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….
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