A 2006 New York Times report on Speaking in Tongues showed the findings of some neuroscientists. They discovered a shift in the brain activity of five people while practising ‘glossolalia’, as the phenomenon is also (and sometimes disparagingly) known. Frontal lobe activity, responsible for controlling behaviour, was relatively quiet and the regions maintaining self-consciousness were active. In other words, there is no trance involved but the practice is not ‘willed speech’ either.
Given that there are some 600 million Pentecostals and Charismatics worldwide who have embraced a belief system that promotes this practice, it is hardly surprising that it would be validated. This is not a fringe minority, so speaking in tongues cannot therefore be easily dismissed. In fact, whilst we can regulate the practice of tongues (no-one does it involuntarily), it is inspired speech.
This is exactly what the Bible teaches. The gift is given by the Spirit, but it is for the purpose of speaking to God (1 Corinthians 14:2) where our spirit prays (1 Corinthians 14:14), often when we don’t know what to pray in English.
For those who say they don’t need it, you don’t need the gift of healing either, but why not have gifts that God gives? It’s not about being a better person, but about being more complete Christian. Having said that, there are many who speak in tongues who are deficient in other areas!
The Apostle Paul may well have minimised the importance of this gift for public worship, but he clearly said his desire was for everyone to speak in tongues (1 Corinthians 14:5) and that he himself did it more than anyone (1 Corinthians 14:18).
Finally, for those who say the supernatural gifts of the Spirit died out once the early church was established, there is no Scriptural support for this illogical idea; these are prevalent and demonstrable today. (The allegation of ‘childish ways’ from 1 Corinthians 13:11 is irrelevant and often used out of context). For those sceptical about supposedly emotional faith, Jesus said that we are to love the Lord with all our heart, soul and mind (Matthew 22:37); clearly we don’t fully love, serve or worship Him with just a preferred part of our total being!