Home Church Community

Statement of Beliefs

Contact Us

Search Our Site

Bible Study Resource

Printer Friendly Version

Particulars of Christianity:
310 Pentecostalism,
the Charismatic
and Faith Movements

Survey 3 - A Change in Tune Regarding the Gifts

Our Background and Objectivity
Comparing Modern Tongues to Biblical Tongues
Basic Introduction to the Charismatic Movement
Opening Remarks and Introduction to the Gifts
Survey 1 - Continuity of the Gifts in the First Few Centuries
Survey 2 - Decline of Orthodox Gifts and Rise of Counterfeit Gifts
Survey 3 - A Change in Tune Regarding the Gifts
Survey 4 - From the Renaissance to the Modern Era
An Introduction to the Gifts in Modern Times
The Origins of the Modern Charismatic Movement

Section 1 | Section 2 | Section 3 | Section 4
| Section 5

In our first survey we established that according to orthodox Christian writers, the charismatic gifts including tongues continued well into the middle or second half of the second century well after the close of the New Testament canon, well after the death of the last apostle, and well after the destruction of the Temple in 70 AD. In our second survey we established the rise of counterfeit gifts in the latter half of the second century AD, where they coexisted with the authentic gifts in the orthodox churches. We also established that these counterfeit gifts (which were practiced by both Gnostic and other heretical gifts such as the Montanists) differed dramatically in quality and character from those of the orthodox Church.

In this third historic survey, we will examine the dramatic change in content that took place regarding the gifts after the first few centuries AD, particularly by the fourth century. Keep in mind that the following section of quotes come from authors who were writing at a time when the Church had been formally "Romanized" by the Council of Nicaea in 325 AD. Notice the view on the charismatic gifts expressed by these authors despite the fact that the Roman Church has historically been an institution, which embraces the miraculous including the miraculous power of relics.

Augustine 354-430 AD

"How then, brethren, because he that is baptized in Christ, and believes on Him, does not now speak in the tongues of all nations, are we not to believe that he has received the Holy Ghost? God forbid that our heart should be tempted by this faithlessness... Why is it that no man speaks in the tongues of all nations? Because the Church itself now speaks in the tongues of all nations. Before, the Church was in one nation, where it spoke in the tongues of all. By speaking then in the tongues of all, it signified what was to come to pass; that by growing among the nations, it would speak in the tongues of all." (Augustine, "Ten Homilies on the First Epistle of John)

Here we find Augustine embarking on an early attempt to explain why men no longer spoke in tongues when they believed. According to Augustine's view, men no longer spoke in tongues because the Church now contained men of all nations and languages and so the Church itself "spoke in all tongues." Now, our assessment of the validity of Augustine's explanation is not particularly relevant. What is relevant is that Augustine understood as a foundational fact to this very passage that tongues were no longer occurring by his day. And from this point forward we will see how the statements of Church authors likewise shifted away from asserting that the gifts continued in that day (as was the case with Irenaeus and Justin Martyr) and began instead to explain why the gifts were no longer occurring.

John Chrysostom 347-407 AD

John Chrysostom, the bishop of Constantinople, who lived from 347-407 AD also taught that the gifts had passed away. When commenting on 1 Corinthians 12, he writes, "This whole place is very obscure: but the obscurity is produced by our ignorance of the facts referred to and by their cessation, being such as then used to occur but now no longer take place. And why do they not happen now? Why look now, the cause too of the obscurity hath produced us again another question: namely, why did they then happen, and now do so no more?"

Writing John Chrysostom struggles with the same question as Augustine, "why had the gifts passed away?" Once again, for the purposes of this survey, what is significant is the fact that Augustine and John Chrysostom are in agreement that the gifts were no longer occurring.

Gregory the Great 600 AD

When commenting on Mark 16:17, Gregory the Great wrote, "Is it so, my brethren, that because ye do not these signs, ye do not believe? On the contrary, they were necessary, in the beginning of the church; for, that faith might grow, it required miracles to cherish it withal; just as when we plant shrubs, we water them until we ace them thrive in the ground, and as aeon as they are well rooted we cease our irrigation.''

Here we see Gregory the Great attempting to answer the same question posed above by Augustine and John Chrysostom. Like Augustine, Gregory the Great is attempting to reassure believers that they were saved despite the fact that they did not speak in tongues or prophecy.

From this point forward into the Middle Ages, occurrences of tongues are sporadic at best among the Catholic records, including less than a dozen instances and conflicting dates. Then we come to Thomas Aquinas.

Thomas Aquinas 1225-1274 AD

I answer that, Christ's first disciples were chosen by Him in order that they might disperse throughout the whole world, and preach His faith everywhere, according to Mt. 28:19, "Going . . . teach ye all nations." Now it was not fitting that they who were being sent to teach others should need to be taught by others, either as to how they should speak to other people, or as to how they were to understand those who spoke to them...Consequently it was necessary, in this respect, that God should provide them with the gift of tongues; in order that, as the diversity of tongues was brought upon the nations when they fell away to idolatry, according to Gn. 11, so when the nations were to be recalled to the worship of one God a remedy to this diversity might be applied by the gift of tongues. (Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica, "Whether those who received the gift of tongues spoke in every language?")

Thomas Aquinas' explanation regarding tongues is similar to that of Gregory the Great. According to Aquinas, tongues were present in the early Church in order to facilitate the preaching of the Gospel to the various nations. Conversely it followed that this gift was no longer present because, as articulated by Augustine, the Church itself now had members from all nations and so spoke in all tongues by natural means.

So, as we immerge out of the middle ages we find no record to substantiate that the prophetic gifts continued in operation. On the other hand, we also find that the predominant teaching regarding the gifts shifted dramatically toward the goal of explaining why they had ceased. This leaves us with the inescapable conclusion that the gifts did in fact fall into decline and eventually disappear. To assert that these gifts occurred continuously up to the present, therefore, flies in the face of the record of history. As such, we must conclude that all modern gifts would have to be a restoration of gifts rather than an unbroken continuation of them from the first and second centuries. Or as we stated earlier, no one can claim legitimacy for their practice of the gifts by tracing back to the laying on of the apostles' hands. Legitimacy must be demonstrated, therefore, in other ways. And given the documented rise of counterfeit gifts, we are forced to critically examine whether or not any hypothetical "restoration of gifts" is a restoration of the authentic gifts or of the counterfeits performed by heretics.

However, despite the fact that we can tell with certainty from the record of history that that the gifts did cease at some point, for what reason they ceased we do not yet know. For according to the orthodox writings of Ignatius (30-107 AD), Justin Martyr (110-165 AD), and Irenaeus (A.D. 115 to 202), these gifts including tongues continue into the middle or late second century well past the destruction of the Temple, the close of the New Testament canon, and the death of the last apostle. We will explore this question later on in our study, but for now it is only necessary to note that concluding the gifts did pass away is not the same thing as asserting "why" they passed away. So far, all we have established or commented on is the fact that they did indeed cease at some point after the close of the second century.