A Symposium on the Tongues Movement Part II: Church History and the Tongues Movement -- By: George W. Dollar

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 120:480 (Oct 1963)
Article: A Symposium on the Tongues Movement Part II: Church History and the Tongues Movement
Author: George W. Dollar


A Symposium on the Tongues Movement
Part II:
Church History and the Tongues Movement

George W. Dollar

Advocates of the tongues movement rely upon two sources for their arguments. First of all, there is an appeal to instances of speaking in tongues in the New Testament and, secondly, late nineteenth-century and twentieth-century instances on a widespread scale are given large place in arguing for the present-day resurgence of this apostolic gift. However, it is rather remarkable that very few, if any, of the writers of this movement refer to the grand stream of church history from apostolic times until our present day for proof of God’s plan to perpetuate this unusual occurrence and to use it in the entirety of gospel outreach. The silence for many centuries ought to sober many of the more vocal exponents of this new movement, but it seems that a new doctrine has clamped itself upon the imagination, if not the mentalities, of these exponents. Simply stated, this new doctrine is that we are now in the last days and therefore we should see again a special reoccurrence of those things of apostolic days—gifts, privileges, blessings, and “the power” which have been noticeably lacking in church life for these long centuries. If this doctrine be true, then God has kept from His people for these two millennia the full extent of the workings of His grace, and the constant gifts of the Holy Spirit (if these are within His will), resulting in a terribly impoverished church to carry out His grand design in this world. Again, this doctrine heightens the importance of the days in which we live and also lends some plausible credence to the centrality of the tongues movement if it can be proved that this was central in apostolic days.

Some thirty-five years ago a distinguished American educator, Dr. George B. Cutten of Colgate University, took a close look at any historical instances of this speaking in tongues. After thorough research, it was Cutten’s conclusion that in the ancient church at least, the church of the fathers, there was not one well-attested instance of any person who exercised speaking in tongues or even pretended to exercise it.1 Here it possibly should be added that in the second century Irenaeus wrote that he had heard that there were some who spoke in all sorts of languages.2

It is worth noting that his contemporary, Justin Martyr, also “heard” of prophetic gifts, but he does not specifically mention tongues. Another group of that same period was the Montanists who are often alleged to have engaged in it, but actually their sin, if so it was, was that of enthusiasm, ecstasy, and in so...

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