Phillip Wiebe - The Pentecostal Initial Evidence Doctrine | Glossolalia

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JETS 27/4 (December 1984) 465-472
   JETS   27/4  (December  1984)  465-472 THE PENTECOSTAL INITIAL EVIDENCE DOCTRINE Phillip H.Wiebe* The pentecostal movement has commonly advanced the view that speaking in tongues or glossolalia is the initial evidence of being baptized in the Holy Spirit or being filled with the Spirit. Not all of those who might consider themselves pentecostal would be prepared to assent to this position, however, and of course many devout Christian people outside the movement have attacked it. This position, often called the initial evidence doctrine, has been the object of considerable discussion, and it might seem that nothing more on the subject can be said. Recent work analyzing concepts of evidence, however, can usefully be brought to bear on this issue. My object in this paper is to discuss the meaning of the initial evidence doctrine and then attempt to determine which views relating glossolalia and Spirit baptism receive support in the NT. I should like to add that I do not propose to discuss here the relationship between conversion and Spirit baptism. That issue, while important, is not at stake in my discussion of the relationship of Spirit baptism and glossolalia. I. THE MEANING OF THE INITIAL EVIDENCE DOCTRINE The initial evidence doctrine asserts that glossolalia is the initial evidence of the baptism in the Spirit. My attention here will be focused on the concept of initial evidence. For the purposes of this section it does not much matter which expression—whether baptized in the Spirit/' filled with the Spirit/' or whatever—is used. I think there are some advantages to sticking to the first of these, although I shall not discuss my reasons for thinking so here, and so I shall speak of the baptism in the Spirit (or Spirit baptism). But before I examine the initial evidence doctrine itself I shall make some observations about the concepts of evidence and initial evidence. The concept of evidence is an epistemological one. This means that it has to do with situations in which one event is taken as providing grounds for believing that another event has occurred. 1  An important point about evidential claims is that they might be of several distinct sorts. A statement could be confirming (or supporting) evidence for another; a statement could be disconfirming (or undermining) evidence with respect to another; and a statement might be irrelevant with respect to another—i.e., be neither confirming nor disconfirming evidence. * Phillip Wiebe is associate professor of philosophy at Trinity Western College in Langley, British Columbia. 'Some theorists prefer to speak of statements as being evidence for other statements rather than speaking of events. I shall make reference to statements in this essay. Carl Hempel discusses this point and other basic points regarding confirmation in his Studies in the Logic of Confirmation, first published in  Mind   (1945), later in Hempel's own  Aspects of Scientific Explanation  (New  York:  Free Press, 1965). 465  466  JOURNAL   OF  THE  EVANGELICAL   THEOLOGICAL   SOCIETY Moreover, there is one type of confirming evidence that is known as conclusively confirming evidence, and an important type of disconfirming evidence is conclu- sively   disconfirming or   falsifying  evidence. It is obvious that proponents of the initial  evidence doctrine have wanted to assert at the  very   least that  glossolalia  is confirming evidence for the baptism in the Spirit. Whether a stronger evidential claim  is involved is of course debatable. Many persons advancing the initial  evi- dence  doctrine have undoubtedly thought that  glossolalia  is conclusive evidence for the baptism in the Spirit.  A second and  very   important point to observe about evidential claims is that they   are not the same as causal claims, although there can be a close relationship  between the two in certain cases. Several examples  will  help to make this clear and  will  also illustrate causal and evidential concepts in nonreligious contexts. It might be observed that the index of refraction is  constant  for   glass.  Now suppose that  this fact is taken as confirming evidence that a homogeneous plastic  will  also have a constant index of refraction. Here an evidential claim between events is made,  but there is no causal connection between these events—i.e., the con-stancy of the refraction index for   glass  certainly does not cause the constancy of the  refraction index of a plastic or   vice versa.  Consider, by way of a second example, the fact that the observed retardation of the planet  Neptune—i.e.,  its failure to be at a predicted point—was taken as evidence that there was a yet󰀭to󰀭 be󰀭discovered ninth planet exerting a gravitational pull on  Neptune.  This is an evidential claim, but there is associated with it a causal claim—namely, that the gravitational pull of a yet󰀭to󰀭be󰀭discovered ninth planet caused Neptune's move- ment  to be retarded. Here we have a situation where event  X   is said to cause event  Y   and, moreover, event  Y   is taken as evidence that event  X   is the case (even  though  X   is not observed). The  two examples  just given  illustrate that evidential and causal claims can sometimes be paired but not  always.  Another kind of situation that frequently occurs  is where an event  X   causes events  Y   and  Ζ   but only   Y   is observed, and it is taken  as evidence that  Ζ   will  be or could have been observed. In this situation  Y and  Ζ   are causally linked but not directly, and one is taken as evidence of the other.  An example of this sort of situation can be drawn from  medicine.  Perhaps a  virus  causes a physical disorder consisting  first  of heart palpitation, which is followed by chest pains. The heart palpitation might be  viewed  as evidence that the  person  will  soon experience chest pains. It  might be noted in  passing  that some analysts of the concept of causality suggest  that reference to causal  connections  between individual events, such as are  suggested  above, are really shorthand  ways  of referring to more complete explanations in which reference is made to  lawlike  generalizations embracing all events of a certain sort. 2  For example, the statement made above in illustration that  the presence of a ninth planet caused Neptune to be retarded would be regarded as incomplete, for it is not the ninth planet  itself   that produces the retardation  but rather a set of   lawlike  conditions in the universe pertaining to gravitational pull in conjunction with the presence of the ninth planet that pro- duced  it. The only point I should  like  to make about this  view  of causation is that 2 C.  Hempel  suggests  this in  Philosophy  of Natural   Science  (Englewood  Cliffs:  Prentice󰀭Hall, 1966) 52󰀭 53.  THE PENTECOSTAL INITIAL EVIDENCE DOCTRINE 467 while it might serve as a laudable goal for various sciences to strive toward, there still is a place for assertions concerning causal connections between singular events. I do not think that the scrutiny of religious phenomena is anywhere near the point where we might find true lawlike generalizations. I think we will have to be content with rather ordinary causal claims for some time to come. Those who scrutinize the religious phenomena described in the literature of the NT will certainly have to bë content with ordinary causal claims, for the writers were obviously not engaged in an activity that one could describe as scientific description. The initial evidence doctrine makes reference to ''initial'' evidence. This concept is a curious one, and it deserves closer scrutiny before we actually examine the initial evidence doctrine  itself. 3  The concept of initial evidence is curious because it appears to introduce a temporal element by virtue of the term ''initial/   ' which is then juxtaposed with the time-independent concept of evidence. There seems to be little doubt about the claim that the concept of evidence is frequently understood to be time-independent. By this I mean that whereas an event  X   is evidence for  Y,  the epistemic link between  X   and  Y   is independent of the times that  X   and  Y   are acquired—i.e., if   X   is evidence for  Υ, X   could occur prior to, after,  or   simultaneous  with  Y.  The  following  example  might  help  to illustrate the time󰀭independence  of the  concept  of   evidence.  Let us imagine  that  a number of  very valuable, insured diamonds are missing from the safe of a small company and  that  the detectives employed by the  insurance  firm consider the hypothesis, among  others,  that  the robbery was the work of   the  employer who  hoped  first to collect  the  insurance  and later sell the  diamonds.  In  their   investigation they dis- cover   first of all  that  the company is nearly   bankrupt,  and soon after they dis- cover   that the  employer did  not  tell  them the  truth  regarding his  whereabouts  on the  night of   the  robbery. It is reasonable to regard  both  pieces of   information  as evidence  supporting (but not conclusively confirming, of   course)  the hypothesis in  question. Now it would not  matter   if the discoveries had been made in the reverse  order—that  is, first it was discovered  that  the employer's  account  re-garding his  location  was fabricated and  then  it was discovered  that the  firm was nearly   bankrupt.  Both pieces of   information  would still be reasonably regarded as evidence for the hypothesis in  question,  for   both  bits of   information  seem to have  an  epistemic  link to the  hypothesis.  The order in which they are acquired is utterly   irrelevant to  their   being evidence. Moreover   their   evidential tie to the hypothesis  is  independent  of   whether   the hypothesis is advanced before the evi- dence  turns  up or after. This is why the  concept  of evidence is said to be  time󰀭independent.  The adjective  ''initial/  '  however, introduces a temporal element, for   it suggests  that  there  is such a thing as first evidence. There are several plausible  interpretations  of the  concept  of initial  evidence,  however,  that  might  be  suggested. In relation to the example just used, one might perhaps speak meaningfully   of the information of the firm's being  near   bankruptcy as being initial  evidence in favor of   the  hypothesis put forward in the sense  that  this was the  first evidence  onto  which the detectives stumbled or in the sense  that  this  was the first  (in  time)  that  they   happened  to  consider   when assessing  the  reason󰀭 3 I  have  examined  the  concept  of   initial  evidence in   Criteria  of   Strengthening Evidence,  Philosophy Research Archives  (1978),  and in  Concepts  of Weak   Confirmation  (1974;  unpublished).  468  JOURNAL OF THE  EVANGELICAL  THEOLOGICAL  SOCIETY ableness of their hypothesis. Two plausible interpretations of the concept of initial evidence are then (1) that it is evidence that happens to be the first that is encountered in the investigation of the reasonableness of a hypothesis, or  (2)  that it is evidence that happens to be the first that an investigator considers when assessing the reasonableness of a hypothesis. Glossolalia is said to be the initial evidence of the baptism of the Spirit. There is nothing peculiar in saying that glossolalia is evidence for one's having been baptized in the Spirit. Even if it were false it would not be peculiar. The peculiarity of the claim begins to surface when the adjective ''initial is added. Is the initial evidence thesis meant to imply that there are various kinds of evidence for the baptism in the Spirit but that the first that always happens to be considered or the first upon which one stumbles in investigating claims is glossolalia? This would be a very strange claim to make, because the initial evidence doctrine would then be a universal claim about what evidence people happen to find or look for when attempting to establish whether someone is baptized in the Spirit—that  is,  the initial evidence doctrine would be reduced to a universal claim about the epistemological activities of those interested in determining whether someone is baptized in the Spirit. It would not be a theological or doctrinal claim at all. I do not think that this is what pentecostalists holding to the initial evidence doctrine have wanted to claim. There is a more plausible way of understanding the initial evidence thesis, one that explains the peculiarity of juxtaposing the normally-temporally-independent concept of evidence with the apparently-temporal concept implied by the word initial. The initial evidence could well be meant as a shorthand way of referring to the conjunction of two separate theses—namely,  (1)  glossolalia is evidence for a person's having been baptized in the Spirit and (2) glossolalia is the first physical effect of a person's being baptized in the Spirit. The first thesis is generally held by pentecostalists, and some would probably hold the second. The second thesis means that the relationship between baptism and glossolalia is a causal one, not just an evidential one, and in connection with causal connections it often makes sense to identify first, second, third, etc., effects in temporal sequence. Thus the inclusion of the term initial might be meant to refer to an initial causal effect of the baptism of the Spirit. While the foregoing account of the relationship between glossolalia and the baptism in the Spirit represents an option that defenders of the initial evidence doctrine might intend, there are others that are possible. The initial evidence doctrine might be intended as the conjunction of two evidential claims rather than as the conjunction of an evidential claim and a causal claim—namely, (1) glossolalia is evidence for the baptism in the Spirit and (3) glossolalia is the only evidence for the baptism in the Spirit. There is no doubt that some pentecostalists have held and do hold to this conjunction of theses, but is does not adequately explain the reference to glossolalia's being the initial evidence for the baptism in the Spirit. Other conjunctions of various theses are possible. One that immediately suggests itself is a conjunction of three—namely, (1) glossolalia is evidence of the baptism in the Spirit, (3) glossolalia is the only evidence for the baptism in the Spirit, and (4) glossolalia is an effect of the baptism in the Spirit. Other possibilities—conjunctions of evidential and/or causal claims—could no doubt be found. In the section that follows I shall address myself to some of the theses that have just
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