The Emperors New Language In the postmodern milieu of languages intricacy, another postulation concerning God’s providential guidance may exist for advanced speculation. The Pentecostal and Charismatic preoccupation with glossolalia may be the preemptive insertion of God into the communicative matrix, allowing a new level of connectivity to occur between God and man. With the rapid deployment of this emerging version of Christianity, significant analysis as to the conditions that have allowed this growth to occur needs to be observed. With: “an estimated 450 million adherents, Pentecostalism is a force that must be reckoned with. Dr. William Menzies noted theologian among Pentecostals, identifies the overwhelming growth trends among this third force within Christianity in Spirit and Power, identifying this phenomena as: “the New Evangelicalism.” Gerald Sheppard presents an interesting analysis concerning the Pentecostal movement. Sheppard asserts that: “Pentecostals are…more ‘sub-modern,’ than pre-modern, anti-modern, or post-modern…(their) profound Christian experience, freed somewhat from a fixation with modernity may allow Pentecostals to perceive more profoundly than some…the larger intellectual challenge to reinterpret Christianity constructively through its pre-modern, modern and Postmodern transformations.
This unique perspective offers an interesting look at this relatively new movement within the boundaries of the Christian faith. As a possible force that has dwelt outside of the traditional barriers, the Spirit Led communities within the Body of Christ may have unwittingly found themselves to be in a strategic posture, which could enable them to insert themselves into the dialogue concerning matters of faith within a culture that increasingly distrusts the status quo variations (Traditional Denominationalism) of ‘The Faith’ that have purportedly disappointed many. This let down in the once burgeoning community of Christians can be readily seen in the lack of trust in Christ as Messiah, the Veracity of Scriptures, the lack of acceptance of the Supernatural, and the denigration of Scriptural values and morals, to list a few. Pursuing the manners through which the Spirit Empowered movement has advanced is a worthwhile point of study in light of their rapid growth and impact upon the global identity of Christianity. Vinson Synan grants a conservative figure to this growth phenomena in an article presented to Christianity Today, as it is observed that: About 25 percent of the world’s Christians are Pentecostal or charismatic, historian Vinson Synan, dean of the Regent University School of Divinity in Virginia Beach, told the triennial Pentecostal World Conference (PWC) in Seoul in September. An estimated 450 million believers worldwide are charismatic or Pentecostal. “The continuing explosive growth of Pentecostalism indicates that the renewal will continue with increasing strength into the next millennium,” Synan declared.
“Not only is growth occurring in eye-catching mega churches, but in tens of thousands of small local churches that are planted each year in big cities and remote villages.” PWC chair Ray H. Hughes says two-thirds of Pentecostals live in Asia, Africa, and Latin America. “PWC offers Pentecostals an opportunity to be a unifying force in a divided world,” Hughes said. Missions expert David Barrett told Christianity Today that the Pentecostal and charismatic church is growing by 19 million per year. The unique expressions of existential demonstrability that are particular to the charismata, make Pentecostal practice a ready validation for postmodern or post Christian pursuits of religious experience. The insistence upon mainstream Pentecostal denominations to operate within classic doctrinal expressions of Doctrine serves the modern dalliances with reason and rationality as undergirding assumptions for those who find standards of belief to an assuring fixture of stability in understanding. With conservative posits as the basis of theological belief, modern Spirit Empowered believers combine activity with knowledge, and embody the modern application of Fundamentalist beliefs.
Secondary doctrines concerning biblical phenomena such as Tongues, Healings, Ecstatic Worship, and Power Encounters all play well within the pre-modern and postmodern paradigms of confluent streams of belief and practice, as they tend to make room for God to exist beyond the practicalities of stale and stogie theorems.
Deconstructive Linguistic Speech Ironically, tongues as an unknown prayer language that lacks boundaries and rules in the traditional linguistic sense, may prove to be the most playful and relevant articulation of the communicative ability to deconstruct the metaphorical patterns of speech in a postmodern mode of expressiveness. Tongues as a mode of expressing prayer needs also serves within the function of intimate communications between God and the community of believers. Interestingly, Hillary Putnam elucidates a similar idea as she identifies Rorty’s insightful observation that: “algorithms or programs…then puts action to these programs are themselves…always tailored to the needs of a particular input-output function, a particular convention of representation…the output function, a particular convention of representation…the outputs are always of coping (kicking back), ranging from technological strategies to emotional, aesthetic, even spiritual attitudes.
An effective bridge may be in the offing, as the body of Christ struggles with the postmodern method that purports to cast away the assumptions of reason alone as a basis of being. The language of spiritual communication that seems to have been initiated in the first Century has been making a comeback during a very opportune time in philosophic history: one in which the raw assumptions of propriety are being reassessed and challenged regularly.
Those who do not view the modern phenomena of supernatural tongues to be a proper expression experientially may need to reevaluate the basic assumptions that integrate form and function into the methodology of denial. Henry Virkler, former Professor at Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary commented, in an unpublished lecture on “Hermeneutics” for Liberty University’s Master’s of Religion program that he discounted the standard objection that is normally leveled against tongues as a modern possibility for practical implementation. Claiming poor exegesis as the basis for the discontinuation of the more expressive chrisms (grace based gifts) of 1 Corinthians, Virkler advances a position that assumes 1 Corinthians 13:8-12 is not an affective condition theologically that has been fulfilled as of yet.
The term ‘perfect’ in this passage, according to Virkler, cannot possibly refer to Scripture, particularly in light of the fact that the process was still being enacted at the time of the writing. Asserting this posture appears to be a super-imposition on the historical context. Reading personal biases and proclivities into the theological language of interpretation may placate certain prejudicial postures through its whimsical gamesmanship approach, but sound interpretation ultimately suffers.
When theologians or churches fall victim to this false assumption, division and complications are sure to follow, as error in interpretation will always become a salient point of division. It is true that no one knows for certain whether or not the modern expression of glossolalia is indeed a true representation of that which was imparted supernaturally at the dawning of the church era. Ken Gangel asserts the typical non-tongue perspective, as he claims that the common ideas pertaining to the gift of tongues attributes the modern manifestation to the gift being that they are: “(1) (being) Restored to church, (2) Satanic, (3) A psychological experience that is learned and caused.”
Paul Hughes points out that: “The idea behind the anti-tongues interpretation is to prove that tongues-speaking as a legitimate spiritual gift passed away with the first-century Church. Many anti-Pentecostal scholars maintain a ‘dispensational’ view here: tongues, along with some or all of the other ‘gifts,’ were for a sign, through which many would come to believe. After the ‘dispensation’ was complete, and the Church was established, the signs were no longer needed, and ceased.”Although most of these perspectives may have weight and bearing on the issue, they miss the primary point: people have been exercising the tongue phenomena.
As Bruce affirms in his comments on Acts 2:4: “However the sensible phenomena are to be understood, the disciples’ inward experience is plainly stated: ‘they were all filled with the Holy Spirit.’ Linguistically, and particularly, the modern practice may not remotely resemble the guttural enunciations of the primitive First Century configuration. This is not a germane point, however. Even if the elucidations of the modern phenomena were solely fictitious, learned syllabic utterances and mimicked behaviorisms, this would not preclude the modern practice of heavenly exuberant pronouncements as constituting relevant functionality. God is the judge of the heart. Language offered as a prayer, expressing the unutterable conditions of the spirit, even if improperly spoken, would logically be received as such by a God as gracious as the revealed in Holy Writ.
Reinsertion of Limitations Language is a fallible, yet essential component for efficient communication to occur in a meaningful manner. Adler’s observation concerning the natural limitations of human language grants clarity to the arguments concerning linguistic problems as: “Some things are inexpressible in human speech.” Heavenly utterances through carnal vehicles of the glossolalia variety, attempt the improbable leap, infusing the natural inclinations of speech with a divine portent. The speaker and receiver assume rules for linguistic practices that need to be enforced if communication is to become relevant. Reasonable assumptions could easily assert that the Pentecostal glossolalic projections follow in the same methodological constraints, as does any natural language. Adler astutely points out that: “like human society, human language seems to be partly natural, partly conventional.”
These same principles may be adaptable fixtures in the analysis of Spirit inspired utterances: partly natural, partly supernatural. No method of speech can be construed as flawless. “The modern ideal of a perfect and universal language may even be looked upon as an impious wish to achieve what God took away from men at Babel.” This assumption points out the discrepancies and yearnings found within the fragile creature known as man. Living under sins purview, objectivity as a goal is plausible, although it may not be realistic at a practical level. True appraisals force a very different view altogether, though. The semantics of supernatural inclusion appears to be a viable means of demonstrating the nature of Christianity that exists beyond the structures of philosophic deliberations. In an era that has vociferously attacked the Christian faith, Ruah may once again be in motion to introduce that which sustains the essence of Christ on Earth: the church triumphant. As Hilderbrant keenly points out in: An Old Testament Theology of the “Spirit of God.“
One common denominator (exists) in these times of preservation…the presence of the Ruah in the lives of God’s chosen leaders to sustain and preserve the elect people of God.” This principle of empowerment and preservation is readily adaptable to the concept of the Priesthood of all Believers. Ecstatic speech may combine itself with accurate theological postulations to introduce the postmodern seeker to the dual reality of faith accepted intellectually and faith enacted on a practical level of operation. Perhaps of even greater importance to the cultural mix of Western Christianity are the Pentecostal protestations against liberal inroads. McLoughlin concludes that the early Pentecostal movement (1890-1920) was as much of a reaction against scientific theories and modern thought as it was an embracing of phenomenological activities.
Aversion projections caused this movement to be seen as the embodiment of the conservative expression of Christianity as a non-violent protestation against the denuding attacks on the standardized postulations of the Christian faith. As has been noted, the Pentecostal experience of glossolalia may be a prime characteristic that allows the language game to advance into a new realm of activity. This does not exempt either the practice or the doctrinal allowances of the Pentecostals from the scrutiny of objective examination. Hermeneutical procedures of propriety need to be employed in order to arrive at the optimum place of understanding with these unique expressions of communicative potentiality. The language of self-imposition must be broached for balance and equanimity to be achieved within the communal expression of Christianity concerning tongues. Reification practices need to be employed, if a proper doctrinal understanding is to be granted.
Relevant issues of definition should be allowed the possibility of reassessment. Language designations may be forced into the modification mode for greater access and comfort. Pet designations such as misidentifying terminal statements of faith should be allowed into the epistemological deconstruction zone for adaptation purposes. The Pentecostal insistence upon Baptism in, or of, the Holy Spirit as a secondary work of grace apart from salvation could easily be modified to reflect a more conservative approach by designating variant forms of terminology as descriptive designates for the function of immersion, such as yielding to a place of deeper obedience and submission to the Spirit’s control. What is commonly referred to as Spirit Baptism may be better expressed as re-immersions, or further yielding, to the work of grace already in effect.
Placing tongues as a non-negotiable marker into the deeper life experience may also be better served through the procedure of deconstructing the doctrinal statement and reapportioning the equivalent value structure. A greater understanding of charismata may help in this endeavor. When tongues are viewed as terminal points of entry, a prejudicial attitude unwittingly develops against the other supernatural vestiges that grace enables the believer to be equipped with. This evaluation could significantly advance the dialogue between Pentecostals and Evangelicals who see the practices and doctrinal expressions as extravagantly suspicious enactments that may carry hermeneutical error.
The Noetic effect on theology could be a potent argument in this undertaking. The postmodern focus on individual meaning in linguistic value is also applicable. Self-standards in polyglot circumferences are telling. A measure of truth exists in Derrida’s emulations concerning interpretive qualities. Although a man can never be the final, arbitrary end in understanding, individuals are the point of conclusion for comprehension to occur concerning data input. If knowledge is not adequately analyzed, or factual input is faulty at the origination place of entry, the end result will not be adequately appraised as to its fullest potentiality. In theological deliberation, this factor can have a devastating impact on belief and the acceptability factor of that which is received as true.
Conclusion As humans behold God though as looking through dark glass (1 Cor. 13), Derrida is correct when he asserts that: “mastery, if there is any, does not exist,” concerning knowledge and communicative possibilities. Humans operate under the assumptions of external and internal frustrations of comprehension. Derrida identifies these vagaries as the “progress of language.”There is a distinct warning that is a self-existent given in this equation. When improper conclusions are drawn, or inadequate expressions are presented, the communicator runs the risk of being misunderstood, or worse, presenting fabrications of truth.<span> </span>As Derrida states: “The narrative we construct will have to be probable but, in the milieu of imagination, of language on language… (It) always risks resembling the affable.”
Self-deception is an activity the honest theologian needs to put away in the intricate game communicators play in thought conveyance as true expressions of communication portals are opened for a new generation to enter into the gracious expression known as the divine logos. Returning to the consideration of the debate over the issue of the divine conversation and inerrancy there could be a new pursuit of the subject by placing the question of infallibility into the historical matrix of its origin, by restricting it to the age and culture of the point of revelation. This view would make allowance for cultural differences in understanding and practice that may be inconsistent with the time that the biblical record was made, while then conversely applying the principle to whatever subsequent historic period is then scrutinized.
Restriction of this magnitude could potentially bridge the credulity gap between liberals and conservatives alike, as it would squarely place the emphasis of the revelation of Scripture upon the era in which the revelation was received, confining it to the human constraints of divine interaction. A consideration such as this would fit within the Judaic expressions of salvific importance and allow for the superintendence of the origin of the tomes known as Holy Writ. It appears to fit well within the perimeters of the Zionist expectations of the fundamentalist perspective, The question of automation and authorship would also be addressed in this conception, as it would make allowance for the restrictions of the human agent’s limitations, which can be surmised through careful analysis of the textual content of the various Books of the Bible.
Differing writers utilize significant distinctions in construct and grammar. This alludes to the unique individual contributions of the human agents who were used by God in the formulation of the Bible. It could be the basis for further extensive research in the fascinating subject of Scriptural Inerrancy. Within this view mans knowledge of God and nature can be seen in an analysis of the tabula rasa theory of leaning. Thus, there can be general truth without specific detail. This allows God to communicate to man through His own understanding, freeing Him to work within the limitations cultures place on the people who reside within the ethos in question. An indulgence of this nature allows Scripture to be inerrant without violating the scientific data provided by study into natural phenomenon
Dempster, Murray, Byron Klaus, Douglas Petersen, Eds. The Globalization of Pentecostalism (Regnum Books, Carlisle CA, 1999) p. xiii
Menzies, William, Spirit and Power (Zondervan Books, Grand Rapids MI, 2000) pp.27-30 Dempster, pp.289, 290 Synan, Vinson, Christianity Today Article: World Growth at 19 Million a Year (accessed 6/08/2005) Website: http://www.ctlibrary.com/ct/1998/nov16/8td28a.html
www.ctlibrary.com/ct/1998/nov16/8td28a.html Rorty, p. 83
Virkler, Henry Hermeneutics (Unpublished Lecture notes, N.D., Liberty University, 1981 Gangel, Kenneth Unwrap Your Spiritual Gifts (Wheaton, Ill.: Victor Books, 1960), pp. 46-47
Hughes, Paul, Website: INSIGHT On Religion, History & Society: A Forum for Conservative Christian Thought (article: Are the Anti-Pentecostal Arguments Valid The Case of I Corinthians12-14, Volume 3, No. 1, October 1997, updated: Oct. 2002) (accessed: 6/11/2005) http://www.geocities.com/Athens/Crete/6111/pneumatikos/nl1097.htm”
Bruce, F.F. Acts, NICOT (Eerdmans Publishing, Grand Rapids, MI, 1997) pp.51-54
Adler, p.942Adler, p.945
Adler, p. 946
Hildebrandt, Wilt, An Old Testament Theology of the Spirit of God</span> (Hendrickson Publishers, Peabody, MA, 1995) p. 76
McLoughlin, pp 152-160,
Rorty, p. 78
Rorty, p. 78
Derrida, p. 78
Marsden, pp.52-53, ‘Postmodernism & Tongues: The Emperor’s New Language. ‘Ironically, tongues as an unknown prayer language that lacks boundaries and rules in the traditional linguistic sense, may prove to be the most playful and relevant articulation of the communicative ability to deconstruct the metaphorical patterns of speech in a postmodern mode of expressiveness. Tongues as a mode of expressing prayer needs also serves within the function of intimate communications between God and the community of believers.