The trustees of the Southern Baptist’s International Mission Board have adopted a new policy that removes the ban on persons who practice prayer through the use of a private prayer language (PPL). David Platt, pastor of The Church at Brook Hills, and New York Times best-selling author of Radical, has been serving as president of the IMB since August of 2014. This change of policy at the IMB comes as a surprise to many, as David Platt is well known to be highly conservative in his theology, and outspoken against unbiblical practices. However, Platt had this to say about the policy change:
To be as clear as possible, this is no lowering of the bar for potential IMB missionaries, This is a raising of the bar in all the areas that matter most…We will continue to train our missionaries and work as missionaries in ways that faithfully represent Southern Baptist churches and Southern Baptist conviction.
To his credit, there are some positive changes to the policy, including holding missionaries and their lifestyles accountable to the Baptist Faith and Message, and allowing individuals who can be self-supporting, such as teachers, coaches, etc., to serve in areas overseas where they can support themselves, rather than be fully funded by the IMB. Unfortunately, David Platt seems to be missing the point on a very important issue in this policy change. The use of a private prayer language is diametrically opposed to Scripture, and stands in opposition to the conviction in which he intends to uphold.
While we know that speaking in tongues, in and of itself, is something that is taught in Scripture, and there are weak arguments for it’s use today, what we do know, is that Scripture never condoned an unintelligible form of babbling. John MacArthur had this to say about the biblical use of tongues in the early Church:
The Gift of Tongues was a divinely bestowed supernatural ability to speak in a human language that had not been learned by the one speaking. According to the Apostle Paul, when believers exercised the gift of tongues in church, they were to speak one at a time, and only two or three were to speak in a given service (1 Cor. 14:27). Furthermore, when tongues were spoken in the church, they were to be interpreted by someone with the gift of interpretation so that the others might be edified by the God-given message (1 Cor. 14:5, 13, 27). In this way, tongues did not serve as a private prayer language, but rather—like all spiritual gifts—as a means by which one might serve and edify the body of Christ (1 Cor. 12:7; 1 Pet. 4:10).
Some who defend the use of a private prayer language will argue that the language is unintelligible in order to communicate with God in a way that only God can understand, and Satan and his demons can’t, and therefore cannot use our weaknesses against us. But this is not biblical at all. Satan and his demons know our weaknesses, and is unable to stop God from answering our prayers anyways. This idea is just pure nonsense. Many who are in favor of the practice defend it based upon their personal experiences, but studies actually show that speaking in tongues is a learned behavior, both consciously and subconsciously, and it’s experience can be emotional, based on the mind and bodies natural reactions to “new things.”
The truth is, this babbling use of a Private Prayer Language is a contemporary invention popularized by the modern charismatic movement, and has no basis in Scripture, or Church history. In fact, many cults and false religions use the practice of speaking in tongues as well, and also claim the personal experience with the Holy Spirit. The claim that Paul taught a PPL is a manufactured idea based on conjecture. Acts Chapter 2 shows the apostles having the ability to teach in foreign languages as part of their preaching ministry, but it does not show this to be an indecipherable driveling in which nobody but God understood.
1 Corinthians 14 is probably the most cited verse in defense of the use of a PPL, but this verse, when understood in context, also has absolutely nothing to do with the modern day gibbering we hear from Pentecostal cults, charismatics, and sadly some who are creeping their way into orthodox Christianity. Verses 13-17 reveal that even this “praying in tongues” was to be interpreted, therefore it could be used to edify the body of Christ. The private use of this language is never condoned.
What this change in policy is really representative of however, is another theological downgrade within the Southern Baptist Convention. In 2007, Lifeway Research released a study that showed that nearly half of Southern Baptist pastors now believe that some people are given the gift of “babbling,” even though only 4 percent admitted to having their own PPL. Sadly, this “charismania” has slowly crept in unawares into orthodox Christianity, and the Southern Baptist Convention. The fact that these weirdos are now going to be funded by SBC tithes and offerings, to go plant more churches that teach the same thing is beyond sad, it’s devastating. The destructive use of unbiblical theology and self-centered experiential practices is nothing new among the apostate Church, it’s just sad that it’s taking over the once solid churches, and downgrading them too.
Charles Spurgeon said it best:
A time will come when instead of shepherds feeding the sheep, the church will have clowns entertaining the goats.
And that time is now.