Back to books! This book was provided by Booklook and this review first appeared at my personal website.
Sam Storms’ newest book, Practicing the Power, takes a look at the activity of the Holy Spirit in Christian believers today. At the outset, a few things should be made clear. 1: Storms is writing for Christians, as such the discussion and interaction in this book is meaningless outside of the family. It’s about family issues—if you’re looking for an overall introduction to Christianity, this does not claim to be one—look onward. 2: Storms comes to different conclusions than I have held regarding how the Holy Spirit works in Christians today.
That being said, let’s take a look at this book.
First, Storms approaches the work of the Holy Spirit from a Bible-driven perspective. That is important to note: though he reaches different conclusions on what the text means from other pastor-author-teachers (e.g. John MacArthur), he is not standing on whipped cream. His argument is based on the text.
That there is a discussion to be had is made crystal clear in how, for example, Storms examines Acts and the prophecies of Agabus related to Paul’s return to Jerusalem. While some would argue that Agabus used symbolism and so was ‘exactly right,’ Storms’ views Agabus as having missed it a little but that his ‘prophecy’ was still accurate. While some explorers of the NT find Agabus as evidence of the last of prophecy, Storms draws the conclusion that Agabus is a template of current prophecy. Therefore, current claims to prophecy should be evaluated like Agabus rather than according to Deuteronomy—that is, if a prophet gets it a bit wrong, as long as they are mostly right it’s acceptable. The Deuteronomistic view would call for execution, though mediated through grace one might simply suggest the so-called prophet just hush.
As a second observation, Storms does spend a fair amount of time refuting his perception of cessationism. Unfortunately, it’s a lopsided debate—he quotes very little from actual sources and runs instead from what he suggests a cessationist might say. It is far easier to rebuff an argument of your own making, and I would like to see a real interaction, based in Scripture, between Storms and a reasonable cessationist (not one who will just push the “heretic” button). I think it would be instructive.
Third, I admit to struggling with the outworking of Storms’ conclusions. The biggest difficulty is his unwillingness to draw any sort of boundary line of ridiculousness which the Holy Spirit would not cross. He invokes moments from recent decades where the Holy Spirit allegedly had whole congregations simply rolling in the floor laughing and only highlights that it would be manipulative to tell jokes to try and get that started rather than examining the question: to what end would the Spirit do this work?
It is here that I struggle with his outcome: without being too rationalistic, the church has long held that God is at work in the world with a purpose and the underlying conclusion here is that we cannot question the purpose of anything. We can only shrug and accept that if someone says it was the Holy Spirit, it must have been—and not understanding how God is going to use the extremities and excesses is no reason to question them. In truth, such questioning apparently reveals a lack of faith.
While this will give me pause in widely distributing Practicing the Power around my local church, it is a good source for the Charismatic point-of-view of the ongoing existence of every spiritual gift. Storms’ focus is on tongues, prophecy, and healing, though he touches on others. If you are a Christian in that part of the family, you will find encouragement and guidance here.