The Gospel Herald -- Promoting the fundamentals of the 1888 message.


Chapter 2, Section 8

The Super-emotional State

Studying and comparing examples of tongues and the descriptions of those who uttered them at the very peak of their ecstatic experience have supplied me with sufficient indications that one can speak of a super-emotional state during which the subject appears to be entirely out of reach from his surroundings. Dr. Goodman has observed the same behavior and writes, "The glossolalist does indeed behave differently from ordinary language speakers. … We may now suggest that glossolalia be defined as an event of vocalization while the speaker is in a state of disassociation termed TRANCE."—"Phonetic Analysis of Glossolalia in Four Cultural Settings," Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, VIII, 1969, pp. 227-239.

There have been many religious reasons given for the sudden growth of the charismatic movement, but with atomic regularity many researchers keep coming back to the emotional instability as being one of the most dominant factors. Perhaps they have a case, for our society is less sane than it used to be.

Dr. Gordon B. Hamilton, a Washington, D.C., psychiatrist, concurs. "In the past decade, and particularly in the past five years, the general level of sanity has gone down. Conversely, cases of inferiority complex, melancholia, neurasthenia, and psychoneurosis have increased sharply."—Associated Press Dispatch as quoted in Speaking in Tongues, by H. J. Stolee, op. cit., p. 77.

Dr. Hamilton has touched upon a sensitive area, for it has long been known to researchers that mental instability is indeed one of the recognized avenues to the Pentecostal experience. There is little doubt in their mind that the charismatic movement is just as much psychological as spiritual. It has been said that when speaking in tongues, the subjects enter a "pathological condition which is a perversion of the God-intended function of the brain. It is toying with this delicate precision instrument with which God has gifted us. It is transforming the seat of rationality into an irrational machine. In doing so," Donald W. Burdick comments, "a person contravenes God’s purpose for man as a rational being."—Tongues—To Speak or Not to Speak, (Chicago: Moody Bible Institute, 1969), pages 84, 85.

At this point, we must become very selective. While many social scientists blame mental aberrations alone for a person’s interest in Pentecostalism—and it must be admitted honestly that in a number of instances there is a close connection—speaking in tongues is not always the result of a sick state of mind. But here, too, the researchers hold contrasting views. The verbal barrage of disconnected vocal sounds, emitted under great stress, is, irrespective of what triggers the phenomenon, made up of sounds stored in the subject’s mind; and, according to psychiatrist Stuart Bergsma, there is a close relationship between this and cybernetics, the storage system on which modern computers operate.

Looking at the phenomenon with a clinical eye, Bergsma writes: "Obviously nothing can come out of each individual brain that was not once previously stored there. Material stored may be altered, fragmented, confused, distorted, but cannot be humanly created. Also it is obvious that language … which comes out as language in glossolalia, must have been introduced somehow in that person’s life. Even if that person was not conscious he or she had heard those words or that a memory engram was being recorded, these had nevertheless been recorded there. This will explain the very few cases of modern glossolalia [intelligent foreign languages], if there are any."—Stuart Bergsma, "Speaking With Tongues," Torch and Trumpet, November, 1964, p. 10. (Italics supplied.)

His first conclusion is valid. The very fact that Pentecostalists in various countries use intonations and inflections common to their native tongue in their glossolalical discourse, enabling the impartial parties to identify a tongue’s national origin, more than proves his point. They take the sounds that have been stored in their brain and reproduce them in a disconnected fashion while "in the spirit." However, it is his position that foreign languages must also have been introduced sometime in a person’s mind before they can emerge as intelligent glossolalia, that puts him in contrast with the Biblical interpretation of the gift of tongues. The Bible states that in New Testament times these were given as a manifestation of the Holy Spirit—not to show an occurrence of human recall. He completely ignores the possibility of supernatural intervention in the mind of men and denies the existence or even the likelihood of God-inspired utterings.

The ecstatic tongues were judged correctly by Dr. Abraham Kuyper, the late Dutch theologian, long before they had ever become a social status symbol. Said he: "This [the tongues] is not due to man’s thinking but in consequence of an entirely different operation. That this is possible we see, first, in delirious persons who say things outside of their own personal thinking; second, in the insane, whose incoherent talk has no sense; third, in persons possessed, whose vocal organs are used by demons. … Hence it must be concluded … that the use of these [vocal] organs may be appropriated by a spirit who has overcome them." And this is exactly the direction our findings have led us!

There is a deceptiveness in glossolalia that is subtle, religiously oriented, and capable of infecting those who are desperate in their search for new light. This sense of desperation is precisely the spark which can explode the human psyche and hurl the seekers into an experience which they think is similar to the one that accompanied the New Testament outpouring of the Holy Spirit. Being surrounded by others who claim the same emotional upheaval, their sincerity and reasoning goes unchallenged; yet this is in itself no proof of the Biblical validity of what has overcome them. It is the sincere devotion to an "all-inclusive faith" that has trapped them into a counterfeit manifestation; an experience which does not measure up to the Biblical standards governing the gifts of the Spirit.

Read Chapter 3 — Who Really Controls the Tongue?

Home  |  Glossolalia Index (book 1)(book 2)  |  Articles Index  
Gospel Herald Discussion Web  |  Genesis Studies  |  Sabbath Studies
Contact Us