To discern the signs of the times, I believe that we need to comprehend “what went on yesterday, about 100 years ago. So this article is dedicated to sharing a historical perspective and to let you, the reader decide. I myself try all supernatural occurrences from the words of Jesus: A good tree doesn’t bring forth bad fruit and a bad tree doesn’t bring forth good fruit. Furthermore, you shall know them by their fruit.
Remembering the fervor of the early 80’s, the word of faith movement clearly “took off” primarily because of tongues. Everyone was seeking the initial sign of the baptism in the Holy Ghost, as word of faith preachers, pastors and teachers all concurred that tongues was the initial evidence. At times, seeking after uttering a tongue seemed higher in priority than salvation, as the leaders taught that being saved was only a beginning step to being “filled.”
Consequently, those who proclaimed to be “born again” did not settle for conversion alone because being filled with the Holy Spirit meant that “you spoke in tongues.” History was my least favorite subject in high school, probably because what was past didn’t seem important to me. When we are young, we live in the present moment. Many misunderstand that just because being born again involves “old things being passed away,” how will we be able to measure our spiritual growth if we don’t consider “how we used to be?”
To illustrate, as a black person in this country today, I no longer allow the slavery of my ancestors to control either my emotions or my behavior. Nevertheless, remembering my roots encourages my compassion for all human suffering and injustice around the world. The racial past of my people as former slaves contains clues relative to the spiritual, economic and societal ills that we continually face today as a people, and so it is crucial that we remember, “from whence we came.”
Along these same lines, I believe that the truth about tongues can be found in its historic roots, that go back a century or so ago. Prior to the early 20th century, history would suggest that the speaking in tongues actually DID cease for 19 centuries. While the Middle Ages constituted long years of spiritual darkness, the Protestant Reformation exemplified a revelatory outburst of light regarding the doctrines of sin, salvation, justification by faith and holiness. This period marked the interpretation of scripture by some of the finest minds in church history. Even though there were some instances of “the ecstatic” among a group called the Anabaptists, for the most part, the Reformation was silent about the speaking in tongues.
Moreover, within the founding days of America, neither the Pilgrims, the Puritan leaders, nor any other Christian group indulged in speaking in tongues. Times of great emotional conviction were recorded and believers were moved to show their convictions through their fervency of feelings and emotions. Yet, even though thousands were convicted of their sins in frontier revivals, the speaking in tongues found no expression.
Earnest Christians and ministers in this period of history set themselves to rediscover truth. Literary Christian scholars produced excellent essays and formulated insightful scriptural interpretations, yet not one spiritual leader of the Reformation period in the USA even intimated that the doctrine of speaking in tongues had any role at all in the spiritual life of that day.
In the third decade of the 19th century, a pastor in London by the name of Edward Irving made a public declaration of healing, prophecies and tongues, including them in his worship services. Upon visiting Irving’s church, contemporary essayists wrote in the London Times, “God was working miracles by hysterics.”
Though Irving was ousted from the Presbyterian Church, he started the Catholic Apostolic Church. In various parables, Jesus gave us a simple tool of discernment. He tells us that good trees produce good fruit, bad trees produce bad fruit, and that we “know them by their fruit.” The Lord made it clear that a bad tree cannot produce good fruit. As I continued to study, I found that the precursors of the Pentecostal movement which centered itself in the speaking in tongues was filled with “bad fruit.”
Let’s look at the lives and work of each outstanding leader, one at a time. It is interesting to note the significant influence of women in the tongues movement and the establishment of the denomination of Pentecostalism.
Mother Ann Lee” the founder of the Shakers, 1736-1784: Mother Lee was the charismatic founder of the United Society of Believers in Christ’s Second Appearing, commonly known as the Shakers. After a difficult early life, she joined a group of Christians in Manchester, England, who had split from the Quaker movement. Their unorthodox views and impassioned convulsions in worship drew ridicule and persecution, along with the nickname “the Shakers.”
While imprisoned, Mother Ann received a revelation that she was the embodiment of the second coming of Christ, in feminine form. Lee claimed that she could also discourse in 72 tongues. Lee settled in Watervliet New York, a town about a 15 minute drive from where I now live.
Joseph Smith, the founder of the Mormons,1805-1844: Smith was among the first to advocate for the speaking in tongues. He believed that tongues opens the door to visions and revelations. After all, this is the way that the book of Mormon had come to him. Taken from a chronological history of the Mormon church, I found this:
History of the Church 2:428, 27 March 1836: [at the end of the temple dedication] “President Brigham Young gave a short address in tongues, and David W. Patten interpreted, and gave a short exhortation in tongues himself, after which I [Joseph Smith] blessed the congregation in the name of the Lord, and the assembly dispersed a little past four o’clock, having manifested the most quiet demeanor during the whole exercise…. During the evening of the same day, Brother George A. Smith arose and began to prophesy, when a noise was heard like the sound of a rushing mighty wind, which filled the Temple, and all the congregation simultaneously arose, being moved upon by an invisible power; many began to speak in tongues and prophesy; others saw glorious visions; I beheld the Temple was filled with angels, which fact I declared to the congregation. The people of the neighborhood came running together (hearing an unusual sound within, and seeing a bright light like a pillar of fire resting upon the Temple), and were astonished at what was taking place. This continued until the meeting closed at eleven p. m.”
Bare in mind, readers, what John Smith and the Mormons believe about Jesus Christ of Nazareth: They preach that Jesus is the brother of Satan, an elder brother of all people on this planet. Mormons teach that Jesus was born on an unnamed planet near the star Kolob through God the Father having sex with one of his many wives. In short, that the Lord was born on Earth through God manifesting a body and having sex with Mary. They claim that Jesus was married to three women at the same time, and had children. Consider the outrage of teaching that Jesus saved himself by obeying the principles of Mormonism and that the Lord is an example for all good Mormons to follow. John Smith also claimed that Jesus received godhood after he rose from the dead and that He is now one of many gods over his own planet with his many wives making spirit babies and populating that planet.
So consider this. The founder of this doctrine is one of the first Americans to proclaim that he “spoke in tongues.” Assuming that what John Smith wrote in the Mormon history book about the supernatural manifestation that occurred in his gatherings, ask yourself this. Based upon John Smith’s blasphemous doctrine, ask yourself, “was the Holy Spirit and the angels of God the author of that experience on March 27, 1836???????? ”
Marie Woodworth Etter, faith healing and evangelist: (1844-1924) is one of the best known Holiness preachers of the pre-Pentecostal era. From around 1885 onwards she began to use the charismatic gifts in her meetings, and was known for healings, trances and visions. Licensed to preach in 1884, Etter was the mega preacher of her day in tent revivals. Her critics called her “the Voodoo Priestess.” She was known for speaking in tongues, along with strange and sundry manifestations that were attributed to the movement of the Holy Ghost. She was also known for preaching texts out of context, preached regularly for the Mormons, and seemed to be the person who started the phenomena known today as “slain in the spirit.”
Most of the manifestations common in present day meetings like the Toronto Blessing were experienced in the Woodworth-Etter meetings, so much so that some critics of the current movement trace The Toronto blessing back to Etter. Etter was certainly faithful to her calling and it appears that she was honest and sincere. But as I point out in “Faces of the Religious Demon”, I believe that “we are now living in an era when the Lord will turn over those with a religious demon to a reprobate mind. At that moment, the captive’s thoughts will be permanently darkened to the degree that he becomes incapable of receiving the truth. (pg 47) Considering her dedication, I hope that Etter escaped our era.
Charles Parham, founder of Pentecostalism, 1873-1929 An extremely controversial figure, I recommend to those who are interested to search with his name and read about him for yourself. There are rumors of homosexuality, racism, ( membership in the Klu Klux Klan) and freemasonry. He was actually arrested for lewdness in a public place, attempting to solicit sex from men. There are also several allegations and reports concerning his strange doctrinal interpretations. In regards to tongues, in the fall of 1900, after leading his students through a series of Bible studies on repentance, justification by faith, sanctification, and healing, Parham instructed them on Spirit baptism. By the end of December, they were prepared to encounter the day of Pentecost in a new way. After the revival commenced on New Year’s Day, Parham announced that the students had spoken many languages. He himself claimed he had received the capability of preaching in German and Swedish. On January 1, 1901, Agnes Ozman spoke in a tongue that sounded like “Chinese,” though never actually verified. She is renowned as being the first Pentecostal person to ever speak in tongues.
The problem with her tongue speaking is that it is claimed that she spoke non stop for 3 days in Chinese, actually unable to speak in English until she was “released” to do so. Others among Parham’s students were alleged to have spoken in a variety of languages including Japanese, Hungarian, Syrian, Hindi, and Spanish. Parham noted that “cloven tongues of fire” appeared over the heads of the speakers. Sometimes interpretations followed such as “God is love,” “Jesus is mighty to save,” and “Jesus is ready to hear.” Parham anticipated that he could send out missionaries all over the world who would supernaturally speak in the native tongue of the land, without having studied it. It never happened and Parham was extremely disappointed that his missionary plans were thwarted.
Although Parham was accused of being a racist, he preferred to consider himself a separationist, as exemplified by the fact that he allowed a black man to participate in his bible study classes, sitting in a restricted and separated part of the study hall. That man was William Seymour. William Seymour, a waiter and the Azusa Street leader (1870-1922) went to Los Angeles and taught the Holy Spirit baptism in a warehouse on Azusa Street. On April 4, 1906 a revival began and thousand’s of people came to 312 Azusa to receive the baptism in the Holy Spirit. This revival lasted from 1906-1913, and during this time, thousands of Pentecostal missionaries went forth establishing missions throughout the world.
Seymour’s work at Azusa is regarded among most Pentecostal historians as a genuine move of God in restoring the church to true power and authority. However, it has also been reported that the Azusa Street meetings were filled with spiritualist mediums, hypnotists, and others who had a deep interest in the occult. There are reports of fits, babblings, moral compromise with people falling on top of each other, jerks, twitchings, shakings, ie. mass hysteria. In fact, the spiritual pandemonium of the meetings became more than Seymour could handle, and so he sent for his teacher, Parham to come and help out. When Parham arrived, he was outraged and appalled.
As a result, Parham and Seymour had a rift that was never reconciled. Parham publicly denounced both the revival and Seymour in October 1906 for the emotionalism displayed in the worship at the Azusa Street revival, and for the intermingling of blacks and whites in the services. Seymour had sought Parham to help him control these “ecstatic” excesses. But visiting the mission for the first time and observing what Parham believed to be “manifestations of the flesh,” Parham stood up and declared: “God is sick at His stomach!”
Even so, it is reported that emotionalism played a strong part in Parham’s own worship services. This unfortunate incident and his judgmental nature alienated Parham not only from Seymour, but others as well. It is alleged without substantiation that Seymour “stole Parham’s Pentecostal movement” by blackmail as Seymour was privy to Parham’s secret sex life. Shortly, the Pentecostal movement had now begun to move well beyond both men. Indeed, Pentecostalism emerged in India in 1906 among holiness believers without ties to Azusa Street.
Evan Roberts and The Wales Revival of 1904-1905; Part of the appeal of this wide scale revival lay in Evan Roberts himself, a charismatic and sincere preacher. Although he came from the Welsh Methodist tradition, he wasn’t a theologian, and he never finished his training to be a minister. His message was for all the people of Wales, regardless of denomination, and it was immensely appealing. Meetings would be a mixture of prayer, self-examination and singing, and they could last for hours.
The most outstanding aspect of the revival was its impact upon everyday societal life. Crime dropped, saloons closed, in short, the entire community was affected. It is believed that at least 100,000 people became Christians during the 1904-1905 revival, but despite this, the revival did not put a stop to the gradual decline of Christianity in Wales, only holding it back slightly. It has been argued by some Christian historians that the 1904-1905 revival lacked depth in terms of nurturing the newly converted Christians in biblical teaching. Evan Roberts admitted that wildfire erupted “from the very outset.” He reported that the physical, mental, and spiritual wreckage resulting from the baptism in the Holy Ghost was appalling in its effect upon the revival’s leaders and workers, to say nothing of the new converts. It is reported that “thousands,” and, “nearly all,” were “wrecked.”
Evan Roberts himself suffered a severe mental breakdown at the end of the revival, from which he never recovered. As a result, his public ministry was finished. He recuperated at the home of Jessie Penn Lewis and he assisted her in writing “War on the Saints.” When the book was denounced by critics in that day, it is reported that Roberts denied co-authoring the book. Jessie Penn Lewis, author of “War on the Saints.” ((1861-1927) was an English evangelical speaker and author of a number of Christian evangelical works. Her father was a Calvinist Methodist minister. Along with Evan Roberts, Penn Lewis was significantly involved in the 1904-1905 Welsh Revival. As previously noted, the revival was abruptly shortened with the mental and physical collapse of Evan Roberts.
Penn-Lewis traveled internationally to take her spiritual warfare message to audiences in Russia, Scandinavia, Canada, the U.S., and India. She has remained a controversial figure among Christians for almost 100 years, primarily because she declared the failure of the Welsh Revival to be the work of Satan. Emphasis is centered in “War on the Saints” of the danger that comes to believers at the point of baptism in the Holy Ghost, yet little reference is made to tongues.
In a subtitled called “The Counterfeit Presence is Sensual,” Penn-Lewis writes:(War on the Saints, pg. 130-131)
“The counterfeit presence of God is given by deceiving spirits, working upon the physical frame, or within the bodily frame, upon the senses. We have seen the beginning of this, and how the first ground is gained. It is deepened by these sense-manifestations being repeated, so gently, that the man goes on yielding to them, thinking this is truly ‘communion with God’—-for believers too often look upon ‘communion with God’ as a thing of sense and not of spirit—and here he commences praying to evil spirits under the belief that he is praying to God. The self-control is not yet lost, but as the believer responds to, or gives himself up to these ‘conscious’ manifestations, he does not know that his WILLPOWER IS BEING SLOWLY UNDERMINED. At last through these subtle, delicious experiences, the faith is established that God Himself is CONSCIOUSLY IN POSSESSION OF THE BODY, quickening it with felt thrills of life, or filling it with warmth and heat, or even ‘agonies’ which seem like fellowship with the sufferings of Christ, and travail for souls, or the experience of death with Christ in the consciousness of nails being driven into the bodily frame, etc. From this point, the lying spirits (demons) can work as they will, and there is no limit as to what they may do to a believer deceived to this extent. (Jessie Penn-Lewis)
For those readers who are becoming angry, I did not write those words. I don’t know about you, but almost a century ago, this woman wrote words that describe ME! From the agonies and travail for souls, the feelings of warmth and heat, the consciousness of nails being driven into my bodily frame, I experienced all of this–some of it before I even heard about tongues, before I was even introduced to charismatic teachings or mega preachers.
There is nothing new under the sun where the religious demon is concerned. He just reworks the same ole stuff. Just recently, I happened to be browsing “War on the Saints” for the umpteenth time and I found a short paragraph accompanied by a specific footnote toward the end of the book regarding tongues in small print which is quoted below, in red. As much as I read and value this book, I only noticed this small paragraph and footnote last week: “A question arises here as to whether believers may now speak in unknown tongues, as the disciples did at the time of the Holy Spirit’s in filling at Pentecost.”
There are those that say ‘Yes” but the truths set forth in preceding chapters, show that until the spiritual section of the Church of Christ are more acquainted with the counterfeiting methods of the spirits of evil, and the laws which give them power of working, any testimony to such experience AS TRUE, cannot be safely relied upon. (pg. 298) And here is the footnote in fine print: The subject of speaking in tongues is not further dealt with, as the counterfeits in connection with it are only a fraction of the countless counterfeits being forced upon the children of God AT THE PRESENT TIME, numbers of which are not referred to in these pages. A believer not deceived by counterfeit speaking in tongues can be deceived and possessed by accepting other counterfeits. An understanding of the BROAD PRINCIPLES showing the basic differences between the way of God’s working, and the deceptive imitations by Satan, will enable spiritual believers to discern for themselves all the counterfeits they meet with today.
Clearly, Jessie Penn-Lewis was more concerned about “her day and time” then she was about ours. Having ministered in the greatest revival that has occurred in recorded church history since the days of the early church, much of her wisdom comes from experience. Likewise, my own reservations about tongues is primarily connected to counseling professing Christians for deliverance, the vast majority of whom speak in tongues, yet they are also tormented and some have been seriously demonized.
Evidently, Penn-Lewis was not a prophet and therefore, the Lord did not show her “our times” or perhaps she would have spent more time on the speaking in tongues–a practice that has evolved in our times into a major controversy. In this regard, I hope that those readers who speak in tongues will not allow their feelings and emotions to override their good sense. My concern is not for the bona-fide manifestation. In 30 years, I have not personally witnessed one. My concern is for the counterfeit. As such, I agree with my contemporary, Dr. Rebecca Brown’s warning concerning counterfeits manifested through the speaking in other tongues. Her comments were made relative to charismatic Catholics but I believe that Dr. Brown’s words apply to word of faith followers and those within pentecostal denominations as well:
“Christians have made the terrible mistake of assuming that ALL tongues are from God. How wrong they are!…It is well-known that many occulted rituals are done in tongues….The fact that Catholics speak in tongues is not proof that they are filled with the Holy Spirit. Too many of these precious Catholic souls assume that because they are speaking in tongues, they are saved. How can the Holy Spirit be operative and manifesting of idolatry?”( Prepare for War, pgs 182-3)
In a nutshell, Dr. Brown’s rhetorical question is the bottom line of this blog, and in a nutshell, she has written what I believe to be the overriding issue. Therefore, I must concur that I do not believe that tongues and its interpretation can be a gift from God within an idolatrous system. The degeneration of this system in the last two decades or more has now gone wild with the prosperity gospel. The amount of money ciphered from unsuspecting, faithful people in tithes and offerings is beyond my imagination to sum up. Furthermore, the current segment of the charismatic/Pentecostal system’s preaching of faith has seriously injured and caused premature death to countless of people who have refused needed medical attention that could have spared their lives.
Tragedies of today are actually influenced by the ministries of Parham and another 19th century minister whose name is John Alexander Dowey. Called the Father of Healing Revivalism, Dowey was arrested and charged with manslaughter in the death of his own daughter, who died from a severe burn due to Dowey’s refusal to seek medical attention on her behalf. The beat goes on as I have recently watched video clippings of people whose deceased relatives believed in error that they were healed at a Benny Hinn crusade.
Only God Himself knows how many of his children on their death beds suffered needlessly. Simply put, many became depressed because some word of faith preacher taught them that anyone who becomes sick has either failed God or that their faith in God was too weak to be healed by Him. No, I no longer trust a system that has been replete with error for 100 years. I have searched the scriptures and now I have reviewed the history of tongues. I have some strong impressions as to why I have been suspicious of manifestations that I have either experienced or witnessed.
This research has confirmed for me that what we see operative today in tongues is counterfeit.
If there is a true gift of tongues in operation, we should be privy to how to discern the true gift from the fake one. Moreover, if tongues has actually ceased by the hand of God, we should not attempt to restore it. I personally
Today is August 28, 2017. This article was originally written in 2007. I personally spoke in tongues for 25 years. Within the last ten years, I continue to NOT speak in tongues because today I am convinced that this religious practice is a result of a false doctrine of seducing spirits under the authority of the spirit of the Anti-Christ.
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