Thursday, June 7, 2012

A Critique of Chavda's "The Hidden Power of Speaking in Tongues"

Chavda, M. (2003). The Hidden Power of Speaking in Tongues. Shippensburg, PA: Destiny Publishing.

Chavda is adamant in the use and application of Glossolalia (tongues) in christian life. In his opinion tongues are God's gift that is not used enough or valued enough. Glossolalia for the individual, in its devotional aspect provides power bringing transformation for service. Chavda describes it as a Bridal language where the bride is taught about the groom as Rebekah is taught about Isaac by Abraham's steward. Key to this insight is Paul's exhortation in the light of Paul's history. Paul turns his back on his people, his heritage and his racial purity (Chavda being a high caste Indian convert would understand how essential such concepts were to Paul's identity) because of the revelation of God in Christ through the Spirit. From this place of intimacy by the Spirit believers are able to plumb the depths of God. For this reason Paul (and Chavda) implore that we accept the challenge to spend more time in tongues than he (1 Cor 14:18).

Chavda links Glossolalia with sighs too deep for words and the deep things of God that are revealed during such devotional practice. It sounds that he is talking about is contemplation. Using Glossolalia as a way to as Brother Lawrence says enter the presence of God enabling us to cross the threshold into a sacred space where we can commune with God (Lawrence, 24). Lawrence is merely one in a long line of contemplative in church history that a Pentecostal would advocate such a practice is rare. The difference as Veli-Matti Karkkainen points out is with in the Pentecostal emphasis on action and individual change whereas Lawrence's Catholic emphasis is more about passive communal development (91, Karkkainen). That Chavda does not mention contemplation could be that often Pentecostalism sees past history after the Pentecost even as tainted (Rybarczyk, 83). Recent Catholic-Pentecostal dialogue has loosely defined Glossolalia as a sacrament, a remembering and participation of Jesus' working in the world, an empowering for service and expressing for those sighs too deep for words (92, Karkkainen). Apophaticism (common to Eastern Orthodox) claims God is known by what God is not, from Apophaticism comes the Jesus prayer simple and repetitive to quiet the mind as the voice is active as in their hearts they seek God (Rybarczyk, 95). God is beyond all understanding because the mystery is unfathomable and cannot be expressed by words whereby language is left completely behind (Rybarczyk, 86). The goal of contemplation is the same as Chavda's, intimacy with God that changes us and transforms us as we look upon in awe and wonder.

What Chavda advocates is merely one way to practice the presence of God in your life through devotional Glossolalia. The challenge is to make such a practice the habit that it was for Paul to learn intimacy with God. There is something beyond the rational happening here in this “interplay between divine and human” (Rybarczyk, 94). It is intimacy with the divine that brings about the transformational change in our life and those around us. If this is awkward, confusing or dangerous in the eyes of the believer then there are other practices which can enable the same edification from the same God by the the same Holy Spirit. God is not restrictive in how we apply ourselves to enter into intimacy with him. He knows that each of us is different and has given us a cornucopia of methods each one a key to enter into God's presence and experience the heights and depths of the divine three in one.