Book Review: Practicing The Power

Practicing The Power:  Welcoming The Gifts Of The Holy Spirit In Your Life, by Sam Storms

[Note:  This book was provided free of charge by BookLook/Zondervan.  All thoughts and opinions are my own.]

This book is admittedly more than a little bit of a muddle, and my own feelings about the author’s subject matter and approach are more than usually ambivalent.  The author is a charismatic Calvinist, and has all of the irritating tendencies of both elements of that identity, even if I would consider myself at least cautiously a continuationist (namely, someone who believes that the workings of the Holy Spirit continue to this day and have not ceased–this book is full of definitions and boundary markers).  My feelings on Calvinists are fairly often stated here [1].  If you imagine a Calvinist as someone who is not happy unless they are disputing with someone or making someone else feel miserable and a charismatic as a holy roller intent on acquiring the power of the Holy Spirit in their own lives and showing a sometimes unhealthy interest in demonology, this author meets both of those definitions.  I would have appreciated on one level a book where a hypercritical Calvinist sought to demolish his foes and their arguments through specious rhetoric, and I would have enjoyed a practical how-to guide from a charismatic on how the Holy Spirit operates in our lives if we let it, but this book tried to be both and ended up being neither completely.

In about 250 pages the author covers quite a few subjects, perhaps too many and not thoroughly enough.  After an foreword from a similar identity-challenged charismatic Calvinist and an introduction about God going public–which usually means aggressive Calvinists (not exactly my favorite thing in the world), the author spends the rest of his material in twelve chapters and two appendices.  Included in the subject matter is an introduction to the world of charismatic Christianity and the debate between those who believe that the gifts of the spirit ceased with the apostolic era and those who believe the gifts continued on among believers, a discussion about earnestly desiring such gifts, the need to pray, fasting for power, practicing the power of healing, identifying prophecy in the local church, giving a (somewhat misguided) paradigm for prophetic practice, discussing principles for prophecy today, giving a lengthy discussion on user friendly deliverance (or exorcism), a strident warning not to quench the spirit by denying the Trinity (too late), a condemnation on many of his charismatic cohorts whom he accuses of manipulation and the importance of worshiping in the spirit.  After a short conclusion the author gives two appendices, one of them an alternate interpretation on 1 Corinthians 14:33-35 and the other a summary of his argument from one of his other books on whether miraculous gifts are for today, in which the author debates with a straw man on the other side.

How one views this book will depend on how one feels about the author and his approach.  The author picked a subject that is truly interesting and worth thought and reflection.  It is likewise something to appreciate for someone to write about the subjects of spiritual warfare and the role of the Holy Spirit and a certain amount of flexibility and spontaneity in one’s spiritual approach without being anti-intellectual.  If the author had been able to save his rebuking tendencies for a different book, this would have been a far more enjoyable effort to read for someone who has no interest in being a partisan of this author.  The author spends far too much time in this book talking badly about other people, engaging in fallacious reasoning, using his own human reasoning in place of sound scriptural citation and exegesis, setting up unbiblical tests and quarreling over definitions and identity.  Basically, this author does all the things that Paul told believers not to do in the pastoral epistles concerning the sort of scriptural discussions we are to have.  Worse yet, the author fancies himself an expert on many subjects and writes as if the veracity and worthiness of what he says is something that can be assumed rather than something that has to be proven.  Alas, this makes for a book that is far higher in potential than in actual achievement.

[1] See, for example:

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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