"I went to Jerusalem to become acquainted (Gk. istoria) with Cephas" - Paul's words from Galatians 1:18.

Tongues, the IMB, and Biblical Interpretation

I recently received an email from someone who equated "women deacons," "tongues," "homosexuality,' and "abortion," as all problems associated with "liberalism."

If the sender were not so high up in the SBC I might laugh. As it is, I want to cry.

Have we come to the point in our convention that we do not know the differences between conservatives interpreting Scripture, using sound exegetical methods, and arriving at opposite conclusions, and liberals who deny the veracity of Scripture all together?

Take tongues and homosexuality for example. Every conservative I know believes the Scriptures are clear that homosexuality is a sin,, but some liberals, who deny the inerrancy of Scriptures will try to defend homosexuality as an alternative lifestyle. The problem is not different interpretations of the text but different views of the text itself.

But tongues is different. I know many conservatives who exegete the Scriptures and come to different conclussions regarding the practice of tongues today. Conservatives interpret the inerrant text differently. But conservatives all agree about the nature of the text -- it is inspired by God.

For example, when Dr. Rankin was interviewed by the Search Committee seeking a new President of the IMB in 1993, the Search Committee investigated Dr. Rankin's belief regarding tongues. The Search Committee and Dr. Rankin had various interpretations regarding "tongues" (there were several varying interpretations), but nobody ever doubted Dr. Rankin's high view of Scripture.

In fact, it could be argued that Dr. Rankin "out-inerranted the inerrantists." In other words, he based his belief of tongues on the infallible, inerrant Word of God, not a speculative, "neo-orthodox," "this is what the Spirit has revealed to me" type of philosophy.

Is it possible to have a solid, exegetical approach to Scripture, and still believe in a modern day "private prayer language"?


Dr. Sam Storms, one of the brighest, sharpest theologues of our day, has written two excellent articles on "Tongues and the Southern Baptist Convention." I would encourage you to read both articles and then realize that conservatives can, and should, cooperate with each other in reaching the world for Christ.

See Dr. Storm's article at The Southern Baptist Convention and Tongues: Part 1 and The Southern Baptist Convention and Tongues: Part 2.

I do not personally possess a private prayer language, have never sought one, and do not see a need for one, but I have a great deal of respect for conservative men and women who base their beliefs in a prayer language on solid biblical exegesis.

Tongues is not like homosexuality.

In His Grace,



Anonymous said...

Dear Dr. Burleson,

Thank you so much for taking a stand. As a missionary with the IMB and a person in leadership with the Central Asian Region on whose committee you are a part, I'm so grateful that someone is finally saying something. In four days I head back to the field after my six month stateside assignment. I must admit, everytime I return here I feel more and more like what you described in one of your recent posts:

"If we are not careful we are going to lose a younger generation of pastors that are disillusioned with the SBC because all they see is the continuing narrowing of the parameters of fellowship within our convention. These young pastors don't see eye to eye with the conservative crusaders, but they themselves are conservative, seeking to reach their generation with the gospel. Where, they are asking, do we fit within the SBC?"

Not only will the SBC lose a generation of young pastors, but also young missionaries. We desperately need IMB trustees to "sheathe their swords" and be concerned more about the unreached millions than about having "their man" in positions of power.

After each term of serving in Central Asia, I'm having to spend longer thinking and praying about whether I can stay with the board, expecially when decisions like the one recently made at the November board meeting. It breaks my heart to think that a day may come when I cannot in good conscience be a Southern Baptist missionary. I also long for the day when I think about the trustees that a knot doesn't form in my stomach, but rather I can rejoice over a group of men and women who strongly support and pray for our very difficult task.

Thanks for standing for US!

Central Asian Region, IMB

Tony H. said...

Sadly, I agree that this is likely to cause some younger pastors and missionaries to consider leaving the SBC. Being a young missionary myself, I do not see how these decisions will further the spreading of the Gospel. I would have already turned my back on the IMB and SBC (after being disqualified by the policies) if it were not for Pastor Wade and a few other trustees, as well as several other pastors, standing up to those behind these policies. I also know of several other missionaries that have given up on the IMB due to these changes.

martyduren said...

My wife and I were having this very discussion this morning. There is a difference between an Australian pastor who fully believes the word and also comes to the conclusion that women's ordination is biblical, and a liberal who accuses Paul of being the product of a shortsighted, male dominated society, therefore we have to ignore those aspects of his teaching.

It appears, at least in regard to theology, that cloning is preferred by some in the SBC.

Larry said...

AS a Bible Beliving ordained minister who has prayed in tounges for years who is completely devoted to Jesus Christ, I have heard and seen that Christians act contrary to the teachings of Christ and act like the pharasies who put Jesus to death. We put tradition ahead of the Bible and when God moves contrary to our tradition we, in a way we are not use to or comfortable with, we verbally kill those we disagree with.
If we are truely follows of Jesus Christ, then we agree that Jesus is the way the truth and the life and that salvation comes by Him. Therefore we MUST set aside minor theology differences and fellowship the way Jesus said we would when He siad, "you shall know them by their love". I can and have fellowshiped with those whom I have some differences with, but I see Christ in their life. Most do not try to talk against those who are not in their circle. In fact I have heard them pray that Jesus would bless them and their assembly.
The World will not really follow us The Church) until we learn to love all who follow Christ in spite of any differences we have.

Cowboy Preacher said...

The recent decision by the IMB board of trustees to seek your dismissal from the board is disappointing but not surprising. In the early to mid 1980's while I was a student at SWBTS it took the convention several years to to make a decisive statement as to the nature of masonry and membership in it being inconsistent with Christian witness.It took some real "rocket science" to figure that one out!
Cowboy Preacher