The Issue of Tongues and Holy Spirit Baptism in the Church
Question:
I am having problems answering an Evangelical friend of mine on why tongues are not manifested in Greek or Catholic churches. He states from 1 Cor. that only those that are truly "baptized" in the Holy Spirit speak in tongues. He states that the initial evidence of being "baptized" by the Holy Ghost is the speaking in tongues. And that all true Christian churches should have speaking in tongues, laying on of hands to heal the sick and cast out devils. He also states that only those with the evidence of "speaking in tongues" will be "raptured". I have read in 1 Cor. and 2 Thess. and in other passages of Scripture that seem to uphold this position.
I need to answer him on why this manifestation of the Holy Ghost is not present in Orthodox churches, of speaking in tongues. Thank you. -David in Akron, Ohio.
Answer:
I'm not an expert on the issues that modern charismatics raise about Holy Spirit baptism, but I have read some things about it and talked to some priests with some knowledge of it. So my answer to this question may not be complete or perfect. All I can say is that the Orthodox church has never condemned the use of tongues, miracles, casting out demons, etc. In fact, these things are still accepted & considered apostolic to practice. However, the Early Church at some point ceased to practice these gifts during church services & left them for private worship. It's probable that they were relegated to such a place because they could too easily be abused & misunderstood. In 1 Corinthians Paul himself had a difficult time controlling the abuses and spiritual errors that can easily occur with these miraculous signs, & Clement of Rome, who was a disciple of Peter & Paul, also had to deal with similar spiritual problems with the Corinthians when he wrote his letter to them. This letter is called 1 Clement & it was accepted as genuine by the Early Christians & in some cases was accepted as biblical. It still exists & can be studied today. So, the first Christians, who came from a pagan world & culture, were not doing a good job in a practical sense with these signs & wonders, which is why they were left to private devotions.
Since Apostolic times there have been many saints, monks, nuns, etc. whose signs & miracles often accompanied them because of their spiritual purity. Even in the 1960's there was an Orthodox bishop, John Maximovich of Shanghai & San Francisco, through whom God worked miracles, healed people, foresaw the future, & cast out demons on a constant basis. The difference is that these people lived lives of prayer & definite spiritual maturity, rather than worshipping on an emotional level like babies in Christ, which Paul says the Corinthians were. I can't judge for sure if or not or when the Holy Spirit does signs & miracles among modern charismatics, since it is purely subjective, but I can say that their theology is not Apostolic & therefore their spirituality is highly questionable, since even voodoo worshippers can talk in tongues, heal sick people, cast out demons, etc. These voodoo people are quite convinced that the Holy Spirit is working through them because they feel it in their hearts, yet their theology is not from the Apostles. That's why feelings, emotions, & personal subjective opinions about if or not the Holy Spirit is giving us messages can't always be trusted, especially when there are no spiritually perfected instructors, like saints, monks, nuns, bishops, etc. guiding & ascertaining the situation, nor even deep humility. The Apostles & their disciples had established a succession of bishops & priests for this purpose, but modern charismatics totally reject such an Apostolic accountability.
The reason why I say that the theology of modern charismatics is not Apostolic is because of what they teach. They say that those who are truly baptized in the Holy Spirit can talk in tongues. But voodoo worshippers talk in tongues all the time. And none of the Early Christians had ever taught such a doctrine. These Early Christians were experts in Scripture & they even knew the Apostles or their disciples or even their disciples. Yet they never believed in such a doctrine. There were some later heresies that did teach similar ideas, such as the Montanists in the 3rd century, but their founder claimed to be the Holy Spirit. Modern charismatics believe that the initial evidence of being baptized by the Holy Spirit is talking in tongues. None of the Early Christians ever believed such a doctrine, despite the fact that they were all experts in Scripture & knew the Apostles & their disciples. Some of these modern charismatics say that if we don't get Holy Spirit baptized, then we will not be raptured near the end times. But again, none of the Early Christians ever believed such a doctrine, even though they were experts in understanding 1 Corinthians & 2 Thessalonians. In fact, the doctrine of the rapture, as it is popularly believed today, never existed until the early 1800's, when some lady claimed to hear this message from the Holy Spirit while she was in a trance. So, these modern charismatics are believing in doctrines that have no basis in Scripture & Apostolic witness, & they are believing in spiritual messages that do not conform to what the Holy Spirit has always taught the Apostles, their disciples, & the Early Church.
The modern charismatic concept of Holy Spirit baptism is itself a new doctrine or new gospel that the Apostles & their witnesses in Early Christianity never believed. There is an article about this written by the abbot at the Ascension Monastery in Resaca, Georgia, where he explains what the Bible & the Early Church meant by Holy Spirit baptism. This article is on our website, www.onearthasinheaven.com & is under the title "On the Baptism of Water & of the Spirit". This abbot explains that Holy Spirit baptism was never considered to involve a visible manifestation once it took place. Holy Spirit baptism was simply part of the water baptism, though distinct, where after the new Christian came out of the water, the priest then put oil on him. The Early Christians never expected tongues or any other sign to be manifested, even though they were experts in Scripture & were witnesses of the Apostles & their disciples. This is because such signs & miracles were always recognized to be of secondary importance, as it is taught in Hebrews 5:12-6:2, where Paul says that the doctrines of water & Holy Spirit baptisms, of laying on of hands, of end times speculations are all teachings for spiritual babies in Christ. We are taught to seek spiritual maturity, which is a stage of faith & virtue, where one can correctly discriminate between good & evil, between divine messages & demonic messages. This is not easy to do. So, we must advance from faith to faith, as Paul teaches in Romans 1:17, & we must learn to do this according to the original Apostolic Tradition, not by the traditions of men.
Your evangelical friend needs to understand that the original writers of the Bible had their own way of expressing spiritual concepts & the Early Christians learned from the Apostles & their disciples the original way to interpret them. Anyone can read the Bible & interpret whatever they want from it. Some people can interpret Scripture to say that Christ is not God. Some people can interpret the Bible & say that only faith leads to eternal salvation. Others can interpret Scripture to say that people have no free will in choosing or rejecting Christ the Savior. And there are thousands of such examples that seem foolproof, yet they are totally wrong, since such interpretations are not according to the original meanings of Scripture that the Apostles had intended & the Early Church recognized. So, if your friend is not open-minded to seeking what the original meanings of Scripture are by reading what the first witnesses of the Apostles & their disciples actually said, nor by listening to local Orthodox priests, monks, nuns, & other spiritually experienced people, nor by reading the lives of some of the great Orthodox perfected saints of the Apostolic Teaching, such as St. Seraphim of Sarov, St. Mary of Egypt, St. Anthony the Great, and many others, then I'm afraid that your friend is not truly seeking Christ but is seeking more the spiritual drug-like effects that can be experienced in those modern charismatic church services. But pray for this friend that the Lord may bring enlightenment to everyone involved.
You may contact the abbot at Ascension Monastery. Just ask for Archimandrite Damian at www.monastery.org, then click on "Contacts" & then click on Archimandrite Damian, who will give you a better explanation about the Apostolic Holy Spirit baptism & about the use of tongues & other signs in the Church. But I've given you my own measly explanation & it will not at all compare to what Abbot Damian has to say. He is a spiritual expert according to the original succession of Apostolic leaders & teachings, so what he says is best.
-Gaius