Tongues of Fire

“Then, after doing all those things, I will pour out my Spirit upon all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy. Your old men will dream dreams and your young men will see visions. In those days I will pour out my Spirit even on servants—men and women alike.” (Joel 2:28-29)

“So if you sinful people know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him.” (Luke 11:13)

“On the day of Pentecost, all the believers were meeting together in one place. Suddenly, there was a sound from heaven like the roaring of a mighty windstorm, and it filled the house where they were sitting.  Then, what looked like flames or tongues of fire appeared and settled on each of them. And everyone present was filled with the Holy Spirit and began speaking in other languages, as the Holy Spirit gave them this ability.” (Acts 2:1-4)

Can you see how all of this ties together? The Holy Spirit was given to the believers and when they received it, they spoke in other languages. This is very interesting, and there have been neurological studies on “speaking in tongues”. In my resources below, I have provided two clips from the news network ABC to help you better understand this phenomenon. In these videos, they are described in the Charismatic and Pentecostal traditions. They provide a great amount of information on how speaking in tongues works in the human brain.

To give you an overview, the most common part of the brain that is active in both prayer and meditation is your frontal lobe. If you’re in the western world, your language center is activated during prayer and meditation. If you’re in the east, your visual center is activated during prayer and meditation. When speaking in tongues, a more ancient part of the brain that becomes active and the rest of the brain shuts down. The participants suggested that they weren’t in control and that God was speaking through them, and the brain scans show that their feelings align with what their brain is showing. Their brains made them feel like they weren’t in control.

One thing that intrigues me is that those who speak in tongues suffer from less mental health issues. Now, this study wasn’t broad enough for something to be absolute, but it’s an interesting observation. I can say from my own personal experience that this practice is euphoric and it most definitely allowed me to see the world through a better lens. It left me feeling more enlightened and most definitely full of joy.

I began speaking in tongues from the age of thirteen. It’s an experience that transcends any religion. I found it in the Christian tradition, but it has no limitations. Each religion could look at it differently, but the data shows that it’s a practice that has extreme weight in the brain. Regardless of theology, it has a huge deal to do with the way the brain works and responds.

On the idea of tongues and theology, there was an interesting article that I read in college. It describes the act of tongues as a sacrament. In this way, tongues is a mystery that reflects the nature of God in a mystical way that is indescribable. When approached in this way, it’s something that doesn’t always have to happen and shouldn’t be stressed over. It’s an intimate representation of a mystery in which God moves. Tongues is a mystery. It can be explained neurologically, but there is a place where science doesn’t seem to connect it all together. Maybe that’s the mystic in me allowing grace for the scientific mind that I have.

Though tongues is both a mystical and scientific experience, it is something that I think anyone can do. I’m not saying to fake it, but to condition yourself to approach this practice. In my own personal experience, it has a significant spiritual connection to God. The one thing that I would say about this practice is that it is pointless to seek it if it doesn’t change the way that you love people.

I’m not going to tell you to do it or not to do it. I’m not going to tempt you to try. I’m not going to persuade anyone that this is a real spiritual experience from God. You can take this how you please. For me, it is most definitely connected to God. I wouldn’t want it any other way. No matter where you are in life or how you view God, this is something you will run across at some point in your life. When you do, it’s okay to be skeptical. Skepticism is healthy. While being skeptical, don’t be cynical. It’s okay to be skeptical, but tongues most definitely holds positive neurological benefits. With this in mind, we must remember that the big thing is that we must be compelled to love through anything whether we agree or not. 1 Corinthians 13:1 says, “If I could speak all the languages of earth and of angels, but didn’t love others, I would only be a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.” This is so true when it comes to this topic. It’s healthy to seek this, but it shouldn’t be a priority or something that drowns out loving others.

I hope that this helps those who are wondering about it and that through these frustrations, we can grow together.

 

Resources:

RenewalHistory. “ABC Report on Tongues.” YouTube, YouTube, 25 June 2013, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s9Ep0WHAsIY.
revkeithbarr. “Speaking in Tongues Medical Study Proves Holy Spirit Praying.” YouTube, YouTube, 17 July 2008, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NZbQBajYnEc.
“Glossolalia.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 25 Aug. 2017, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Glossolalia#Non-Christian_practice.
“A Neuroscientific Look at Speaking in Tongues.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 7 Nov. 2006, query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9E0DE3DA113FF934A35752C1A9609C8B63.

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