Sam Storms on Charismatic Gifts

The Beginner's Guide to Spiritual Gifts by Dr. Sam Storms, http://www ...

(Note: This is a re-post from June 2015)

I have 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, 54015

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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

‘Kept for Jesus’ by Sam Storms: A Review

Kept for Jesus: What the New Testament Really Teaches about Assurance of Salvation and Eternal Security Will I fall away from Jesus?  This is one question that sometimes comes up in the Christian life – and it is addressed in the Bible.  Sam Storms discusses this topic in his new book, Kept for Jesus (Wheaton: Crossway, 2015).  This book isn’t an exhaustive explanation of perseverance (preservation) of the saints; rather, it is specifically a discussion of the texts in the New Testament that teach this truth.  Storms also takes some time to deal with the difficult texts that seem to teach Christians can fall away.  In this volume, Storms frequently quotes and builds upon the work of contemporary Baptist theologians such as John Piper, Tom Schreiner, and Wayne Grudem.

There are eleven chapters in this book (covering just over 190 pages).  In the first chapter, Storms talks about perseverance in John 6 and 10.  In the second chapter, he talks about some tough texts in Matthew – specifically the “Lord Lord” text from Matthew 7, blasphemy against the Spirit in Matthew 12, and the parable of the soils in Matthew 13.  Chapter 3 is Storm’s exposition of the vine text in John 15.  The next chapter (4) is where he discusses the steadfast love of God in Romans 5 and 8; in chapter 5 he discusses Romans 8 in more detail.  1 and 2 Corinthians is the focus of chapter 6, specifically 1 Cor. 1:4-9, 11:27-32, and 2 Cor. 1:21-22.  Difficult texts (Heb. 6 and 2 Cor 13) is what Storms writes about in chapter 7.  Storms talks about perseverance in other epistles in chapter 8, and in chapters 9-10 he works through some difficult texts (e.g. Rom. 11:22, 2 Cor. 6:1-2, James 5:19-20, etc).  The final chapter asks and answers the question: “Can a Christian commit the sin unto death?”

I have to admit the overall structure of this book seemed a bit random – I was hoping it would have a more unified outline or structure.  It sort of read like a collection of articles instead of an outlined book.  Another minor critique worth noting is that though the subtitle mentions “assurance,” there isn’t a whole lot of space devoted to it.   Storms also made the common mistake of equating “Reformed” and “Calvinism” in the introduction (p. 14); not to nitpick, but it is important to remember that there is a whole lot more to Reformed theology than Five Points!  This becomes evident since Storms doesn’t talk about (for just two examples) the covenant of grace or the intra-trinitarian covenant (which both show up in the NT).

I don’t want to be too critical, however, because the book is specifically only meant to be a defense of perseverance of the saints in New Testament passages.  Storms wasn’t out to write a Reformed systematic defense and description of perseverance in this book, so I can’t critique him for not doing so!  I especially appreciated the section where Storms talks about the unforgivable sin; his treatment was superb and pastoral.  His chapter on love from Romans texts was also very helpful and edifying – God’s love in Christ means nothing can separate the sheep from the Shepherd!  There are some obvious strengths to this book, and I’m glad to have read these sections I just mentioned.  Though some “difficult” texts weren’t discussed in much detail, the ones that he discussed in detail were explained pretty well.

If you’ve read other books on perseverance that discuss these key texts or if you’ve read quite a few other books on this topic, you might not need this one.  [Also, I’m not sure “convinced” Arminians would all appreciate this book because at times Storms notes what Arminians teach but does not cite his claims.]  However, if you need a Calvinist resource that discusses NT texts about perseverance, this is one to get!  It’s not overly difficult (though it isn’t structured for a book club/reading group) or too lengthy, and it has some good explanations of the truth that no one can snatch Christ’s sheep out of his hand.

Sam Storms, Kept for Jesus: What the New Testament Really Teaches about Assurance of Salvation and Eternal Security (Wheaton: Crossway, 2015).

shane lems
hammond, wi

Perseverance: Three Impossibilities

Kept for Jesus: What the New Testament Really Teaches about Assurance of Salvation and Eternal Security I’ve not ready anything by Sam Storms before, but the title/topic of this book got my attention: Kept for Jesus: What the New Testament Really Teaches about Assurance of Salvation and Eternal Security.  It’s a Crossway title, so I’m pretty sure it’s a conservative evangelical exposition of the great truth of Scripture that God preserves his elect (perseverance of the saints).  I’ve not yet finished it, so I can’t say much about it, but I did appreciate the “three impossibilities” Storms listed from John 6.

1) Jesus says it is morally and spiritually impossible for a person to come to Christ apart from the ‘drawing’ of that person by God the Father.

2) Jesus says it is impossible for someone whom the Father draws not to come to him.  He says in verse 37, “All that the Father gives me will come to me.’  In other words, just as it is impossible for people to come to Christ apart from the Father drawing them, so also it is impossible for people not to come to Christ if the Father does draw them.

3) [Jesus] says that when people do come through the drawing of the Father, it is impossible for them to be cast out.  Look again at verse 37: ‘And whoever comes to me I will never cast out.’  The point is that those whom the Father gives to the Son, who therefore come to the Son, will be received by the Son and shall never perish.  The verb translated ‘cast out’ in verse 37 is used several times in John (2:15; 6:37; 9:34-35; 10:4; 12:31) and always means to cast out someone or something already in.  Thus the emphasis here is not so much on receiving the one who comes (although that is true enough in itself) but on preserving him or her.

“Who would suggest that Jesus Christ would refuse to accept what his Father has given him?  If the Father was pleased to make a gift of certain sinners to his most blessed Son, you may rest assured that the Son will neither despise nor deny his Father’s gracious generosity.”

“…How can Jesus say he will raise up all the Father gives him if in fact he will not, because some who truly believe in him finally and forever fall away and forfeit eternal life?”

Sam Storms, Kept for Jesus, p. 21-22.

shane lems