Thursday, August 20, 2009

Convergence by Sam Storms Book Review

There is a breach between the Word-based evangelical cessationists and their more experience oriented charismatic cousins. (Cessationists are convinced the gifts of the Spirit ceased at the close of the New Testament while charismatics encourage the use of the gifts of the Spirit in worship and daily life.)
Each judges the other. Cessationists are said to be afraid of a spiritual encounter, are dull in worship and are more interested in defining doctrine than evangelism. Charismatics are said to succumb to the love of experience, elevating experience over biblical truth. They are flashy rather than humble and forget 2,000 years of church history.
Sam Storms attempts to bridge this divide. He begins by giving his own story: raised a Southern Baptist, trained at Dallas Theological Seminary, pastured a non-denominational church, began to experience the gifts of the Holy Spirit, then went to the Kansas City Vineyard Church (1993) and later to Wheaton College (1999). Storms tells several experiences he had, convincing him the gifts of the Spirit were current today.
Storms notes that some call for “balance.” If by balance some mean pulling back from biblical truth and what the Spirit is doing today, he rejects it. “[B]lical balance is pursuing everything the Bible demands with the degree of emphasis and energy that the Bible commands.” (P. 105) He follows British pastor David Pawson who argues that the convergence of evangelicals and charismatics is not between the two but above them both.
Both groups agree that worship should be theocentric – God is to be glorified. “Cessationists believe God is most glorified when biblical truths about him are accurately and passionately proclaimed in song, liturgy, and recitation of Scripture. The focus of worship is to understand God and to represent him faithfully in corporate declaration.” (P. 153) “Charistmatics, on the other hand, believe God is most glorified not only when he is accurately portrayed in song but when he is experienced in personal encounter. Charismatic worship … insists that he is truly honored when he is enjoyed.” (P. 153)
Storms wants Christians to both learn and feel. He notes Paul had both rational and transrational (not irrational) experiences (1 Cor. 14:15).
This book was of particular interest to me as the subtitle, Spiritual Journeys of a Charismatic Calvinist, mirrors my own story. Storms has a good message but I don’t think there is as much interest in this topic as there was a decade or two ago. That may explain why his sources and references are mostly from the 90s. This book would be a suitable one for discussion by a group wanting to understand the issues.

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