Baptist Students, Eugene Peterson, and Private Prayer Language

Eugene Peterson has always been one of my favorite Christian leaders. I heard him speak today at the Catalyst Conference in Atlanta. His morning lecture was a call for us to became contemplative pastors. His evening was given to a large group question and answer time. It was during this time that he spoke to an issue presently confronting my denomination. Here is what happened -

A young woman presented hereself as a senior at the University of Mobile. She said that she was writing her thesis on "tongues." She asked Dr. Peterson why he used the phrase "private prayer language" in I Corinthians 14:4 of the Message. He responded by saying that he used "tongues" in other places. He went on the say that the glory of tongues is the mystery. Peterson was raised Pentecostal and told us that his heritage made him very sensitive about this issue. His sensitive pen captured well the words of Paul, "I'm grateful to God for the gift of praying in tongues that he gives us for praising him, which leads to wonderful intimacies we enjoy with him. I enter into this as much or more than any of you."

How sad that Southern Baptist workers are forbid a gift from the Father. A gift once enjoyed by the apostle Paul. A gift that leads to wonderful intimacy when practiced within the Pauline discipline. Dr. Peterson has a healthy attitude about this gift and is a wonderful example of a man who loves God with his mind AND heart. I think we should follow his lead and become sensitive about this issue as well.


Kevin Bussey said...

Having just moved from Mobile, I wonder if she was one of my students?

I used to be scared of tongues. I'm not anymore because I know that I am filled with the HS. I don't like it when some say you have to speak in tongues to be filled with the HS.

But if someone has that gift and they use it scripturally, who am I to say they can't use it. That is up to God.

Matt Snowden said...


I don't recall the student's name. She was very well spoken.

Thanks for your thoughts. I agree with you. I don't like the "initial evidence" doctrine of classical Pentecostalism OR the traditional Baptist antipathy toward a genuine gift.

Will said...

Some of my best friends in High School were "charis-maniacs." They practiced the gift of tongues as a private prayer language. I had no problem with this. My only problem was when they stated that the gift of tonuges is given to "all" believers filled with the Holy Spirit. I know I am filled with the Holy Spirit and I have never used the gift of tongues. Paul was very clear when he wrote, "Do all have gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues? Do all interpret?" Paul's implied answer is "NO!"

It sounds like we are all in agreement. Tongues is a valid gift when used under the guidelines of Paul described. It is now, however, a gift that all believers will receive, not is it the "proof" of the filling of the spirit.

By the way, one of those "charis-maniac" friends is still one of my closest friends today.

Will said...

oops... I meant, "It is not, however, a gift that all believers will receive, nor is it the "proof" of the filling of the spirit.

Matt Snowden said...

I'm with you. I am glad to see many Pentecostals and charismatics moving away from the "initial physical evidence" doctrine of classical Pentecostalism. Good to hear from you.

Cally said...

If you had someone join your church who asked you whether she would be welcomed if she "spoke in tongues" how would you respond? I think our people in the pew would be very nervous about someone who spoke in tongues in their congregation. Would you forbid him, or validate him at the risk of splitting the church?

Matt Snowden said...


We have members that pray in tongues. It is not an issue. I grew up in the Highland Baptist Church in Meridian, MS. We had'em there as well - no problems. The church is split over tongues when someone abuses the gift. One of the first books I read on the issue was by Fisher Huphreys and Malcolm Talbert. I read it in high school. I don't remember much of what they said but I do remember them calling us to make room for "tongues speakers" in our churches. I think a majority of Baptist Churches (and other non-charismatic communities) have "in the closet" charismatics. Vinson Synan gives them their own category in his Eerdman's published Pentecostal history.

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