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PNEUMA The Journal of the Society for Pentecostal Studies, Volume 28, No 2, Fall 2006

Presidential Address

Reflective Speech: Glossolalia and


the Image of God
Blaine Charette

This year, and particularly at this conference, we celebrate the cente-


nary of the Azusa Street revival, an event that is widely regarded as mark-
ing the beginning of the modern Pentecostal movement. This movement,
for all the diversity of its constituencies, its aims and its practices, has
been inextricably linked to the particular phenomenon of speaking in
tongues. While it would be incorrect to describe glossolalia as the essence
of Pentecostalism, nevertheless this spiritual gift has distinguished the
movement from the beginning.1 The century since Azusa Street has wit-
nessed the remarkable impact of Pentecostalism on the world in terms of
evangelism and social engagement. It has also seen the greater acceptance
of spiritual gifts in general throughout the larger Christian church. Yet,
in the face of these achievements, it must be admitted that Pentecostal
teaching on the purpose and value of glossolalia has not enjoyed the same
level of success. The gift that has characterized the Pentecostal move-
ment has not, it would seem, shared in the same recognition accorded to
the movement itself.
In part the failure of glossolalia to establish itself is due to the per-
ceived irrationality of the phenomenon, which makes its broad acceptance
particularly difficult within those segments of the church still profoundly
influenced by modernism. Yet this failure is primarily due to the fact that

1
R. P. Spittler, 'Glossolalia', in S. M. Burgess, ed. The New International Dictionary
of Pentecostal and Charismatic Movements. Rev. ed. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2002),
p. 675; Note the observation of F. D. Macchia ('Groans Too Deep for Words: Towards a
Theology of Tongues as Initial Evidence', Asian Journal of Pentecostal Studies 1 [1998]
p. 164) that 'Pentecostalism is not a "tongues movement", but a movement that supports
the gospel of Jesus Christ in salvation, sanctification, empowerment for global witness,
healing, and eschatological hope.'

2006 Koninklijke Brill NV, Leiden pp 189-201


PNEUMA The Journal of the Society for Pentecostal Studies, Volume 28, No 2, Fall 2006

Pentecostalism has yet to make a sufficient case for glossolalia. This is


clearly evident when one considers the current disturbing situation within
many churches identified as Pentecostal or charismatic where glossolalia
is no longer a valued, nor even a present, reality.2 Pentecostalism has not
been successful in the apologetic task of explaining its distinguishing gift
for the benefit of outsiders, whether sympathetic or not, but even more
tragic it has neglected the pastoral task of educating its own with respect
to the purpose and value of this spiritual gift.
The past century has, of course, also witnessed the production of many
works by Pentecostal scholars of significant exegetical and theological
insight. In fact, it is one of the central aims of this Society to promote
such research. My remarks should not be construed as in any way mini-
mizing the importance of the work already done. Yet there has been a
lack, at least in the area of biblical research and the attendant theological
reflection based on itsfindings,of any intentional endeavor to place glos-
solalia within a larger biblical framework of understanding. The atom-
ization and specialization that characterizes research within the academy
of biblical studies has affected the way Pentecostals have studied the bib-
lical text. As a result, we have been quite successful in the writing of
commentary and in the investigation of a particular feature of an author's
thought (one thinks of Luke for example), but not as adept at navigating
what might be called a 'big picture' approach to scripture. And yet some
interpretive questions can only be adequately answered when the field of
vision is significantly broadened. I would argue that the questions that
attend glossolalia fall into this category. To fully understand this phe-
nomenon it must viewed in connection with a variety of scriptural themes
and topics. It is not my intention in this paper to provide a full catalog
of all the biblical ideas that might be of relevance to the subject of glos-
solalia. Nor will I attempt to describe a research methodology suitable to
such an endeavor. My objective is much more modest and that is to pro-
vide a sketch of how our understanding of glossolalia might be enhanced
by viewing it against the backdrop of one such idea, the biblical concept
of the image of God and, in particular, Paul's treatment of that concept.
The biblical idea of the image of God may be of greater importance
today than at any time because of the loss within our contemporary con-

2
I am speaking out of my own particular situation, recognizing that there are other
Pentecostal communities in North America as well as other parts of the world where speak-
ing in tongues is more widely practiced. However, without a solid theological basis for
and understanding of the practice one might not expect it to flourish at least in a manner
that is most beneficial for the continuing health and well being of the church.

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Reflective Speech: Glossalalia and the Image of God

text of a correct understanding of the 'self. The rampant individualism


of modern western culture has promoted the idea of the autonomous self
which in turn has led to a narcissism with its resultant alienation and frag-
mentation. The term image has itself taken on certain negative connota-
tions in recent years. When we talk of 'image' we often have in mind a
perception or an impression that may not match reality. It is common-
place for people, whether celebrities or not, to be 'image conscious'. Great
attention is directed to projecting a particular persona or character that
'the public' (another term that has undergone significant transformation
in recent years) will find acceptable and attractive whether or not this
bears any resemblance to one's true nature. Ours is an age of 'manufac-
tured identity'. Individuals are invited, indeed expected, to construct a
'self by means of the various 'image enhancements' that are provided by
an increasingly facile culture. This idea of image as persona very easily
becomes a trap. It is important to recall that persona is a Latin word mean-
ing 'mask', such as that worn by an actor. It is possible to become so pre-
occupied with an assumed role that one's true self remains unknown. The
tragedy for many people is that they never come to know their true self.
This kind of attention given to image is not good; it is, rather, symp-
tomatic of the godlessness of our times. It is only men and women sep-
arated from God who seek to manufacture their own identity or to create
their own image. Scripture reveals a much more profound understanding
of image. Its very first affirmation about humanity is that human beings
are made in the image of God (Gen 1.26-27). Thus, we already have an
image, inasmuch as we were created to image God himself. It is this that
gives dignity and meaning to human life. The attempt to go beyond this
and to create an alternate image for oneself is simply a form of idolatry.
It would take us well beyond the scope of this discussion to review
the considerable theological discussion that the Genesis references to
humans as created in the image of God have generated.3 Most commonly
the image of God is conceived of as humanity's power of reason. Attention
has also been directed to other human capacities such as emotion and
will. The text of Genesis is not explicit with respect to the meaning of
image. However, two ideas that are given contextual emphasis are 'speech'
and 'rule'. In the creation narrative God is presented as a God who speaks
and who acts by speaking. Likewise, the first actions reported of Adam
consist in speaking (he names the other living things God brings to him
3
A detailed history of theological reflection on the image of God in the Christian tra-
dition can be found in D. Cairns, The Image of God in Man (New York: Philosophical
Library, 1953).

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[Gen 2.19] and he announces why the partner God makes for him should
be called 'woman' [Gen 2.23]).4 At the same time, the divine commands
in Genesis 1 contribute to a portrayal of God as a ruler. He himself exer-
cises power and authority and then declares with respect to the human-
ity he makes in his image and likeness, 'Let them have dominion
(Gen 1.26). Humans are thus granted authority to share in God's rule.
Their special role is that of representing or imaging God's rule over the
earth.5 These two functions of speech and rule, both reflecting how the
narrative presents God himself, seem to most closely define the Genesis
understanding of what it means to image God.
It is significant that apart from the early statements in Genesis that
describe the nature and purpose of humanity in terms of the image of
God, the vocabulary of 'image' is typically found in contexts that describe
manmade images. The OT strongly condemns the making and use of such
images or idols. In the world of Israel's neighbors an image was not
thought to be an actual god but rather the local means by which a par-
ticular deity became present and visible. It was in essence the place where
the deity and its rule or influence was manifest. The reason for the con-
demnation of images is twofold: on the one hand, the image shifts atten-
tion to an entity other than God, but perhaps even more important it is
tantamount to an abdication of responsibility. Israel was forbidden to make
images not only because this would entail the worship of gods other than
Yahweh, but also because it would mean a renunciation of Israel's role
and responsibility to represent Yahweh's character and will before the
nations and thereby advance his rule throughout the earth.6 And to the
extent that was done well they would also be representing what human
life was to look like.
As we move from the OT to the NT, the concept of the image of God
undergoes significant development. It is Paul more than any other NT
writer who takes up the idea and gives it great theological resonance. Paul
develops his teaching on the image of God by artfully fusing it to other
major theological concerns (such as Christology, soteriology, eschatology,

4
Note the interesting analysis of the prominence given to speech in the opening of
Genesis in G. Auld, 'imago dei in Genesis: Speaking in the Image of God\ Expository
Times 116 (2005), pp. 259-62.
5
For a helpful review of Old Testament scholarship on the image of God, especially
as it relates to this idea of humans representing God's rule, see J. R. Middleton, The
Liberating Image: The Imago Dei in Genesis 1 (Grand Rapids: Brazos, 2005), pp. 24-29.
6
Compare the insightful discussion of the biblical denunciation of idolatry in
B. J. Walsh and J. R. Middleton, The Transforming Vision (Downers Grove: IVP, 1984),
pp. 61-65.

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pneumatology and ethics). Essentially, the focus is placed on the person


of Jesus Christ. Paul speaks of Christ as the second or last Adam (Rom
5.12-21; 1 Cor 15.20-22; 45^9) and in part what he means by this is
that in Christ we see the true and perfect image of God (2 Cor 4.4:
Christ, who is the image of God' ; Col 1.15: 'He is the image of the invis
ible God'). God is most truly present in Christ and most distinctly rep
resented by him. When we look at Jesus we see most clearly what God
himself is like. Likewise, in Christ we see what God intended humanity
to be like. As the second Adam Christ stands at the head of a new human
ity. As a consequence, those who are 'in Christ' now image God by con
forming to the image of Christ.
This theme of conforming to the image of Christ constitutes an impor
tant feature of Paul's soteriological and eschatological teaching. Salvation
for Paul essentially consists in being conformed to the image of the risen
Christ. Because of the way in which eschatology informs Paul's thought
emphasis is placed both on the process of progressive conformity to Christ
and on the final outcome of the process that will occur at the resurrec
tion. At 1 Cor 15.49 Paul's focus is on the end of the process: 'Just as
we have borne the image of the earthy man, we will also bear the image
of the heavenly man'.7 The context is one in which an analogy between
Adam and Christ is sketched. As Adam's descendents we at present share
his likeness, yet because of our relation to Christ and as a consequence
of his own resurrection we will at the time of the final resurrection be
transformed into his likeness.
At 2 Cor 3.18 the emphasis is placed more on the progressive nature
of the transformation into the image of Christ. Paul presents a picture of
believers with unveiled faces looking at the glory of Christ as in a mir
ror and thereby being transformed () into the same image. The
metaphorical use of the veil issues from Paul's earlier interpretation of
Moses' veil (taken from Exod 34.29-35) which he had then applied figura
tively to the unperceptive state of unbelieving Jews.8 Believers, however,
in turning to the Lord, have the veil removed and are now able to behold
with uncovered faces the glory of the Lord as it is revealed in his image,

7
Reading the future indicative . Fee (The First Epistle to the Corinthians
[Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 199?], p. 795) prefers the variant aorist subjunctive reading ('let
us bear'), according to which Paul is urging the Corinthians to presently conform to the
life of the heavenly man as those who now share his character and behavior. Yet Fee's
highly nuanced discussion draws attention to the weight of the future reality that pervades
Paul's discussion throughout 1 Corinthians 15.
8
Cf. 2 Cor 4.3-4 where Paul uses similar language to speak of the gospel being veiled
to unbelievers whose minds have been blinded by the god of this world.

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Christ. By thus looking, as in a mirror, a change is effected.9 They are


transformed inasmuch as they begin to bear that likeness for which God
created them in the beginning. The progressive character of this work of
transformation is expressed by the phrase 'from glory to glory'.10 Believers
are continually being transformed with respect to this glorious image as
they await the final eschatological glorification. When Paul describes
God's plan of salvation at Rom 8.28-30 he employs similar language.
God's ultimate purpose for those he has effectively called into relation
ship with himself is that they be conformed () to the image of
his Son.11 The emphasis here is on the end of the process of conforma
tion, yet the process is itself implied.
One last passage in the Pauline corpus that speaks to the transforma
tion of the believer according to the image of Christ is Col 3.10. Here
conformity to the image is described in terms of the renewal of the new
person.12 The old self is stripped off in order that the new self, which is
continually being assimilated to Christ the true form of the image of the
creator, may be put on. This work of renewal assumes a growth in knowl
edge ( ), that is to say an increased understanding of God's
redemptive will and purpose.13 In this manner the text provides insight
into the character of the process of transformation.
This passage is of additional interest because it combines the idea of
personal renewal according to the image of God with that of 'stripping
off' the old self and 'being clothed' with the new.14 Frequently when Paul
challenges his readers to become more like Christ he expresses this using
the metaphorical idiom of 'putting on Christ', such as one would put on
a garment. He does so, for example, at Gal 3.27 in a quintessential state
ment about the Christian experience: those who are baptized into Christ
have clothed themselves with Christ. To be a Christian means to have

9
M. J. Harris (The Second Epistle to the Corinthians [Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2005],
p. 316, n. 146) observes that 'a modal sense of the participle ("by looking . . . as in a mir
ror") implies both a temporal ("as we look") and a causal ("because we look") meaning'.
10
Note that at Rom 12.2, the only other occasion where Paul uses , the
emphasis is on the continuing process of transformation through the renewal of the mind.
11
Paul's other use of is found at Phil 3.21, an eschatological text which
describes the coming of Christ as Savior in terms of the transformation of 'the body of
our humiliation' that it may be conformed to 'the body of his glory'.
12
The present participle indicates an ongoing process.
13
One might compare the wording at Eph 4.23 which speaks of being renewed 'in
the spirit of your minds'.
14
This combining of the two ideas is also present in Eph 4.24: '[you were taught]...
to clothe yourselves with the new self, created according to the likeness of God [
] in true righteousness and holiness.'

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already been clothed with Christ. At Rom 13.14 this language is found
in the context of ethical instruction: believers are to clothe themselves
with the Lord Jesus Christ so as to make no provision for the flesh. For
Paul being clothed with Christ describes what we are now and what we
must ever strive to become. It is perhaps significant that for Paul being
'clothed with Christ' is an actual and progressive condition, whereas con
formity to the image of Christ is a progressive and ultimate condition.
One might observe that just as awareness of nakedness was the immediate
result of the Fall and marked the first in a series of stages in the debas
ing of the image of God in humanity, so the clothing of humanity in Christ
is both the necessary first step and the continuing action in a process lead
ing to the ultimate restoration of the image of God in humans. Thus for
Paul the putting on of Christ marks the entry point into salvation and con
tinues to describe the process of renewal according to his image that will
culminate in the final realization of the restored image that marks the
completion of the salvation process.
Paul does exhort believers to clothe themselves with Christ and as such
to be active participants in the process of renewal. Yet when he speaks
directly to the process of conforming to the image of Christ he avoids
such exhortation. The restoration of the image of God is not of our own
doing but rather the work of God, specifically the work of God's Spirit.
Paul states this clearly at 2 Cor 3.18: transformation into the image is
from the Spirit.15 It is the Spirit of God that actuates and directs this
process which brings to fruition that for which humans were created. This
eschatological process is very much the work of the Spirit.
For Paul the eschatological restoration of the divine image in human
ity is essential to salvation. In the present the eschatological Spirit oper
ates in the lives of believers effecting a transformation that fashions them
towards that end. Paul does not speak directly to the means by which the
Spirit produces this change but it is more than probable that the gifts of
the Spirit play an important role. The argument that will now be advanced
is that the gift of glossolalia is one significant way that the Spirit effects
such transformation in the life of the believer.
The difficulty that attends the interpretation of Paul's teaching on glos
solalia is that his clearest statements on the subject appear within a polem
ical and corrective context. When Paul speaks about glossolalia in 1 Cor
12-14, the only place in the Pauline corpus where there is direct reference

15
The preposition may refer to the Spirit as the origin or the cause of this work
of transformation; possibly both connotations are intended.

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to the gift of tongues, his instruction is encumbered by the need to cur


tail the Corinthian's immature enthusiasm for and abusive practice of the
gift. Presumably, Paul had given positive teaching on the subject to the
Corinthian church on earlier occasions yet we can now only speculate as
to the specific content of that teaching. Nonetheless, even among the
admonitions of 1 Corinthians, one does find certain positive statements
from which we can construct a reasonable, if not complete, account of
his teaching on glossolalia. It is clear that for Paul speaking in tongues
is a genuine gift of the Spirit of God for the benefit of the church (12.10,
28). He himself is grateful to God that he exercises the gift more than do
the Corinthians themselves (14.18).16 Moreover, he wishes to encourage
its correct use among the Corinthians (14.5: wish for all of you to speak
in tongues...'). Yet there are two direct observations Paul makes in 1
Cor 14 respecting the gift of tongues that are of particular relevance to
the present discussion. On the one hand, Paul notes that those who speak
in a tongue speak 'mysteries' () in the Spirit (14.2), and on the
other hand, that those who speak in a tongue 'edifiy' () them
selves (14.4). Both of these statements touch upon Paul's eschatological
teaching and can be seen in association with the particular eschatologi
cal concern relating to the forming of the divine image in humanity.
The term mystery, which constitutes a key ingredient in Paul's escha
tological thought,17 pertains to the ongoing revelation of the divine pur
pose to humans. Specifically, the term describes the making known in the
present of certain truths concerning God's plan of salvation that had been
kept secret from earlier generations (cf. Rom 16.25; Eph 3.9; Col 1.26).
Paul affirms at 1 Cor 14.2 that as the person who speaks in a tongue com
munes with God (note that they do not speak to other people but to God)
they speak mysteries in the Spirit. The implication of Paul's words is that
through the experience of such private tongue-speaking a vertical dialog
is created according to which the speaker gives voice to truths pertinent
to the outworking of the divine purpose. It would appear that this prac
tice of glossolalia serves an important function inasmuch as it establishes
a context of encounter by means of which God reveals his purpose to his
people.

16
Whether by 'more' Paul is speaking quantitatively ('more often') or qualitatively
('in a greater way') is a matter of debate. Given that Paul's understanding of the value and
meaning of the gift significantly goes beyond that of the Corinthians, the ambiguity may
well embrace both ideas.
17
The term occurs 28 times in the NT. There are 21 occurrences in the
Pauline letters; of these the term is found 6 times in the Corinthian correspondence.

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It is probable that the mysteries Paul shares with his churches were
first revealed to him through just such a process. His discussion in 1 Cor
2 is quite instructive. He begins the chapter with the assertion that when
he came to them proclaiming the mystery of God his words were not the
product of human wisdom but of God's Spirit (2.1). He continues by not-
ing that he is able to speak God's wisdom, at hand in mystery and hid-
den (2.7), because God has revealed this to him through the Spirit (2.10).
This is possible only because he has received God's Spirit. He explains
this by means of the analogy that just as the human spirit enables one to
know what is truly human, so the Spirit of God enables one to under-
stand what is of God (2.11-12). As a consequence, Paul is so bold as to
affirm at the end of the chapter that he has the mind of Christ (2.16). The
nature of Paul's experience of the Spirit is such that he comes to know
aspects of the divine will and purpose that otherwise would be closed to
him. It is for this reason that he can describe himself at 4.1 as a steward
of God's mysteries.
The basis for such an experience of the Spirit lies in the fact that
humans are created in the image of God. Yet only the redeemed are able
to receive God's Spirit to the end that they might understand his plan
more fully. It was noted earlier that in Genesis the image of God is linked
to the activities of speech and rule. It is significant, therefore, that glos-
solalia is a form of speech, issuing from a profound encounter with God's
Spirit, that facilitates access to mysteries that enable a greater under-
standing of how God will accomplish his purposes for the created order.
In other words, through this gift of the Spirit believers are brought into
fuller participation in God's rule to the extent that his purpose is made
known to them with the attendant increased capability that bestows.18
Moreover, glossolalia is a form of speech that demonstrates a unique
encounter with God. Those who speak in a tongue speak to God and yet
at the same time speak that which God gives them. It is at the same time
speech to and from God. It is a kind of speech appropriate to those who
would image God, inasmuch as it is directed to God yet also reflective
of God. This special character of glossolalia makes it very probable that
the correct exercise of this gift of the Spirit affects speakers in such a
way as to contribute to the formation of the divine image in their lives.

18
One might also observe that in view of the transformative effects of such revela-
tory insight into the divine mysteries, this greater understanding of God's purpose (which
for Paul can be described as * having the mind of Christ') should result in even greater con-
formity to the image of Christ

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The second important observation Paul makes in 1 Corinthians 14


respecting the gift of tongues that is of relevance to this discussion is that
those who speak in a tongue 'edify' () themselves (14.4). Paul's
main interest in this section of 1 Corinthians is to encourage mutual
edification. The main problem with the Corinthian exercise of spiritual
gifts, notably the gift of tongues, appears to have been its self-serving
character. He therefore charges the church in the context of public wor
ship to only give voice to those spiritual utterances that will contribute
to the edification of all. To this end he expressly encourages them to
prophesy since this is a form of spiritual utterance that can be understood
by all and thus benefit all. It is in making the case for the greater impor
tance of prophesy in public settings, inasmuch as Paul contrasts the lim
ited capacity of glossolalia to edify with the broader capacity of prophecy,
that Paul makes the intriguing observation that those who speak in a
tongue edify themselves.
In the light of the Corinthian inclination towards self-aggrandizement
it is possible that in this context Paul's use of the verb 'to edify' carries
a negative, disparaging connotation. Those who speak in tongues are self-
indulgent and seek to benefit themselves as opposed to those who proph
esy and seek to benefit others.19 Yet this is not Paul's intention here. He
does want them to be more sensitive to community needs and therefore
reminds them, possibly with a slight gibe, of the distinction between what
is of personal benefit and what is of corporate benefit. However, he is not
discrediting the gift of speaking in tongues, only offering instruction as
to its proper sphere of exercise. It is a gift not best suited to public use
since no one will understand what is being said. Yet in a private setting
it does serve to build up the speaker.
The building up of individual believers and of the community of believ
ers is an important topic in Paul and is given special prominence in the
Corinthian correspondence. Near the end of 2 Corinthians (10.8; 12.19;
13.10) Paul speaks of the authority granted him by the Lord for the 'build
ing up' () of the church. The work of edification is thus central
to Paul's self-understanding of the ministry to which he was called. The
Corinthian congregation itself is described as God's building (1 Cor 3.9:

19
There is a negative use of at 8.10 in the wry observation that a Christian
with knowledge but insufficient love might 'build up' another Christian, who is without
knowledge and possessing a weak conscience, to act in a way that is not at all beneficial.
Paul's use of here is clearly ironic which is not the case at 1 Cor 14.4. If Paul
intended to counter self-serving attitudes towards glossolalia at 14.4 he could have done
this more clearly and effectively by reprising the same contrast he employed at 8.1: speak
ing in a tongue 'puffs up' () but prophesy 'builds up' ().

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) that Paul and others labor together to construct. A major com


ponent of Paul's community instruction to the Corinthians is his insis
tence that they thoughtfully contribute to the edification of others through
their words and actions. Note the important summation he adds at 14.26:
'Let all things be done for the purpose of building up'. It is appropriate
that Paul should make such frequent use of a term that draws attention
to the fact that the Christian life, understood both personally and corpo-
rately, is life in process. Yet as always for Paul process has an end in
view. In the present believers are being built up so that they might obtain
the end for which God created them.
With that in mind, Paul use of at 2 Cor 5.1 ('we have a build
ing from God') is of great significance. In a context that develops his ear
lier teaching at 2 Cor 3.18, about the progressive transformation of the
believer into the image of Christ, Paul here speaks of the daily renewal
of our 'inner person' (4.16: )20
that will finally reach its completion in the resurrection. According to the
metaphorical language of 5.1 the resurrection involves the exchange of
the earthly tent that is destroyed at death for the eternal building that is
given to us by God. This eternal building, which on one level refers to
the resurrection body of the future, provides a fitting description of the
final condition of the redeemed person and as such stands as a comple
ment to the image of Christ. In this respect, it is noteworthy that Paul
speaks not of our becoming this building or entering this building but
rather of our 'being clothed' () with this building (5.2,4). When
at the resurrection humans finally attain to the image of Christ this at the
same time can be described as the eschatological 'putting on' ofthat which
makes us fit for God's presence.21 One might even say that the resurrec
tion marks the ultimate 'putting on' of Christ. Paul describes the believer's
eschatological reality as a building in large part because it stands at the
end of the process of edification that occurs throughout the present. This
reminds us that the goal of edification is the completion of that building
which for Paul is the same as bringing to an end the process of transfor
mation into the image of Christ.
Thus when Paul at 1 Cor 14.4 refers to those who speak in tongues as
engaged in an activity in which they build up themselves he is referring

20
The only other occurrence of in the NT is at Col 3.10 (see above).
21
In the light of what was said earlier about the relationship between nakedness and
the debasement of the image of God in humanity, Paul's words in 2 Cor 5.3-4 take on a
poignant significance: death for the redeemed will not mean nakedness but a more definite
and final covering.

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to that process which ultimately ends in the restoration of the divine image.
Glossolalia is not the only activity that builds up.22 Yet it is the only activ
ity Paul speaks of wherein believers are able to build themselves up. Once
again there is something intrinsic to glossolalia that makes its practice
beneficial to the transformation of the believer. Presumably, latent in the
expression of language, albeit unusual (and perhaps due to its unusual
character), is a capacity to shape the speaker in a way that conforms to
the image of Christ.
With respect to the place of unusual language in the redemptive process,
there is an additional feature of 2 Corinthians 5 that deserves comment.
Paul expresses confidence that believers will in the end attain the escha
tological building from God. Yet he notes that in the present we groan
(5.2, 4: ) as we long to be clothed with that reality. In context
these groans appear to be Spirit inspired. The Spirit, who is here described
as the guarantee (5.5: ) that God will complete what he has begun,
prompts such utterances that give voice to our hopes to attain that for
which we were created.
This passage finds a parallel in Romans 8 where Paul also employs
the idea of groaning. There all of creation, which had been subject to
futility because of human disobedience, is described as groaning as the
eventual freedom from bondage is anticipated. Likewise, believers groan
as they await the consummation of their redemption. The Spirit inspires
such groans in the believer (v.26: 'the Spirit intercedes with sighs too
deep for words'). It is not uncommon to interpret these sighs or groans
generated by the Spirit as a reference to glossolalia.23 If such is the case,
this further demonstrates that glossolalia serves to focus attention on the
goal for humanity that God has purposed. It is, of course, noteworthy that
this section of Romans culminates in Paul's statement that God has pre
destined those he called to be conformed to the image of his son. Glossolalia
is thus an important means by which the Spirit leads us towards that goal.
C. S. Lewis called the book that he considered the best he had writ
ten Till We Have Faces. The theological truth he was expressing through

22
All the gifts of the Spirit contribute in some fashion to this end. Note Paul's argu
ment in Ephesians 4: the ascended Christ gives gifts to his church for the 'building up' of
the body of Christ to the end that all attain to the measure of the full stature of Christ
(4.11-13). The resources of the Spirit are given in order to promote the formation of the
image of Christ in believers.
23
See in particular F. D. Macchia, 'Sighs too Deep for Words: Toward a Theology of
Glossolalia', JPT 1 (1992), pp. 47-73 (esp. pp. 60-64). In this article Macchia makes the
intriguing observation, which is not further developed, that glossolalia 'is the language of
the imago DeV (p. 61).

200
Reflective Speech: Glossalalia and the Image of God

the title is that we cannot meet God face to face until we have faces. In
a letter responding to a query about the book's title Lewis wrote the fol-
lowing: 'The idea was that a human being must become real before it can
expect to receive any message from the superhuman; that is, it must be
speaking with its own voice (not one of its borrowed voices), expressing
its actual desires (not what it imagines that it desires), being for good or
ill itself, not any mask, veil ox persona.'2* It is of interest that in the book
itself and in this comment on his book, Lewis joins together the two ideas
of having a genuine face and a genuine voice. Both are essential if we
are ever to meet God.
It is noted in scripture that one cannot see God's face and live. We are
not at present prepared for such a face to face encounter. And yet the goal
of redemption is that we will one day see his face. In the meantime the
Spirit of God is active in our lives transforming us ever more into his
likeness. It has been the argument of this paper that, as an essential ele-
ment in this process of moving us towards our own true face, the Spirit
causes us to speak with a genuine voice. It is a voice that gives expres-
sion to the truth of God's purpose for his creation and to our actual long-
ings as his people. Glossolalia is the true voice given us today that helps
form the true image of tomorrow.

24
A letter to Dorothea Conybeare published in 1964 and quoted in W. Hooper, C. S.
Lewis: A Companion and Guide (New York: HarperCollins, 1996), p. 252.

201
^ s
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