I’ve been somewhat of a “fan” of Dr. Sam Storms since his contribution to Are Miraculous Gifts for Today, in which he provided the scholarly essay on the Third Wave position to which I hold. Storms has the ability to write for both the scholarly and the popular, a gift which I’d love to see more authors hold!
His new book, Tough Topics: Biblical Answers to 25 Challenging Questions, is exactly what it says. It provides Storms thoughtful responses to questions that are sometimes considered “tough” by many people. The book addresses some of the more common theological debatable subjects (e.g., Losing Salvation, Baptism in the Spirit, Original Sin) as well as some less common subjects for many evangelicals (e.g., Speaking in Tongues, Demonization, Healing in the Atonement). I was even pleased to see that he included a chapter on Infant Salvation!
What I Liked
There’s much in Tough Topics that I like. Many of his answers would be essentially the same as mine. His position on Spirit Baptism, whether or not Christians can “lose” their salvation, speaking in tongues, and healing are all so close to my perspective that I might be found telling people, “See Tough Topics for my perspective on [insert topic].”
For example, when it comes to the topic of Spirit Baptism, Storms holds to the view that all Christians are “Spirit baptized” when they become Christians. In other words, all Christians are baptized in the Spirit. However, Storms leaves plenty of room for what the Scriptures call being “filled with the Spirit.” According to Storms, when a person becomes a Christian, they are baptized in the Spirit and yet they can be “filled with the Spirit” many times after that conversion experience. Spirit Filling is essentially an empowerment metaphor. This is the standard Third Wave perspective and Storms is probably one of the best to clarify it’s position.
Regarding the issue of whether Christians can “lose” their salvation, Storms actually spends two chapters addressing. The first covers the subject explicitly, and the second is where he covers the issue of the warning passages in Hebrews. As one who hold to Reformed Theology, I do not believe a true Christian can “lose” their salvation. However, I’m deeply concerned that some preaching within this tradition has given what I’d refer to as “false assurance” and that we need to take seriously the implications of the gospel’s influence on our lives. Throughout Storms’ treatment of the subject, I walked away appreciating his focus on God’s work in our salvation and the necessity for Christians to bear fruit. It was exegetically, theologically, and practically very helpful.
There are many other chapters that I appreciated and liked.
Would Challenge Disliked Questioned
I’m not sure “challenge” is the right word here. I’m also not sure I’d go with saying there were parts I didn’t like. That’s the thing about Storms – even when I don’t agree with him, I appreciate the way that he writes so much that I even enjoy reading what I don’t agree with! So these are areas I had questions:
I would liked to have seen a bit more interaction on the subject of inerrancy with some of the more recent challenges (e.g., Peter Enns or maybe Christian Smith). Storms’ chapter seems to be one of those chapters that was written to people who already believe the same thing that he does. I can see why this is helpful when one is catechizing and I’m certainly not opposed to writing to those we agree with. I just think that the chapter on inerrancy would have been more relevant for today if it had some interaction with current objections. His interaction with Daniel Fuller is helpful, but a bit dated. Storms is obviously familiar with some of the recent scholarly literature of those who advocate inerrancy (e.g., John Frame), but seems to ignore opponents.
My reason for thinking it would have been better to address them specifically was because I know of a lot of people who are being fed certain ideas from challengers of inerrancy, both from within the church (Enns, Smith) and outside (Ehrman).
Furthermore, as someone who has read many of Storms books, essays, and website articles, I was a little disappointed that I’d read much of this book before. That might be a bit trivial, but I think my disappointment is actually a positive thing. I enjoy reading Storms so much that I wanted to read stuff I’d not already read because I find him so thoughtful. Maybe this “question” is a bit selfish?!?
What I Really Liked
Storms’ chapter on the issues of whether there was healing in the Atonement, why God doesn’t always heal people, and whether Christians were required to tithe were fantastic. I loved them.
As I already stated, I really appreciate that Storms is exegetical in his interaction. I appreciate that he’s theologically thoughtful. When you read his chapters, you’ll generally read him engaging with a variety of possible answers that he interacts with. You’ll also see that all of these tough topics have practical implications. It’s theologically with skin. All of these positive aspects of his writing is evidence that Storms has been in both the scholarly academic world and evenly planted within the life of the church.
In conclusion, I’d recommend this book to both “mature” Christians and those who are new to the faith. Some may not agree with Storms’ epistemological assumptions, but I think he adequately represents what some would call the “Reformed Charismatic Evangelical” approach to theological issues. I found it both enjoyable and helpful in many ways!