As someone who understands their Christianity as being both charismatic and Reformed, Calvinist and Vineyard, I often find myself being asked to explain just how I hold those two tensions together. My background and upbringing was in a Reformed Baptist Church with a wonderfully high understanding of the Bible and Doctrine of God – my adult choice/profession of faith has now primarily been in Charismatic churches, with a beautiful sense of the Spirit, an obedience to the whole counsel of God, and a real humanity and humility. This, apparently, makes me abnormal. A key book for me in understanding the shift and the possible confusion my friends and family might face was Rich Nathan and Ken Wilson’s Empowered Evangelicals, which is referenced in the book I’m reviewing today. Sam Storms is a theologian and Bible teacher who straddles the unfortunate divide between churches who are charismatic and churches who are cessationist. Convergence was written back in 2005 – so it is perhaps embarrassing to have only just come across it and read it!
Storms subtitles his book Spiritual Journeys of a Charismatic Calvinist, and so I will review this book from that perspective. Storms is keen to bring together two ‘camps’ of Christians – simply and broadly defined as ‘word’ and ‘spirit’, as he has found theologically and experientially that this is a healthy and holistic view of who God is and what God is doing. To Calvinist friends and family in the body of Christ, Storms suggests that there is more to the charismatic understanding of faith and life than we might easily give credit for – and as a charismatic Storms is well aware of the possibilities and reality of abuse of the position and squandering of the gifts of the Spirit. For cessationists, Storms’ book offers a robust engagement with why the Bible teaches the continuation of Spiritual gifts, whilst Charismatics should be mindful of the nuance and biblical gift of discernment that this author displays.
For charismatic friends and family in the body of Christ, I think Convergence can be seen as a helpful bridge built between different churches. As well as this – and this is particularly useful in a world where culture demands and celebrates polarisation rather than unity – Convergence is a self-aware, theologically informed and spiritually open book by someone who has thought and prayed deeply. I would be delighted if more charismatic leaders read and chewed over this book in such a way as to bring together the best of both parts.
I thoroughly enjoyed reading this – and turned over about 100 page corners of a 250ish page book! I could have written a much longer review, but this is the kind of book that, if you are interested in the kinds of things I am and have alluded to in this short review, you would benefit from reading. I think pastors of both conservative evangelical/reformed and charismatic churches would be well served by reading and pondering Convergence – if only for the sake of pastoring those of us who have moved from one to another and value both – as well as for the sake of true gospel unity in mission.