Is Speaking In Tongues Bad?
In the Bible, speaking in tongues is described as “a sign or wonder” (1 Corinthians 12:10). Some people believe that if you speak in tongues, then you are possessed by demons and should be healed; others believe that if you speak in tongues, you will have your name removed from the Book of Life and go to Hell; still others think that it’s just an emotional release for those who don’t know how else to express themselves. The debate rages on…
But what about speaking in other languages for no apparent reason? That seems like such a strange thing to do. Is it possible that we could all benefit from learning a new language? Or, is it possible that there’s something wrong with us when we speak in tongues?
As a linguist who has studied both English and foreign languages extensively, I can tell you that there’s absolutely nothing wrong with the human mind itself that would cause someone to speak in tongues. On the contrary, speaking in tongues is actually very helpful to our mental health. It allows us to process thoughts differently than we normally would. When we’re speaking in tongues, we’re not using words or sentences — we’re using sounds, which allow us to connect with parts of our brains that aren’t typically involved in language processing. As a result, speaking in tongues helps us feel different emotions, and some even say they experience a spiritual high while doing so. For example, Dr. David Wilcock writes on his website, Divine-Intelligence.com, “It’s been my experience that the more you use this [speaking in tongues], the better you become at it.”
Dr. Wilcock also adds that he speaks in tongues several times per day without feeling any negative effects. And he points out that Jesus Himself spoke in tongues multiple times throughout His ministry. He says, “The main point here is that Jesus was not ashamed of having used it [tongues]… and neither am I.” So why shouldn’t we encourage each other in this healthy way?
I’m certainly not saying that everyone should start practicing speaking in tongues right away! If you suffer from depression, schizophrenia or bipolar disorder, it may take time before you can safely learn to speak in tongues. But once you do, it won’t hurt anyone around you and might help you deal with certain kinds of stressors.
What does the Bible Say About Speaking in Tongues?
For starters, the Bible never says anything about speaking in tongues being a sign of demonic possession or going to Hell. Instead, it describes speaking in tongues as a sign of prophecy or revelation from the Holy Spirit. Paul himself wrote, “Every man hears in his own tongue, yet few understand… Every man looks through his own eyes, and sees only his own face… All men seek their own glory, except the one whom God made Lord over all” (2 Corinthians 4:5 & 6).
So what exactly happens during speaking in tongues? Here are some common descriptions given in books and articles:
One person suddenly starts shouting gibberish. This is most likely because the speaker feels overwhelmed by emotion and needs to get everything off his chest.
Another person suddenly stops making sense altogether and stares blankly into space for minutes, sometimes hours. These moments are often described as ecstatic. Some describe them as having “fallen under the influence of the Holy Spirit,” whereas others call them “holy laughter.” Regardless of what you call it, these episodes happen when the spirit releases an outpouring of joy and happiness onto the individual.
Some people claim that they hear voices in their head while speaking in tongues. Others say that they see visions. Still others claim to see actual images of angels dancing in front of them. Most agree that whatever form they take, the voice is usually peaceful and comforting.
Doesn’t sound too bad, does it? Now let’s look at another popular explanation for speaking in tongues offered by Christian authors:
This type of speech is the direct expression of Satan himself. We’ve already established that there’s nothing inherently evil about speaking in tongues. However, Satan uses many techniques to confuse our minds. One of these tricks is called suggestion. He suggests things to us that seem harmless enough at first, but later lead to much worse behavior. Another trick is called projection. He projects guilt, shame and fear onto others, hoping to make us angry and fearful. Finally, he makes use of hypnosis to put us into a trance state where we lose control of ourselves. Once in this state, he can project his voice directly into our ears as well as manipulate our thoughts and feelings.
According to this view, speaking in tongues is a symptom of demon activity rather than a sign of divine grace. Therefore, it’s best to avoid speaking in tongues whenever possible.
If this were true, wouldn’t most people who speak in tongues also act in crazy ways afterward? Wouldn’t most people who hallucinate also walk around naked or talk to imaginary friends? Yes, according to this theory. But that doesn’t mean that there isn’t a legitimate connection between the two phenomena.
A third possibility exists: speaking in tongues may be a natural occurrence brought on by the brain’s unique ability to function outside its normal parameters. What researchers are calling “emotional contagion” occurs naturally in humans. Emotions spread faster among people who share strong personal bonds, such as family members, romantic partners and close friends. They spread less fast among people who interact infrequently or whose relationship is not as intimate. While scientists haven’t fully explained why this phenomenon occurs, studies suggest that it relates to oxytocin, a hormone released by the pituitary gland. Oxytocin appears to play a role in bonding infants to their mothers. A lack of oxytocin causes autism spectrum disorders. People who receive oxytocin injections report feeling calmer, happier and more relaxed.
How does this relate to speaking in tongues? Well, it turns out that some people who experience emotional contagion also tend to speak in tongues spontaneously. Researchers theorize that the same hormones that affect bonding behavior in infants also affect the production of language in adults. Perhaps the same mechanism that caused your mother to giggle when she saw you dance madly around the room as a baby also affects the part of the brain responsible for producing speech in adults. Scientists are currently conducting experiments on these topics.
Regardless of whether speaking in tongues is a natural reaction to emotional contagion or a sign of demonic possession, it’s important to remember that the Bible never condemns the practice. Like anything else, speaking in tongues must be approached carefully, especially if you’re suffering from mental illness. You should consult with your doctor before starting a course of study in order to determine your level of fitness for it.
Also keep in mind that speaking in tongues is practiced by millions of people worldwide every single day. Even though there are plenty of skeptics, most practitioners of Christianity and other religions believe that this particular gift from God is real. Why is it considered so dangerous? Because the media tends to sensationalize the event instead of reporting it in context. Also, many Christians believe that speaking in tongues is a sign of greater spirituality. Unfortunately, this leads some believers to demand that nonbelievers stop speaking in tongues, lest they are possessed by demons.
Of course, it’s impossible to prove that either side is correct. But the bottom line remains: speaking in tongues is good for humanity, regardless of the source.
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