It was a cold December evening in the PVG lobby. Weary students, anticipating the end of the first semester, forced down another cup of coffee and muscled out the last few hours of finals week.
Suddenly, the intense melancholy that hung in the air thicker than the fog outside was pierced by something out of the ordinary.
Members of a church from the Willamette Valley were demonstrating a couple of charismatic spiritual gifts: speaking in tongues and prophesy.
“I was there that night,” said student Dani Horne.
Having grown up surrounded by skeptical opinions about the modern practice of these gifts, Horne admits feeling a little uneasy at first.
“When I first heard the Pastor talking about them in a different light, I was pretty apprehensive and had a lot of doubts,” said Horne.
The church was visiting only a couple of students, but as time went on, more and more people gathered to see what the frenzy was about. That was when PVG Resident Director Ben Pearson stepped in.
“I walked out into the lobby, and it looked like some sort of an event was going on,” said Pearson. As an RD, he was alarmed by this unauthorized use of the space.
In an email sent to PVG residents after this incident, Pearson stated: “While we highly encourage spiritual develop and the pursuit of God’s truth, we also need to have any events that will require much of the lobby space and atmosphere to be ran by us first (Nicole and Ben).”
Yet in the wake of this event, there has been a good deal of contention on campus over the use of spiritual gifts such as speaking in tongues and prophesying.
“This controversy comes from the fact that Corban’s theological background differs from charismatic backgrounds,” said Pearson.
Theologically, speaking in tongues is practiced primarily in Charismatic and Pentecostal Christianity. These traditions have interpreted scriptures such as Acts 2 and Mark 16:17 as identifying the practice as a legitimate spiritual gift.
Yet the idea of learning to “practice” a gift like one might practice and learn a musical instrument is an idea that troubles Campus Pastor Dan Huber.
“I feel like it’s a gift that’s being practiced, not a gift that is being used,” said Huber. “Churches today have skewed it to be about something it’s not about.”
In Biblical times, speaking in tongues was used as a means of spreading the kingdom of God to more people. Huber noted that “in our culture, the purpose people tend to talk about it is for spiritual growth.”
Similarly, prophesying is a tradition that is somewhat controversial in modern Christianity.
Despite skeptical opinions, student Jordan Johansen attests to having personally experienced prophesy.
“Prophesying is a buildup of a believer or an unbeliever when they’re going through a hard time,” said Johansen. “It’s always supportive.”
Johansen says he has been prophesied over before, and that people he’s never met before have identified relationship problems in his life, and offered encouragement.
Regardless, theological differences like this are what Pearson called “non-essential differences.”
“We should approach them with love, humility, and open arms,” said Pearson. “Hopefully through that we can understand each other better.”