Review - Reality Magazine

Reality Magazine:
The Official Publication of The Bible College of New Zealand
Volume 9, Number 49, Page 46, February/March 2002.

Reviewed by: Glenn Peoples


There have been dozens of books written over the last 30 years or so on the subject of tongues. This book is different.

For those who simply have to know where an author stands before they’ll read the book, Renton Maclachlan spells out his thesis clearly from the outset. “Biblical tongues are normal human languages normally learnt and normally spoken.” To the Pentecostal reader, this sounds like a horrendously shocking, even heretical, thing to say. To the traditional ‘Cessationist’, (that is, one who believes tongues ceased after the apostolic age), it sounds like a theological oddity. 

It is a view that I have only ever seen published one other time (also by a New Zealander, Hudson F. McKenzie). And yet it is a view that, true or false, possesses some inherent strengths – strengths that Maclachlan capitalises on in this substantial examination of the topic.

The most noteworthy strength of this book is the way it cuts through popular jargon and presuppositions. It doesn’t allow you to hide behind the archaic English translation ‘tongues’, for Maclachlan shows that Greek term is the ordinary New Testament word for languages. It doesn’t allow you to hide behind the word ‘spiritual’, as though it must mean other-worldly and ecstatic. Books on the topic that begin by stripping away the terms and assumptions of the 20th century charismatic movement, as this book does, are few and far between.

To his credit, Maclachlan does not simply shoot down a view and leave it at that.The practical concerns of “what is the current phenomenon of tongues speaking” and “how should non-charismatics react to charismatics” are addressed honestly and charitably. He also includes an outstanding chapter on “grace in times of conflict,” where he offers seventeen suggestions for “conduct in a theological civil war,” sections that should forever vindicate this work from accusations of being condemning or smug.

On a more technical side, the citation errors are few, and insignificant. On page 89-90 for example, he erroneously claims that teleios (the Greek word meaning ‘mature’) appears only twice in 1 Corinthians, overlooking its occurrence in 14:20, which would actually have helped his argument.

This book may not convince you entirely. I’m still not sure that its arguments have convinced me entirely since I began considering them a few years ago. But if read sincerely, it will almost certainly challenge you to think hard about what you believe about speaking in tongues.

Tongues Revisited: A Third Way, By Renton Maclachlan, 312 pages, is published by Clearsight, Porirua, 2000