Posted by: Veroni Kruger | July 1, 2011

Glossophobia – Fear or Resistance?

“Glossophobia” was the term that came to mind as I listened to the traditional explanation why speaking in tongues was not something to be pursued any more. (I am aware of the other uses of the term.) It actually seems as if some people have fear of speaking in tongues, or even of hearing others speak in tongues! This fear is expressed in varying degrees of aggression, to the point where some are positively against any manifestations that are not strictly in line with conservative liturgical practices.

Most, if not all, evangelical Christians (maybe even most Christians, without the qualification “evangelical”) agree on the basic doctrines concerning the Holy Spirit. Our differences arise when we start thinking about the praxis, that is, the manner in which we recognizing Him operating in our daily and liturgical lives.

There is fear on all sides. A leader in a Pentecostal denomination agreed with me that we receive the Holy Spirit at the moment we receive Christ as our Lord and Saviour, but refused to endorse such a view in public. “I am afraid” he said, that “people would use that to refute the necessity of the baptism in the Holy Spirit!”

On the other hand, many people’s judgment of these matters is clouded by the excesses they observed in others. Recently, Bible translators wanted to avoid at all cost any reference to Pentecost in their translation of Acts. “Pentecostals have gone to so many excesses” they said, “that we cannot even use the term.”

I cringe at both these expressions of apprehension.

But why does it bother me that people are averse to the speaking in tongues?

I do not believe it to be any kind of evidence of being filled with the Spirit of God. It is also, in my opinion, not a badge of spiritual superiority. I would merely go as far as saying that it is a privilege that God wants to give all his children, to be able to communicate with Him in a language that He enables them to speak.

I think I came to realize in the most recent time of commemorating Pentecost why I feel so strongly about it.

Do people really fear the speaking in tongues, or is it submission to the Holy Spirit that they are afraid of? You see, Paul says that when we speak in tongues our minds are not in control. And to us, in the supposedly rational age we are so proud to belong to, there is hardly anything more terrifying than to have to submit our precious mental faculties to someone else.

But is it really fear of the Holy Spirit, or is it nothing other than pure resistance to Him? If it is fear, I find it sad that anyone should be afraid of that Person in the Trinity whose name is aptly translated as “Helper.” If it is pure resistance, I shudder when I think of the grave warnings in Scripture against resisting the Spirit of God, and the danger that He can become like an enemy. But even if that were never to happen, it is a great pity that we should miss much of the unspeakable riches of God by resisting the work of God in our lives.

Do I speak in tongues? Yes, and I find myself in good company, since the apostle Paul also did. Do I wish everyone should enjoy this privilege? Most definitely, and, again, Paul openly spoke of the same wish.

Can we get beyond our fears, and simply seek the Lord with whatever He wants to bring into our lives?

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