Forklift Theology

Faith musings from the seat of a forklift.

Plain Language

Sometimes instructions can be quite confusing. It can get even worse when you are being given instructions while in a noisy space with hearing protection on. It is also quite confusing when you are working on something and the only instructions you have are not in your language, and maybe you only have a few pictorial diagrams to go off of. Wouldn’t be nice, at that point, to have something intelligible in plain language?

Plain language is often the easiest way to get the point across. Most of us aren’t familiar with fancy legal sounding terms. Many of us probably only have a minimal exposure to a foreign language of some sort. Plain and simple, unless we don’t hear in terms we know and understand, we just won’t get it.

Church can be that way at times. I have been to a number of churches over the years. One thing that I have noticed, repeatedly, is how there is some sort of inner language that only the members seem to understand. Well, they only seem to understand it, until you question them directly about what is being said. This is most especially true in churches that emphasize the idea of the “Gift of Tongues”.

Huh? Gift of tongues? Don’t we all have tongues?

Yes, we all, for better or worse, have a tongue. However, what I am talking about is something rather specific. Namely, I am talking about the Holy Ghost (or Spirit if you will) enabling the believer to speak in another language. Now, there is some confusion about this idea, and I am not surprised by this.

In the second chapter of Acts, the disciples were gathered together in Jerusalem. It had been fifty days since the ascension of Christ Jesus, and it was now the day of Pentecost. Suddenly, a loud noise came into the house and the disciples began speaking in other languages. Those who heard it were confused by this, as they were hearing the disciples speaking not in Hebrew, rather in the languages of those who were visiting in Jerusalem from other countries. Yes, they were mocked by some as being drunk. Yet, they were not. Rather, they had been enabled to speak the Gospel of Christ Jesus, who had died upon the cross, been buried, and was raised, in the languages of the people visiting. Put simply, the people heard them in their own language, and quite plainly.

What does this have to do with churches that emphasize the “Gift of Tongues”? Plenty. They are abusing a genuine gift of speaking a discernable language with no previous knowledge for the speaking of some sort of gibberish that is supposedly a “heavenly language”. Yet, it quite plain that gift of tongues is speaking of a language that the speaker does not know, yet it is the language of one who speaks a foreign tongue.

WAIT! What about 1 Corinthians 14? Not a problem.

The first thing we should note is that the Apostle Paul actually makes it clear that unless there is one who understands a tongue, the speaker should keep quiet. At no point does Paul encourage people to actually seek the gift of tongues, or make it the litmus test of salvation. In fact, Paul would actually rather that believers all speak prophecy. He also makes it clear that if tongues are spoken, only two or three should speak, and only if somebody is there to interpret. There is nothing to imply it is a “heavenly language”, just that the ability exists and unless there is one to interpret, those who speak should be quiet, so as to keep good order. This is hardly the case in many modern churches that emphasize tongues.

Now it is merely my opinion, but I agree with the Apostle Paul that the gift of tongues is over-rated. If fact, from what I have seen in many churches, I would be apt to suggest that the gift of tongues is no longer active in the church, especially with Google able to translate things in real time for us. It would be almost unnecessary to have such a gift, especially if a non-native speaker can just turn to Google or some other translation software and find out for himself what was just said, without an interpreter or one who speaks in tongues. Thus, many of these churches that emphasize the gift of tongues, encouraging people to speak out if they “have the gift” are merely creating cacophony in the service, and otherwise disturbing good order.

Let’s just be honest. Nobody really has time for something they can’t understand plainly, unless you are an expert in ancient languages that nobody even speaks anymore. Such being the case, there is little to no point in even trying to speak in tongues, especially since such a thing was not considered until the modern revivalist movements of late 1800’s.

Plain language gets the message across faster than anything else. Gibberish that nobody understands only causes confusion. There is no need for it in church or in work. Just speak plainly so that you can be plainly understood, regardless of whether you are sharing the Gospel or just trying to get a trailer loaded. The plain word can convey what cacophony can not. That is just the truth.

Here is Lutheran Satire’s take on this topic:

And this from Worldview Everlasting:

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