Who’s tougher on tongues: DTS or the SBC?

USA Today drew a contrast yesterday between Dallas Theological Seminary (DTS) and the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) in alleging that DTS is more open to the charismatic gift of tongues than the SBC. Here’s the relevant excerpt:

A major battle over tongues has roiled the Southern Baptist Convention, the largest group of American Protestants. The SBC’s International Mission Board does not accept international missionaries who speak in tongues in public worship because it is not recognized as a part of Baptist identity, says spokesperson Wendy Norvelle. Next month, at the SBC’s annual convention, a group of pastors will ask the SBC to officially determine whether tongue-speaking adheres to Baptist principles. . .

Will Hall, spokesman for the SBC, says the denomination has no official policy on speaking in tongues for its churches or individual members. But there are other signs the practice is gaining acceptance. Dallas Theological Seminary and Campus Crusade for Christ, two strongholds of independent Christianity, have done away with restrictions on tongue-speaking for students and staff.

I think this report must have been a little bit shocking to the alumni and constituency of DTS since DTS’s doctrinal statement contains an even more explicit rejection of the continuation of tongues than the SBC’s statement of faith (which is silent on the matter). Here’s the relevant section from DTS’s doctrinal statement:

We believe that some gifts of the Holy Spirit such as speaking in tongues and miraculous healings were temporary. We believe that speaking in tongues was never the common or necessary sign of the baptism nor of the filling of the Spirit, and that the deliverance of the body from sickness or death awaits the consummation of our salvation in the resurrection (Acts 4:8, 31; Rom. 8:23; 1 Cor. 13:8).

I’m sure that’s why DTS President Mark Bailey issued this statement today in response to the story in USA Today:

A May 24, 2007, article in “USA Today,” “Faith’s language barrier?” about spiritual gifts and the practice of speaking in tongues contained an incorrect statement in reference to Dallas Theological Seminary (DTS).
We have already contacted the paper seeking clarification and wanted to similarly reiterate DTS’s long-standing position and policy in this matter to our campus community, donors and constituents.

The erroneous statement . . . is incorrect and constitutes a misrepresentation of Dallas Theological Seminary for three reasons. First, there has been no change of policy with reference to tongues-speaking for students and staff at Dallas Seminary.

Second, there has been no change of policy for the faculty who affirm annually their full agreement with a doctrinal position on this subject that is published in the seminary catalog and available on the seminary’s website at

Thirdly, over 70 denominations are represented in our student body of 2036 students. Some of these students obviously come from backgrounds with a viewpoint on tongues-speaking different from the seminary. They are admitted because they are in general agreement with our doctrinal statement and attend with the assurance they will not propagate contrarian doctrines within the seminary community.

We’ll all be looking for that retraction from USA Today.


  • mike

    I’m not sure what to say about all of this, I don’t believe that a seminary as wide reaching, denominationaly speaking, as DTS is making a mistake to remove restrictions on tongue-speaking, in the babbling sence. DTS is a non-denom school, and considering the amazing amount of groups out there that believe in the validity of this side-issue, it should remain as such, a side-issue.

    Those who would object to this view by claiming the modern use of tongues is nothing more than an imported pagan practice, i agree. However, the best way to stop such practices is with a better exegete to explain the meaning of the scripture, so those who choose to propogate such practices are forced to acknowledge the unbiblical nature of mondern tongues. This would also help to eliminate the common misconceptions force-fed to us so that they become accepted presuppositions to be gently done away with.

  • Mike Bird

    Am I the only one who finds it sad when different denominations or institutions have a boasting contest to see who is harder on the charismatics? I don’t agree with all of the charsimatic practice and theology, esp. 2nd blessing stuff, but they are not sub-Christian!

  • dennyrburk

    Dear Mike,

    I don’t think either side is having a “boasting contest.” I’m sorry if I gave that impression with the title.

    What I was trying to point out is that USA Today reported the story exactly wrong! It said that the SBC was restrictive while DTS was less-restrictive. On this point, the paper was way out of whack.

    The SBC has nothing to say on tongues in its doctrinal statement, but DTS does.


  • mike


    I don’t believe in the cessation of tongues, only in their clear biblical practice, that being, real, human languages miraculously given to a person temporarily for the spreading of the gospel. This is how they are used in Acts and if you read 1Cor with that idea in mind it makes a lot more sense. For example, Paul claims that he spoke in tongues more than anyone. This makes sense if they are used for the speading of the Gospel. Also the word for tongues in 1cor is often translated “languages” else where, thus is you read it “I speak in languages more than all of you,” it makes even more sense!
    When I specified “modern tongues” I’m sorry, I didn’t realize it was misleading. What I meant is the modern use of “tongues” as babble for personal prayer and devotion and public worship. It is the babble that I don’t believe in.

  • Bryan L

    You said, “I don’t believe in the cessation of tongues, only in their clear biblical practice, that being, real, human languages miraculously given to a person temporarily for the spreading of the gospel.”

    I’m not sure that it’s that clear that the biblical practice is just miraculous temporary human languages that are for the speading of the Gospel. Only the 1 section in Acts appears to lean that way, yet at the same time it even speaks of Judeans hearing in their own language which more than likely wasn’t foreign based on who was doing the speaking.
    The rest of the occurrences in the NT don’t appear to be for missionary purposes. And even more, in one of the places in 1 Cor, Paul says an outsider who comes into the church and hears tongues would think the people were out of their mind (since he doesn’t understand) and tells them they should instead speak prophecy in a lanuage that everyone understands.
    Also you have Paul saying that the tongue speaker speaks to God and himself. The tongues Paul adresses in 1 Cor sounds primarily like a private practice that is edifying to the believer practicing them.

    Even if you come with the pressuposition that the tongues in the NT is foreign languages for the spreading of the Gospel, I don’t see how you can fit that belief with what we actually find being said about tongues in the NT.


    Bryan L

  • Brian

    It would be very surprising if DTS relented even one jot or tittle on the tongues issue – if they did they need to take Jack Deere back. They may be a non-denom school but their preference is clearly strict conservative Baptist – no tongues and no women preaching.

  • dennyrburk

    Brian (in #9),

    DTS has had numerous women preachers in their chapel in recent years (e.g., Susie Hawkins, Sue Edwards, Dipa Hart, Lynn Etta Manning, and Kay Daigle).

    DTS has relaxed its doctrinal statement with respect to its students. The students do not have to agree with DTS’s statement on tongues in order to graduate. Only the faculty have to affirm the cessationism of the doctrinal statement.


  • Brian

    Thanks for the reply. well, what do I know? 😉 Can women students take the preaching or pastor track? Last I saw, they could not take the pastor track.

  • Dave

    Denny, do you know if the wives of Dallas faculty are supposed to affirm the doctrinal statement? Specifically, if a wife speaks in tongues or has a “private prayer language”, does that disqualify her husband from teaching or speaking at DTS?

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