This is technically old news (it’s from March), but I hadn’t heard about it before, and it’s worth the heads up. Klaas Hendrikse, a Dutch Protestant pastor, wrote a book in 2007 called “Believing in a God who does not exist: manifesto of an atheist pastor”. Yet he remains a pastor in good standing with the Protestant Church in the Netherlands, a strange Lutheran/Reformed hybrid-church. Here’s the church’s reaction to finding out the pastor was an atheist:
The church authorities said disciplinary proceedings against Hendrikse, who is a pastor of the Protestant Church in the Netherlands, would be likely to lead to, “a protracted discussion about the meanings of words that in the end will produce little clarity”. The letter also noted that people have debated the issue of “God’s existence” throughout time.
I guess you need to save church discipline for those really important situations, like when a minister rejects… well, what exactly? And while it’s true that God’s existence has been hotly debated for as long as human history can recall, I distinctly recall the Church having, you know, taken a side in the debate previously. It seems that neither party in this dispute has the guts to take a side. Klaas Hendrikse goes and writes a book evangelizing for the gospel of No Gospel, while drawing a salary from a church which still (nominally, at least) believes in the Gospel. So he’s making money on Jesus’ existence (from his job) and non-existence (from his book) at the same time. I think even Judas would have to admire the man’s financial acumen. The regional authorities of the Protestant Church in the Netherlands, on the other hand, don’t want to take sides in the “God does/does not exist” debate, because that’s sort of a religious dispute, and hey, religion is personal, right?
Is it any wonder when these two forces of double-mindedness meet that it leads to “a protracted discussion about the meanings of words that in the end will produce little clarity”?
As Catholics, we’ve lately (the last generation or two) had our share of “Gospel minus God” types who want to use the Church as an instrument to advance their financial objectives or political agendas, or who try and turn the Mass into a social gathering so that they can feel like they have a lot of friends. But this was shocking even compared to our recent history.