The Pentecostal Initial Evidence Doctrine -- By: Phillip H. Wiebe

Journal: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume: JETS 27:4 (Dec 1984)
Article: The Pentecostal Initial Evidence Doctrine
Author: Phillip H. Wiebe


The Pentecostal Initial Evidence Doctrine

Phillip H. Wiebe*

The pentecostal movement has commonly advanced the view that speaking in tongues or glossolalia is the initial evidence of being baptized in the Holy Spirit or being filled with the Spirit. Not all of those who might consider themselves pentecostal would be prepared to assent to this position, however, and of course many devout Christian people outside the movement have attacked it. This position, often called the initial evidence doctrine, has been the object of considerable discussion, and it might seem that nothing more on the subject can be said. Recent work analyzing concepts of evidence, however, can usefully be brought to bear on this issue. My object in this paper is to discuss the meaning of the initial evidence doctrine and then attempt to determine which views relating glossolalia and Spirit baptism receive support in the NT. I should like to add that I do not propose to discuss here the relationship between conversion and Spirit baptism. That issue, while important, is not at stake in my discussion of the relationship of Spirit baptism and glossolalia.

I. The Meaning Of The Initial Evidence Doctrine

The initial evidence doctrine asserts that glossolalia is the initial evidence of the baptism in the Spirit. My attention here will be focused on the concept of initial evidence. For the purposes of this section it does not much matter which expression—whether “baptized in the Spirit,” “filled with the Spirit,” or what-ever—is used. I think there are some advantages to sticking to the first of these, although I shall not discuss my reasons for thinking so here, and so I shall speak of the baptism in the Spirit (or Spirit baptism). But before I examine the initial evidence doctrine itself I shall make some observations about the concepts of evidence and initial evidence.

The concept of evidence is an epistemological one. This means that it has to do with situations in which one event is taken as providing grounds for believing that another event has occurred.1 An important point about evidentia] claims is that they might be of several distinct sorts. A statement could be confirming (or supporting) evidence for another; a statement could be disconfirming (or undermining) evidence with respect to another; and a statement might be irrelevant with respect to another—i.e., be neither confirming nor disconfirming evidence.

*Phillip Wiebe is associate professor of philosophy at Trinity Western College in Langley, British Columbia.

Moreover, there is one type of confirming evidence that is known as conclusively confirming evidence, and an important type of disconfirming evidence is conclusively d...

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