by Jordan Daniel May

Contemporary critics argue that the practice of speaking in tongues “does not conform to any form of authentic human language.”1

One argument regards tongues as simply a repetition of either unintelligible microsegments (word-like sounds) or phonemes (single, distinctive sounds).

Yet the tongues-speaker may be repeating only one word. For instance, Jim Roane, an Assemblies of God missionary, recalls uttering one word continually while in intercessory prayer: the word was Isa. Eventually, after traveling to the Middle East, he discovered the Islamic name for Jesus in Arabic is actually Isa. The whole time, Roane was simply calling on the name of the Lord.

Other instances involve the repetition of a brief phrase. Dave Carrol, a pastor in Brantford, Ontario, repeatedly uttered et asi while praying in tongues during a meeting. Following his prayer, a new attendee named Erica informed him that et asi is Creole for, “As it’s written.”

Hearing Carrol’s prayer reminded her of Haitian Christians saying, “Et asi,” and then, “Amen,” meaning, “As it’s written … so be it.”

To those unfamiliar with either Arabic or Creole, the tongues of Roane and Carrol would sound like gibberish. The casual bystander would only hear what sounds like vain repetition of unintelligible words or phrases. In both instances, however, we have verifiable accounts of individuals speaking in authentic languages.

Imagine a non-English speaker attending an English-speaking church service. If one of the church members repeated the name “Jesus,” would it sound like real language to the guest? Even if the church member uttered an entire phrase repeatedly — such as, “Jesus is Lord!” — the guest might think the speaker was uttering nonsense. In reality, of course, the church member was speaking a genuine language. The guest just didn’t know the language.

JORDAN DANIEL MAY, Raleigh, North Carolina