Subscribe via RSS Feed

The Speaking in Tongues Controversy: A Narrative-Critical Response, Part 1

Differing with Walston, classical Pentecostal Robert Graves writes that the doctrine of initial evidence and the subsequence of the baptism in the Holy Spirit are taught by scripture.

 Editor Introduction

Rick Walston, The Speaking in Tongues Controversy: The Initial, Physical Evidence of the Baptism in the Holy Spirit (Fairfax, VA: Xulon Press, 2003), 235 pages.

The thrust of Rick Walston’s book The Speaking in Tongues Controversy: The Initial, Physical Evidence of the Baptism in the Holy Spirit is that the two major distinctive doctrines of Pentecostal theology—the initial evidence of tongues and the separability/subsequence of Spirit-baptism—are wrong. In his own words, Walston is “attempting to lead the reader to the obvious conclusion that Luke does not intend to establish tongues-as-evidence as a doctrine or as a paradigm” (85); the same can be said for the doctrine of separability and subsequence, though he devotes a scant eight paragraphs to it (141-144).

Walston’s endeavor to disprove these aspects of Pentecostal theology relies on a number of strategies. First, he attempts to show that whereas Pentecostals believe Luke’s theology is predominantly pneumatological, it is in fact more soteriological. For Walston, this entails (1) accepting Acts 2:38-41 as the paradigmatic passage of Acts, (2) statistically comparing the occurrences of pneumatological and soteriological passages in Acts, and (3) redefining the baptism in the Holy Spirit as a salvific event. Second, he constructs an anti-Pentecostal interpretation of Acts using the hermeneutical principle of authorial intent as a singular, over-arching, controlling interpretive canon. This entails building a massive construct upon what Luke does not say at opportune times.

“Then Peter said to them, ‘Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call.’

And with many other words he testified and exhorted them, saying, ‘Be saved from this perverse generation.’

Then those who gladly received his word were baptized; and that day about three thousand souls were added to them.”

— Acts 2:38-41 NKJV

Before examining Walston’s success in developing his argumentation, it should be noted that the work, as a whole, is written in a popular style. There is nothing wrong with this; we need writers who can translate biblical truths into common language. However, in this case, there seems to have been a severe oversight of the most recent scholarship in the relevant fields. When I pick up a book on the charismatic/Pentecostal elements of Luke-Acts, one of the first things I do to determine the extent of its scholarship and, thus, its academic value, is turn to its bibliography. If key authors are missing, the work’s integrity is immediately suspect. On the subject at hand, I would expect to find several entries by James D. G. Dunn, Howard M. Ervin, Robert P. Menzies, and Max Turner, to name a few. These are missing from Walston’s work. (There is a passage [47-48] referencing Dunn but only in that he was the stimulus of a response from a Pentecostal theologian.) In that Walston’s work was published in 2003 and the others’ earlier, the omission of interaction with these authors is inexcusable and misrepresentative, leaving the reader with thoughts of either unfair or unprofessional source selectivity; it is an extreme case of stacking the deck. Furthermore, Walston’s heavy reliance upon a single source to bolster his arguments, in this case Gordon D. Fee, leaving the work of other influential scholars virtually unmentioned, is incredible.

Pin It
Page 1 of 712345...Last »

Tags: , , , , ,

Category: Fall 2005, Spirit

About the Author: Robert W. Graves, M. A. (Literary Studies, Georgia State University), is the co-founder and president of The Foundation for Pentecostal Scholarship, Inc., a non-profit organization supporting Pentecostal scholarship through research grants. He is a Christian educator and a former faculty member of Southwestern Assemblies of God College in Waxahachie, Texas, and Kennesaw State University (adjunct). He edited and contributed to Strangers to Fire: When Tradition Trumps Scripture and is the author of Increasing Your Theological Vocabulary, Praying in the Spirit (1987 and Second Edition, 2017) and The Gospel According to Angels (Chosen Books, 1998).

  • Connect with

    Subscribe via Twitter Followers   Subscribe via Facebook Fans
  • Recent Comments

  • Featured Authors

    Amos Yong is Professor of Theology & Mission and director of the Center for Missiological Research at Fuller Theological Seminary, Pasadena. His graduate education includes degree...

    Jelle Creemers: Theological Dialogue with Classical Pentecostals

    Antipas L. Harris, D.Min. (Boston University), S.T.M. (Yale University Divinity School), M.Div. (Emory University), is the president-dean of Jakes Divinity School and associate pasto...

    Invitation: Stories about transformation

    Craig S. Keener, Ph.D. (Duke University), is F. M. and Ada Thompson Professor of Biblical Studies at Asbury Theological Seminary in Wilmore, Kentucky. He is author of many books<...

    Studies in Acts

    Daniel A. Brown, PhD, planted The Coastlands, a church near Santa Cruz, California, serving as Senior Pastor for 22 years. Daniel has authored four books and numerous articles, but h...

    Will I Still Be Me After Death?