Sam Storms on Spiritual (Charismatic) Gifts

The Beginner's Guide to Spiritual Gifts by Dr. Sam Storms, http://www ... I’ve not read many books about spiritual gifts from a charismatic perspective.  Therefore, I recently worked through Sam Storm’s book, The Beginner’s Guide to Spiritual Gifts, to learn more about charismatic theology/practice.  As a Reformed Christian, I’m not charismatic, but I do want a proper understanding of this movement.  Below is a brief review of this book.

There are ten chapters in this book: 1) When Power Comes to Church (an introduction), 2) Right? Wrong? (10 myths about charismatic/spiritual gifts), 3) Words of Wisdom and Knowledge (prophecy and utterances), 4) Faith and Healing, 5) It’s a Miracle (miracles in the church), 6) Prophecy and Distinguishing of Spirits, 7) Who Said God Said? (knowing the Bible in order to test prophesies), 8) What is the Gift of Tongues, 9) Tongues and Interpretation, 10) Letting Your Gift Find You.  There’s also an appendix on how to pray for healing and one on “when a gifted person falls.”

Storms does give several charismatic stories in attempt to prove his points.  One worth mentioning is his account of a prophet telling a friend that God was going to send a comet to prove that the church should have a 21 day period of prayer and fasting.  The comet came.  This man also said God spoke to him in a dream telling him about a drought and famine, and the next summer was dry (see chapter five).  There are other similar stories of dreams, healings, and revelations.

This book was a reminder to me of why I am not a charismatic. The way Storms explains the passages of Scripture in view (such as 1 Cor. 12) were unconvincing, subjective at times, based on probables at other times, lacking in OT references, and without solid exegetical or theological support.  I was also troubled by Storms’ logic based on experience and emotional appeal (I’m thinking of the logical fallacy of “playing to the gallery”).

Here are some phrases I found unsettling:

“To reject spiritual [charismatic –spl] gifts, to turn from this immediate and gracious divine enabling, is, in a sense, to turn from God. …In denying them, we deny Him” (p. 13).

“If you are not earnestly desiring to prophesy, if you are not praying for an opportunity and occasion to speak prophetically into the lives of the church and other believers, you are disobeying God!” (p. 111).

“It is a sin to despise [charismatic – spl] prophecy” (p. 141).

I also disagree with Storms’ discussion of faith.  He says there are three different kinds of faith: conversion faith (the faith through which we’re justified), continuing faith (the daily faith we have), and charismatic faith, which “appears to be spontaneous and functions as the divinely enabled condition on which the more overtly supernatural activities of God are suspended” (p. 60).  Storms says charismatic faith is not given to every Christian, and it is a special faith that enables a believer to trust God to bring about a sort of blessing not promised in Scripture (p. 61).  Storm then goes on to talk about five levels of faith for healing.  To divide and dissect faith in this way is unhealthy at best.  Here Storms is at odds with the historic confessional understanding of faith: there are not “faiths” that we have as Christians, but “true faith” in Christ alone for justification by grace alone.  I’m not saying that Storms is denying justification by faith alone, but his discussion of faith is not in line with the Reformation; one should remember this when reading Storms’ other works.

I don’t recommend this book, obviously.  I realize that Reformed theology doesn’t have all the answers to Paul’s discussion in 1 Cor. 12, but its answers are better and more biblical than that of charismatic theology.  This book has reminded me of this fact!  As Richard Gaffin and others have said, Scripture is sufficient for us today; we no longer need prophets and revelations.

Sam Storms, The Beginners Guide to Spiritual Gifts (Minneapolis: Bethany House, 2012).

shane lems
hammond, wi

9 thoughts on “Sam Storms on Spiritual (Charismatic) Gifts”

  1. Thanks for the bird’s eye review and quotes from the book, those may come in handy in talking with other reforming friends.

    Coming from a mystic then charismatic background of a few decades, I could pen my own book on ‘experiences,’ and for years formed a theology regarding these things that changed as needed. Ouch.

    One huge takeaway I hold dear in the end, is in the face of the divisiveness of charismatic theology – coming to a full catholic (all of the church) understanding has been incredibly sweet. Love for all kinds of us, in all of our messes, certainly has become much more real and practical since God began my journey towards reformation.

    The problem of the ‘haves and have-nots’ are sadly missed and excused by so many in the movement, and can foster celebrity cliques, pastors, and poor private government.

    I loved the expression of this concern that Sproul preached (Undervaluing Pentecost) during the Strange Fire conference. (easily available via YouTube)

    I’m curious as to know what book(s) you DO recommend on the subject?


    1. Thanks for the comments, Jacques. I (without looking at it) bought this Storms’ book because I was hunting for a solid book on spiritual gifts. But it was neither solid nor was it a book on regular spiritual gifts!

      Anyway, I haven’t found a lot of good, solid books on spiritual gifts (such as serving, teaching, mercy, etc.). Vern Poythress wrote a booklet on it, but it’s not too long. I’ve looked at quiet a few different books on spiritual gifts, and most of them are not good at all (it’s like shopping for books on the end times!). If you ever find a good book on spiritual gifts, let me know!



  2. Chs. 16 & 17 in Edmund Clowney’s book The Church treat spiritual gifts. There is also Gaffin’s Perspectives on Pentecost and OP Robertson’s The Final Word dealing with prophecy.

    When Wayne Grudem heard of where I went to college, without missing a beat he reached over to his shelf, grabbed a copy of his book The Gift of Prophecy, signed it and gave it to me. I found it somewhat humorous and rather surreal. (How is that book endorsed by Poythress and he remains at Westminster? Grudem is an advocate of Frame-Poythress perspectivalism.)

    In sincere bewilderment, I asked Grudem, an intelligent and godly man like Storms, how he came to embrace charismatic views. He said, “Well, I was in college and it seemed real.” That was it, as simple as that. I observed those things from a distance as in high school and thought they were false.


      1. Sinclair Ferguson’s volume on the Holy Spirit is outstanding. He leans heavily upon G Vos, R Gaffin, and H Ridderbos. I didn’t really respond to Dr. Grudem. I got the feeling people don’t normally ask him and I didn’t want to alienate him or make it seem like I don’t respect him so I moved on. It is a closed case to him and I don’t think he is interested in discussing settled convictions of any kind with students. I eventually did read the ch. on his view of prophecy in his systematic. While his understanding of 2 Cor 12:12 made me think, I honestly thought his view of prophecy was very weak.


        1. I look forward to Ferguson’s book!

          Only recently (two to three years) have my wife and I come around to understand the gifts, in their contexts and seasons within scripture. God has unravelled much of this to us quite recently. We journeyed from reforming in the doctrines of grace first, then other areas have come along as well.

          Two to three years ago, we grasped at Grudem and Piper and others to supply a reason to hold to at least a loose viewpoint of ‘reformed charismatic.’ The best of both worlds? The more we studied and learned, the weaker and sometimes even silly the arguments became.

          Check out this excerpt from the folks at Cripplecreek, regarding Carson’s well known volume on the ‘reformed charismatic’ viewpoint: this portion on ‘tongues’ in particular. I’m surprised anyone can take this seriously:

          thanks for sharing


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