questions from someone exploring the orthodox faith
The position of Orthodoxy regarding "speaking in tongues" is based on St Paul's First Letter to the Corinthians chapters 12-14. He does place speaking in tongues as one of a number of spiritual gifts, but does place it at the end, after apostleship, prophecy, teaching, the working of miracles, healing, and a number of others (12:28-30). And St Paul's attitude to spiritual gifts is summed up when he says "yet show I unto you a more excellent way," (12:31) which is the primacy of charity, love. Following this does he exhort us to desire spiritual gifts, putting the speaking of tongues down the list again. "For he that speaketh in an unknown tongue, speaketh not unto man, but unto God..."(14:2) The point is that, if the speaker in tongues does actually understand what he is saying, then he is edifying only himself, but someone who prophesies is edifying the whole community of Christians. In order to edify the Church, an interpreter of tongues is needed. "But if there be no interpreter, let him keep silence in church; and let him speak to himself, and to God."
That great Day of Pentecost when the Holy Spirit descended on the Apostles in tongues of fire is distinguished, among other things, by the Apostles speaking in a variety of tongues, but which were understood by those hearing them. If, in so-called Pentecostal churches, the speaking in tongues in tongues is intelligible to no-one, then what is the spiritual profit in this?