Most of my readers know that I support the Biblical practice of speaking in tongues, as practiced by the Apostles in the Book of Acts and described by the Apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 12 and 14, where he claims to speak in tongues more than all the Corinthians, expresses the desire that all of us would speak in tongues and emphatically states that we should “forbid not” speaking in tongues. I do not believe that speaking in tongues is either a sign of salvation or the only initial evidence of the baptism in the Holy Spirit, but I do posit that it is a gift given by the Holy Spirit for the edification of the church that we are encouraged to seek and practice.
I believe the Bible supports this practice, but what would you say if neurologists studied the brains of their subjects while they spoke in tongues and verified the practice as legitimate?
Recently, tongues led to one of the longest and most active blog posts in the history of “Word to the Wise”, leaking over to hundreds of more comments on another blog. This practice is usually fodder for heated, theological debate, but now science has weighed in: The University of Pennsylvania published a scientific study of tongues-talkers, the New York Times and the London Times reported on this study, and, ABC News’ Nightline program also devoted a segment to this experiment.
Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania took brain images of five women while they spoke in tongues and found that their frontal lobes — the thinking, willful part of the brain through which people control what they do — were relatively quiet, as were the language centers. The regions involved in maintaining self-consciousness were active. The women were not in blind trances, and it was unclear which region was driving the behavior.
The images, appearing in the current issue of the journal Psychiatry Research: Neuroimaging, pinpoint the most active areas of the brain. The images are the first of their kind taken during this spoken religious practice, which has roots in the Old and New Testaments and in Pentecostal churches established in the early 1900s. The women in the study were healthy, active churchgoers.
“The amazing thing was how the images supported people’s interpretation of what was happening,” said Dr. Andrew B. Newberg, leader of the study team, which included Donna Morgan, Nancy Wintering and Mark Waldman. “The way they describe it, and what they believe, is that God is talking through them,” he said.
Here is the original scientific paper on the study that everyone is citing (unfortunately, you have to pay to read the whole study).
If you want to read more on the theology of speaking in tongues, my view is the same of that of Pastor Jack Hayford, set forth in his book, “The Beauty of Spiritual Language“. my testimony is found here, and my fellow blogger, Schooley, linked to some more really interesting thoughts.