Review: The Essential Guide to Speaking in Tongues

Ron Phillips, Charisma House, 2011, 129 pages

TonguesOn the declining scale of literature, there are good books, there are bad books, and then there is The Selective Writings of Schleiermacher. Speaking in Tongues may not have reached that level of schlock, but its certainly on the same podium.

Were all of Phillips’ errors addressed, I suppose the world itself could not contain the books that would be written (Jn. 21:25), but I shall spar with a few. Here are six weaknesses of the book. First, Phillips ignores the gospel. He asks the question: “How does one receive the Spirit?” (10), then fails to give the way of salvation. Nowhere do we find the message of sin, judgment, and the sacrificial death of Jesus. This is standard procedure among the prosperity crowd.

Second, he admits that God decides who gets which gift (12), but later says speaking in tongues “is a sign that accompanies not simply apostles but also those who are people of faith” (27). So does everyone have the gift to speak in tongues or not? He often implies everyone should speak in tongues.

Third, he often asserts with no proof. He avers that the “spiritual songs” in Ephesians 5:19 includes singing in tongues, but never shows why. And since this singing is for the purpose of “addressing one another”, wouldn’t that mean an interpreter would be needed? And how could this be done with multiple tongues at the same time? Again, he says that all “prayer in the Spirit” includes tongues, but again, never proves this.

Fourth, he overemphasizes the disputed ending in Mark. Most conservative scholars believe that chapter 16 ends with verse 8, a significant point because the text after this verse is where Phillips draws many of his arguments (most of chapter 4). He points to v. 17 and says: “Let me say unequivocally that Jesus endorsed and prophesied about speaking in tongues” (21).

Fifth, he discounts the evidence of history. “There is not a single shred of evidence in Scripture or history in support of [the cessation of tongues after the apostles” (29). Not a shred? That none of the church fathers, Reformers, and great 18th century evangelists spoke in tongues is insufficient evidence for Phillips. Besides giving only one citation in his entire historical survey (brotherMel.com), he presents the heretical Montanists, the schismatic Donatists, and the Red River Revival as historical evidence for tongue speaking.

Sixth, he misrepresents the cessationist position. In opposition to John MacArthur’s assertion that the three seasons of miracles in Scripture were during Moses/Joshua, Elijah/Elisha, and Christ/the apostles, he points to other “miracles” in other epochs such as the flood and the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. But Cessationists do not define a miracle proper as anything supernatural; in this case, every time a person is converted is a miracle. Rather, we define a miracle narrowly as the supernatural done by the hand of a human being.

Finally, in his tenth chapter on tongues and order, he almost completely ignores the four guidelines for tongue in 1 Corinthians 14: at the most two or three total (27), one at a time (27), use an interpreter (27), and no women (34). While he did briefly address the matter of women speaking in tongues, I would argue that the even if tongues do exist today, I have never been to a church that advocates tongues that follows these four indisputable guidelines.

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