Acts 29 Network and Subjective Religiosity

by Mike Ratliff

I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them. For such persons do not serve our Lord Christ, but their own appetites, and by smooth talk and flattery they deceive the hearts of the naive. (Romans 16:17-18 ESV)

Our brother in the Lord Ken Silva wrote a very good article this afternoon revealing the rotten spiritual foundation of the Acts 29 Network and its embracing of Contemplative Spirituality. I pray that you follow that link and read it. There was part of that article that really got my attention from a different direction however. Here is the list of the four ways ‘New Calvinism’ is So Powerful and, hence, is becoming such a force in our time. 

Four Ways ‘New Calvinism’ is So Powerful

  1. Old Calvinism was fundamental or liberal and separated from or syncretized with culture. New Calvinism is missional and seeks to create and redeem culture.
  2. Old Calvinism fled from the cities. New Calvinism is flooding into cities.
  3. Old Calvinism was cessationistic and fearful of the presence and power of the Holy Spirit. New Calvinism is continuationist and joyful in the presence and power of the Holy Spirit.
  4. Old Calvinism was fearful and suspicious of other Christians and burned bridges. New Calvinism loves all Christians and builds bridges between them. (Online source)

Of course, Mark Driscoll and his friends at the Acts 29 Network view what they are doing from these four points and that they are part of the force that is reimaging the earth or reclaiming the earth or whatever the Emergents want to call it now days. Let’s look at these four points.

Point 1 says that Old Calvinism was fundamental or liberal and separated from or syncretized with culture. Well, I have never been a liberal Christian and to me those two things are antithetical so whoever added that one is clueless. However, the first part must be addressed. What is this separation from culture stuff? Here is a passage from 2 Corinthians that pertains directly to this.

Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness? What accord has Christ with Belial? Or what portion does a believer share with an unbeliever? What agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; as God said, “I will make my dwelling among them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Therefore go out from their midst, and be separate from them, says the Lord, and touch no unclean thing; then I will welcome you, and I will be a father to you, and you shall be sons and daughters to me, says the Lord Almighty.” (2 Corinthians 6:14-18 ESV)

We live in the culture in which God has us, but we are to be separate. We have to be. We cannot partake of paganism and still be Christian. That is why Contemplative Spirituality is such a huge red flag for us. It is not Christian. In any case, the Acts 29 folks claim in point one that it is better to be “missional within the culture” to create and redeem it when the Bible clearly tells us the opposite. We are to make disciples from the peoples all around us then God rescues them FROM the culture. The culture is not transformed or redeemed, but His people are.

Point 2 states the Old Calvinism fled from the cities. New Calvinism is flooding into cities. I have no idea what they mean by this unless they are referring to inner city stuff. I suppose these fellows have never heard of the ministry of James Montgomery Boice in Philadelphia. He was a Calvinist and the pastor of a large Presbyterian church there that took on ministering to the people all around it as the culture changed. I think they are painting here with a way too broad a self-righteous brush.

Point 3 is about Charismatic issues. I have never been around it much, but I’ve been around believers my whole Christian life who were not afraid of the moving the Holy Spirit. However, we were taught the difference between Subjective Religiosity and Objective Christianity. It is something these fellows need to understand. Walking by faith is not based on emotionalism. It is not something we do by building up the courage to do it. No, it is done by faith in believing God and then obeying Him. That’s it. I believe if God wanted me to speak in a tongue that I did not speak naturally as a sign to an unbeliever as was done in the New Testament to the Jews then that would happen. If God wanted to heal me of my Epilepsy and my unstable left shoulder joint then that would be nothing for Him to do that. However, I also know that it can very well be God’s will for me to have thorns in the flesh and be dependant on His grace to make it through each day without a seizure et cetera and to understand that any of His wisdom you are reading here is really His not mine. I minister in the power of the Holy Spirit so I do understand that and I know many other believers who do so as well so this point is a straw man.

Point 4 is also a straw man for it portrays Calvinists as fearful of other Christians. It portrays us as burning bridges and being fearful and suspicious of other Christians. This point is one I almost hesitated to address. However, let’s get to it. The disease of post-modernism causes its victims to lose the ability to think logically. I made this comment to my son this last winter and he got very quiet. He asked me what I was if not post-modern, modern? No, I was not a modernist either. I smiled as I told him that I was probably more of a pre-modernist if there was such a thing. He just shook his head and that ended the discussion. What does all this mean? It means this. To me and those who think like I do, truth is truth and there is no room for compromise there. I once got into a discussion with a fellow on this blog who disagreed with me on some doctrinal points. His point was that I was being too dogmatic. He said, “Surely Christianity could be so broadly defined to make room for all of this variety of opinion.” Ah, there we have it. Subjectivity! This is what the Bible knows nothing about when it comes to doctrine. Our Lord certainly did not teach that way and neither did the Apostles. Neither should we and that means that we must not deviate from what they taught by adding to or taking away from what they laid down for us.

If we follow these guidelines, will we be building bridges between us and other so-called Christian groups who have huge doctrinal issues that disqualify them from even being called Christian? Think about that. I would like to leave you with our Lord’s last command from Matthew 28:16-20.

Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted. And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:16-20 ESV)

Below is the note from my 1560 Geneva Bible for v20 pertaining to our Lord’s command to teach the disciples we make to observe all the He has commanded us.

“Men may not teach their own doctrine, but whatsoever Christ hath taught them for He reserved this authority to himself to be their only teacher and author of their doctrine.” (I updated the spelling a bit)

New Calvinism and the Acts 29 Network may be “the thing” right now, but I assure you that if they are doing things according to the precepts of men then all they will able to accomplish is earthly things. Like Rick Warren, they may indeed be able to build a large network and empire, but it will be barren of the power of God because it is not scriptural. It is not Biblically based since it is subjective religiosity. It is not based where the real power of God is in His working in His Church and that is in the Objective faith of those who believe Him and obey Him as stated in Matthew 28:16-20.

Soli Deo Gloria!

23 thoughts on “Acts 29 Network and Subjective Religiosity

  1. Amen, Mike! This is one of the most detailed and bluntest rebuttal of the so-called “New Calvinist” movement I have ever come across. And also thank you for the previous article on subjective religiousity. Mark Driscoll is obviously a heterodox in belief, and in Asia his works are read by those who call themselves “liberal Christians”.

    I find it sad that most people tend to be rather euphemistic or sympathetic when it comes to pointing out the incorrect points in Driscoll’s teachings. Is there another work that biblically repudiates Driscoll’s theology without being softish at times? Thanks.

  2. So this is the 4 points of the ‘new calvinism’ huh? Poison is what it is. Poison from the one who transforms himself into an angel of light I’d say. Good post Mike.

  3. Another confirmation for me!
    And always “just in time”, thank you Jesus!

    “truth is truth and there is no room for compromise”

    I concur!

  4. Thank you Mike. This “missional” idea appears to be confusing how God redeems man, who then change culture through a purifying effect. With all of the extra-biblical methods being advanced in presumption that these are God’s new and better ways, it appears to be a failure to trust in scripture. The true gospel is being set aside. For those who should believe in God’s sovereign work in salvation, this seems inconsistent.

  5. That’s exactly it Bradley. This is the criterion that we must use to examine all teachings like this. How faithful are they to scripture? How faithful are they to the doctrines of Jesus Christ? Are they subjective or objective? Well, you have that one figured out brother.

  6. The Word is the authority.
    NOT John Calvin. (he was a man and not equal to the Lord Jesus Christ in any way)
    I adhere to some of the teachings of Calvin, but
    I call them “doctrines of grace” as they are laid
    out clearly in Scripture.
    I call myself a “Biblicist”!
    People want to put you in a box so that they can then pick apart every belief/standard you have!

  7. I had read the term “New Calvinist” many times, but did not know what it represented. Thanks for writing this up. You know we have gone from “Hath God said????” to “God hath not said”!!! No longer does Satan have to hiss seductively, “surely that is not what God meant”.????? People, even “christian leaders” just totally disregard the Word. They do not even consider it…….. GREAT DECEPTION, GREAT APOSTASY!!!!
    Good comment by Berean Gal. I don’t call myself a Calvinist either, but have used it as a frame of reference…….. I don’t think I fit in any of the ‘boxes” : } BUT, I know the Lord Jesus Christ wrote my name in the palm of his hand before the foundation of the world, shed his blood for me on the cross, called me, saved me, keeps me, purifies me, and I am looking forward to that glorification day!!!!

  8. Amen Stella Marie, same here. I am Reformed in my Theology, but I am a little “c” Calvinist not a High Calvinist. To me everything revolves around the Sovereignty of God not the doctrines people have written up. The doctrines Christ spoke of are His own and we try to describe them via the Doctrines of Grace. In any case, we must point everyone back to the Word of God alone. As soon as subjectivity enters in in an attempt to define any of this we have stepped over the line. In discussions with those who disagree with these things I have found that that is the sticking point. They demand the right to define their own points of reference. Sorry, those are Christ’s not ours.

  9. Hi Mike,
    Thanks for this—I don’t know very much about old or new, so this helps me a lot.
    Have a good weekend. May God bless and strengthen you.

  10. I have been thinking about this every since I read it…. The comment on the “Holy Spirit” gives them a “religious” reason to go outside of Biblical teaching on “activities” which are practiced and taught within the “church”. ( non-Biblical “manifestations” of a “spirit”, contemplations, meditations, ect. “Missional” gives them a “religious” reason to “redeem the culture”….something we were NEVER taught to do Biblically. Old Calvinist being suspicious and fearful, gives them a “religious” reason to embrace eccumenism. SO, this sounds like a “marriage” to me…….an aligning of Charismania, Emergent, and the Rick Warrens, Mark Driscolls, ect??????? A “joining of hands, so to speak???????

  11. You’re so right Berean Gal, Stella Marie, Mike – why are we so quick to have to put a label on something? I wonder is it a way of elevating our personal opinions/sway to have more credibility – thus bettering our social christian standing when we want to argue a point to back up our position?

    Where is Calvinism mentioned in God’s Word? I’m sure Calvin went to be with the Lord – but I wonder how happy he would be with the emphasis we put on HIS teachings ABOVE God’s own Word????

    I am first, and only, a Christ follower – not a Calvin follower (even though he wrote a lot of “good stuff”!!!!!)

  12. Thanks for this information. I was planning on reading some of the books about the New Calvinists, but you have saved me the trouble.

  13. Stella Marie, you are dead-on here.
    And the subtlety at which this is taking place is very alarming! Sort of like the frog in the pot of cold water …… then it is too late.
    These things are why the Scripture teaches: “IF it were possible, the very elect would be deceived.” I am glad that it says “IF”.
    This last days deception is such a crafty one. My pastor always said that Satan would be so underhanded as to present many sound, Biblical things to us, only to use just one false thing to deceive. “Angel of light…”
    He (Satan) knows that you wouldn’t fall for the very blatant blasphemy that he is so famous for, it is that small little hook in the jaw that will lead many to perdition.
    I pray for discernment in these last days to recognize the deception and call it what it is…….APOSTASY!
    My pastor also said that “the cross walk, is a lonely walk”.
    Courage and boldness, without fear or favor is what we need.
    Glory to the Lamb that was slain from the foundation of the earth, forever and ever!!!

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