Addressing a Concern: The Pneuma Foundation Statement of Faith
Read the Pneuma Foundation Statement of Faith here: http://www.pneumafoundation.org/statement_of_faith.jsp
I have been thoroughly enjoying your website with all of its resources and helpful lists and articles. This is such an encouraging site for those of us who are tired of so much of the sound biblical/theological scholarship that ignores/denies that the gifts of tongues, knowledge, prophecy and healing are for believers long after the "apostolic age"; and for those of us who are tired of dispensational theology taking center stage in this area so often amongst evangelicals.
I am a follower of Jesus Christ and I speak in tongues. I consider myself a charismatic and a Pentecostal (hereinafter "CP"). I came to believe through an Assembly of God church in 1975, and even went to Evangel College, an AG school in Springfield, MO, for 4 years so I am very agreeable that the gifts of the Holy Spirit described by Paul and written about in Acts are for today and should be used by believers for the life and edification of the church, and for the glorification of God when they are used and evidenced in Spirit and truth.
I read your Statement of Faith as well, agreeing with every point except one: "We believe that the normal initial evidence of being baptized in the Holy Spirit is speaking in tongues as the Spirit gives utterance." These kinds of statements from CPs, when they are included alongside all of our other "essential" doctrinal beliefs ( i.e. the rest of the Statements of Faith made by the Pneuma Foundation), are the kinds of statements that I do not believe are necessary, and they do not have to be emphatically stated in order for us to maintain our CP distinctiveness or uniqueness. This statement suggests that anyone baptized in the Holy Spirit who does not speak in tongues may not have truly received Him at all—and this is divisive and unscriptural. Though I speak in tongues, and though there is scriptural evidence that some believers speak in tongues when they are filled with the Holy Spirit, there is absolutely NO conclusive evidence—biblically OR experientially by millions of authentic Spirit-filled believers who do not speak in tongues—that the "normal" initial evidence of being filled or baptized with the Spirit is tongues-speaking. When we CPs single-out tongues in our Statements of Faith rather than any of the other gifts mentioned in I Corinthians 12 it comes across like we've got a personal axe to grind and a point to prove to distinguish us from all of the other believers who have been baptized into the Body of Christ by the same Spirit.
Speaking in tongues is no more an evidence of being baptized with the Holy Spirit than being given the gifts of wisdom, knowledge, faith, healing, miraculous powers, prophecy, discerning between spirits, or interpreting tongues! Let's get away from these kinds of "nonessential" inclusions in our CP Statements of Faith, and as tongues-speakers let's utilize our gift when and if it edifies others and brings glory to God. We CPs must absorb ourselves into the body-life of the church and move away from trying make ourselves distinct by telling our brothers and sisters who do not speak in tongues that they do not have a normal infilling or indwelling of God. I've never understood why so many of my CP brethren keep insisting this on believers. And it is the very reason I haven't attended a CP church since 1983, though I've maintained my CP gift of tongues in the two churches I've fellowshipped in since then, one a Presbyterian and currently a Quaker church—both populated with evangelical and Spirit-filled believers, but neither expressly CP or very open to the gift of tongues. But I am able to provide a new flavor from time to time by using my gift of tongues as the Spirit leads me; yet I do not believe for a second that these believers need to speak in tongues to genuinely have the Spirit within them.
If you wouldn't mind, please provide me literature or a web link that explains how and why—biblically—so many CPs believe that being baptized with the Holy Spirit is evidenced by speaking in tongues. Thank you in advance, and truly, keep up the good work on the Pneuma website. I look forward to receiving my new subscription to the Pneuma Review and your email newsletter.
Response from Pneuma Foundation Executive Director, Raul Mock
Thank you so much for writing and expressing your concern about how Pentecostal/charismatics often over-emphasize speaking in tongues. We do appreciate your encouragement of what the Pneuma Foundation is doing as a ministry. From your comments, I believe we share much in common regarding the need for balanced biblical teaching today.
When the founders put together the statement of faith, we were looking for a statement that would express the vast diversity of the Pentecostal/charismatic movement without excluding anyone over non-essentials. Personally, I would approach this task differently now, discussing what I value (and why) instead of stating something emphatically. But at the time, the phrase "We believe that the normal initial evidence of being baptized in the Holy Spirit is speaking in tongues as the Spirit gives utterance" was written in an attempt to find a common ground between classical Pentecostals, "third-wavers," and other Pentecostal/charismatics that have different opinions about the teaching of initial evidence. Although our intention was to include all Pentecostal/charismatics by using the phrase "normal initial evidence" (instead of using "only initial evidence"), some have taken this phrase to mean that we were attempting to exclude certain believers. Your point is well taken that even mention of this position seems out of place among such creedal statements as our belief in the triunity of God. It was included in our statement of faith as a way of being up-front about who we were, not as a way of listing doctrinal tenets of equal value.
Allow me to clarify by saying that the founders believed that the biblical pattern for Jesus baptizing believers into the Spirit (we see the Bible making a difference between this and the Spirit baptizing us into the body of Christ) was normally accompanied by glossolalia. The founders believed that pattern is seen in the life of the church today, that Spirit-filled believers normally pray in the Spirit (glossolalia). However, the founders believed it was important to accept the testimony of any believer about whether they consider themselves baptized in the Holy Spirit, excluding no one. We do encourage the biblical use of all of the gifts of the Spirit, earnestly desiring that we might prophesy (1 Cor 14:1) and build up the church. Our President, Jim Dettmann, has repeated regularly the anecdote that "the best gift is the one needed right now." We strongly disagree with anyone that would demand others "produce tongues" or use any such instrument to keep people from ministry or leadership. Every believer is called to be a prophet, priest, and minister.
As you are aware, many Pentecostal/charismatics do argue about tongues as evidence of Spirit baptism. Classical Pentecostals especially have argued that glossolalia is the only evidence that a believer has been baptized by Jesus into the Spirit. Believers that have been called third-wavers (John Wimber and most Vineyard leaders would be called third-wavers) disagree strongly with taking anything as physical evidence of Spirit baptism, even though they agree with the contemporary ministry of the Holy Spirit in prophecy, glossolalia, and all of the gifts of the Spirit. The diversity of views on initial evidence is extensive. Some are so put-off by the argument and the over-emphasis on something they see as minor that they now consider themselves post-charismatic (see http://www.robbymac.org/charismatic for one example). If you want biblical proof-texts regarding why these different movements of Pentecostal/charismatics believe differently, you would have to refer to their own literature. The Foundation may permit such discussions to encourage folks to talk these things through, but we decidedly do not represent any one of these positions.
The publications of the Pneuma Foundation have never emphasized glossolalia to the exclusion of other gifts of the Spirit. Rather, I am confident that any glance at our index of articles online or published in the journal demonstrates that we have tried to fulfill our vision of bringing balance to the Pentecostal/charismatic movement. Every issue of the Pneuma Review has included articles and reviews that challenge church leaders to grow in their understanding of the full breadth of biblical knowledge and theology. However, if we have accomplished anything, we know full well that it is only by the grace and power of God.
Thank you again for raising your concerns. I pray that I have expressed how diverse the beliefs are of those writing for and participating with the Pneuma Foundation. Your thoughts on this issue are shared by others, and perhaps we may revise the way we express our statement of faith. For more on our doctrinal perspective see http://www.pneumafoundation.org/article.jsp?article=doctrinal_perspective.xml; for more on our vision and principles of teaching see http://www.pneumafoundation.org/statement_of_vision.jsp.
In the love of the Father,
Executive Director, Pneuma Foundation
This discussion occurred in the Summer of 2006.