Scientific Study on Speaking In Tongues

A friend of ours recently sent us this interesting article from the New York Times concerning a neuroscientific study on speaking in tongues. 

Follow this link,

and let me know what you think. 


11 thoughts on “Scientific Study on Speaking In Tongues

  1. A very interesting article. It seems, however, that the comparison of brain waves during the singing of a gospel song and speaking in tongues ought to be expanded to other spiritual activities, such as while receiving the Eucharist (especially for Catholics who speak in tongues and to whom the elements change is seen as physical) (Yes, I know one) and while anointed and falling in a trance (such as during healing or while being blessed) during the laying on of hands.

    The idea that mental illness is less present is in those who speak in tongues is not supported. I should guess that number of mentally ill people who speak in tongues doesn’t differ greatly from the number in the general population.

    The correction that tongues began with Pentecostals rather than charismatic is important historically. But often the real difference is in emphasis as to whether or not all Christians should expect to speak in tongues as they first receive the Holy Ghost or whether tongues is one of many gifts that some Christians have and that all Christians should respect.

  2. I definitely believe that the gift of tongues is real but not given to every Christian. Some preach that you must ask for it whereas, I know some that have just been praying and it happened. All I know is the Lord’s ways are higher than mine as are His thoughts so most likely even the smartest Christians will not be able to figure out some stuff. I say just go with it!

    1. Every Christian, if they really are are Christian (coming from the Greek word “christos” meaning annointed) speaks in tongues.

      It says in john that we must be born of the water and of the spirit. Being baptized in water and “giving your heart to Jesus” is all very well…but (from John 3 again) that wich is born of the flesh is flesh and that which is born of the spirit is spirit. ” marvel not that I say unto you you must be born again”. You have to receive the holy spirit with the evidence of speaking in tongues! Afterall, we are only human and what wisdom or understanding do we have in ourselves when we are sinners to say we have the holy spirit without this evidence? If you really are are a born again Christian ( the only type that will enter into the kingdom of god…take a look in acts or john for more info).

      Hello Hannah. I wish that everyone who considers themself a Christian would speak in tongues. Unfortunately, some have been convinced that this experience is not for us today. If we do read the book of Acts, where the church first began, we find that the initial evidence that someone had received the Holy Ghost was that they spoke in tongues. I sure am thankful that at the age of 16, God filled me with His Spirit, and I spoke in tongues for the very first time. It truly is a wonderful, powerful, life changing experience!

  3. I know many people who say that they believe in Jesus, but have yet to speak in tongues. I find in the book of Acts, chapter 19, that Paul had encountered such a group of people. These men were disciples of John the Baptist who believed on “him to was to come”, referring of course, to Jesus. Here is the discourse between Paul and these disciples of John the Baptist.

    Act 19:1 And it came to pass, that, while Apollos was at Corinth, Paul having passed through the upper coasts came to Ephesus: and finding certain disciples,
    Act 19:2 He said unto them, Have ye received the Holy Ghost since ye believed? And they said unto him, We have not so much as heard whether there be any Holy Ghost.
    Act 19:3 And he said unto them, Unto what then were ye baptized? And they said, Unto John’s baptism.
    Act 19:4 Then said Paul, John verily baptized with the baptism of repentance, saying unto the people, that they should believe on him which should come after him, that is, on Christ Jesus.
    Act 19:5 When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.
    Act 19:6 And when Paul had laid his hands upon them, the Holy Ghost came on them; and they spake with tongues, and prophesied.
    Act 19:7 And all the men were about twelve.

    I think it’s interesting that Paul asks them the question, “Have you received the Holy Ghost since you believed?” Paul then proceeds to baptize them in Jesus’ name, and then he lays his hands on them and they receive the Holy Ghost and speak in tongues. I believe many people are shortchanged today from receiving the Holy Ghost, either because they’re taught it’s not for them or it’s of the devil or that God only gives it to some people. I believe God wants His people to be infused with His power, and the Holy Ghost gives us power.

    Act 1:8 But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.

    I do believe we need to ask God in faith for the Holy Ghost.
    Luk 11:13 If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children: how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him?

    However, I do know some that have been praying and received it, not really knowing at the time what it really was. I recall one young man I went to Bible college with who shared his experience with us. He grew up on a farm, and he was out in the field one day praying alone, and suddenly, he began speaking in a language he did not know. Later on, when he was reading his Bible, he happened to come across the book of Acts, and in his reading he realized that what he received was the baptism of the Holy Ghost. Either way, it is a wonderful, glorious experience, and if you haven’t received it yet, I encourage you with these words.

    Luk 11:9 And I say unto you, Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.

  4. Thanks for sharing this article. Fascinating: the very portions of our brain responsible for language, thinking, emotion, as well as some motor control are relatively quiet or inactive when we speak in tongues. It certainly looks like God is totally in control when we are in such a yielded state.

    Unlike Helen, I found this article points out that research does, in fact, indicate that there is decreased incidence of mental illness and more stability in the population speaking in tongues. See quote:

    “Contrary to what may be a common perception, studies suggest that people who speak in tongues rarely suffer from mental problems. A recent study of nearly 1,000 evangelical Christians in England found that those who engaged in the practice were more emotionally stable than those who did not.”

    I believe there is a difference between the “gift” of tongues and tongues upon receiving the Holy Ghost. Apostle Paul, as referenced above, would that all believers receive the Holy Ghost.

    Aside from Paul, the other disciples now Apostles, wanted the same for new believers. In Acts chap 8, Philip preached in Samaria & many believed; also being baptised after seeing a great demonstration of signs & wonders: miracles, deliverance & healing. Lots of God stuff happening there but when the apostles heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent Peter & John to them. When Peter & John got there, they prayed for them to recieve the Holy Ghost. So even in the midst of those powerful sings, wonders, healings & baptisms; Peter & John said there was something MORE.

    Acts 8:17, Peter & John laid hands on the group & they received the Holy Ghost. We know there was a physical sign or outward demonstration indicating they received the Holy Ghost because Simon, sorcerer turned believer, wanted to BUY this power because of what he SAW. Of course, he was rebuked & called to repentance: you cannot buy this gift from God.

    In contrast, the gifts of the Spirit described in Paul’s letter to the church in Corinth, 1 Cor 12, are tools for use in the kingdom. We all have a measure of faith, yet there is a special “gifting” of faith. We all have the provision of healing in the broken body of Christ, but there are some with a special “gifting” of healing & working of miracles. The same with tongues.

    Aside from that initial evidence or experience of speaking in tongues when we receive the Holy Ghost, there is also a gift of tongues & another for interpretation of tongues; all for the work of the Church & spiritual profit/benefit. In this case, Paul says “We don’t all have the same gifts or office.”

    These verses found in 1st Corinthians are Paul’s letter to a seasoned church. We read in Acts 18, they were believers & were baptized. Afterwhich Paul spent at least 1.5 years, teaching & discipling. This was a group of believers. He was not preaching an evangelistic crusade, imploring folks to receive the Holy Ghost because they were already walking in that experience. He was helping them cultivate their Christian walk & effectiveness.

    Well, I certainly didn’t intend to ramble on so long. I’ve said my piece (or is it peace?) AMEN. :o)

  5. There is nothing like the Holy Ghost evidenced by speaking in tongues. I would just say if someone has not experienced this great infilling that they would seek it. I have never heard anyone who has ever received the Holy Ghost say that they wish they had never had the experience. How could you not love God living inside you. WOW!

  6. Pity it does not give details of the source of “A recent study of nearly 1,000 evangelical Christians in England found that those who engaged in the practice were more emotionally stable than those who did not.” I can find no details of this anywher one the web. If it is not just me missing it, it would do us Christians good to be better able to back up what we say. There are quite a few Christian web sites quoting this study, but no-one giving a link to it.

    Hi Alan. I am not sure where to find this information either. I do have a Scripture that I believe relates to this.2Timothy 1:7

    (AMP) For God did not give us a spirit of timidity (of cowardice, of craven and cringing and fawning fear), but [He has given us a spirit] of power and of love and of calm and well-balanced mind and discipline and self-control.

    If I find any more information on the evangelical Christians in England, I’ll be in touch.

  7. John G. Lake is reported to have had something like an EKG or EEG taken while he spoke in various different means. One was reading the Charge of the Light Brigade, Psalm 23, quoting other words and then speaking in tongues. In all cases his readings were consistent with other measurements, but in speaking in tongues his were “off the charts.” The machine could not be tuned to not peg the needle. This seems to indicate that in the case of Dr. Lake, who is reported to have spoken in loud but totally controlled tongues (no trance, no special feelings, just doing it in words or song as a matter of will and in full control), that significant amounts of electricity were generated in the process.
    This is entirely consistent with more modern findings of measurable brain differences in blood flow and electricity. The ministry of Dr. Lake was filled with powerful miracles of which he attributed speaking in tongues as a major influence.

    From Wikipedia: (1870-1935), usually known as “John G. Lake”, was a businessman influenced by the healing ministry of John Alexander Dowie, received the baptism of the Holy Spirit in 1907 in the wake of the Azusa Street Revival and became known for his ministry as a missionary and “faith healer.” His life and message are represented in a book compiled by Roberts Liardon, entitled, John G. Lake: The Complete Collection of His Life Teachings.

  8. Hello Don,

    Thanks for sharing this interesting information on John G. Lake. I have studied early 20th century Pentecostal movements and people some but have never heard of him. I may investigate further. Thanks for stopping by.

  9. In this study, I would have liked to see more control groups. The study only compares the brain in two states: singing gospel, and speaking in tongues.

    For a more thorough study, I would have liked to see more subjects. And also more activities.

    For example, compare brain states while:
    1. Normal conversation
    2. Praying with normal speech
    3. Praying without speaking
    4. Speaking in tongues
    5. Singing a song
    6. Singing gospel
    7. Humming along to a song
    8. “Scatting,” a type of “flowing” vocal jazz singing
    9. A participant DELIBERATELY speaking “gibberish”

    This would have been a more complete study, and the results more valid. We could then see which activities give a most similar result in the brain. I feel the study was way too limited to draw results from, especially considering the biased research leaders of the study.

    Hello. If you noticed the date on the article, this study was conducted almost 4 years ago. I don’t know if any further studies have been done since then, but it would be interesting to see how the brain reacts in some of the other activities you mentioned. It would certainly be interesting too, at least to me, if there was a way to monitor people’s heart activity while they were speaking in tongues.

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