Tuesday, 21 April 2009

I don't believe it!

There are occasions when tolerance of mild, secondary deviations within a particular practice or group are acceptable, and in fact necessary, to aid the unification of the group. When people put aside their differences and come together around the fundamentals of their beliefs and values it is a sign both of the strength of a group and of the humility of those within the group.

There are also occasions when this is taken to extents that are not only damaging to the group itself, say by abandoning a key principle of the group, but also defy every scrap of common sense known to man.

Where am I going with this? Well, I’m not talking about the very thorny issue of homosexuality in the church, although some would see that as a prime example of the above. What I am referring to is something of far more concern, and that, if it leads to more of the same, will be disastrous.

Whether or not you hold to every teaching of the bible, it is probably fair to say that most would accept the need for the existence of God. Klaas Hendrikse, a pastor in the Netherlands believes otherwise. He says that he is an atheist believer, adding “the non-existence of God is for me not an obstacle but a precondition to believing in God.”

This would not be a problem if the Protestant Church of the Netherlands was to discredit him and, if he remains unrelenting in his unbelief, strike him off from the Church. Even to outsiders of the Christian faith looking in, surely this is the only sensible course of action. Not so.

In a letter, the relevant church authorities refused to take any disciplinary action against him, saying that any action taken would lead to "a protracted discussion about the meanings of words that in the end will produce little clarity", adding that people have debated the issue of "God's existence" throughout time. Well of course they have, but not while one of those disbelieving in God has remained an ordained member of the Church, they haven’t.

I’m very much in favour of religious and moral debate, but can they not see how utterly ridiculous this affair is? Those who remain faithful within the wider Dutch protestant church must now decided whether they will object to this farcical heresy and request to leave the church (not individually, but faithful congregations would be well advised to seek independence) or to pressure the senior level authorities within the church to push for some biblical common sense.

Can you seriously imagine a Rabbi who denies the covenant between the Jews and Yahweh? Or an Imam who doubts that Mohammed really did see the Angel Gabriel? The propositions are laughable. So is this episode, and the longer it is allowed to go unchallenged, the more of a laughing stock the Dutch Protestant Church will become. And rightly so.


  1. This is a pretty crazy story. I suspect that the denomination are trying to avoid an equal opportunities battle in the courts, but the people who need to hold him accountable are ultimately the immediate congregation. If they want a pastor who is an atheist, then I suppose they're getting the pastor they deserve. If they leave, or withhold their donations, the message would get through soon enough.

    Nice blog you've got going on here, by the way. I will be back.

  2. Interesting story.. of course, this guy's case is probably more subtle than it would appear.
    I know a number of Anglican priests whose belief in God is unorthodox to say the least.

    While recognising the quite obvious need for ordained ministry to lead faith, I can see where the church is coming from. To expel him would be a) setting a disturbing precedent (see the issue of homosexuality) and b) ultimately of little constructive use, no doubt causing a great deal of upset with risible potential achievements.

    Nevertheless, an interesting case.