Greg Boyd

Language of Heaven : A thoughtful response to Greg Boyd concerning tongues

It seems that back in 2007, Greg Boyd, the Open Theist guy from Minnesota wrote a piece questioning if tongues is the initial physical evidence of the Baptism in the Holy Spirit. I guess we should be encouraged, at least it is not the knowledge of God being questions (as Greg was rightfully called a heretic for). 

Before we go any more into this discussion, let me make one thing clear: I am a Pentecostal, raised in the Assemblies of God, and I believe wholeheartedly that a private prayer language is the intial physical evidence of the baptism of the Holy Spirit. I do not even pretend to be completely neutral in this discussion. That is only fair to disclose.


In the article, Greg sets out to give 5 reason that he rejects the position that praying in tongues is in fact the evidence. Let’s look at what he has to say:

First and foremost, detractors of the initial evidence doctrine argue that it is illegitimate hermeneutics to base a doctrine on historical narrative.

This is first of all very dangerous to consider as a possibility because ALL of the bible, including the death, burial and resurrection of Christ is based on “historical narrative.” You can add to the mix, the thoughts on how hermeneutics is even done has changed throughout the history of the church. An example of this was when the Dead Sea Scrolls were found and more information came to the surface.

Who gets to make the decision on what is and is not “legitimate hermeneutics?” Is that the Catholic Pope or is that the Episcopal priest that get to the make the call? Could it be Billy Graham or is it John Piper? As you can see, even the definition of what is (and is not) legitimate is open to questioning depending what school of thought you are from.

Second, the Bible provides a good amount of explicit teaching (not mere historical inference) about the evidence of being filled with the Spirit, and none of it centers on speaking in tongues. As people are filled with the Holy Spirit, they exhibit the fruits of the Spirit, especially love.

Actually, the New Testament talks a lot about tongues. It was such an issue at Corinth that three chapters of the letter were focused on the issue at hand. Paul wrote to a different group of believers in Romans about when we pray in tongues, we are praying mysteries. At one point, Paul said he wished everyone spoke in tongues.


Now, the love is the evidence of the Holy Spirit. Oddly, William Seymour in his later years started to teach this himself. My problem with this thinking you can be an atheist and be a “loving person.” You can love people and still go to hell on a bobsled.

Third, if speaking in tongues is evidence that one has a unique infilling of the Holy Spirit, we’d expect people who speak in tongues to generally manifest more of the fruits of the Spirit than others.

This is another classic misunderstanding of what the baptism in the Holy Spirit is. It is a debate that I, sadly, even hear Pentecostals make. It is the who “character is more important than anointing” discussion. It is a silly dialog that we have if you ask me. We are sanctified, justified and glorified at conversion where we are born again and sealed unto redemption. Many in the “fruit of the Spirit” camp forget that our works are dirty rags to God.


With that said, one of the references to the greek word for power in Acts 1:8 points to power to live holy. We can not walk free from sin and temptation without the power of the Holy Spirit in our lives. Understanding that opens a whole new realms of possibilities about the evidence of the baptism of the Holy Spirit.

However, it is important to note that being baptized in the Spirit and praying in tongues does not mean you do not have the issues of this world and you will walk completely free from sin. We are still weak and broken vessels.

Fourth, it seems clear from Paul’s epistle to the Corinthians that he did not assume that all believers would speak in tongues at some point.

Actually, Paul did say he wished that all would speak in tongues. You would also have to believe that all those people in Acts 2, 10, and 19 just got lucky and they were all tongue talker. It was just a good day to be a follower of the Way, I guess?


I am not even use where Grey Boyd would get the idea that the believers in the New Testament were not tongue talking and devil casting believers. Nowhere in the New Testament is there support for people not being filled with the Spirit and praying in tongues. Even the “all gifts stopped at 70AD” agree to this fact.

as a former Pentecostal minister I can attest to the fact that the “initial evidence doctrine” inevitably sets up a two-class Christianity, distinguishing between those who have spoken in tongues and those who have not.

I have not experienced this first hand but I do know the numbers of Pentecostals who confess to praying in tongues daily is quite low. It might be that I have always been around ministries that have a high degree of hungry for the things of the Spirit (Brownsville Revival, IHOPKC, Bethel Church, and Iris Ministries in Africa).


I have never seen people condemn those who are not baptized in the Holy Spirit. What I have seen is people tarrying (praying) with them for 6,8,12 hours until they recieve the infilling of the Holy Spirit with the initial physical evidence.

Final Thoughts on Grey Boyd

Considering that he believe in Open Theism and seems to flirt with liberation theology (as does Brian Zahnd), there is bigger concerns for a believer to have when thinking of what to do with Boyd teachings. These two issues are much bigger than the “I don’t believe tongues is for everyone” dialog.

I do not know the man personally but I am concerned for him, his spiritual health and those who listen to him. Jesus was not a social justice warrior and the Father knows exactly what He is going to do tomorrow.