Is speaking in tongues Scriptural or Satanic?
I certainly do not think speaking in tongues is Satanic. I think that there are people who prostitute tongues. We have a great example with Rodney Howard-Browne and Kenneth Copeland, and when they prostitute the gift of speaking in tongues, I think it is a very serious thing because now you are attributing something to God, which has nothing whatsoever to do with God. That is the quintessential definition of blasphemy.
When Paul says, “Therefore, my brothers, be eager to prophesy, and do not forbid speaking in tongues. But everything should be done in a fitting and orderly way” (1 Cor. 14:39-40),* the apostle is pointing out that what we want to do is to edify, strengthen, and encourage the body of Christ. We do this by doing what we do in a way that is pleasing to the Lord, and not deflective to the body of Christ.
If someone is speaking in a tongue, in a language you do not understand, there has got to be an interpretation because you might be edified by what you say but those around you within the context of the church are not going to be edified. Tongues that are interpreted have the effect of prophecy (1 Cor. 14:26-33).
Unfortunately, there are so many examples in the church today of people who prostitute the gift and they make it something other than what it really is. As mentioned, Rodney Howard-Browne, a notorious Counterfeit Revivalist, and Kenneth Copeland, a leader of the Word of Faith movement, do that on a regular basis (i.e. prostitute the gift of speaking in tongues). When they were speaking together in dueling tongues in front of thousands and thousands of people, and the people thought they were very, funny doing this, what Howard-Browne and Copeland were actually doing was saying that this was the gift of the Holy Spirit being manifested through them but in reality it was nothing but sheer blasphemy (An audio clip of Howard-Browne and Copeland dueling in tongues can be heard on September 14, 2016 Bible Answer Man broadcast, which is introduced at the 25:28 mark.)
Is speaking in tongues at church ok?
One of the great texts to go to is 1 Corinthians 14. If you look at verse 22, Paul says there, “Tongues, then, are a sign, not for believers but for unbelievers; prophecy, however, is for believers, not for unbelievers.” So Paul is saying that if you are prophesying—and not in the sense of telling the future but forth telling, equipping, encouraging, exhorting, the saints—you should be prophesying because that’s for believers, but tongues then is “not for believers but for unbelievers.”
Paul then says, “If the whole church comes together and everyone speaks in tongues, and some who do not understand or some unbelievers come in, will they not say that you are out of your mind” (v. 23)? The apostle is giving a rational thereabout why believer should not speak loudly and many at the same time in tongues in the context of a church. And now if someone gives an interpretation within the context—what is tongues but a prophecy.
If there is a tongue, according to Paul, you cannot all be talking at the same time, and loudly, and be disruptive. If a tongue is given within this New Testament context there has to be an interpretation because then a tongue can serve to edify the body of Christ. But in general what is the principle? The principle is “tongues then, are a sign, not for believers but for unbelievers.” And then he gives a very strong warning about what happens when you speak in tongues in public and how that can be disruptive and discombobulating for an unbeliever and instead of reaching that unbeliever you end up repelling the unbeliever.
“For this reason anyone who speaks in a tongue should pray that he may interpret what he says” (1 Cor. 14:13)
Learn more about speaking in tongues, spiritual gifts, and Holy Spirit in the following equip.org resources:
Is Speaking in Tongues the Evidence of the Baptism of the Holy Spirit? (Hank Hanegraaff)
What Does It Mean to Say that The Holy Spirit is In You? (Hank Hanegraaff)
Is There a Difference Between Indwelling and Infilling? (Hank Hanegraaff)
Are There Apostles and Prophets Today? (Hank Hanegraaff)
The Counterfeit Revival (Part Four): Modern-Day Mesmerists (Hank Hanegraaff)
The Counterfeit Revival Revisited (Hank Hanegraaff)
Counterfeit Critique (Hank Hanegraaff)
Questions & Answers on Holy Laughter (Hank Hanegraaff)
Scripture vs. the Spiritual Gifts? (Elliot Miller)
Fivefold Ministry Makes A Comeback (Douglas LeBlanc)
* All Scripture cited from The Holy Bible: New International Version (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1984), unless noted.