Southern Baptist Convention’s International Mission Board (IMB) dropped its ban on those who spoke in tongues along with several other rule changes at a recent meeting. Nevertheless, missionaries are expected to faithfully represent Southern Baptist churches and Southern Baptist teaching which does not include any kind of an emphasis on charismatic gifts.
This has been a long time in coming and considering the large number of cessationists in the SBC it is still surprising. However, years ago (2007) we discovered some research that showed over 50% of head pastors in the SBA believed in tongues so maybe the change is not so odd after all.
It does go along with what is happening overseas in the mission fields. I have heard that an increasing number of SBA missionaries had to hide their involvement in the ‘gifts’ from their board and their sponsoring churches just to continue. Healing and giftedness were not something they ever expected or sought out or even theologically believed in for that matter. It just happened in the midst of their ministry.
A surprising study shows that half of the Southern Baptist senior pastors actually believe in the gift of tongues. On the downside the study also shows that recent Southern Baptist seminary graduates are (55%) far more cessationist in their views.
The study also found that 66% of non-SBC Protestant senior pastors believe in the gift while only 33% said they didn’t.
There is a far greater openness to the gift of tongues than what I believed was even possible; particularly among the Southern Baptists which have usually been characterized as being in the ‘cessationist’ camp.
If a similar poll was taken in 1906, I wonder how it would have compared to this one. I believe that it would have shown that opinions and practices have changed drastically in 100 years since Azusa Street. The gift of tongues is no longer an oddity practiced by poor and ignorant folks living on the other side of the tracks and worshiping in a barn.
The University of Pennsylvania has been conducting tests viewing brain images of people while they were speaking in tongues. I found reference to this in the January copy of Charima Magazine (pg. 15). A complete article on this research can be read at Newswise with this link, including the following important quotes:
“We noticed a number of changes that occurred functionally in the brain,â€ comments Principal Investigator Andrew Newberg, MD, Associate Professor of Radiology, Psychiatry, and Religious Studies, and Director for the Center for Spirituality and the Mind, at Penn. Our finding of decreased activity in the frontal lobes during the practice of speaking in tongues is fascinating because these subjects truly believe that the spirit of God is moving through them and controlling them to speak. Our brain imaging research shows us that these subjects are not in control of the usual language centers during this activity, which is consistent with their description of a lack of intentional control while speaking in tongues.”
Newberg went on to explain, “These findings could be interpreted as the subject’s sense of self being taken over by something else. We, scientifically, assume it’s being taken over by another part of the brain, but we couldn’t see, in this imaging study, where this took place. We believe this is the first scientific imaging study evaluating changes in cerebral activity — looking at what actually happens to the brain — when someone is speaking in tongues. This study also showed a number of other changes in the brain, including those areas involved in emotions and establishing our sense of self.”
Well it least I found it interesting. It doesn’t really affect our Biblical or Spiritual understanding of the gift of Tongues.