REFLECTIONS AND RUIMINATIONS ON THE SBC AND HER FUTURE
BY WILLIAM DWIGHT MCKISSIC, SR.
Revisiting the IMB Tongues Policies: A Response to a Reasonable and Respectful Request
The SBC is a branch of the Kingdom of God that He has used mightily in days past and gone, and is still using, to advance His Kingdom and to bring Him glory. It is quite apparent though, to anyone remotely observing, that the SBC light is not shining quite as bright as it once did. If the SBC is to return to her former glory and surpass it, there must be some major shifts and adjustments made, and commitments to follow through on initiatives already in progress.
There are three SBC related issues that I will address in three separate posts under the above topic:
PART I: Revisiting the IMB Tongues Policies: A Response to a Reasonable and Respectful Request.
PART II: Reasons and Remedies Regarding the SBC “Free-Fall.”
PART III: Race and the Return of the SBC to Her Former Glory.
My thesis is, if the SBC remains a predominately Southern, Anglo, Republican, “conservative” and a cessationist-oriented institution—nothing substantially will change, and the free-fall decline will continue. But if the SBC becomes a Kingdom-focused, multi-ethnic, biblio-centric, Spirit-empowered and “orthodox,” as opposed to “conservative,” expression of the Kingdom of God—the SBC’s future light will shine greater than ever before.
My purpose for addressing these issues is toward the end that the Lord might sovereignly choose to lay His hands upon what’s written here, and touch the hearts and minds of those who read this. Necessary tweaks and adjustments need to be made to aright the SBC ship toward kingdom advancement. It is my prayer that these three posts will offer some value to the conversations regarding renewal in the SBC.
I. A Reasonable Request From Jerry Corbaley
Jerry Corbaley—a former IMB Trustee who served during the development and deployment of the “policy on tongues and prayer language” (link) at the IMB—made the following request to me in the comment thread at SBC Voices:
“Dear Brother Dwight,
It is my opinion that you are an influential Christian brother who is more committed to Christian integrity than the American cultural rationalization of “spinning the truth” to win political decisions.
Several times in the last month or so you have referred to IMB Policies as “cessationist”. I would request that you personally get a copy of the policies you refer to and review them. Your assertion that the policies are cessationist has potential for “spin” but little accuracy.
SBC Voices is influential among Southern Baptists. What is repeated often here can be accepted as fact.
I am glad that you write and comment here. I look forward to learning more from you.”
It is in response to Jerry’s request that I offer the following comments:
- When persons disagree, or want to challenge an opposing viewpoint in the blogosphere, it is sometimes done in a less than civil and respectful tone. I must first applaud and express appreciation to Jerry for registering his objection and stating his request in a fair, reasonable and Christian manner. The Apostle Peter commanded believers to approach others with gentleness when a addressing matters of the faith (I Peter 3:15). Jerry has certainly modeled this in his approach.
- Is it accurate, honest, reasonable, or fair to refer to the IMB “policy on tongues and prayer language as a ‘cessationist policy’”? This is the essence of Jerry’s question.
- Let me first of all thank Jerry for asking the question. It forced me to review the IMB Tongues Policy and to read for the first time the “Position Paper concerning the IMB Policy on Glossolalia” that appears on the IMB website. I want to respond to Jerry’s question and to interact with the IMB policy and position paper on “Glossolalia.” I want to be as courteous, cordial, fair, and respectful to Jerry and the IMB trustees as he was to me in asking the question.
- Jerry, I will stipulate that the IMB policy never references the word “cessationism” or any derivative of that term.
- I will also stipulate that there is not one line, phrase, sentence, paragraph or word in the policy that I could honestly summarize or characterize as “cessationist,” in the technical sense of the term.
- I will also stipulate that the IMB Position Paper acknowledges that “not all of the trustees who voted for this policy are strict cessationists.” However, that statement seems to me to also be a tacit admission that some of the trustees who voted for the policy were “strict cessationist.” Therefore, cessationism influenced this policy, just as continuationism influenced me and a minority of trustees who opposed this policy.
- The IMB Position Paper defines cessationism as “(those who believe the revelation producing gifts ended with the death of the Apostles.)”
- The IMB Position Paper explicitly state, “We would not forbid to speak in ‘languages” in a supernatural fashion (I Cor. 14:39). If such is permitted, then the experience must match all the guidelines in the passages. Thus, we included an exception statement for any possible use that can be clearly understood as being in harmony with Paul’s guidelines, as stated above.”
- Jerry, based on the above bullet points, and a technical definition of cessationism, you are correct: It is probably inaccurate and unfair to characterize or summarize the IMB policies as cessationist—if by cessationism you are using the term in a technical sense.
Dr. Bart Barber coined the term “a Posteriori Cessationism” and gives it this definition:
“An a posteriori cessationist (which I am) I am defining as someone who, if he were to encounter something resembling the biblical gift of tongues, would acknowledge it as such, but who sees no evidence of that gift in operation in present-day Christianity. “
Barber summarizes or characterizes his position by saying to believers who speak in tongues today:
“There may be a gift of tongues in operation today, but you certainly aren’t exercising it.”
Barber and the IMB trustees hold to identical positions, definitions and explanations of speaking in tongues. Barber is honest and forthcoming enough to label his position “a Posteriori Cessationism,” because practically and functionally, he ends up at the same position as the cessationist. He simply takes a different route to get there.
What is the difference between classical cessationism and “a Posteriori Cessationism”? Barber answers the question. Jerry, it can be said of the IMB policy as it relates to cessationism, as Bart Barber said of his “a Posteriori Cessationism” position:
“The difference between myself and standard cessationists lies not, as far as I can tell, in where we wind up, but in how we get there.”
Paul Chitwood of Kentucky who served as Mission Personnel Committee chairman during the adoption of the IMB tongues policy admitted that:
“…ad hoc committees found that field-related data and consultation with regional leaders have ‘not indicated a systemic problem with charismatic practices among field personnel.’”
According to Chitwood this policy was not developed because of abuses or violations of speaking in tongues by missionaries on the field in public or private. Chitwood added that this possibly was adopted because of:
“the rapid spread of neo-Pentecostalism and its pressure exacted on new churches in various regions of the world warrants a concern for the clear Baptist identity of our missionary candidates.”
Jerry, I will admit that the IMB tongues guidelines do not reflect classical cessationism. But based on Chitwood’s stated reasons for adopting the IMB tongues policy, you must admit he confessed to “charisphobic cessationism.”
Charisphobic cessationism is a term I coined based on two polar opposite terms on the subject that I learned from the late SWBTS Missions Professor, Dr. Jack Gray. Dr. Gray admonished his students to avoid two extremes as it relates to the charismatic gifts: “Charismania and Charisphobia.” The IMB has opted, by their own admission, for Charisphobia.
SWBTS has adopted, by their own admission, Charisphobic Cessationism. In response to my admission that I pray in tongues in private, SWBTS released a statement saying that my message was “harmful to the churches.” While at the same time Dr. Patterson maintains that he is not a cessationist; I agree; he is not a classical cessationist, but a charisphobic cessationist, or to use Barber’s term, “a Posteriori Cessationist.”
Therefore, what Barber calls “a Posteriori Cessationism and what I call “Charisphobic Cessationism,” I admit is not classic cessationism. Nevertheless, functionally and practically, —as does Bart Barber—I see no difference between the two. Thus, respectfully, I will continue to refer to these policies as cessationist, or if you prefer as, “a Posteriori cessationism,” or charisphobic cessationism—as opposed to classic cessationism.
II. Points of Respectful Disagreement with the IMB Policy, Position Paper and “a Posteriori” Cessationism
In response to specific statements contained in the IMB Policy, Position Paper and the Barber “a Posteriori Cessationism” Post, I offer the following responses:
- Baptists don’t build doctrines on assumptions, assertions, arguments, majority opinion or phobias. Baptists build doctrine on the authority of the inerrant and infallible Word of God. The IMB Policy, Position Paper and “a Posteriori” cessationism fails at this point.
- The IMB Tongues Policy states:
“The New Testament speaks of a gift of glossolalia that generally is considered to be a legitimate language of some people group “(IMB Policy on tongues and prayer language) 3/6/2006.
Where does the Bible say that tongues is “generally considered to be a legitimate language of some people group”? The Bible is clear in I Corinthians 12:7, 10 that the Holy Spirit gives to certain believers based on His sovereign will (I Corinthians 12:11) “different kinds of tongues” (I Corinthians 12:10d). Clearly among the “different kinds of tongues” that Paul referenced—all did not meet the IMB standard of being a “legitimate language of some people group,” based on Paul’s teaching on the subject.
Paul said in I Corinthians 13:1, “Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels.” If Paul described one of the “different kinds of tongues” as “the tongues of men and of angels,” how can the IMB announce so boldly that glossolalia is considered to be a legitimate language of some people group when Paul refers to “different kinds of tongues” and “tongues of angels”?
What verse says that tongues are always a language that existed on earth? The Bible does not restrict or limit tongues to “a legitimate language of some people group.” Paul is very clear in recognizing human languages or angelic languages (I Corinthians 13:1). No one at the IMB could interpret or translate the Apostle Paul when he spoke with the “tongues of angels” (I Corinthians 13:1). Angelic language may sound like ecstatic utterance or gibberish if you are not an angel. Any language of any people group in the world can sound like gibberish or ecstatic utterance if you don’t know that language. Who knows the language of the angels?
The late Dr. L. Jack Gray, in his booklet, Studies of the Holy Spirit, on Page 16, provided this definition of “tongues” that is totally and absolutely opposite from the IMB trustees’ and Barber’s definition:
“TONGUES—(I Cor. 12:10, 14:2, 13-16) This is the Spirit’s gift to speak to God in ecstatic languages, other than human language. It is the gift of a special language for communication with God. It is a special instrument for praise, singing and praying. It is not for communication with people. There is no biblical record of God sending a message to be delivered by people in ecstatic utterances. It seems also to be the liberation of the spirit of a believer for praise and adoration of God, communion with Him, and exalted worship of Him.”
Dr. Gray, a former professor at SWBTS, unfortunately would not be allowed to teach his students this definition in today’s SBC. How tragic!
- The Apostle Paul stated in I Corinthians 14:2:
“For he who speaks in a tongue does not speak to men but to God, for no one understands him; however, in the spirit he speaks mysteries.”
It almost appears that Paul wrote that verse in anticipation of the IMB tongues policy. Again, how can the IMB assert that “glossolalia is considered to be a legitimate language of some people group” exclusively when Paul emphatically states when one speaks in tongue they are not speaking “to men but to God, for no one understands him.” If “no one understands him” how could tongues always in every instance in the Bible have been a “legitimate language of some people group”? The word “mystery” in the original language means “a hidden or secret thing not obvious to the understanding.” The meaning of the word mystery here contradicts the “legitimate language of some people group” based on which the IMB policy is founded. Paul said “…in the spirit he speaks mysteries.” Paul referred to tongues here as a spiritual language—not a human language—as the IMB and Barber asserts.
Not all tongues require interpretation (I Cor. 14:2). If the IMB policy is true, it directly contradicts the Apostle Paul. I’d rather trust Paul and place a greater stake in what he says, rather than what the IMB says. Tongues as spoken in private devotions are cognitive content spoken to God and understood by god, but not understood by man. This is the clear teaching of I Cor. 14:2 that the IMB trustees reject.
The IMB statement(s) and Bart Barber’s “a Posteriori Cessationist” statement makes no distinction between the tongues of Acts and the tongues of I Corinthians. However, Dr. Jimmy Draper see’s great distinction between the two. His writing certainly contradicts the IMB position that the general assumption is that all tongues recorded in Scripture is a “legitimate language of some people group.” Certainly in some instances, they were, but not all, as Dr. Draper so ably points out.
- In his book, The Church Christ Approves in Chapter 5, entitled “Tongues, Yes or No?,” Dr. Draper addresses pertinent issues on this subject that interface with the IMB and a Posteriori Cessationism. Draper’s book was published in 1974, so clearly he was not speaking regarding the IMB policy, but the subject matter in general. Dr. Draper strikes the right balance and biblical accuracy on this subject because he approached it with no agenda or “preconceived ideas.”
In the introduction of his “Tongues” Chapter (5), Draper writes:
“I come to you with only the Word of God for my basis. I am confident that this Word is sufficient because it is the inerrant, infallible revelation of God to man. I have endeavored to approach this subject objectively with no preconceived ideas. I have not spoken in tongues, but I do not have to condemn those who say they have in order to justify myself.”
I endorse, embrace and agree with almost every single word that Dr. Draper wrote in his “tongues” Chapter with a few minor exceptions. In fact, I could have written the chapter myself. The only major difference would have been this: He says that he has not spoken in tongues, and I have. Other than that, if the IMB had adopted Draper’s position on tongues as recorded in his book, we would have avoided the entire IMB “tongues” fiasco, that I believe resulted in our inability to fund six hundred IMB missionaries. How tragic!!! What a price to pay for the adoption of “a Posteriori Cessationism”!
The following quotes are from Draper’s book that clearly contradicts the IMB’s and Barber’s position on this subject:
“There is…a great difference in the tongues on the day of Pentecost…and those at Corinth. At Pentecost all the believers spoke in tongues (Acts 2:4). Not everyone spoke in tongues at Corinth (I Corinthians 12:30). The languages spoken at Pentecost were understood by all (Acts 2:11). At Corinth they were understood by none (I Cor. 14:2). At Pentecost they spoke to men (Acts 2:11). At Corinth they spoke to God (I Cor. 14:2). No interpreter was needed at Pentecost (Acts 2:7, 8). Tongues were forbidden at Corinth if no interpreter was present (I Cor. 14:28). Pentecostal tongues filled strangers with awe and amazement (Acts 2:7). At Corinth, Paul warned them that strangers would say they were mad (I Cor. 14:23). There was perfect harmony at Pentecost (Acts 2:1, 42-46). Corinth was filled with contention, division and confusion (I Cor. 1:10-11). At Pentecost the disciples went out into the streets preaching in tongues (Acts 2:6-8). At Corinth, it was done within the church group (I Cor. 14).
“Because of the tremendous difference in these two languages, it would be false interpretation to build a doctrine on the assumption that they were the same.” [Emphasis mine] This is exactly what the IMB and Barber have done.
“Tongues in both Acts 2 and 10 meant languages understood by men…Apparently these people spoke in unlearned languages at Pentecost.”
“When we come to Corinth, we are faced with a vastly different expression on tongues. Here it is not a language others could understand. [Emphasis mine] It was basically an ecstatic utterance directed to God and not man.”
“Here at Corinth the gift of tongues was a private and personal gift which edified the individual.”
“The point here is the difference between the “languages” of Acts and Corinth. Do not build a system of theology that equates the two.”
Draper affirms the Apostle Paul and modern day believers who speak in tongues in private:
“The restrictions on the public use of this gift are such that the primary use has to be private. Paul said, “I thank my God, I speak with tongues more than ye all: yet in the church I had rather speak five words with my understanding, that by my voice I might teach others also, than ten thousand words in an unknown tongue” (I Cor. 14:18-19). He apparently spoke in tongues in private, but in public he preferred to speak his natural language.”
“Tongues were now primarily valuable as, a private and personal gift for devotions.”
Draper affirmatively quotes, Luther B. Dyer who wrote a book entitled Tongues. On Page 145 of Dyer’s book, Draper lifts the following quote:
“As a doctrine, then, tongue speaking without interpretation is strictly confined to the Christian’s private devotion before God. When the Christian engages in this activity before God alone, he knows the source of the gift, there is no temptation to impress his fellow-man, and he is not liable to fall into sin. Neither is he likely to try and make converts among other Christians since he cannot very well share his experience and promote a following without breaking God’s command. Perhaps this is why Paul, though a tongue speaker himself (1 Cor. 14:18), never featured it in any of the churches.”
I found it necessary to quote Draper extensively because so much of what he says, again, is in direct contradiction to the IMB Policy that they claim reflects general Southern Baptist thought. The IMB trustees are far out of line with the SBC man and woman in the pew and the majority of Southern Baptists in pulpits with regard to restricting people from praying in tongues in their private devotions.
- The IMB Position Paper (in the section, “The Historic Baptist Understanding”) states the following:
“The policy purposely stays within the historical practice of Southern Baptist churches.”
Southern Baptist roots can be traced back to Sandy Creek Baptists who were also known as Separate Baptists.
Dr. H. Leon McBeth in his book The Baptist Heritage describes the Separate Baptists most distinctive feature was their emotional style preaching and worship. Outcries, epilepsies, and ecstasies attended their meetings. [Emphasis mine] Shouting, weeping, and falling down in a faint were not uncommon. They often danced in the spirit during worship. The historian Walter B. Shurden referred to the Sandy Creek worshippers as “semi-Pentecostal.”
Furthermore, many Anglo Southern Baptist pastors have told me that they have members of their churches, even among their leadership who speak in tongues in private. The above quoted statement from the IMB is simply not true. Nor does it reflect the Lifeway Poll that documented fifty-one percent of Southern Baptists believe in the legitimacy of speaking in tongues in private as a valid gift of the Holy Spirit. And a percentage of those who believe in speaking in tongues in private is a valid gift, actually practice it on a regular basis. The official SBC policy on “tongues” is neutrality, not “a posteriori cessationism.” The IMB statement quoted above is misleading and inaccurate at best. It is functionally and practically a false statement, based on the Lifeway Poll.
- Another IMB Position Paper statement that I take exception to is:
“The modern practice of speaking in tongues began with Charles Parham in Topeka, Kansas, and the so-called [emphasis mine] Azusa Street Revival in Los Angeles, CA, in 1901 and 1906. Prior to this, the subject raised little concern among Christians.”
It would require a separate post to point how false and historically inaccurate this statement is. This statement represents shoddy scholarship. There is an unbroken historical stream of believers speaking in tongues from Bible days through the present hour. Prior to 1906 there are accounts of believers in America speaking in tongues among all evangelical groups. The Azusa Street Revival certainly flamed the fire, and perhaps popularized the thinking that “tongues” is the evidence of the Holy Spirit’s presence; but that is not where it began.
The IMB Position Statement’s reference to the Azusa Revival as “so-called” is at best, an expression of emotional prejudice toward Pentecostals. At worst, it is a statement of racial prejudice toward William J. Seymour, the Black preacher who was the catalyst for the Azusa Revival. I am going to opt for emotional prejudice being the best way to understand the “so-called” statement; and I certainly will forgive the IMB for making this statement, without them asking. The “so-called” statement delegitimizes the entire Pentecostal movement and church. Does IMB really want to be known for this position?
Prior to Azusa, how do you explain the emotional worship—including the “ecstasies” spoken by Sandy Creek Baptists? The basis, on which the IMB Position Paper refers to the Azusa Revival as a “so-called” revival, could also be stated about the Sandy Creek Revival. Descriptions of both revivals by historians are almost identical with regard to emotional expressions including “ecstasies.”
- IMB Position statement:
“Because of the divisiveness of the practice of tongues, the vast majority of Southern Baptist churches do not endorse speaking in tongues, especially in its ministry leaders.”
Where is the evidence to support this statement? Broadman Press published at least 3-4 books affirming the validity of praying in tongues in private—including Draper’s book. The Lifeway Poll certainly does not support that statement. Where is the proof?
- “This policy was not retroactive to missionaries on the field or to stateside staff.”
Jerry, if this policy is biblical, why wouldn’t it be retroactive? Why would the IMB tolerate unbiblical practices within their organization?
- “We would not forbid to speak in ‘languages’ in a supernatural fashion (I Cor. 14:39).
Jerry, the IMB has adopted a very narrow and unusual interpretation of “languages” in I Corinthians that is not supported by the Bible (I Cor. 14:2), Jimmy Draper’s book, or common sense. Why would you first ask this invasive question of a missionary? And exactly what would the process be to determine the “legitimacy” of their private tongues?
I find the IMB Policy and Practice on this matter most offensive and egregious. Churches are being asked to fund these far out theological conclusions of the IMB. This is tragic. I certainly understand churches that with a good conscience cannot support these policies. The previous policy was working fine. It not only did not contradict Scripture, it didn’t cause a controversy. Why not go back to the prior policy, inasmuch as the trustees admit that there were no personnel violations that triggered the current policy? The tragedy of the IMB Policy is that all Southern Baptists are subjected to the interpretation of a minority of Southern Baptists. The adoption of these cessationist policies, I know for certain, is partly responsible for declining enrollment in some of our seminaries and the reduced funding and lethargic attitude that some SBC churches hold toward the Convention.
III. A Response to Bart Barber’s “A Posteriori Cessationism” Post
Perhaps the only statement that I agree with Dr. Barber is this:
“Although I do see a New Testament statement that tongues will cease (1 Corinthians 13:8), I tie this event with the occasion when we no longer ‘see through a mirror darkly, but then face to face.’ I connect it with that time when ‘I will know fully just as I also have been fully known.’ In other words, I think that this prophecy is connected to our eternity in heaven. I remain unconvinced by a prioriarguments in favor of cessationism, although I love and respect greatly many who seem to hold this view.”
I don’t know Jerry Corbaley personally. I do know Bart Barber. And I can say concerning him as he said of the “a priori cessationist,” “I love and respect greatly” Dr. Bart Barber. If he ever runs for President of the SBC, I would be inclined to vote for him as I supported his election as 1st Vice President.
I fully understand why Jerry Corbaley objects to the labeling of the IMB policy as a “cessationist” policy, given the fact that Barber, Corbaley and I would probably all agree with Bart’s statement quoted above. The three of us are not classical cessationists.
I deeply appreciate Barber labeling his position as “a posteriori cessationist” that he, again, defines as “someone who, if he were to encounter something resembling the biblical gift of tongues, would acknowledge it as such, but who sees no evidence of that gift in operation in present-day Christianity.” As best I can tell, this is Corbaley’s and the IMB’s position on speaking in tongues, which again, is technically not a classical or a “priori cessationist” position, but it is as Barber admits, but not Corbaley “a posteriori cessationist” position.
The basic assumption of “a posteriori cessationism” is that any exercise of speaking in tongues today is to be evaluated or tested to determine whether or not it is authentic or a language spoken somewhere on the face of the earth.
I give Barber credit for arguing his position from a biblical perspective. In my opinion, Barber articulates the IMB position far better than the IMB articulated their position. The biblical basis that Barber gives for requiring an evaluation or test to determine the genuineness of tongues spoken-even in private—today are proof texts found in I John 4:1, “test the spirits to see whether they are from God” and I Corinthians 14:32, where Paul instructs the Corinthian congregation to apply a test to the highest gift. Therefore, Barber concludes, “I think it is safe to say that we are authorized to apply it to all of the gifts.” Barber presents much more of a challenging scriptural and almost convincing argument than the IMB.
Barber argues that “the basic assumption of “a posteriori cessationism” is that such evaluations can and ought to be performed. Barber’s “assumptions” and “evaluations” and “tests” regarding the legitimacy or authenticity of tongues are based on three premises:
“First, tongues-speaking in the bible involved communication. A tongue is a language, not the utterance of random sounds. Somebody somewhere will understand it.”
“Second, all genuine tongues-speaking in the bible was capable of interpretation. …It assumes that the sounds given are coherent, but further assumes that there is such a thing as the gift of interpretation.
“Third, in every sanctioned glossolalia event in the New Testament, somebody did indeed understand or interpret what was said.”
Barber then raises the question, “…do the modern cases that people claim for speaking in tongues measure up to the biblical definition?”
The problem with Barber’s question is that he has not given us the biblical definition, but rather Bart’s definition of tongues. His definition certainly contradicts the explanation of tongues presented by Dr. Draper and Dr. Jack Gray. Bart further argues that, “as the bible clearly demonstrates speaking in tongues (in the genuine spiritual gift) is linguistic and capable of being interpreted.” If Bart’s three premises are correct, then his conclusions are correct. I will demonstrate later why his premises contradict Scripture.
Three more phenomenal quotes form Barber and I will respond:
“Every sanctioned occasion of speaking in tongues in the New Testament had a human audience present.”
“Biblical speaking in tongues, whether in proclamation or in prayer, requires a human audience in order to be effectual, to accomplish the stated goals given for this phenomenon in the New Testament.”
WOW!!! These are startling claims by Bart. But unlike the IMB, I’m grateful that he didn’t label his position the historical Baptists understanding, or what Southern Baptists generally believe. Dr. Malcolm Yarnell in his position paper on “Tongues” mentioned in the introduction, “This essay is written in an effort to set out what this Southern Baptist believes is the orthodox doctrine of Scripture regarding glossolalia, or speaking in tongues.” [Emphasis mine] I deeply appreciate Barber and Yarnell—who holds similar views—for not purporting to speak for all Southern Baptists, as the IMB Position purports to do repeatedly.
Billy Graham, Ken Hemphill, Jimmy Draper, Jack Taylor, Joyce Rodgers, David Rodgers, Jack Gray, Dr. Jack McGorman and other Southern Baptists all have published writings or made statements that are in contradiction to what Barber and the IMB have published on the subject of tongues. Barber is a man of great conviction. He made this startling statement which communicates how confident he is in “A Posteriori Cessationism”:
“Listen to me, I do not make that claim lightly. If the present-day practice of speaking in tongues were a genuine occurance of the biblical gift, then I would be guilty of a serious offront against the Holy Spirit to decry it as false. Yet knowing the stakes here I am willing to make the claim anyway. That is how strong the evidence is, in my opinion.”
- Bart insists that tongue speaking in the Bible was always a language that somebody somewhere will understand. Paul specifically stated that there is a legitimate tongue spoken that “no one understands” (I Corinthians 14:2). He further stated that if one is speaking in tongues in a public assembly where there is no interpretation, they were simply to do it within as opposed to cease doing it at all. Those of us who speak in tongues certainly understand Paul’s instruction here. “But if there is no interpreter let him keep silent in church, and let him speak to himself and God” (I Cor. 14:28). [Emphasis mine] The IMB Policy does not allow the gifted believer to “speak to himself and God” in tongues within.
- Bart argues that all genuine tongues speaking in the Bible was capable of interpretation. Again, that statement is a direct contradiction of I Corinthians 14:2. Paul makes it clear in I Corinthians 14:2 that the tongues spoken in prayer to God is a “mystery” understood by no one but God. Again, this verse specifically and clearly refutes Bart’s assertions. There was no audience present in I Corinthians 14:2 as Bart asserts. It was a conversation in prayer between God and the believer. When Paul prayed in tongues in private, there was not human audience present (beyond Paul). Why Bart insists that it is biblically necessary to have an audience present is beyond me, if he takes I Cor. 14:2 at face value, and Paul’s testimony of his own private prayers.
- It is interesting that the IMB and Bart limit their “a posteriori cessationist” theory to the gift of tongues. If tongues could be disqualified based on these spurious claims, you could also as easily concoct spurious reasons to disqualify the other gifts—which we know that some have done.
Paul never instructed persons praying in tongues in private as in I Corinthians 14:2, to submit or subject their private prayer lives to the scrutiny, evaluation, or testing of other believers, to weigh the authenticity of their private prayers. Paul gave instructions as Bart points out, to certainly subject prophecy to a test. If Paul found it necessary or valuable to subject private tongues to an evaluation or tests, it appears that the guidelines he thought were necessary related to private tongues and the gifts, he delineated them clearly and understandably. Paul would have instructed the Corinthian Church to evaluate or test private speaking in tongues if he thought that was necessary as Bart, Corbaley, and the IMB thinks. Why the IMB and Bart would impose an evaluation, examination, or test on believers’ private prayers that Paul did not insist on, is a mystery to me.
Again, I trust Paul as a greater authority on this subject than Barber or the IMB. Either we have to trust the way Bart and the IMB connect the dots, or trust what Paul said. I’d rather trust Paul.
If Bart’s and the IMB’s assertion is true, that tongues in every instance spoken in Scripture, is a legitimate language of a people group spoken, then, I don’t know that I would disagree with Bart or the IMB policy. The Bible never states that tongues is always a legitimate language of a people group. Why then would we build a doctrine and alienate believers over an assertion, argument, or assumption that cannot be backed by Scripture? If Barber’s assertions are true, many other Southern Baptists are flat wrong. But why build a doctrine or policy on an issue where we as a Convention lack a unity of understanding and practice?
- I agree with Bart on another statement. The “a Posteriori Cessationism” position is borderline blasphemy. I also believe that we are seeing and experiencing the displeasures of God with these policies with the inability to fund missionaries. It is almost unfathomable that the SBC would have qualified missionaries ready to go on the mission field, but cannot go because of a lack of funds. Prior to the adoption of the IMB Policy, I never heard tell of the SBC laying off missionaries and not funding others, due to a lack of funds.
The IMB brand of cessationism is a blatant act of discrimination against those SBC believers who desire to be missionaries but who are gifted by the Holy Spirit to pray in tongues in private. Thank God, it is not a discrimination based on skin color; it is based on charismata—“charis”- grace, “mata”- gifts. This discrimination is based on gifts of grace. The SBC requires no other gift to stand up to this type of test and scrutiny. Why tongues?
It reminds me of the poll tax, literacy tests and questionnaires that many of American Citizens were subjected to for the privilege of voting.
Why does the SBC engage in this kind of discrimination toward persons who speak in tongues? If the SBC took church planters through these kinds of evaluations or tests to see if they were gifted evangelist, the church planters’ failure rate would not be so unusually high.
The SBC reserves this level of test and evaluation only for people who pray in tongues in private on the basis of I Cor. 14:2. God cannot be pleased with this.
- Bart’s argument that prophecy requires testing and evaluation is scriptural. Bart’s argument for testing and evaluation of tongues is not scriptural.
Prophecy was done publicly, and it could have a binding effect on the lives of fellow believers and the Church. Praying in tongues in private is not public nor does anything said in private prayer hold a binding effect on others or the Church. Therefore, you cannot compare the two with regard to test and evaluation. This is simply a case of emotional prejudice toward tongues that is now IMB Policy.
- Finally, Jerry, Bart, and/or whoever cares to answer: Men who are highly regarded and loved in evangelicalism have openly admitted to speaking in tongues. Men such as Jack Taylor, Peter Lord, Jim Cymbala, Jack Hayford, Sam Storms, Ken Ulmer, Jerry Rankin, E.V. Hill, Jr. (who followed his father as pastor of the Mt. Zion Baptist Church in LA) and multiple thousands of believers. Do you believe that these men should submit themselves to the assumptions, evaluations, and test that are required by your brand of cessationism? And, what do you attribute their tongues speaking to: (1) The Holy Spirit, (2) Their natural mind, (3) The Devil, (4) or some other source.
Thanks again Jerry, for asking the question. I hope that I answered you adequately and respectfully. My bottom line is this: Either we believe the assumptions, arguments, and assertions of the IMB Position Paper and Bart Barber, or we are going to trust the Word of God. I choose to trust God’s Word.