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Sam Storms on the Gifts of the Spirit

I saw this book a long time ago in a Christian bookshop and promptly ignored it. You see, despite what they say, I do tend to judge a book by its cover. However, on that occasion, to do so was a mistake.

Now, I've sought out the book. And again, I suppose, its due to the cover. Or at least, due to two words on the cover: Sam Storms. The difference now is that I've encountered Sam Storms' writing on other subjects. Storms is a careful theologian, and so any book he writes is going to look carefully at Scripture. And, Sam Storms is also a good writer; he can take theology and make it understandable and readable (for alas, there are two many theologians who can take simple theology and make it both complicated and tedious!). He is after all the author of Chosen for Life (an excellent overview of the doctrine of unconditional election).

And I'm glad I sought out The Beginners Guide to Spiritual Gifts. Storms doesn't disappoint. Although he does give examples of the gifts in practice, his theology is based on Scripture, not experience. So much so, in fact, that he's not afraid to challenge popular conceptions of some of the gifts (e.g. the word of wisdom and word of knowledge, or the idea that tongues + interpretation = prophecy).

I don't agree with Storms on everything, yet even despite a major disagreement over the nature of prophecy, I found the whole book to be helpful, encouraging, and thought-provoking. Storms takes a view similar to Wayne Grudem on the nature of New Testament prophecy, defining it as 'the speaking forth in merely human words of something God has spontaneously brought to mind' (p.86). I would hold to a definition more in lines with that of D.P. Williams who described prophecy as 'a Divinely generated utterance through human lips by the indwelling Spirit of God' (D.P. Williams, The Prophetical Ministry in the Church, p.7) and argued the case against Grudem's view in an undergraduate dissertation. Yet despite our differences on the nature of prophecy, I still found much of what Storms had to say about prophecy to be very useful.

One of the things that probably made me wary of the cover the first time I saw the book was the statement 'find out about your own gifts.' I simply see too much spiritual gifts inventories and profiling which seems not to take account of the supernatural nature of the gifts, the sovereignty of God, or the Biblical teaching on desiring and receiving the gifts of the Spirit. Much of the profiling approach seems to me more man-centred than God-centred. I need not have feared, however, for Storms too is skeptical of such and approach, writing 'the answer ... is not found in a spiritual gifts inventory or personality profile' (p.163). Storms approach is focused on helping others - asking God to use us to meet a need.

I'm often disappointed with books on charismatic themes, but not with this one. It's careful, biblical, helpful and eminently understandable.

This review was of: Sam Storms, The Beginner's Guide to Spiritual Gifts (Ventura, CA: Regal, 2002)