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Tongues As a Learned Behavior

Tongues As a Learned Behavior


A guy named Max Pool is a guest on the “Praying Medic” blog. He details his search for the “gift”, with its attendant frustrations, then refers you to others as to the pros and cons of speaking in tongues. But if you’re already “all in”, he will show you how to manifest this gift.

Before I begin his sure-fire remedy, may I remind you that no one, yea no one, in Scripture ever “learned” how to speak in tongues. Nor are the other gifts, when they are truly miraculous, a learned process. Take away all the disciples of tongue-speaking methods, and how many charismatics are left? You, maybe, would you still be in the movement?

Anyway, first you’ve got to get “distraction free.” Find a quiet place. (Like maybe the upper room prayer meeting on the day of Pentecost? Quiet like that? Hmmm.) Got to be totally isolated.

Next step. Open your mouth. (Oh my goodness, thanks Max). No really. Open your mouth and start making syllables and word sounds. (There it is. The deception has set in.) He says, “Many people incorrectly believe that gifts from God are bestowed upon us all at once and in full… ” (Really? That is exactly my belief, Max, based on Scripture example. And your Scripture, please?)

He uses the example of a baby learning languages. He forgets that the disciples gathered in the Upper Room were far from babies in Christ. They knew Him, walked with Him, saw His glory. This is not a baby crowd. C’mon, Max, anything better than that?

Okay, so I won’t be fluent at first. I’ll keep saying the same syllables and words. That’s okay. It’ll get better. And the next step:

Listen for hints. Hmm? Listen to what you are saying, and look at words you are “seeing” in your mind. Like a billboard or a sign. There’ll be new words. Your vocabulary will slowly grow.

And then? Ask God for more faith if you start to doubt or run dry in your experience. God will do that, and the flow will continue.

Next, don’t worry. Don’t think about it too much. Just let it happen. Whatever comes out, comes out. It’s a spirit thing, not a brain thing.

And that’s how you speak in tongues.

Yep, and that’s why little children can now be taught the same method. And it’s happening, oh it’s happening. Children, taught properly, know how to “prophesy” now also, and even work “miracles.” A new generation of Pentecostals is on the way. Fully taught, but experiencing only themselves.

Maybe even more telling than this article is the response to it in the comments section that follows:

A reader wants to know why, for many years, she has not progressed beyond three words. (Really.) Max comforts her in her plateau and calls her a saint because of her will power, the fact that she keeps on, even with no progress. Then this awful, awful advice:

“Let’s say one of your basic sounds is ‘ma’. Then simply practice by going through the alphabet in order: ba, ca, da, fa, ga, etc… “

Help us, Lord.

Another reader: “I pray in tongues and I say about nine syllables over and over again. Once I prayed about seven to nine hours straight with break for eating and I got an interpretation… I think that praying in tongues not only edifies us but also edifies God. We actually minister to Him!!! So awesome!!!”

You see where “tongues” talk leads an individual to a brand new revelation, one which even the apostles knew nothing of? Not awesome. Again I say, Help us, Lord! Bring your people back to your Word!


Have you ever tried to imagine how tongues – the Biblical tongues, languages – actually occurred? It was miraculous, but as normal as a teaching gift. It just appeared. The gift belonged to the recipient and he knew he could use it at any time. So he did. Not everyone had this gift. Paul makes that certain. And those who did often were magnifying it, wanting the church to look at them.

That’s where Paul’s Corinthian instructions came in and put a curb on its use, making the Corinthians hungry for better things. Tongues ceased from starvation. After a while, no one was asking for it, no one was receiving it.

I contend again, that most tongues today is a learned behavior that anyone can do. But even if it could be proved to be “supernatural”, remember that pagan religions have the counterpart.

Could a missionary to a new tribe suddenly be given a word from God in that tribe’s language? Perhaps. This would be a miracle. God can work miracles. But I can guarantee that that missionary would soon be learning the language of his people the old-fashioned way. If the gift is anywhere today, it is a minor temporary manifestation, not the normal practice of the present-day church, and not a significant practice in even the first-century church.


What about the other gifts? I believe that if it could be proved that tongues have ceased, proved beyond the shadow of a doubt, the Pentecostal/charismatic movement would fold. People would stop deceiving themselves. They would examine critically all the other claims being made by gift-mongers and conclude that Paul was right again: “Now,” as in now – at this present time – “abides faith, hope, and love.” The rest is gone.

There are many who believe that tongues have ceased who do not follow up that faith with the belief that all gifts have gone. John Macarthur, from whom I have drawn so much wisdom in these matters, is one of those persons.

The way he and others try to hang on to the miraculous giftings of the first century is to re-define them. Prophecy for them is “preaching.” Knowledge for them is, well, “knowledge.” And according to that 1 Corinthians 13 text, say they, these will be around until that which is perfect comes. And that which is perfect is that state of affairs that will attend the coming of Jesus.

I tend to be more extreme. To me, prophecy is a miraculous receiving of and giving out of God’s revelations, necessary until a complete revelation would come, as it eventually did. The gift of knowledge, by the way, is more than reading someone’s mail, psychic utterances about your address and bank account. I believe it too was a miraculous way of knowing spiritual truths. Through this knowledge and prophecy, the Word of God was communicated to apostles who gave us eventually the writings we call the New Testament.

Follow his line of reasoning. All these gifts are around us, he says, but even with them all, we only know in part. Our vision is dim. But there will come a time when it will be like we are seeing face to face, as opposed to one of our dark first-century metal mirrors. There will come a time when I will get to know Him in the ways he knows me, that is, fully.

And are not the Scriptures said to be the way that a man can be fully instructed in the ways of righteousness, complete in them alone? Why did we downplay the Scriptures in our rush to move on to something better? Could not the Scriptures be exactly what Paul referred to, though he did not know it, speaking under the inspiration of the Spirit?

Ephesians 2:20 says that the church is actually built on the foundation that apostles and prophets laid. Doctrines were given to prophets, passed on to apostles, written, and passed down to us.

But I mentioned other gifts. We tend to think of the list in Corinthians as exhaustive, ignoring the list in Romans. I counted nineteen gifts given by God for His church. Some were temporary, some have lingered. How do we know which are which? Read the rest of the Scriptures, then take a quick look at church history.

Here are the nineteen, for those interested.

1. Apostles

2. Prophets

3. Evangelists

4. Pastors

5. Teachers

6. Ministry

7. Exhorter

8. Miracles

9. Healings

10. Givers

11. Leaders

12. Helpers

13. Administrators

14. Words of Wisdom

15. Words of Knowledge

16. Faith

17. Discernment of Spirits

18. Tongues

19. Interpretation of Tongues.

And is that all? Not necessarily. But this topic takes us way off the course of this book. I want to look at gifts that Scripture and history tell us have ceased, then try to figure out what we must be looking at in the church today if they seem to have reappeared over the last hundred or so years.

I ask, if you were the enemy, would you want to infiltrate the vast organism called the church, your sworn foe? How would you do it? Wouldn’t you start with a lot of teachings that are just like what the church teaches, so as to obtain a hearing from the faithful? Then wouldn’t you veer off from there until you had brought many of those faithful to be unfaithful? Sounds logical to me. Has it not happened?

And would you not look, as animals of prey will do, for the weakest of the number, the ones lagging behind? Those who have been taught that experience is more important than doctrine, perhaps? Would you not then give them the experience they cry for, even if they must bypass doctrines they once held dear?

Yes, that would be a smart way to go.