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08/05/2011 06:54:56 AM · #1

Dutch rethink Christianity for a doubtful world.

Originally posted by article:

It is part of the mainstream Dutch Protestant Church, and the service is conventional enough, with hymns, readings from the Bible, and the Lord's Prayer. But the message from Mr Hendrikse's sermon seems bleak - "Make the most of life on earth, because it will probably be the only one you get".

"Personally I have no talent for believing in life after death," Mr Hendrikse says. "No, for me our life, our task, is before death."

Nor does Klaas Hendrikse believe that God exists at all as a supernatural thing.

"When it happens, it happens down to earth, between you and me, between people, that's where it can happen. God is not a being at all... it's a word for experience, or human experience."

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.


So after taking that stance, there were calls for him to be removed. But on surveying other ministers, they found;

Originally posted by article:

However, a special church meeting decided his views were too widely shared among church thinkers for him to be singled out.

A study by the Free University of Amsterdam found that one-in-six clergy in the Dutch Protestant Church was either agnostic or atheist.
(emphasis mine)

Can you ever imagine something like this happening in bible-belt US? - Or this all down to us ultra-liberal Europeans?
08/05/2011 06:59:58 AM · #2
how utterly bizarre...

Why go into the clergy if you don't believe? Are they still in the "3rd son goes into the priesthood" stage, or something?

08/05/2011 08:58:01 AM · #3
that's even better than Unitarian Universalist... maybe I finally found my religion...
08/05/2011 12:04:42 PM · #4
Originally posted by vawendy:

how utterly bizarre...

Why go into the clergy if you don't believe? Are they still in the "3rd son goes into the priesthood" stage, or something?


You are assuming that he went into the clergy as an unbeliever. That may be, although I don't think that is clear from the linked article. However, as someone who knows a few divinity school graduates, the running joke among the set is that there is nothing like divinity school to turn a person into an atheist.

There was some survey done recently here in the U.S. actually, that found that a surprising amount of religious leaders were agnostic or better in regard to the literal beliefs of their religious sects. I'll see if I can turn up a link.

Someone might stay in the clergy because they don't know what else to do. (Some might even feel trapped in the profession.) Others might stay/join because even if they don't have a belief in the literal dogma of their particular sect, they feel that there are benefits to the church organization as a whole. Or they might have cultural ties to their religion that makes clerical work attractive.

Humans are complex and do things for all sorts of complicated and even contradictory reasons. But as a non-believer it doesn't surprise me that a larger proportion of clergy would have less literal belief than the folks in the pews. Honest investigation does not favor faith.

Message edited by author 2011-08-05 12:22:04.
08/05/2011 12:21:19 PM · #5
Here are a couple links dealing with the study I mention above:

Wilson Quarterly - review of "Preachers Who Are Not Believers" by Dennett and LaScola
A short summary with a link to the actual report.

"Preachers Who Don't Believe: The Scandal of Apostate Pastors", Albert Mohler
A review of the report from the point of view of a concerned leader in the Southern Baptist Theological Ministry.
08/05/2011 12:24:34 PM · #6
Originally posted by shutterpuppy:

Originally posted by vawendy:

how utterly bizarre...

Why go into the clergy if you don't believe? Are they still in the "3rd son goes into the priesthood" stage, or something?


You are assuming that he went into the clergy as an unbeliever. That may be, although I don't think that is clear from the linked article. However, as someone who knows a few divinity school graduates, the running joke among the set is that there is nothing like divinity school to turn a person into an atheist.

There was some survey done recently here in the U.S. actually, that found that a surprising amount of religious leaders were agnostic or better in regard to the literal beliefs of their religious sects. I'll see if I can turn up a link.

Someone might stay in the clergy because they don't know what else to do. (Some might even feel trapped in the profession.) Others might stay/join because even if they don't have a belief in the literal dogma of their particular sect, they feel that there are benefits to the church organization as a whole. Or they might have cultural ties to their religion that makes clerical work attractive.

Humans are complex and do things for all sorts of complicated and even contradictory reasons. But as a non-believer it doesn't surprise me that a larger proportion of clergy would have less literal belief than the folks in the pews. Honest investigation does not favor faith.


hehehe. I await the arguments on THIS bolded statement from the usual peanut gallery on this site :D
08/05/2011 12:44:05 PM · #7
Originally posted by shutterpuppy:

Here are a couple links dealing with the study I mention above:

Wilson Quarterly - review of "Preachers Who Are Not Believers" by Dennett and LaScola
A short summary with a link to the actual report.

"Preachers Who Don't Believe: The Scandal of Apostate Pastors", Albert Mohler
A review of the report from the point of view of a concerned leader in the Southern Baptist Theological Ministry.


He who hid well, lived well.
-Rene Descartes
08/05/2011 02:43:03 PM · #8
Originally posted by K10DGuy:

Originally posted by Shutterpuppy:

Humans are complex and do things for all sorts of complicated and even contradictory reasons. But as a non-believer it doesn't surprise me that a larger proportion of clergy would have less literal belief than the folks in the pews. Honest investigation does not favor faith.


hehehe. I await the arguments on THIS bolded statement from the usual peanut gallery on this site :D


It seems natural that SP would say this because his honest investigation did not produce faith. Other people are driven in the opposite direction (toward faith) by their own honest investigation. Thus SP's statement reveals more truth about SP than any truth about the world.

I'm not surprised that people like the pastors mentioned can be found. Not surprised at all. At some point, however, one needs to stop calling them Christians. Why try to force a square peg into a round hole?

Message edited by author 2011-08-05 14:44:16.
08/05/2011 03:45:08 PM · #9
Originally posted by DrAchoo:

At some point, however, one needs to stop calling them Christians. Why try to force a square peg into a round hole?


So is belief in the after life the sole basis being a valid Christian? Is that the only metric? Or are there many many tenets in the teachings of Christ Jesus. The concept of a loving God, a revulsion for the love of money, of kindness to your neighbor, belief in transubstantiation, and the singularity of the trinity, ect. So is Christianity a one strike and you are out game? Any major doctrinal shift and you are no longer a Christian?

You can believe that in giving your life to good works, to follow in the path of Christ's teachings, to inspire your congregation and see them through their times of need, but if you have any doubts about the magic stuff, the walking on water, the raising the dead, the loaves and fishes, the heavenly home, any of the stuff that is unlike anything that anyone alive has ever seen, then you can't be a REAL Christian?

I see plenty of Christians who believe in the after life, and in miracles, they just turn their back on the golden rule, who also worship at the alter of mammon, see no reason to do good works outside their "community" (read church). These people are the false Christians to my way of thinking.

I guess the question is which is more important to be a good Christian, faith in the unseen, or works in the world we have been put on.
08/05/2011 04:21:24 PM · #10
Originally posted by BrennanOB:

Originally posted by DrAchoo:

At some point, however, one needs to stop calling them Christians. Why try to force a square peg into a round hole?


So is belief in the after life the sole basis being a valid Christian? Is that the only metric? Or are there many many tenets in the teachings of Christ Jesus. The concept of a loving God, a revulsion for the love of money, of kindness to your neighbor, belief in transubstantiation, and the singularity of the trinity, ect. So is Christianity a one strike and you are out game? Any major doctrinal shift and you are no longer a Christian?

You can believe that in giving your life to good works, to follow in the path of Christ's teachings, to inspire your congregation and see them through their times of need, but if you have any doubts about the magic stuff, the walking on water, the raising the dead, the loaves and fishes, the heavenly home, any of the stuff that is unlike anything that anyone alive has ever seen, then you can't be a REAL Christian?

I see plenty of Christians who believe in the after life, and in miracles, they just turn their back on the golden rule, who also worship at the alter of mammon, see no reason to do good works outside their "community" (read church). These people are the false Christians to my way of thinking.

I guess the question is which is more important to be a good Christian, faith in the unseen, or works in the world we have been put on.


A good question, but not the one I was addressing. The bottom line for the purposes of this thread is I'm pretty sure you have to believe in God to be a Christian. If you are an atheist you are not a Christian. Period. It would make no sense. Now, because these conversations always hinge on the subtlest nuance, let me tell you I'm fully able to accept that someone who doesn't believe in God could act like a Christian (however we want to define that), but that doesn't make them a Christian any more than me speaking German makes me a German.
08/05/2011 04:36:20 PM · #11
Originally posted by DrAchoo:

Originally posted by BrennanOB:

Originally posted by DrAchoo:

At some point, however, one needs to stop calling them Christians. Why try to force a square peg into a round hole?


So is belief in the after life the sole basis being a valid Christian? Is that the only metric? Or are there many many tenets in the teachings of Christ Jesus. The concept of a loving God, a revulsion for the love of money, of kindness to your neighbor, belief in transubstantiation, and the singularity of the trinity, ect. So is Christianity a one strike and you are out game? Any major doctrinal shift and you are no longer a Christian?

You can believe that in giving your life to good works, to follow in the path of Christ's teachings, to inspire your congregation and see them through their times of need, but if you have any doubts about the magic stuff, the walking on water, the raising the dead, the loaves and fishes, the heavenly home, any of the stuff that is unlike anything that anyone alive has ever seen, then you can't be a REAL Christian?

I see plenty of Christians who believe in the after life, and in miracles, they just turn their back on the golden rule, who also worship at the alter of mammon, see no reason to do good works outside their "community" (read church). These people are the false Christians to my way of thinking.

I guess the question is which is more important to be a good Christian, faith in the unseen, or works in the world we have been put on.


A good question, but not the one I was addressing. The bottom line for the purposes of this thread is I'm pretty sure you have to believe in God to be a Christian. If you are an atheist you are not a Christian. Period. It would make no sense. Now, because these conversations always hinge on the subtlest nuance, let me tell you I'm fully able to accept that someone who doesn't believe in God could act like a Christian (however we want to define that), but that doesn't make them a Christian any more than me speaking German makes me a German.


Wouldn't belief in the teachings of a man/entity/name/idea called Jesus Christ alone be sufficient to call oneself a christian, even if one decided to ignore the supernatural side of things? I think so.
08/05/2011 05:04:20 PM · #12
Originally posted by BrennanOB:



I see plenty of Christians who believe in the after life, and in miracles, they just turn their back on the golden rule, who also worship at the alter of mammon, see no reason to do good works outside their "community" (read church). These people are the false Christians to my way of thinking.

I guess the question is which is more important to be a good Christian, faith in the unseen, or works in the world we have been put on.


Following this logic, what you're saying is that an atheist who does good things is by definition Christian? I find that offensive.
08/05/2011 05:10:21 PM · #13
Originally posted by Cory:

Following this logic, what you're saying is that an atheist who does good things is by definition Christian? I find that offensive.


+1
08/05/2011 05:18:44 PM · #14
Originally posted by K10DGuy:

Wouldn't belief in the teachings of a man/entity/name/idea called Jesus Christ alone be sufficient to call oneself a christian, even if one decided to ignore the supernatural side of things? I think so.


"ignoring the supernatural side of things" is, as the original link put it, a "redefinition". I just think it makes for a very muddy conversation if suddenly you have to ask, "wait, are you a supernatural believing Christian or not?" and of course to say that you "believe the teachings of Jesus Christ" but don't pay attention to all his talk about his Father or prayer or angels seems a bit odd as well...

I could call you a pot-smoking hippie because you espouse some of the same values as pot-smoking hippies I've met. It probably doesn't help to do that though... :)

Message edited by author 2011-08-05 17:20:53.
08/05/2011 05:29:37 PM · #15
Originally posted by K10DGuy:

Wouldn't belief in the teachings of a man/entity/name/idea called Jesus Christ alone be sufficient to call oneself a christian, even if one decided to ignore the supernatural side of things? I think so.


Well, IF you believe the teachings of the man/name/idea "Jesus Christ" then you believe in God, you believe in the resurrection of the body, you believe in a whole LOT of stuff besides the "love thy neighbor as thyself" happy-hippie-feelgood Christian stuff that some people seem to have decided is the core of Christianity. I mean, it just isn't so. I guess anybody can choose to redefine "Christian" to suit his/her own bias, but like Doc says that no more makes you "Christian" than speaking German makes you German...

R.

I see Doc and I cross-posted here; I was called away for 10-12 mins mid-screed.

Message edited by author 2011-08-05 17:43:07.
08/05/2011 05:34:30 PM · #16
Are you surprised? Secular Europe is rubbing off on the protestant church.

Heretics!
08/05/2011 05:37:58 PM · #17
Originally posted by Nullix:


Heretics!


I believe they prefer to be called "doctrinally averse Christians"!
08/05/2011 05:59:40 PM · #18
I think anyone that wants to call themselves a christian is welcome to do so, no matter what.
08/05/2011 06:00:42 PM · #19
Originally posted by Bear_Music:

Originally posted by K10DGuy:

Wouldn't belief in the teachings of a man/entity/name/idea called Jesus Christ alone be sufficient to call oneself a christian, even if one decided to ignore the supernatural side of things? I think so.


Well, IF you believe the teachings of the man/name/idea "Jesus Christ" then you believe in God, you believe in the resurrection of the body, you believe in a whole LOT of stuff besides the "love thy neighbor as thyself" happy-hippie-feelgood Christian stuff that some people seem to have decided is the core of Christianity. I mean, it just isn't so. I guess anybody can choose to redefine "Christian" to suit his/her own bias, but like Doc says that no more makes you "Christian" than speaking German makes you German...


Not actually looking to start a fight, but I think that someone might find the teachings of Jesus perfectly sensible, but not buy into any of the supernatural claims surrounding those teachings. After all, one can think that the Buddha's teachings are wise and good, and not buy into reincarnation.

Thomas Jefferson was apparently just such a "believer." The Jefferson Bible was his attempt to extract all supernatural claims from the New Testament, leaving the philosophical teachings of Jesus.

Of course, there are those who would disagree that the philosophical and moral teachings of Jesus were really all that transcendent, even with the supernatural nonsense excluded.

Iron Chariots: Sermon on the Mount
"While some of the passages in this sermon have been considered sage advice by readers of varying beliefs, the sermon includes many passages which seem to contradict the claim that the author was wise beyond mortal men. Many people have pointed out that rather than being the ultimate instructions for how to live life, the sermon contains several passages that would typically qualify as bad advice and projects some philosophical positions that are typical of the era and not indicative of a wise, transcendent being."


08/05/2011 06:17:06 PM · #20
Christianity has been rethinking itself in order to fit a changing knowledge of the world etc to the scriptures, and vice versa, since the Holy Roman Empire 'defined' it.

On the (an) other hand there's a catechism, acceptance of which many take to be the litmus test of being Christian.

I was baptised and confirmed so I'm Christian by those criteria, as well as the associated ones of being brought up in an ostensibly Christian society and taught it at school. I don't believe in God though. I don't doubt that Jesus lived and taught.

Reasons I sort of believe in God are

a) the mass of circumstantial evidence, which is not empirical evidence of a spirit in the sky but is the idea manifest and demonstrates the existence of the concept - i.e. the man-made idea 'God' is there.

b) the human condition - our perception - has changed over and over since the first books of the bible were written and a lot of things in those books are metaphors/parables that were then a necessary medium for the discussion and presentation of intangible (spiritual) stuff. Still are, to a considerable extent, but we change. I have jahwe down as the indefinable essence of how we can know stuff pigs don't, or even think about it. You think without having to think to do it, so there's yer God.

The pissed off person in the sky I don't buy.

08/05/2011 06:25:44 PM · #21
Originally posted by Cory:

Following this logic, what you're saying is that an atheist who does good things is by definition Christian? I find that offensive.


Really? Then your logic has offended you. I do not see the logical trail you followed from what I said to your leap that anyone who behaves within the ethical teachings of Jesus must be a Christian. I was arguing against an automatic exclusion and you took it as an automatic inclusion.

You can do good works and be a Buddhist, a Muslim, an Atheist, a Christian. an Animist or anything else. The question I was trying to address is at what point does a veering away from the classicaly held tenants of Christianity cause you to be beyond no longer allowed to call yourself a Christian, to require your being thrown out of the church.

When Jason hears the quote "Nor does Klaas Hendrikse believe that God exists at all as a supernatural thing." he hears that this man does not believe in God (correct me if I'm wrong, I don't want to put words in your mouth). That is not what he said. What Mr. Hendrikse means by "a supernatural being" is pretty unclear to me, but it would seem logical to assume that to Mr. Hendrikse God does exist, but not perhaps as the guy on the ceiling of the Sistine chapel. To say that one's concept of God is not that of the sixth century, no large bearded man sitting in the clouds on his throne of gold, does not preclude you from believing in God.

Our understanding of what God is made up of, has always existed on the outer limits of our understanding. With modern geology, does anyone believe that hell is under the crust of the earth? Does this mean there is no hell, or that we were wrong about it's location? The notion that God lives as a corporeal being with his host of angles looking down at us from the clouds, is hard to believe in in these days of the Hubble telescope. To not think of God as some sort of invisible superhero in the sky does not mean you can not worship God.
08/05/2011 06:28:50 PM · #22
Originally posted by shutterpuppy:

Thomas Jefferson was apparently just such a "believer."


He is a well known case, but generally scholars will call him a "Deist". In fact many times on this site "your side" (not necessarily you) has argued that he wasn't a "Christian". This gets brought up when someone tries to raise the position that the US was founded on Christian principles. They point to Washington, Jefferson, Franklin, etc. at which point people can't denounce the idea quickly enough. ;)
08/05/2011 06:32:55 PM · #23
Originally posted by BrennanOB:

When Jason hears the quote "Nor does Klaas Hendrikse believe that God exists at all as a supernatural thing."


I hear the logical, definitional equivalent that "Mr. Klaas does not believe the sky is blue because he considers it more of a green."

Message edited by author 2011-08-05 18:36:46.
08/05/2011 06:34:54 PM · #24
Originally posted by K10DGuy:

I think anyone that wants to call themselves a christian is welcome to do so, no matter what.


As long as we are welcome to call you a turnip. ;)
08/05/2011 06:40:40 PM · #25
Originally posted by DrAchoo:

He is a well known case, but generally scholars will call him a "Deist". In fact many times on this site "your side" (not necessarily you) has argued that he wasn't a "Christian". This gets brought up when someone tries to raise the position that the US was founded on Christian principles. They point to Washington, Jefferson, Franklin, etc. at which point people can't denounce the idea quickly enough. ;)


Call him what you like, but Jefferson had his own (heavily edited) Bible on his desk. To me he was a Christian, who happened to not follow a particular church's ideology. Equally true more or less from Franklin (more) to Adams(less). There is a distinction to be made between Christian principals, and Christianity as a Faith. The latter certainly is the fountainhead of the former, but historically allowing faith steer the ship of state has not proven to be good for the faith, nor the state.
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