Drinking Deeply

Saturday, February 18, 2006 at 10:42 AM

Book Review: Convergence

Just finished "Convergence: Journeys of a Charismatic Calvinist" by Sam Storms.

1) The end of the book was pretty good. He made some excellent points that I would wholeheartedly agree with. One directed at the Charismatic camp, on how important solid exegesis is, and the danger of neglecting the gifts of teaching, preaching, and understanding is. The second directed at the Calvinist camp, how there should be a Christian affection and emotion. He quoted Jonathan Edwards on this case (a cessationalist), but I feel like he's imputing to the "emotional" terms something more than the terms actually mean in Scripture. I would have liked to see biblical defense of a difficult topic in this area. Whatever the case, it was worth reading.

2) That said, I really disliked the first couple chapters of the book and was almost going to put it down. It is a personal testimony of Sam Storms and his journeys as a Calvinist to the charismatic side of things. Its focus seemed to be completely upon the experiential and the emotional rather than the intellect. I think one of the reasons I was not a big fan of it was that I felt like he was trying to convince me by personal experience to embrace his Charismatic leanings. I, expecting him to adhere to his Sola Scriptura foundations, read on, expecting that he would make a biblical defense of all that he talks about.

3) The audience of the book is very fuzzy. At times I feel like he's writing directly to me, pointing out my beliefs and what that means, and contrasting it with a Charismatic's beliefs. He calls the book "Convergence," but things never converged for me, mostly because I felt like he was trying to convince me by sheer experience. Neither was he trying to convince a Charismatic of the doctrines of grace. (Which seems impossible to "experience")

4) Dr. Storms is spot on with his description of how I view things (though I would deny that I was a cessationalist). Focus is on the intellect, focus on the message. Spirit's primary work is through illumination, not revelation (now). Yet I would also say that I am not a cessationalist, simply because I have not been convinced by Scripture of that position. But yet he does not address why that is incorrect (or correct), he simply states the opposing Charismatic position and moves on: focus on the emotion, focus on the worship (music) response. Spirit's primary work is through miraculous signs.

5) I don't agree with Dr. Storms in many of his criticisms of the non-charismatic viewpoint. He likes to talk about "feeling the presence of God" a great deal, but I am unconvinced that just because we can "feel the presence of God," that it necessarily means a) the "presence of God" is there, and b) "feeling the presence of God" is to be encouraged. I see no biblical support for a "presence of God" that is to be sought for and prayed for in the manner he is referring to.

(As a side note, I would pray for God to be present by sending His Spirit to illuminate our hearts. I find that to be biblical and sound)

6) Yet his criticsms of the charismatic viewpoint are, in my opinion, exactly what I would say. Excesses, abuses, refusal to study Scripture, drawing away from the authority of Scripture, drawing away from an emphasis on the intellect. He rightly rebukes Charismatics for their tendency to get too caught up in the moment and forget what Scripture says.

7) Along the same lines, his criticism of the cessationalist response (which is to abolish tongues and prophecy) is, in my mind, biblical. He points out that the correct response to "these gifts are being abused" is not "we should not have these gifts," but rather "these gifts need to be under control and regulated." Yet this criticism comes with one core presupposition: these gifts are still in existence. It will fall on deaf ears to those who are convinced from Scripture that the gifts described in Scripture are no longer in effect. I suspect had I read this book six months ago it would have fallen on deaf ears.

In short, I am in major agreement with Tim Challies and his review (which I read in brief prior to reading the book), though he comes across as much harsher than I would (I think because he has much firmer beliefs.) I am not a cessationalist because for the most part I have been unconvinced by the cessationalist arguments. Yet I see little evidence that the gifts that people are talking about now are the ones spoken of in Scripture. This is definitely a topic I want to continue learning about.

My recommendation: Could do better


Links to this post:

Create a Link

Blogger Puritan Belief said...

Your conclusion was very interesting and I would like to hear what you have to say about this. The Cessationalist really has a lot of explaining away to do. Most place spiritual gifts into a dispensation so they don't have to deal with them.

One thing to note about the pentecostal movement is that in scripture when people "fall over" they always fall forward on their knees or bellies in reverence.

Now I know I am being picky but why are people falling backwards all of a sudden.

Not only that people now expect them to fall backwards and there is always some guy there for when it happens?  


Blogger ts said...

about "falling over" ...

i agree that when the bible describes which direction people fall, it is most often forward. but there are other instances where people "fall as though dead" and it doesn't say they fell forward.

another thing to consider is that since people fall forward in the bible on their face, it may be because they are still in control of their body. i don't believe every time people fall over in the bible it is involuntary.  


Drop a thought