A Laboratory for Christianity’s Destruction
by Albert Mohler
A church that lacks the doctrinal conviction and courage necessary to prosecute an atheist pastor for heresy is a church that lost its Christian identity — a long time ago.
As the BBC reports, some church leaders in the Netherlands want to transform their small nation into a laboratory for rethinking Christianity — “experimenting with radical new ways of understanding the faith.”
Religious Affairs Correspondent Robert Pigott tells of Rev. Klaas Hendrikse, a minister of the PKN, the mainstream Protestant denomination in the Netherlands. Pastor Hendrikse doesn’t believe in life after death, nor even in God as a supernatural being. He told the BBC that he has “no talent” for believing historic and orthodox doctrines. “God is not a being at all,” he says, but just an experience.
Furthermore, as Pigott reports, “Mr. Hendrikse describes the Bible’s account of Jesus’s life as a mythological story about a man who may never have existed, even if it is a valuable source of wisdom about how to lead a good life.”
By any normative definition of Christian belief, Klass Hendrikse is an unbeliever, but in the largest Dutch denomination, he is considered a minister in good standing. As a matter of fact, he is not even unusual. A study undertaken by the Free University of Amsterdam determined that about one of every six Protestant ministers is either agnostic or atheist.
Hendrikse is very open about his views. In fact, he published a book in recent years entitled, Believing in a Non-Existent God. Conservative church leaders demanded a heresy trial for the pastor, but the denomination decided that Hendrikse’s views are too commonly held to be considered out of bounds.
In other words, the church has embraced a straightforward form of atheism within its own ranks — and among its own ministers.
The BBC report also introduces Rev. Kirsten Slettenaar, another minister of the church, who openly rejects the divinity of Christ. She refers to “Son of God” as a mere title. “I don’t think he was a god or a half god,” she says. “I think he was a man, but he was a special man because he was very good in living from out of love, from out of the spirit of God he found within himself.”
The Dutch ministers featured in this report dismiss the doctrines of biblical Christianity as “outside of people” and “rigid things you can’t touch any more.” Like the liberal theologians of the last two centuries, they insist that the “real meaning” of Christianity can survive, even if its central truth claims are denied.
One layperson cited in the report celebrated the liberation of Christianity from truth claims, allowing her to recreate the faith “to my own way of thinking, my own way of doing.”
Professor Hijme Stoffels of the Free University of Amsterdam called the new approach to Christianity in the Netherlands “somethingism.” The majority of Dutch citizens, he explains, desire some form of spirituality, but not the God of the Bible…
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