Book Review – Convergence (Sam Storms)

Those of us who classify ourselves as both “reformed” and “charismatics” have probably had more debates than we care to imagine on the subject of how those two can go together. Both camps tend to be highly suspicious of one another. But if there is anyone who is undeniably committed to both positions, it is Sam Storms. In this book, he makes the case for how these two both can and should go hand in hand.

His approach is interesting. For one thing he neither makes a detailed Scriptural case for Calvinism nor a detailed rebuttal of cessationism. He rather writes to allay the concerns of two very different groups of people:

  • First, Calvinists who feel that embracing the charismatic gifts of the Spirit will necessarily involve doctrinal compromise
  • Second, charismatics who fear that embracing reformed doctrine will necessarily result in quenching the Spirit

He starts by telling his own story of how he was a reformed cessationist very suspicious of charismatics. Interestingly, Don Carson’s book “Showing the Spirit” was instrumental in his changing opinion towards the charismatic gifts. He speaks of how he identified with many of the cessationists concerns about the flamboyance and lack of sophistication on the part of charismatic leaders. But as he tells the story of how he came into contact with supernatural spiritual gifts, he stresses the dual role of the Holy Spirit in enlightening the intellect and igniting the emotions.

The second section of the book is devoted to reflections on how we can be people of “Word and Spirit”. Interestingly he interacts with Ian Stackhouse’s recent book, “The Gospel Driven Church“, with which he agrees with Stackhouse’s criticism of shallow revivalism, but has some strong points of disagreement too (e.g. over the Toronto blessing).

He devotes some space to arguing that the contemporary use of the gift of prophecy does not detract from the doctrine of the sufficiency of Scripture. He also gives some helpful practical advice on using the gift in a proper and biblical way. There is also a section based on Jonathan Edward’s teaching on the importance of “affections”. Storms uses this to argue that genuine Christianity is one in which the affections are fully engaged. He also takes some time

One of the important theological topics he covers, albeit briefly, is the understanding of Jesus’ ministry as paradigmatic. Many reformed Christians are eager to distance themselves from any suggestion that we could emulate the power with which Jesus operated. But Storms insists that we are empowered by the same Holy Spirit that Jesus was, and therefore charismatics are justified in their desire to follow his example even in areas such as healing.

Overall I think this is a very helpful book for the target audience. He will probably not persuade any dyed in the wool cessationists, but those who count themselves as “open but cautious” will find much to challenge them here. There are also many timely reminders for charismatics of the need to ground and base all that we do in the word of God. And perhaps most importantly, it again reminds us of the need to be truly hungry for more of God the Holy Spirit in our lives.

2 thoughts on “Book Review – Convergence (Sam Storms)

  1. I totally agree with your comments on “Convergance” but I have to register a complaint and step on some corns probably. I don’t like the term “Continuationist”. I think it’s a cop-out for former charismatics who are disenchanted with what they have seen and maybe disappointed by the promises of the 70’s not coming to pass.

    What does “Continuationist” actually imply? Why simply that you accept that the gifts of the Spirit “continue” today! It doesn’t suggest at all that the Bible commands us to actively pursue them ESPECIALLY prophecy (1 Cor 14:1). It doesn’t give any hint as to the fact that they are desirable and essential for church life if we are to function properly as New Covenant people.

    Is it just an attempt to placate people who don’t think the gifts continue? For the sake of some kind of ecumenical unity? I’m not sure how effective a term it is. I’m open to be proved wrong but it doesn’t strike me as very useful.

  2. I agree that “continuationist” is a fairly bland term, although “open but cautious” is hardly much better! The trouble is, these words stop becoming just theological labels and align you with particular groups of people. The range of people calling themselves “charismatic” is becoming extremely broad.

    So if John MacArthur were ever to change his mind on the cessation of the givts I wouldn’t begrudge him calling himself a “continuiationist” as for him, “charismatic” seems to imply that you agree with Kenneth Copeland.

    Another example would be “restorationist”. No one calls themselves that now, probably because many people think that it means you are a Jehovah’s Witness.

    So as you said, more important to eagerly desire the gifts than to label ourselves with the right label. After all, didn’t Paul chastise the Corinthians for their labels and “Apollostolic” / “Peteristic” / “Paulitical” etc (1 Cor 1:12)?

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