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.