Sunday, October 30, 2005

Book Review: Convergence

Storms, Sam. Convergence: Spiritual Journeys of a Charismatic Calvinist.(2005: Enjoying God Ministries).

Convergence is comprised of three parts. The first part is autobiographical. Dr. Sam Storms shares the journey he has been on the past 20 or so years. He grew up in Southern Baptist churches and went to Dallas Theological Seminary. In his words, he was a typical DTS graduate, although a bit more Calvinistic than most. Through a series of exciting events, God brought Dr. Storms and his wife to realize that they were missing out on the fullness of the Holy Spirit’s ministry. Dr. Storms was a cessationist and now calls himself a charismatic, a charismatic Calvinist. Dr. Storms says, “In calling myself a “Charismatic Calvinist” I run the risk of incurring either ridicule or disbelief. The ridicule will probably come from my Calvinist friends who are offended by what they perceive as the theologically shallow and hermeneutically na├»ve orientation of many charismatics. My charismatic friends will be amazed that a person, for example, who claims to have “heard God’s voice” could affirm something so seemingly archaic and spiritually stifling as predestination” (p. 23). These first four chapters are a blow by blow account of how God broke through the barriers of Dr. Storms’ life.

The second section of Convergence is devoted to exploring the differences between cessationists and charismatics. Dr. Storms does a thorough job of identifying and explaining the chasm that exists between the two camps. He says, “I hope we can agree that if a biblical command is worth obeying it is worth obeying wholeheartedly and with abandon. One cannot be “somewhat” committed to the Spirit and “somewhat” committed to the Word. One must be wholly and radically committed to both. Otherwise, both Spirit and Word will end up being diluted and underemphasized. Spirit and Word were never meant to be “balanced” with each other, far less played off against each other, but “wedded” to each other” (p. 103)! Dr. Storms presents a fair and balanced discussion of the main issues and practices surrounding this issue.

The third and final section of Convergence deals with the spiritual gift of prophecy. Dr. Storms gives two reasons for devoting an entire section to this subject: (1) his spiritual journey has been influenced by supernatural encounters with God in which the gift of prophecy has been a part, and (2) this tends to be the main issue of debate between cessationists and charismatics. Dr. Storms holds a high view of Scripture and believes God still speaks to his people. Dr. Storms answers Jonathan Edwards’ arguments against the gift of prophecy and explains how it is possible to esteem the Bible and believe in the spiritual gift of prophecy. He says, “When we listen to God we do not expect him to say anything doctrinally or ethically new. But we do expect him to speak to the situation in which we find ourselves with wisdom and direction and insight and encouragement in living out the truths he has written in” (p. 183).

I found Convergence to be very helpful in moving me closer to understanding the issues between cessationists and charismatics. The second section alone is worth the price of the book because it is an invaluable resource in exploring the chasm between the two camps. Dr. Storms explains both the strengths and weaknesses in each realm. Also, Dr. Storms’ personal journey was fun to read and has challenged me to expect the power of God more fully in my life and ministry. Since reading Convergence, my spiritual senses are more aware of the workings of God in and around me. I still have some study and thinking to do regarding the issue of God’s spoken word (prophecy) and its relation to the authority of God’s written Word.

I would recommend for you to read both Pleasures Evermore and One Thing by Dr. Sam Storms before Convergence.


Mark Redfern said...

Thanks, Justin. This is a helpful review. I'll have read Pleasures Evermore (at least most of it) and One Thing. I'll try to pick this one up in a month or so. Thanks again for taking the time to review it.

Vinnie Beichler said...

Sounds good. I need to pick this us as I try to figure out where I stand on this. Thanks!