We have received an email from a man in
who wishes to learn how the Orthodox Church views the gift of tongues as practised among the Pentecostalists of the ‘Assemblies of God’. The Assemblies of God is a classical Pentecostalist church that derives from the Azusa Street Revival of the early 20th Century in Brazil . This is the church that in Wasilla Los Angeles grew up in and was re-baptized in (she has since changed churches without publicly renouncing any of her beliefs). However, Palin’s particular Assemblies of God church in Wasilla evidently taught a doctrine that was condemned by the majority of other Assemblies of God churches in the late 1940’s. Sarah Palin
We have already discussed Pentecostalism a number of times. In our post called Pentecostalism and the Jesus Prayer, we made some remarks on the contrast between the operation of the charisms among Orthodox saints and among the Pentecostalists. We received two comments, which we printed on the post, and exchanged emails with the persons making the comments. In those comments a variety of issues were raised, to which we responded in another post called Ecclesiological Dimensions in the Pentecostalist Practice of the Jesus Prayer. So this is a third
time in recent history that we are addressing Pentecostalism and Orthodoxy.
Here is the man’s email. Since he is clearly a non-native speaker of English, we have had to edit his
t. We have appended his original tex t as a footnote. We have changed his name both in the text and in the footnote. The name he gives in the tex t does not in any event agree with the name on his email address, so it is not even clear to us that the name he provides in his email is in fact the man’s real name. tex
My name is
and I am a Pentecostal Christian, currently attending the church called the ‘Assemblies of God’ located in Alphonso Luis Borges . Brazil
My question is about the ‘Gift of Tongues’.
The Pentecostal gift of tongues is the ability to speak languages and/or dialects. These dialects may be known, unknown or so-called dialects of angels.
I grew up with and lived with this phenomenon for 30 years. I recently met a friend who is Orthodox Christian and he told me the gift of tongues is not the ability to ‘speak new languages’.
From what he told me that I could understand, the gift of tongues happens silently in the heart of every Son of God and when this person has the gift of interpreting languages, he can then through the voice build up the Church (people) with prophecies, teachings and so on.
I would humbly ask that you explain to me what then is the ‘Gift of Tongues’ in the tradition of the Greek Orthodox Church.
First of all, let us look at what Alphonso thinks his friend is telling him about the gift of tongues in the Orthodox Church. Now we frankly are not clear what Alphonso means or what his Orthodox friend actually told him. It appears to us that what was said by the Orthodox friend is that through assiduous practice, the
r becomes automatic, repeated in the heart. Then through further grace, the practitioner of the Jesus Praye r is given the gifts of the word and prophecy in order to edify the church. This would be the condition of an Elder of the Orthodox Church. So what appears to us to be meant is the known progression by means of the Jesus Prayer, say among the Elders on Jesus Praye , or at Optina in the 19th Century, of the monk from beginner through to the condition of Elder. Examples would be the Elders of Mt. Athos or Optina or, most notably, St Seraphim of Sarov. It should be noted that a monk proceeding on this road normally has an Elder to guide him. Mt Athos
If this is what Alphonso’s Orthodox friend means, we have no problem with any of it. This is a well-known progression. The only caveat that we have is that not everyone on
is an Elder, and not everyone at Optina was an Elder or Staretz (Russian for Elder), and not everyone at Sarov was a Saint. Mt Athos
Next, we emphasized the historical background of the origin of the Assemblies of God about 100 years ago to emphasize the difference between such a new and young church and the Orthodox Church.
Next, we have to look at how the Orthodox Church looks at the spiritual life, the charisms and in particular the Holy Spirit. We have discussed much of this in other posts, but we think it important to repeat all of this material in one place for Alphonso.
Church teaches us that we receive the Holy Spirit in Orthodox Baptism. This Baptism cleanses the nous or innermost soul of the person from the Devil and from all demons and demonic influences. Baptism then grants the welling of the Holy Spirit in the innermost soul of the person. This indwelling of the Holy Spirit is lost only in cases of denial of ind Christ—if we join another religion for example. In the Orthodox Church, Chrismation—anointing with specially blessed oil—corresponds to the laying on of hands for the reception of the Holy Spirit that the Apostles did after they baptized converts. In the Orthodox Church Chrismation occurs right after Baptism, at the same time. Since the person has in Baptism received the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, this laying on of hands or Chrismation is for the reception of the Holy Spirit in the way the Apostles received the Holy Spirit on Pentecost and through the laying on of hands subsequently transmitted it to others who were baptized; it is for the reception of the power and charisms of the Holy Spirit.
Even if after your Orthodox Baptism you commit murder, you do not lose the Holy Spirit—you are in bad shape but you are still Orthodox and can still repent and still go to confession and still ultimately receive communion and be saved. But if you deny
Christ, say by becoming a Buddhist—even without doing anything bad like killing someone—you have lost the Holy Spirit. You are no longer Christian. You cannot merely go to confession. What happens in these cases, and only in these cases, is that the person is received back into the Church through a second Chrismation. ly he or she is not allowed to receive communion until he or she is on his or her death bed. Normal
Since the Orthodox Church practises infant baptism and Orthodox receive the Holy Spirit in Baptism, all Orthodox have the Holy Spirit. But clearly not all Orthodox are Elders. There’s more to it.
Now it has to be understood that the interpretation of the laying on of hands for the Baptism of the Holy Spirit as implying the ability to speak in tongues in the way Pentecostalists speak in tongues today derives from Protestant experiences in 19th Century
, England and the Wales . There was no such doctrine or practice before that. There are certainly episodes of speaking in tongues in the Acts of the Apostles and in the Epistles of United States Paul, but it is not obvious that the same thing is being referred to.
Let us look at Acts. On the day of Pentecost, Scripture records that the Apostles were praising God and that the Jews who came at the sound of the mighty wind heard the Apostles praising God each in his own language, which were all the
languages under Heaven because the Jews had come from everywhere. Elder Porphyrios (1906 – 1991) interprets this to mean that although the Apostles were speaking in Hebrew, through the Grace of the Holy Spirit each of their listeners heard them in his own language. Peter speaks Hebrew; Solomon from hears him in Persian; Persia Barnabas from hears him in Greek. Cyprus
In the Orthodox Church, it is recorded that
St the Syrian visited Ephraim St the Great (4th Century) and the two communicated by this means: each spoke his own language and the other understood. Basil
In the actual life of Elder Porphyrios, it is recorded that an atheist French woman visited him in
and the two communicated in this way: Elder Porphyrios spoke Greek; the woman spoke French; and the two understood each other. The French woman was later received into the Orthodox Church. She is, as far as we know, still Greece alive. This event would have occurred within the last 50 years.
Now in the Epistles of Paul it is recorded that a person might speak a new or even angelic
language. However, the question arises, did a Church service that attended sound like an Assemblies of God service today? We really do not have any way to know. There is simply not enough information for us to judge. St Paul
However, there is no recorded case that we are aware of that following voluntary Orthodox Baptism and
Chrismation of an adult, that person spoke in tongues in the way people who have been ‘baptized in the Spirit’ do in the Assemblies of God or any other Pentecostalist or charismatic church or group. It just doesn’t happen in the Orthodox Church. Moreover, practice on , that beacon of discernment, is to receive members of the Orthodox Church who convert to Pentecostalism with rebaptism by the Pentecostalists and who then return to the Orthodox Church—to receive them back into the Orthodox Church by Chrismation after certain other prayers. Mt Athos
Hence, it is quite clear that there is no tradition in the Orthodox Church of speaking in tongues in the way that it is done in the Assemblies of God.
Now the question arises of charisms in the Orthodox Church. Here there are two points to make.
St John Chrysostom (died 5th Century) discusses the question of the cessation of the charisms. We do not recall exactly what his answer was; our point is that the growing rarity of the charisms was already an issue then.
In the Orthodox
Church, great Elders and great Saints do exercise the charisms of the Holy Spirit. Great miracle workers and healers and prophets who come to mind are St Seraphim of Sarov (died early 19th Century), St (died early 20th Century), Elder Paisios (1924 – 1994) and Elder Porphyrios (1906 – 1991). There are many others. John Kronstadt However, what characterizes all these great healers and miracle workers and prophets in the Orthodox Church is that before they either received the charisms or publicly exercised them they went through the preparation of a long and arduous asceticism so that they might be spiritually cleansed from their tendencies to sin. Such Elders and Saints are characterized by great personal holiness. Such Elders and Saints are also characterized by their rareness.
This is different from Pentecostalist circles where the charisms are acquired quickly (sometimes it seems that all it takes is to go to a revival). The charisms are also quite common (how many persons are claiming to be Apostles and Prophets today?). These charisms are exercised quickly after their reception (no preparation for a public ministry). These charisms are often exercised by persons who might not only lack distinction for their holiness but might even be involved in serious sin. There’s nothing odder than a great miracle worker who gets a divorce on account of his adultery.
Alphonso has to understand is that Orthodoxy is a completely different road from the Assemblies of God.
My name is
and I am a Pentecostal Christian, currently has attended the church called the Assemblies of God located in Alphonso Luis Borges . Brazil
My question is about the "Gift of Tongues."
In designing the Pentecostal gift of tongues is the ability to speak languages and / or dialects known (these dialects may be known, unknown or so-called dialects of angels).
I grew up and lived for 30 years this phenomenon has recently met a friend who is Orthodox Christian, and he told me the gift of tongues is not the ability to "speak new languages."
From what he told me and I could understand, the gift of tongues happens silently in the heart of every Son of God and when this person has the gift of interpreting languages, can then through the voice build up the Church (people) with prophecies, teachings and so on .
I would humbly that you explain to me what then is the "Gift of Tongues" in the tradition of the Greek Orthodox Church.
 The reader can find much material in the early posts on the Jesus Prayer.
 An Elder is a senior monk in the Orthodox Church, one distinguished by his gifts of clairvoyance and prophecy. We have various posts on the blog that discuss Elders.