Friday, January 29, 2010

On Translators and Tongues

Having taught and preached through a translator sixteen times in the past two weeks, I am reminded of how uncomfortable it is to stand there while someone repeats what you just said. It breaks your train of thought and makes it hard to continue. It is a very difficult way to teach or preach.

I am also reminded that the biblical gift of tongues is nothing like what is being practiced in modern charismatic circles.

I have ministered through translators in Lithuanian, Portuguese, Chinese, and now Malayalam. The closest I ever came to understanding any of it was Portuguese (mostly because I spent three months in Brazil and was actually studying the language a little … but don’t tell anyone that). Even there, my understanding was so limited (as in short conversations that involved a lot of pointing) that communication was well nigh impossible (unless you like trying to communicate with two year olds).

However, the biblical gift of tongues required no pointing. It did require a translator. Why? Because it was actually a language that needed to be translated for intelligibility to those who did not know the language. (Those who knew the language needed no translation [cf. Acts 2:5-11]). It was not a collection of nonsensical syllables rambled at random.

I wish I had the gift of tongues. I don’t, so my teaching time was cut in half (actually less than half since Malayalam takes more words to say the same thing).

And you don’t have the gift of tongues either.

While I am here, let me say that since tongues is such a miraculous and astounding gift (as was miracles), why do some think that the gift of prophecy is the equivalent of “God gave me an impression that may or may not be accurate”? That seems strange to me. The modern gift of “prophecy” as espoused by some conservative charismatics seems little more than “Hey, I have a feeling about this that you need to hear.”

Of course they say we should judge it by Scripture. But what makes that prophecy? I don’t know. If I give you my wisdom (however little it may be) about a topic, and remind you to judge it by Scripture, it is not miraculous.

I think gifts like tongues, prophecy, and miracles are similar. If two of the three have clearly passed (which I think is undeniable, at least in the biblical teaching of the two), why is the third any different?

So if you want to speak in tongues, I have a prophecy for you: Go to language school. (Test it by the Bible of course, but I think this is pretty solid advice.)

13 comments:

Scooter Finazzio said...

There are many many days when I walk out of language school and I wish I had the gifts of tongues...and then I get to the streetside market and I wish again, and again... Thankfully there are gifted teachers who patiently teach this western tongue how to utter this amazingly crazy language. :)

Lou Martuneac said...

Larry:

With this good article I would encourage you to take another step. Follow this article with a warning of the non-cessationsim of the sign gifts that is being taught by John Piper and CJ Mahaney.

“Conservative” Charismatics? Is the “conservative” charismatic less in error than a non-conservative Charismatic? Does the appellation “conservative“ somehow make the man who is teaching non-cessationism more acceptable and his ministry/conferences worthy to be endorsed and attended?

Take two men teaching that the sign gifts are active and should be sought after today. One is a so-called “conservative” the other is something different. Why should the one man’s ministry be more tolerable than the other and his conferences promoted and attended?

Why do you suppose some men in IFB circles will tolerate and allow for the non-cessationism of Piper and Mahaney that would never be allowed for or tolerated in their own ministry?

Peter Masters wondered why it is the “ministry of warning is killed off” in regard to the non-cessationism of the so-called “conservative” evangelicals.

We are losing some of our young men to their non-cessationism teaching because the “ministry of warning is (largely) killed off” for the sake of fellowship with them.


LM

Lou Martuneac said...

Larry:

FWIW, I did not write the above to en flame. Instead to encourage us all to apply the biblical mandates to admonish, to withdraw (2 Thess. 3:6, 14-15); to mark and avoid (Rom. 16:17) and for separation to every situation that warrants these mandates no matter who the personalities and/or fellowships involved are.


Lou

Larry said...

First, this is a warning about the teaching of non-cessationism, no matter who it comes from. It is a warning that if you think you have certain gifts (whether your John Piper or Joe Church Member), you don't. It is a warning that it is illegitimate to define sign gifts differently. My point was not to address the whole issue, however. It is incorrect to think that every discussion of an issue must include a warning (including names) about everyone who might have some connection to that issue.

Second, yes, a conservative charismatic is less in error than a non-conservative charismatic. I would think that would be self-evident, but since it's not, compare someone like Wayne Grudem and Benny Hinn. One has a very fine systematic theology with some problems; the other is an unbeliever and a rank heretic. Both are in error on some issues, but one is in serious error and the other is less serious. That does not mean it's not error, but they are clearly two different kinds of error or two different levels of error. All error is error, and all should be avoided. Not all error is equal. Someone who is wrong on Bible versions is not the same as someone who is wrong on the deity of Christ. Perhaps you are not familiar with the ministry of Piper or Mahaney beyond a few things that you have heard, and perhaps you are not familiar with the "ministry" of Benny Hinn or Todd Bentley or a host of others. Clearly, these are different types of error.

Third, I don't know any IFB men who tolerate and allow for the non-cessationism of Piper and Mahaney. Perhaps there are some and I just don't know them. Everyone that I know of disagrees with them and isn't afraid to say so.

Fourth, I think it is wrong to suggest that everything they say is in error because some of it is. Many people can be benefited from in various ways and venues without endorsing all or any of what they teach or believe. I think the development of biblical discernment means that we learn how to distinguish between types of errors and their effects. Biblical discernment means that I can benefit from a lot of people who are in error on various issues. I think we gain a lot more by teaching people how to think rather than by teaching them what to think.

Fifth, I don't know any IFB men that have fellowship with these types in any ministerial or ecclesiastical setting. Again, I may simply not know about it. If they do, they shouldn't.

Sixth, I and many others have warned, marked, avoided, etc. I discussed this very issue (charimatism) with a British couple (a retired pastor and his wife) in the middle of the night in the Mumbai airport just two weeks ago. I have spoken out in various places about the error of these men (both here and other places). I have been clear on that.

Larry said...

BTW, I just taught a class in India on the very issue of biblical separatism and addressed the charismatic issue with a number of Pentecostals in the room. They weren't happy about it, but that's okay. One of them, however, commented "We don't have this kind of biblical teaching in the Pentecostal church."

So clearly I have done exactly what you think should be done.

Lou Martuneac said...

So clearly I have done exactly what you think should be done.

And I commend you for it.


Lou

Lou Martuneac said...

Larry:

I am going to share in reply what are my opinions. Take them for what they are, do with them what you please.

yes, a conservative charismatic is less in error than a non-conservative charismatic.”

Not on the charismatic sign gifts, this was my point.

All error is error, and all should be avoided
The gravity of the error on the sign gifts is significant with far-reaching ramifications. It is a “contrary” doctrine and causes division wherever it goes. That alone is enough to “mark” and “avoid” (Rom. 16:17) these men, their conferences and fellowships.

I don't know any IFB men who tolerate and allow for the non-cessationism of Piper and Mahaney. Perhaps there are some and I just don’t know them. Everyone that I know of disagrees with them and isn’t afraid to say so.

To support or attend any of the conferences these men are in leadership and/or the keynote speakers is tacit endorsement of their ministry, including their non-cessationism. A retort might be that they don’t teach that from the platform and that may be true. They keep it under the general radar. They are, however, the recognized prime instigators of this aberrant teaching and do not hesitate to promote it in less public venues and/or private discussions. I recently spoke to one YF, who thinks highly of you, who has succumbed to Piper’s teaching on the sign gifts. Even one loss like this ought to be an alarm that our warnings have not been clear, consistent or well heeded.

I think it is wrong to suggest that everything they say is in error because some of it is.”

I am not aware of anyone suggesting that.

I think we gain a lot more by teaching people how to think rather than by teaching them what to think

Agreed and that I why I supported my comments above with the references to the Scriptures that mandates and teach what to think and how to respond to the teachers of contrary doctrine, which non-cessationism clearly is. We must allow the Bible to shape how we think; don’t you agree? We are obligated to obey what is there without partiality; agreed?


I don't know any IFB men that have fellowship with these types in any ministerial or ecclesiastical setting.

IMO, the explosion of the evangelical conferences have become the first cousin of ecclesiastical union. They interconnect with one another, promote one another are lead by virtually the same few evangelicals leaders, including Piper and Mahaney. They encourage growing cooperation and fellowship through their blogs and boards. Their movement is not ecclesiastical in the classic sense, but it is very, very close. So, when we have IFB men attending and/or endorsing T4G, Gospel Coalition, Desiring God, Shepherd’s we have the first cousin of ecclesiastical and/or ministerial fellowship. Furthermore, we have some YF’s formally cooperating with and participating in the Gospel Coalition blog.

I and many others have warned, marked, avoided, etc…. I have spoken out in various places about the error of these men (both here and other places). I have been clear on that.

I am grateful you have done so. By “avoid” do you mean to include that you do not attend or endorse the conferences lead by Piper and Mahaney, the non-cessationist? We do, however, a growing number of men in IFB circles who have yet to find their voice to warn and mark Piper and Mahaney, not to mention avoid participating in the fellowships and conferences lead by these non-cessationists.

Because of the wide spread affinity for and popularity of Piper and Mahaney, in spite of their being among the prime instigators of non-cessationism, they IMO need to be consistently warned of as often as their ministries and conferences are promoted.

Kind regards,


LM

Lou Martuneac said...

Larry:

In all sincerity I’d like to propose a “ministry of warning” opportunity for you, Larry.

You noted, “ I just taught a class in India on the very issue of biblical separatism and addressed the charismatic issue with a number of Pentecostals in the room.

Again that is great and I commend you for it. Now, would you consider taking those lectures notes on biblical separation, making a specific application to the charismatic issue- teachings of John Piper and Mahaney and then publishing that in an article at SI?

If you write and SI agreed to publish an article critical of Piper/Mahaney charismatic teachings I think you'd do a great deal to help others who are uncertain of these things. I’d be happy to promote and link to your article from my blog and encourage a wide reading.

Will you consider doing this?


Lou

Lou Martuneac said...

Larry:

You mentioned, "I just taught a class in India on the very issue of biblical separatism and addressed the charismatic issue with a number of Pentecostals in the room."

As I noted above that is very commendable. In the class when you addressed "the charismatic issue" was this in terms of necessitating "biblical separatism" from those who propagate charismatic teaching?"


LM

Lou Martuneac said...

Larry:

I’m hopeful you are not moving away from our discussion in this thread. I directed several questions/comments to your attention. In summary they were:

We must allow the Bible to shape how we think; don’t you agree? We are obligated to obey what is there without partiality; agreed?

By “avoid” do you mean to include that you do not attend or endorse the conferences lead by Piper and Mahaney, the non-cessationists?

Would you consider taking those lectures notes on biblical separation, making a specific application to the charismatic issue- teachings of John Piper and Mahaney and then publishing that in an article at SI?

In the class when you addressed “the charismatic issue” was this in terms of necessitating “biblical separatism” from those who propagate charismatic teaching?

I am still hopeful you will address these questions, but with your moving away to a new article I suspect that may not happen. So, I’ll finish here with a few remarks in closing.

If charismatic issues are just cause to obey the mandates for biblical separatism from Pentecostals who practice the sign gifts; then shouldn’t those mandates be applicable to so-called “conservative” evangelicals who practice and propagate the charismatic sign gifts?

Is a lesson on biblical separatism and the charismatic issues a worthy topic with Pentecostals, but somehow not applicable to evangelical Charismatics such as John Piper and CJ Mahaney?

Would I be correct to assume that you will not be submitting an article to *Sharper Iron (SI) on biblical separatism and the charismatic issue, making the application to the charismatic evangelicals Piper and Mahaney?

Anyway, if you decide to address any of the above I’ll interact with you further on these important doctrinal truths and the application of them.

Thanks for your time.


LM

*Frankly, I don’t think SI would agree to publish a critical article of John Piper on its main page, especially if the theme included biblical separatism over his teaching that the charismatic sign gifts are active and should be sought after today.

Larry said...

Frankly, Lou, I have a life outside of the internet. I pastor a church, so all day Saturday I was involved in service planning, sermon preparation, and summer mission team meetings (particularly after being gone half the week travelling). Yesterday I was involved in preaching and teaching all day to make disciples. I am still recovering from jet lag, being about 10 1/2 hours off schedule. I have a paper to write for a class that is due on Friday. I have two new teaching series at church to prepare for. I have a budget meeting tonight for the church to prepare for.

So these issues aren't that pressing for me.

Having said that, when I get a chance, I will answer them.

However, I think SI would welcome an article critical of Piper, particularly on the sign gifts. There are people far more qualified than I to write it, however. Piper has been criticized on SI, as have a lot of people.

And FWIW, your negativity is pretty distasteful. You still tend to interact like a boor rather than a gentleman. Reposting your questions after only two days in which you should expect a pastor to be consumed in ministry were consumed with ministry borders on badgering, and it's not particularly enticing for conversation. A word to the wise should be sufficient.

It doesn't bother me if you agree or disagree with me. We will each answer to the Lord, and not to each other. I have stewardship in my local church for which I am responsible. And I want to manage that faithfully. If someone disagrees with me, that's fine. I certainly want to learn, but I am not beholden to fellow man apart from Scripture.

But again, I will answer the questions as I have an opportunity.

Lou Martuneac said...

Larry:

I apologize for pressing you after only 48 hours.

You wrote, “Having said that, when I get a chance, I will answer them.”

Thank you, I’ll look forward to that, I have e-mail alert set-up so that I'll know when you have addressed these questions here.

You also wrote, “However, I think SI would welcome an article critical of Piper, particularly on the sign gifts.”

I respectfully disagree. SI, IMO, will not allow an article critical of Piper on its main page especially if it was on the subject of biblical separatism in regard to his teaching that the charismatic sign gifts are active and should be sought after today. If it were limited solely to Piper teaching charismatic theology, Aaron might allow it, but very likely not if biblical separatism from those who teach non-cessationism were at the core of the article.

FWIW, I don’t think you should dismiss yourself from submitting that article to Aaron at SI. You obviously spent considerable time preparing a lesson on biblical separatism and the charismatic issues. What you addressed to the Pentecostals on charismatic issues should be fine for SI with an application to Piper and Mahaney who likewise propagate charismatic issues. Why wait for some else to do the work you have already done? I encourage you to be the one to submit the article.

Again, sorry for not giving you more time to reply to the earlier discussion here. I’ll look forward to when you re-engage this important subject.


LM

Larry said...

I wrote this response over a month ago, but I am not sure what happened to it unless the word verification didn't go through and I didn't catch it. I am rewriting it because it was recently brought to my attention that I had not responded. It was completely unintentional. Although I think I have been clear about this, I will make it clear again. This is more brief than the original response was but hopefully just as clear.

We must allow the Bible to shape how we think; don’t you agree? We are obligated to obey what is there without partiality; agreed?

Absolutely, in all matters including conduct and behavior, not simply separation.

By “avoid” do you mean to include that you do not attend or endorse the conferences lead by Piper and Mahaney, the non-cessationists?

Yes, I have not attended or endorsed these conferences. I have no plans to go attend or endorse them. I don’t recommend people go to them. But I am not sure how attending is a violation of biblical separation.

Would you consider taking those lectures notes on biblical separation, making a specific application to the charismatic issue- teachings of John Piper and Mahaney and then publishing that in an article at SI?

I would consider it, but the notes are pretty rough, my schedule is pretty jammed, and there are people who could do a better job than me. I think they have been asked, but I am not sure what the outcome is.

In the class when you addressed “the charismatic issue” was this in terms of necessitating “biblical separatism” from those who propagate charismatic teaching?

Yes.

If charismatic issues are just cause to obey the mandates for biblical separatism from Pentecostals who practice the sign gifts; then shouldn’t those mandates be applicable to so-called “conservative” evangelicals who practice and propagate the charismatic sign gifts?

Yes, I believe so.

Is a lesson on biblical separatism and the charismatic issues a worthy topic with Pentecostals, but somehow not applicable to evangelical Charismatics such as John Piper and CJ Mahaney?

No, it’s applicable to all. I have said so.

Would I be correct to assume that you will not be submitting an article to *Sharper Iron (SI) on biblical separatism and the charismatic issue, making the application to the charismatic evangelicals Piper and Mahaney?

No, you would be incorrect to assume that. I am uncommitted on writing the article though I am not uncommitted on my position.