Thursday, February 6, 2014

John MacArthur on Charles Fox Parham & the Birth of Modern Tongue Speaking

In his preface of the Chinese edition of his book Charismatic Chaos, Dr. John MacArthur explains the origins and early history of the charismatic movement which began in Topeka, KS by a name named Charles Fox Parham. Here is a portion of that preface:

In 1900, Mr. Parham founded Bethel Bible College in Topeka, Kansas, specifically to train Holiness missionaries. He believed if his students could recover the Pentecostal gift of tongues, they would be able to take the gospel to all nations without any need to learn languages. He further became convinced that the gift of tongues was the only true sign of Holy Spirit baptism. Soon his fascination with speaking in tongues became an obsession. As the year 1900 drew to a close, Parham urged his students to spend several days in fasting and prayer, seeking the restoration of that apostolic gift.

n New Year’s Day, January 1, 1901, one of Parham’s students, Agnes Ozman, began uttering random syllables. Those who heard her concluded she was speaking Chinese (though none of them knew any Chinese dialect). For the rest of the day, she seemed unable to speak in English, and she wrote with a kind of stylized scribbling that Parham and his disciples judged to be Chinese. The students were convinced their prayers had been answered, and that what they were witnessing was the very same miraculous phenomenon described in Acts 2.

Within days, however, a sample of Miss Ozman’s writing was published in a newspaper. It provides objective proof that Parham's claims were totally false. It is a scrap of paper covered with crude, indecipherable, artificial hieroglyphs that clearly have nothing in common with Chinese characters. In fact, like the random syllables she spoke, Miss Ozman’s writing has none of the characteristics of any language at all.

Parham nevertheless insisted that Miss Ozman had spoken and written Chinese. In fact, Parham himself and at least thirty other students now claimed that they too had received the gift of tongues. In the face of careful scrutiny and hard questions, Parham defiantly enlarged his original fiction
You can read the rest here. A couple of things stick out to me. First, the emphasis first laid on tongues as being a known language. Clearly Parham had read his Bible. The first instance of "tongue" speaking in the Bible is found in Acts 2 and it is the only place where glossa is clearly and unmistakeably defined. Luke names over a dozen specific, known languages of first century Rome. Parham seems to have understood that. What his student wrote had to be Chinese and not merely gibberish.

Secondly, though every movement, including Christian movements, is fraught with shady figures, it seems that the charismatic gifts and those that leads that movement are particularly subject to shadiness. Charismatic leaders are more than celebrities, they carry the power of healing and prophesying. This temptation is simply too much for many to handle. With it comes power, fame, respect, and border-line worship. 

John MacArthur - Tongue Tied, Part 1

For more:
Where Did All the Tongue Speakers Go?: The Historical Argument For Cessationism
"Christian Theology": Blogging Throughout Erickson - Pneumatology 1
"Christian Theology": Blogging Throughout Erickson - Pneumatology 2
"Christian Theology": Blogging Throughout Erickson - Pneumatology 3
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