Thursday, February 13, 2014

Sam Storms on Word and Spirit (and Other Tensions) in the Christian Life

Sam Storms is known, among other things, for teaching that the Word and Spirit should converge in the church and Christian life. Below is a chart in which he contrasts numerous points of emphasis within two streams of evangelical Christianity.

Storms has published this chart in several places where it can be viewed in its greater context, including his website and his 2005 book, Convergence: Spiritual Journeys of a Charismatic Calvinist (111-113). (In that book, he qualifies that items in the chart are envisioned as tendencies rather than rigid categories, and that none of these observations are intended to judge one side or the other [111, 117].)

Some of the points below are topics of debate since they relate directly to the issue of whether or not certain gifts of the Holy Spirit continue today. I find that other items in the chart, while salient to that specific discussion, also represent points of healthy tension in Christian theology and experience in general.

* * *

Word (Cessationist)Spirit (Continuationist)
Centrality of SermonCentrality of Worship
Predictability Spontaneity
Prizes knowledgePrizes experience
Focus on the IntellectFocus on the Affections
The Bible: emphasis on meaningExpectation of what God will do/say; focus on future purposes (pursue them)
Penchant for the archaicPenchant for the novel
Insists on biblical precedentInsists on biblical prohibition
Process orientedEvent oriented
Christian life is the progressive outworking of an original depositChristian life is the repetitive experience of a fresh power
Biblically informed wisdomSpiritually imparted discernment
Guidance: confidence in objective principlesGuidance: confidence in subjective promptings
Focus on the “Not Yet”Focus on the “Already”
Potential for defeatismPotential for triumphalism
A focus on quality; a desire for betterA focus on quantity; a desire for more
Tendency to embrace sufferingTendency to expect healing
Struggle with FleshStruggle with Demons
The seenThe unseen
Tendency to deify traditionTendency to demonize tradition
God has spoken God is speaking
Prayer is monologuePrayer is dialogue
Reliance on natural talentsReliance on spiritual gifts
Lack of appreciation for the supernatural and surprisingLack of appreciation for the natural and routine
If a natural explanation is possible, it’s probableIf a supernatural explanation is possible, it’s probable
Tendency to be skepticalTendency to be gullible
Proclamation evangelismPower evangelism
Focus on the NT Focus on the OT
Focus on the EpistlesFocus on the Gospels
Emphasis: God’s sovereigntyEmphasis: man’s responsibility
Stresses Christ’s DeityStresses Christ’s Humanity
Worship = proclamation of biblical truth Worship = personal encounter with God
Worship: focus on understanding God (worship is theological)Worship: focus on enjoying God (worship is relational)
Worship: God’s presence is a theological assumption to be extolledWorship: God's presence is a tangible reality to be experienced
Worship: focus on God’s transcendenceWorship: focus on God’s immanence
Worship: fear; reverenceWorship: joy; love
Worship: concern with formWorship: focus on freedom
Worship: controlled; restrictedWorship: emotionally; physically expressive
Worship: sing about GodWorship: sing to God
Emphasis: "Instrumentality"Emphasis: "Immediacy"
Faith in GodLove for God
Obedience to GodIntimacy with God
Focus on JustificationFocus on Sanctification
Lower expectations of prayerHigher expectations of prayer
Angels: a theological beliefAngels: a functional reality
Emphasis on intellectual impact of divine principlesEmphasis on emotional pact of divine presence
Fear of emotionalismFearful of intellectualism
Tendency to draw the boundaries of orthodoxy more narrowlyTendency to draw the boundaries of orthodoxy more broadly
Potential for arrogant exclusivismPotential for naïve sentimentalism
Grounds for unity: theology agreementGrounds for unity: shared experience

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