Because of my previous studies in the
world of the psychic and the supernatural, I had often pondered the
question of the gift of tongues. This is called thus because its
believers and practitioners maintain that through the Holy Spirit they
have received the same gift of tongues—the power to speak
"other" tongues and languages—as was granted to the
disciples at Pentecost, when tongues of fire descended upon them,
signifying that they were filled with the Holy Spirit. It was this
promised baptism with God-power and the accompanying ability to speak
foreign languages that enabled them to carry out Christ’s command to
"preach the gospel into all the world," reaching nonbelievers
in surrounding nations in their own tongues.
For many years known as a key doctrine
of the Pentecostal church, the ability to speak "other
tongues" has penetrated the doctrinal walls of other Christian
churches since the early 1960's under the name of "Charismatic
(also Neo-Pentecostal) Movement." It was Dennis J. Bennett, pastor
of the sophisticated St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in Van Nuys,
California, who changed the direction of the tongues. For a long time he
had fought a deep emotional battle affecting his personal religious
life, and on Sunday morning, April 3, 1960, looking tense, he faced his
expectant congregation. Some who remember that day say that it gave them
a foreboding of a dire announcement. He did not disappoint them.
Addressing his audience with utmost
sincerity, he confessed reluctantly that he had received the
"baptism of the Holy Spirit" in October of the previous year.
Reporting on this, The Nation,
September 28, 1963, quoted him as saying, "The Holy Spirit did take
my lips and tongue and form a new and powerful language of praise and
power that I myself could not understand." In the resulting chaos
that sprang up in the sanctuary, one of the associate priests removed
his ecclesiastical robe, resigned amid great pandemonium, and angrily
walked out of the church.
The end result of Father Bennett’s
shocking announcement was the submission of his resignation to the
2,500-member church. Later on in the following year, he transferred to
St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in Seattle, where today he is one of the
foremost spokesmen for the Charismatic Movement and a frequent speaker
at charismatic meetings. In the twelve years that have passed since that
dramatic confession, many theologians and historians have begun to rate
the influence of the tongues in present-day Christianity on equal par
with the Protestant Reformation, for in these short years its impact on
the Christian world has been of such magnitude that it can never again
Charismatic’s two leading components,
speaking in tongues and faith healing, are largely
responsible for this, and even such major secular publications as Time
and Life have recognized the relentless force of these two
Said Time, "It is the
fastest growing church in the Hemisphere."—Time, Nov. 2,
1962, p. 56. Life Magazine called it "the Third Force—a
development as important as was the birth of Catholicism and
Protestantism.""The Third Force in Christendom," Life,
June 9, 1958, p. 113. Still others have labeled it the "New Revival
Movement," the "Wielding Ax of God," the "New
Penetration," or simply "The Return of God’s Own
Recent figures (1973) reveal that the
Charismatic Movement has quietly invaded over 40 different Protestant
denominations, and no less than 2,000 clergymen of churches affiliated
with the National Council of Churches now practice the "gift of
tongues" with or without the spiritual participation of their
congregations. In fact, in many cases the parishioners or congregations
have no knowledge of these "subversive" activities of their
spiritual shepherds. Once ultraconservative, the Methodist Church now
harbors tongues speaking laymembers and clergymen. The Episcopalians
have embraced its principles so strongly that their leaders and those of
the Assemblies of God (one of the original Pentecostal groups) have
already met in conference to discuss their mutual problems associated
with the growing "ministry of the Holy Spirit."
The Baptists, too, speak in tongues.
The Southern Baptist Convention, the American Baptist Convention, and
the Baptist Bible Fellowship have within their ranks theologians who
practice their new-found spiritual gifts. Many Presbyterians also speak
in tongues, while almost 10 percent of America’s Lutheran
congregations boast of active glossolalia cells in their midst. Even the
once staunch Dutch Reformed and Christian Dutch Reformed churches have
been infiltrated with remarkable success.
Exact figures concerning this movement
are difficult to obtain, and of those available, not all are accurate,
though based on "reliable estimates."
Opinions as to the number of Catholics
who practice the Pentecostal phenomenon around the world vary greatly.
Most recent figures show that up to 250,000 Roman Catholics in the
United States are convincingly involved, according to William
Willoughby, "Neo-Pentecostal Parishes; Boom or Bane?" Washington
Evening Star, March 11, 1972, p. a-8. Their Directory of Charismatic
Prayer Groups listed 350 active groups in the United States and abroad
in 1971, a figure which soared to 625 just a year later. A similar
growth was evident at the International Conference on Charismatic
Revival. These meetings, held at Notre Dame University, had an
attendance of 1,250 in 1970; 5,500 in 1971; 11,500 in 1972, and in a
recent interview with Auxiliary Bishop Joseph McKinney of Grand Rapids,
Michigan, the leading figure in the Catholic Charismatic Movement, I was
informed that this rate of growth is not declining. "It is
certainly one of the most significant developments in the church today,
and most of my colleagues look approvingly on these pentecostals,"
he told me. I asked him whether he personally spoke in tongues.
"I have always told people I haven’t,"
he replied. "But recently a couple of times I think that I have had
a kind of an induced form that I really hesitated to do. But somehow or
other, being with the people and noticing their freedom, I have suddenly
become conscious of the fact that I have restricted myself in places
where I shouldn’t because of my background and orientation. So for
this reason once in a while I do that when others are doing it just to
permit myself to say—to utter syllables that are not words,
this with the intention and the resolve and the attempt to open myself
up and praise God in the best way I can, because this is what real
tongues are." This statement, coming from the man recently
appointed by the nation’s bishops to oversee the movement, is
Tongues speakers are not limited to the
United States, but are also numerous in Latin America and Europe. Alan
Walker, who discussed the issue with many leaders on both of these
continents, relates this in his book, Breakthrough—Rediscovery of
the Holy Spirit. (Nashville, Tenn.: Abingdon Press, 1964.)
"The Pentecostal Church in South
America has become the fastest growing church in the world," he
says. "In Chile since 1930 Pentecostalism has doubled itself every
ten years. On the continent as a whole there could be five or six
million people linked to the movement."—Breakthrough, page
10. This was true in 1964, and if the rate of growth has continued on
the scale mentioned, which is a realistic possibility, then today, 1973,
the number may well have mushroomed to ten million.
In Brazil, a dramatic change in
religious emphasis has also taken place. Whereas in 1930 only 9.5
percent of the Protestant segment of the population admitted belief in
Pentecostalism, by 1964, according to Waldo A. Cesar, they comprised
73.6 percent of all Protestants. Protestantismo e Imperialismo na
America Latina (Rio de Janeiro: Vozes, 1968), page 105.
And Europe? It is no different there,
as a recent fact-finding tour indicated. Europe is indeed in a spiritual
turmoil, and no single group will admit this as readily as the
While traveling in Europe in late 1972,
I spent several days in The Netherlands and had numerous encounters with
the Navigators, members of the Youth for Christ movement, and the Campus
Crusade. With its 13 million inhabitants quite equally divided between
the Catholic Church and Protestant denominations, not to mention the
large number of political parties closely aligned with these churches,
this age-old bastion of liberty and free speech was overripe for a
change. This change, it appears, now, is in the making.
What is happening in this industrious
little country behind the dikes is tremendous. Christ-centered coffee
bars scattered throughout the country attract hundreds of youth every
night. Dutch Reformed pastors, admitting that their churches are dying
if not already dead, beg Youth for Christ leaders to "take
over" in their neighborhoods. One television commentator smilingly
told me of the American ambassador and his wife and their widely
reported conversion to Christ. The Bible study groups, meeting in their
private quarters, were recently featured on Dutch national television.
Everywhere I went I heard of the revolutionary changes taking place. Old
barges, abandoned windmills, World War II airplane hangars, and even
out-of-the-way stables are used by the zealous converts in their
attempts to organize new meeting places and form new groups. The Jesus
People, many of whom share an enthusiasm for tongues with the American
charismatics, have vowed to introduce the Holy Spirit to every major
population center in the Benelux countries (Belgium, Netherlands,
Luxembourg). Judging from their actions and reactions, they are well on
their way. Are their leaders perhaps too young and too inexperienced to
lead whole nations to Christ?
asked the same question on its European investigative mission.
The answer it reported is one that typifies the European Charismatics.
"Jesus is in a hurry to reach the world," voiced one of the
leaders. "Therefore we must be in a hurry too."—Christianity
Oct. 13, 1972, p. 24.
Everywhere I traveled—Germany,
England, Belgium, France, Sweden, Denmark, Norway, and Finland—I met
with the same reaction.
"Jesus People, you say?
Charismatics? Tongues? They’re all over! They’re upsetting our
formal religious life," one Swedish clergyman reacted. "We’d
just as well pack up and go home. They’re beginning to take over our
churches.’‘ Nightclub dates for musical presentations about their
supernatural experiences are common occurrences with Scandinavian
charismatics. Jesus concerts, Jesus Day festivals, door-to-door
witnessing campaigns, and organized attempts to reach the socially
downtrodden as well as the upper strata of society are the order of the
"YWAM [Youth With a Mission] also
sponsors a center at Christiana, a run-down former army base in
Copenhagen that is one of the worst hell holes on earth," it says,
relating to the activities of one of the groups. "More than 1,000
hippies, junkies, pushers, sex freaks, witches, Satan worshipers and
mental cases from all over the world live there in assorted communal
arrangements-amid disease and absence of the law. There are overdose
deaths nearly every month.… Despite the depravity, some have come
to Christ. ‘God is scooping up the scum of the earth and making
something beautiful out of it,’ reflected a repentant alumnus of
Christiana."—Christianity Today, op. cit. (Italics
As in Europe, the same thing is
happening in the British Isles and also in Communist Eastern Europe.
Even the traditional gypsies in Southern Europe are now engaged in the
movement, for it has been estimated that at least 25,000 of them are
presently evangelizing all over the Riviera and the Costa Brava with
their strange new tongues, thereby not only transforming their traditional image but their modus operandi
All these groups may be operating under
different names, but their goals are the same. They want to reach people
for Christ before it is too late. It’s only love they’re
after—to receive and to spread. "We need the Spirit’s
manifestations now!" one young crusader pointed out to me.
"Once that happens, everything else will fall into place."
Although there are similarities between
the Pentecostals and the charismatics, the latter have seemingly
divorced themselves from any official connection with the
Pentecostal founding fathers. No study of the charismatic movement,
however, can be considered complete without examining the modern
foundation supporting the tongues-speaking movements.
How it all began …