Tongues of Men and the Mind of Christ

If I speak in the tongues of men and angels, can I still have the mind of Christ? One of the most difficult epistemological topics in Paul’s letters is the supernatural gifts. Prophecy, tongues, and interpretation are gifts often considered disconnected from the spiritual discernment Paul discusses in the opening chapters of the letter (particularly 2:6-16). This lack of context has led to a lack of understanding and a disconnection from the rich theological anthropology of 1 Corinthians. When these passages are brought back together, a line of argument appears that unites the seemingly disparate parts of the letter. Paul both exhibits and exhorts the church in Corinth to have the mind of Christ by practicing the virtue of practical wisdom (φρόνησις). In fact, my thesis is that the gifts of prophecy, tongues, and interpretation can only be practiced properly through the virtue of practical wisdom (φρόνησις).
This contextual lens, derived from the broader argument of 1 Corinthians, illuminates and adjudicates arguments between charismatics and cessationists. This interpretation of 1 Corinthians 12-14 will demonstrate that Christians should approach the gifts of tongues, prophecy, and interpretation as opportunities to practice the Spirit-given virtue of φρόνησις. In those chapters, Paul is drawing on the same anthropological insight he uses to discuss spiritual discernment in 2:6-16, wisdom in 3:18-22, and adjudicating lawsuits in 6:1-8. In order to show the connection between the gifts and the virtue of φρόνησις it will be helpful to consider Paul’s argument out of order, first the general teaching on the gifts in 12:1-31, then the specific gifts of prophecy, tongues, and interpretation in 14:1-33, and finally the topic of love in 13:1-13. As an exercise in theological anthropology, this paper connects the first-century practice of the gifts in Corinth to the practice of φρόνησις in the church for all time.

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