March 6, 2019

The Spiritual Journey of a Charismatic Calvinist


“My aim, rather, is to encourage all believers of every tradition, denomination, or whatever “movement” with which you may identify to look honestly at your own weaknesses and the “other guy’s” strengths, and be willing to make whatever subtle or overt changes the Word of God requires.


I hope all of us will ask of ourselves, “In what ways have I marginalised or suppressed the work of the Holy Spirit, and in what ways have I minimised or ignored the centrality of Holy Scripture?” “What can I learn from my charismatic brother or my evangelical sister across town?” “How might I personally benefit from a more courageous trust in the power of the Spirit?” “Have I given myself to the study of God’s Word and submission to its directives as thoroughly and consistently as it deserves?”


Roughly a year ago I went to a seminar addressing mental health; Mark Meynell illustrated how helpful it can be to point to something outside of ourselves, be it a metaphor or person, and to be able to say “yes, that is me”. From what I knew in advance of Convergence, I was hoping to find this experience in the book.


And I did.


Storms himself helpfully summarises much of his position in “…the man who wrote Romans 9 also said “I thank God I speak in tongues more than you all (1 Corinthians 14:18).” He began his ministry as a cessationist pastor, and preached strongly against the charismatic movement. Fascinatingly, his own journey into charismatic theology began with Carson’s excellent Showing the Spirit, a careful commentary of 1 Corinthians 12-14. Storms was persuaded that much of the cessationist framework that he subscribed to was biblically unfounded, and tracking this theological change forms much of the odd, somewhat sprawling semi-autobiographical book.


And there is challenge upon challenge in Convergence. Storms questions a lot of the received wisdom in both cessationist and charismatic circles brilliantly. He calls out the functional cessationist; those with some flavour of charismatic theology who do not live as if they believe it. He unveiled some of my own problematic behaviour that I had not given adequate attention to before; ignoring what a speaker says if something they have preached is not quite right (or even just expressed in unfamiliar language). Probably Storms’ best insight, however, is simply a four-page table comparing charismatic and cessationist preferences. In writing it he demonstrates a remarkable understanding of both circles, and it is surprisingly penetrating; roughly half of the perspectives are matters of taste rather than theology. One such example is a preference for the epistles in cessationist circles, and a preference for the gospels in charismatic circles. He spurs us on to take a rigorous look at whether the views we hold are biblical, and, as such, Convergence is a hugely important book.


Despite my “yes, that is me” experience, inevitably I had questions. Is it useful to claim that we need both “Word and Spirit”? Although Storms makes it clear that he is emphasising both, not claiming that we should reach some sort of mystic “balance”, would it not be less controversial to rather explain that an obedience to God’s Word demands a stepping into the Spirit’s power? I have heard his views unfairly portrayed because of this, and it is linked to part of a larger issue surrounding his being less cautious in some of his language than I would like. Simply making his “argument” more slowly in order not to leave behind the cessationist reader could have improved Convergence.


Because of the direction of Storms’ movement from cessationist to charismatic, I would recommend the book to any conservative with even a hint of sympathy or curiosity toward the charismatic movement.


There is more to learn than might initially be thought.



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