismatic church couldn’t provide that then who could? I enjoyed the spontaneity of charismatic services for a while, but the hype and emotion could only carry me so far into the week.  I needed something deeper.

I attended different churches (progressive, conservative, and in between) for a few years and had some very good times, and met quite a few good friends.  But I still felt something missing; I longed for something I wasn’t finding in those places.

A puzzle piece wasn’t missing, I misunderstood the entire puzzle

When exploring Orthodoxy, I dove deeply into their teachings on prayer.  My wife was the first to point out a transformation in me.  She said I was so much more at peace then I used to be.  In a positive way, she affirmed that I am not the same person that she married several years ago.  And I began finding freedom in my private life, you know, that life that nobody else sees.  No longer did I feel like a slave to sin.  I still struggle daily to pick up the cross and crucify my fleshly desires, but not in the defeated manner as before.

While I don’t believe the Orthodox have any kind of monopoly on the Holy Spirit or prayer, their teachings and forms of prayer have made such a significant difference in my life.  I did not join the Orthodox Church because I thought their theology was better, I joined because I was constantly encountering God in a very real and personal way and I simply couldn’t imagine being anywhere else.

No longer was my sin a focus.  In Orthodoxy, I found that Christianity is not about sin management, speaking in tongues, moral improvement, or social progress.  Instead, it is about healing and life, and ultimately communion and union with God.  It is about receiving the Holy Spirit and finding God and His peace deep within my being.  Moral improvement and sometimes social progress flow out of union with God, but to make those things the focus is to put the cart before the horse.

Healing and Wholeness

orison (Paisie Olaru) by_naneste-d3l2zijIn Orthodoxy I have encountered things that were foreign to me such as confession and the sacraments in general.  Ultimately though, I found that these sacraments are here for my healing.  I don’t go to confession so that someone holds me accountable; I go to find healing.  My spiritual father doesn’t judge me; he prays for me.  He has agreed to bear the burden of my sins and wounds alongside of me.  It has been freeing and beautiful.

In communion, we partake of the body and blood of Christ.  This is not a nice symbolic act, but an integrating of God into every part of my being.  The sacraments (including confession and communion) are for the healing of both body and soul.  They are to bring me to a place in which I encounter God and find wholeness by being united to His Spirit.

Without Pentecost there is nothing

The outpouring of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost is critical to my faith.  Without Pentecost, we have nothing to live for in this life.  All we could do is look forward to the resurrection in the age to come.  But Pentecost is here, the Holy Spirit dwells among us and inside of us.  The Spirit heals us, makes us whole, and restores us to union with a God who is not “somewhere up there” but intimately dwelling within us.

I cannot think of much else to say other than to invite others to join me.  This is not a belief system I can utilize to build crafty arguments and persuade you, but a journey and experience with God.  While Orthodoxy has beliefs, it is ultimately a way of life that sets us into communion with our Creator.

——Update—–

For further reading on speaking in tongues and Orthodoxy, check out my post on the charismatic movement here.

Fr John Peck was kind enough to feature this blog post on the Journey to Orthodoxy website.  You can view the post here.

Published by

Jeremiah

Growing up in non-denominational churches, I became weary of many practices in the church. I decided it was time to find a church that enabled me to grow in my faith and talents, but that was also theologically deep. I was drawn to the Eastern Orthodox Church for several reasons. Check out my blog which details my journey into this ancient faith.

16 thoughts on “Teach me how to live when the tongue is done”

  1. Pingback: Teach me how to live when the tongue is done | Orthodox Road – speakingintonguesblogs
  2. What a lovely testimony. I think your story is very inspiring!! (and~ as your wife, I would know more than anyone else! 😉 ) Love you and I’m proud of you!!

  3. On Pentecost the room filled with people that heard the true message of God, in their own language, each so clearly that even their regional dialects were heard by those present. Obviously the speaking was not in an unknown language. Rather, it was clearly understood by everyone present, even if one spoke only Greek, only Latin or only Aramaic. Fast forward to today, where speaking in tongues needs translation by another and right there, needing the translator, means the tongue being spoken cannot be the same as what happened with tongues of fire. Unknown language is not a hallmark of the Holy Spirit. Not then, not now. Not Ever.

    Nowhere in the Bible is there even a sense that messages are given in unknown languages of babbling. Those that would never figure out the parables in their lifetimes are not confronted with foreign languages, but with a mental wall that stops them from understanding God’s truth. Interpreters are not required to make Greek understand Latin, nor Hebrew nor Aramaic, because Jesus spoke to them in simple words that they could understand. If messages are ‘encoded’ the reason for requiring additional understanding goes to meaning, not the language in which the message is presented.

    Modern speaking in tongues as represented by the Church of the TeeVee Machine, often frightens me. It is nonsense syllables upon nonsense syllables, often requiring “interpretation” by translators in partnership with presenters who claim we are to be prosperous, believe in the Rapture, and to trust them for such other nonsense as the Toronto Blessing. Or worse. We are to believe this from “evangelists” that are reported to steal, lie, cheat and otherwise harm people, but they do keep the money flowing to their own pockets. These are self-identified “men of god” (lower case intentional), who fly around in private jets, stay only in the best hotels, and spend hours and hours claiming that sending in $1000 (even if it’s on a credit card), will result in a 100-fold blessing from their god. They are slicked up beggars with high production values designed to fleece the flock.

    Speaking in tongues as happened in that room so long ago would better translate to a group of English, Spanish, Greek and Russians in a single room hearing a message in their mother-tongue without benefit of translation or interpreter. Examine the others carefully. Test them in all things. The answer is there and if they are genuine, their message will be clear as is all that comes from truth, and likely will never involve polysyllabic babbling.

    Also, this is not to say the nearly wordless sighing of the spirit within us in wordless messages of prayer is not valid. It is Biblical, correct and often happens in those situations where words just fail us. However, that’s not speaking in tongues, as it is wordless prayer from soul to God. That wordless communication in the Spirit has been hijacked by the Church of the TeeVee Machine, and their cohort, and been manipulated into this word salad that is now labeled ‘speaking in tongues.’ This is precisely the falsehood that can mislead so easily, for if only the really, truly spiritually plugged into god can understand it, why the average person has nary a chance without an interpreter. And yet, how wonderful it is to mislead entire swaths of those seeking God, by using this twisted, half-baked farce of nonsense speech, if motives behind it aren’t truly of God. I wonder, who would have such motivations? Hmmmm…

    1. UPDATE

      I’ve deleted my original comment.

      My theology on speaking in tongues has changed significantly since I first joined the Orthodox Church. To read more about it, you can visit my post on the charismatic movement here: http://www.orthodoxroad.com/transcendence-spiritual-experiences-part-3/

      While I never went into a trance like state that some people report, I no longer feel comfortable doing it. I did not experience the spiritual depth that I have now no matter how much I used to speak in tongues; it could never help me more than making me feel warm and fuzzy in the moment.

      It is also good to remember that the speaking in tongues movement began before the Azusa Street Revival: it has permeated pagan religions and cults for centuries, if not millennia. Many linguistic experts find it funny that charismatic Christians believe their “gift” is something unique. They see it all throughout the world. Any objective research regarding the history of the movement reveals roots that are quite disconcerting. So, I had to ask myself: do I want to hold to something that came from paganism, or should I let go of that and dive deeper into the practices of the Church?

      I chose the Orthodox Church, which has never turned to heterodox religions in order to find the fullness of the faith.

      1. Well, far be it for me to be a wallflower on so many issues. As for speaking in tongues, I did a huge amount of research on this subject when I was working on a book project a while back. Corruption in churches covers the tip of that iceberg.

        As I said in my comment, I do not object for a moment to that wordless, deep sighing of a soul in communication with, or communion with God, where words of the language one speaks normally just fail to address the issue. Yet, that is not the Pentecost “tongues” we are introduced to when some interpreter is required to discern what the “Tongues Speaker” is saying. Rather, the Pentecost tongue is a message all can receive, understand, and interpret for themselves even if the speaker is not speaking in a language the listener would normally understand. It is NOT the wordless prayer of the hesychast, nor is it the prayer that might be a wordless sigh between other spoken prayers.

        When one is alone, praying, experiencing the fullness of the Holy Spirit, those wordless, incomprehensible moments occur, and once experienced, they cannot be explained in words. Surely that is the filling of the Spirit into one’s own soul. It is the other version I object to, with scaled up objection when such ‘events’ are presented with Rapture, send money demands, and various renditions of messages that all culminate in a begging message so that some slick can profit from the generosity of others with nary a thought to filling real needs of others.

        I guess that means we are in agreement. As for even Orthodoxy having those moments we’d rather not discuss at dinners honoring the Rectitude Foundation, well that’s just the fact of life for any institution where humans participate. Errors happen. Avoiding repetition of those same errors is where the guidance of God, the Word, and the agreement of the whole body of Christ come in. Fr. Alexander Schmemann is right. We ought not throw the baby out with the bathwater. Still, the baby does need to be kept clean, so we don’t avoid the bathwater altogether either.

        Gifts are gifts, and my objection is not to speaking in tongues, which I know still occurs. I know that when we allow the Holy Spirit to speak through us, truth does out, is understood, and it helps everyone. My objection is actually rather narrowly drawn, and is not directed to the gift itself, but to its misuse, misinterpretation, and its employment as a parlor trick to mislead the unwary or ignorant.

        1. As you said, we are in agreement, especially in regards to your last paragraph. I think little irks most people more than someone abusing others and doing it in the name of God. Even atheists seemed to be quite annoyed with that.

  4. I’m a cradle born Greek Orthodox. Speaking in “tongues” is very private for me since I use the gift to build up the “church”. At times I use the Jesus Prayer to intercede or pray for others and other times I pray in my prayer language. Both are used for the purpose of intercessory prayer. The Jesus Prayer, for me, has a hidden depth to it. The “prayer” has an effect deep within my heart. When I pray with my “gift”, my prayer comes out from my heart also. Granted, I do not “mentally” know what I am praying about, but I know the Holy Spirit is refining the prayer.
    I do not make it known that I operate in this particular gift of the Holy Spirit since my circle of Orthodox friends do not accept it as valid. I also must point out that any progress I make with the Jesus Prayer is also kept to myself and my father confessor. The spiritual life is an internal, mystical journey where God reveals Himself.
    Blessings,
    Peter

    1. Thank you for sharing, Peter. There are probably others within Orthodoxy with a similar story to yourself. It is because of stories like those, and my own story, that I do not condemn speaking in tongues. I think there are many gifts that are much more edifying to the Body as a whole, so I don’t ever push speaking in tongues, but I don’t think we should be quick to condemn something we don’t really understand.
      UPDATE
      My theology on speaking in tongues has changed significantly since I first joined the Orthodox Church. To read more about it, you can visit my post on the charismatic movement here: http://www.orthodoxroad.com/transcendence-spiritual-experiences-part-3/

      While I never went into a trance like state that some people report, I no longer feel comfortable doing it. I did not experience the spiritual depth that I have now no matter how much I used to speak in tongues; it could never help me more than making me feel warm and fuzzy in the moment.

      It is also good to remember that the speaking in tongues movement began before the Azusa Street Revival: it has permeated pagan religions and cults for centuries, if not millennia. Many linguistic experts find it funny that charismatic Christians believe their “gift” is something unique. They see it all throughout the world. Any objective research regarding the history of the movement reveals roots that are quite disconcerting. So, I had to ask myself: do I want to hold to something that came from paganism, or should I let go of that and dive deeper into the practices of the Church?

      I chose the Orthodox Church, which has never turned to heterodox religions in order to find the fullness of the faith.

    1. Inquirer: It is claimed by certain people that when the grace of the Holy Spirit comes to them and they begin to speak in tongues, they find themselves in a state of ecstasy. It is only at this time that they are able to speak certain inarticulate and incomprehensible human sounds, to have certain internal impulses or exclamations of joy, or to voice a certain remorse for their sins, as well as other movements of the body which are made by the action of the grace of the Holy Spirit. Saul had a similar spiritual manifestation when following David and going to Ramah. He was overcome by the prophetic spirit and with a flurry he prophesied, ripped his clothes off and went naked all day and all night (1 Sam. 19:22-24).

      Elder Cleopa: It is incomprehensible for a healthy, clear and well-balanced intellect to reveal the great mysteries of God with inarticulate exclamations. Such a thing is not at all the same, as we know from that which was revealed through glossologia as a divine gift (1 Cor. 14: 2-4).

      The Greek idol-worshipers of antiquity had similar exhibitions when they prayed to their gods Dionysus, Zeus and the others. When they were found before a diabolic idol they would fall into ecstasy or a trance, shaking and making rhythmic movements with their body, and tumble on the ground, with a few even foaming at the mouth like the demon-possessed of olden times. Next they would get up and sing rhapsodic melodies and make exclamations with demonic delight. The same happened with the Montanists, heretics of the first and second centuries after Christ, the Gnostics, and later the Methodists, the Quakers, the Pentecostals and others. These groups took to making uncanny and strange turns and movements of the body, had hallucinations and were in delusion, and thought that all of this came from God, when in actuality it comes from theologians of darkness who are familiar with Holy Scripture and who lead into delusion the unsuspecting, cheating them with words taken even from Holy Scripture.

      1. Thanks for sharing these, Ian. My experience in the “charismatic” churches really doesn’t parallel any of the strange things that I’ve read by Elder Cleopa or by Fr Seraphim Rose (he also wrote extensively about Glossolalia. I’m thinking that is a good thing. I never went into trance states or really much of anything that I read by these fathers or their inquirers.

  5. My brother, forgive me if what I’m about to write seems forceful or judgmental, because it’s not my meaning to seem so, but I’m just going to write and hope that the love I feel tempers any misunderstanding.

    I cannot express enough, in strong enough terms, or with enough force of conscience, how dangerous modern “speaking in tongues” is.
    I’m extremely troubled by this post.
    I’m not speaking for myself, I’m reflecting the mind of the Church in this matter, not by my own accord but by the words of a multitude of Holy Elders, Saints, and Grace bearing fathers of the Church.
    There is a plethora of information across the Orthodox spectrum on the modern phenomenon of “speaking in tongues”, one need only Google “Orthodoxy Speaking In Tongues” to receive innumerable quotes, essays, homilies, write-ups, and teachings on the topic.
    If indeed Fr. Hopko defended speaking in tongues, then such a defense is heartbreaking. I have all the respect in the world for Fr. Hopko on most issues, but this is not an “unsettled” issue.
    Nearly every modern monastic elder has warned against this modern delusion.
    No amount of modernist “academic” Orthodoxy can counter those that live, breathe, and teach from a state of theosis.

    This is why, as Orthodox Christians, we don’t look to academics or modernists for theological truth, but to the humble monastics, whom we are called to imitate as they “imitate the angels in heaven”.

    There is much delusion and false teaching in the world today brother.

    When you wrote that “..I don’t believe the Orthodox have any kind of monopoly on the Holy Spirit or prayer, their teachings and forms of prayer have made such a significant difference in my life.”

    ..this is simply not right.
    Once again, this is not my opinion.
    This is the teaching of the Church.
    For instance:

    “Who in the church is perfect and wise and can either defend or believe that the bare invocation of the names [of the Trinity] is sufficient for the remission of sins and the sanctification of baptism? For these things are only of advantage when he who baptizes has the Holy Spirit.”-Saint Firmilian, Bishop of Caesarea Mazaca, circa. 256 A.D.

    St. Cyprian says it plainly when he says that “Outside the Church, there is no Salvation”
    And don’t be deluded into thinking that “The Church” extends to those outside of Orthodoxy, for St. Ignatius of Antioch is clear that “Where the bishop is, there is the Church” and even more damning:
    “Take note of those who hold heterodox opinions on the grace of Jesus Christ which has come to us, and see how contrary their opinions are to the mind of God … They abstain from the Eucharist and from prayer because they do not confess that the Eucharist is the flesh of our Savior Jesus Christ, flesh which suffered for our sins and which that Father, in his goodness, raised up again. They who deny the gift of God are perishing in their disputes.”

    These are not some “fundamentalist” claims, these are the words of the Fathers.
    This is what Orthodoxy is. We humble ourselves, break our will, and accept the Church’s truth as absolute, unchanging, and complete.

    The idea that you don’t hold Orthodox truth to be absolute or exclusive, my friend, goes against the very essence of Orthodoxy.

    Archbishop Chrysostomos of Etna says it perfectly in that: “The Holy Ecumenical Synods and the other Councils express a Faith which Christ established, the Apostles preached, and the Fathers preserved. They did not define, codify, or create anything, but protected the Faith given to us in its wholeness by Christ against innovation and heresy.”

    In other words, that which differs doctrinally from Orthodoxy, is, by nature and by design of Orthodoxy itself, heresy!

    Here Father Arsenie Papiodoc of Romania says it bluntly: “Regarding Catholicism and other so called “Christian” sects, they are anathematized, that’s the way it is, because if you alter even a sliver of anything [Christ] said, says the Savior, Anathema!”
    Here is that very interview if you wish to watch it.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vhqJSLY0p_M&feature=share&list=PLA4FC403CA7809CE0

    The other sects of Christianity, do not, by the teaching of the Fathers of the Church, regardless of what a select few modernist Orthodox academics in America, cut off from the living tradition of the Church, say, do not possess the Holy Spirit.

    I know my words seem harsh, or judgmental, forgive me for that. I don’t know how else to put this but strongly.

    I’m sure that speaking in tongues “feels” holy.
    To a fornicator, fornication “feels” good.
    The Church still says no.
    To the kleptomaniac, stealing “feels” good.
    The Church says no.
    Every heretic and heterodox on Earth thinks that their own “way” brings them closer to God, but they’re all wrong and they’ve always been wrong.

    We change ourselves for the Church, my brother, we do not change the Church to suit us.
    Part of becoming Orthodox, the biggest part of becoming Orthodox, is killing the “old man” realizing that we understand nothing, we’ve never understood anything, that we have nothing to bring to God and never have, that no matter how much we used to think we had it “figured out”, that we really have not even begun to learn *how* to even learn.
    You may think speaking in tongues brings you closer to God..
    ..but with the Church and Holy Tradition as the acid test, I tell you sure my friend, and I place myself first in this..we have not a shred of an idea of a clue what is good for us or for our soul.
    Nada. Nothing.
    You, or I, are not the deciding factor or determining person in anything.
    The Church is.
    We break ourselves against it, we bend ourselves to conform to it.
    But my brother, we do not, ever, claim that we know better than it.

    To do so is to elevate oneself above Christ.
    In short..pride.

    Please forgive me for any forcefulness, I’ve spent the past two days constructing my thoughts before writing this response in an effort not to harm you.
    As always, please pray for me, a sinner.
    -Ioannis

  6. I have been Speaking with Tongues for many years. I do speak most times when I am alone meditating to the Lord Jesus Christ. Sometimes I may Speak with Tongues in between words of a song. This gift of the Holy Spirit is wonderful. I have other gifts also. I am in the Faith of the Greek Orthodox Church. Thank God.

    1. Hi Jim, I’ve been busy with work and travel, so I apologize for the late response. I hope you will see this.

      My theology on speaking in tongues has changed significantly since I first joined the Orthodox Church. To read more about it, you can visit my post on the charismatic movement here: http://www.orthodoxroad.com/transcendence-spiritual-experiences-part-3/

      While I never went into a trance like state that some people report, I no longer feel comfortable doing it. I did not experience the spiritual depth that I have now no matter how much I used to speak in tongues; it could never help me more than making me feel warm and fuzzy in the moment.

      It is also good to remember that the speaking in tongues movement began before the Azusa Street Revival: it has permeated pagan religions and cults for centuries, if not millennia. Many linguistic experts find it funny that charismatic Christians believe their “gift” is something unique. They see it all throughout the world. Any objective research regarding the history of the movement reveals roots that are quite disconcerting. So, I had to ask myself: do I want to hold to something that came from paganism, or should I let go of that and dive deeper into the practices of the Church?

      I chose the Orthodox Church, which has never turned to heterodox religions in order to find the fullness of the faith.

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