Jump to content

Dutch Begin To Reinvent Christianity


Recommended Posts

I read this fascinating article about how Christians in the Netherlands are starting to rethink Christianity for a modern world and adopt more progressive ways of viewing the bible. I especially found it interesting that many Christians in the Netherlands not only disbelieve in a supernatural god but also disbelieve in a historical Jesus. Now I'm jealous and I can say this is a version of Christianity I could easily get behind:

 

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-14417362

 

An imposing figure in black robes and white clerical collar, Mr Hendrikse presides over the Sunday service at the Exodus Church in Gorinchem, central Holland.

It is part of the mainstream Protestant Church in the Netherlands (PKN), 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.

"God is not a being at all... it's a word for experience, or human experience”

Rev Klaas Hendrikse

"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.

His book Believing in a Non-Existent God led to calls from more traditionalist Christians for him to be removed. 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 PKN and six other smaller denominations was either agnostic or atheist.

 

 

The Rev Kirsten Slettenaar, Exodus Church's regular priest, also rejects the idea - widely considered central to Christianity - that Jesus was divine as well as human.

"I think 'Son of God' is a kind of title," she says. "I don't think he was a god or a half god. 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 inside himself."

Mrs Slettenaar acknowledges that she's changing what the Church has said, but, she insists, not the "real meaning of Christianity".

She says that there "is not only one answer" and complains that "a lot of traditional beliefs are outside people and have grown into rigid things that you can't touch any more".

What I find interesting is that it's not just scholars or theologians reaching this conclusion but lay people and they're going out into the heart of controversial places like the red light district to reach out to people who are seeking a different way of experiencing spirituality.
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Neon,

 

It seems to me that when we get away from all self definitions , being Christian just means being a follower of Jesus's teachings. Perhaps the debates between whether there was or was not a historical Jesus is just another detour in the road? I believe there was but if there wasn't, it makes no difference in my life as it was the teachings that was reported as spoken by Jesus that cleared the way for personal experiences of the Divine for me. It was putting them into practice that opened the door. It seems to me that focus on the teachings are always more important than the teacher because it is the teachings that really in a sense live on or make Jesus alive to us today.

 

Joseph

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I found this both encouraging and disturbing. Encouraging, because it shows hope for progressive thought. Disturbing, because it seems that Christianity is getting too far away from God in my opinion. While I am in complete agreement with Joseph that it is Jesus' message that is important, I still believe there was an historical Jesus. The historian Josephus mentions Jesus though it is true that there is some scholarly debate as to its authenticity. And, no, I don't think the NT is a factual biographical work about the historical Jesus. I think there was a real human person named Jesus who was a wise man who taught compassion, and who had a profound impact on the lives of people, then and now.

 

I guess if “supernatural” is the best word we can come up with to describe God, I'm stuck with it, but I don't like it. So I guess I do believe in a “supernatural” God. However, I do not think God is outside nature. God is intimately connected to everything that is, yet so much more. I like to think of God as “the Mind of the Universe”, perfect consciousness, yet more.

 

I went through a period in my spirituality when I felt my faith had become too intellectual, almost sterile. I had to re-read Marcus Borg and Michael Morwood to find some of the wonder and awe I lost. When I first joined this forum, I felt that same thing happening. I felt I was missing something in my spirituality. Yes, I embrace scientific discoveries, and no, I do not believe in the “God of the gaps” of science. God can and does evolve, because “God works with what God has to work with” (Michael Morwood). But let's not throw God out completely.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Yvonne,

 

I agree it can be exceedingly disturbing to many and i do agree with your belief there was a historical Jesus but i would not get in that debate with someone who disagreed because that is not a tenant of my faith in God or the teachings of Jesus as recorded. Also perhaps we need only throw out the anthropomorphic view of God from some of the church teachings and allow God to define God in our own relationship and that of creation.

 

Joseph

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I read this fascinating article about how Christians in the Netherlands are starting to rethink Christianity for a modern world and adopt more progressive ways of viewing the bible. I especially found it interesting that many Christians in the Netherlands not only disbelieve in a supernatural god but also disbelieve in a historical Jesus. Now I'm jealous and I can say this is a version of Christianity I could easily get behind:

 

http://www.bbc.co.uk...europe-14417362

 

What I find interesting is that it's not just scholars or theologians reaching this conclusion but lay people and they're going out into the heart of controversial places like the red light district to reach out to people who are seeking a different way of experiencing spirituality.

 

Neon,

 

Have you noticed? It didn't say that the historical Jesus didn't exist it just says "MAY never have existed" . It also didn't say that he disbelieved in God, just that he self defined God differently. While that is progressive in nature there is always uncertainty in such definitions by others.

 

This site seems no different. Progressive Christianity seems to me not to be a particular view or belief or definition of God or historical accuracy of Jesus that all must agree on (though we find much commonality) but rather more of a way of looking at Christianity differently and about individual progression at ones own speed with encouragement from others who are on on a personal self-guided journey.

 

It seems to me that PC focus is not on proselytizing dogma or pragmatic beliefs concerning Jesus or God or to build a new church. Although specific beliefs are discussed here, it seems to me it is more in encouraging others, wherever possible to go beyond fixed teachings and beliefs by whatever method they feel comfortable with. Evangelism as an agent of justice and peace is spelled out as one of TCPC's mission points and i think another mission point helps give it context by stating our mission "to support those who embrace the search, not certainty."

 

Joseph

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I applaud the honesty found in these new congregations. I wish them success, and hope that others can follow with that example of trying to be intellectually honest and up-to-date culturally. At the same time, I hope that such congregations don't fall to the other extreme of imbibing the more-or-less materialistic philosophy of the secular West.

 

That is to say, I don't see how any church could survive -- or perhaps, be effective and purposeful -- without a robust affirmation of Sacredness, and without a genuine belief in spirituality and spiritual practice. If these new congregations can find a "middle way" between extremes, that would be ideal.

 

Peace,

Mike

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I applaud the honesty found in these new congregations. I wish them success, and hope that others can follow with that example of trying to be intellectually honest and up-to-date culturally. At the same time, I hope that such congregations don't fall to the other extreme of imbibing the more-or-less materialistic philosophy of the secular West.

 

On the other hand, there's also some people who do find inspiration in the teachings of Jesus but reject a supernatural worldview and I think it's important to provide a sacred place for those people within Christendom. In the U.S., we have the Unitarian church that fills that gap so I'm glad there's a movement for this flavor of Christianity in Europe.
Link to comment
Share on other sites

On the other hand, there's also some people who do find inspiration in the teachings of Jesus but reject a supernatural worldview and I think it's important to provide a sacred place for those people within Christendom. In the U.S., we have the Unitarian church that fills that gap so I'm glad there's a movement for this flavor of Christianity in Europe.

 

I agree. "Supernatural" and "sacred" are indeed not the same concepts, I think its fully possible to have churches which do not accept the former yet embrace the latter.

 

Peace.

Edited by Mike
Link to comment
Share on other sites

 

I agree. "Supernatural" and "sacred" are indeed not the same concepts, I think its fully possible to have churches which do not accept the former yet embrace the latter.

 

Peace.

 

Yes, and today I encountered the sacred in both a Benedictine monastery and in the bluffs overlooking the Mississippi River. I thought quite a lot about this conversation today. I think I believe in a "supernatural" God, in that God is so much more than nature; yet, I know I believe in God present and active in the rivers, trees, animals, and you and me.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I agree Yvonne. I don't really like the whole "natural/supernatural" divide; it seems artificial to me. It seems like what counts as natural or supernatural is more a matter of consensus and convention. For instance, I believe in immaterial realities -- like awareness/mind -- and to me nothing could be more 'natural' than to take these as real. Yet there are those whose beliefs inform them that such a belief in the immaterial must fall into supernaturalism. Based on what? Based on their own metaphysical beliefs. One man's naturalism is another man's magic, it would seem, so I don't take the whole divide very seriously. Nature is a concept too. What truly and actually is is well beyond our categories, I think. So I do agree that God is "so much more than nature". Nature is not an autonomous, objective concept to me.

 

Peace,

Mike

Edited by Mike
Link to comment
Share on other sites

I think human thought is just beginning to recognize the interconnectedness and continuity and inter-relatedness between all things, that we have always seen and thouught of as individual and separated, isolated, one from another. I think the challenge of the age to human thought is comprehending the interconnectedness and inter-relatedness and untity of all existance.

 

It has only been a few decades since it was discovered that the largest single living organism known to us is an aspen groves in Colorado...what had always seemed a bunch of individual separate trees are actually all parts of one whole organism. I think we are going to find the entirety of existance, the cosmos, is just that way, all just one big integrated organism...and that would explain a lot of the phenomena we have thought of as "supernatural", as something coming from some separate place, something separate from our own reality.

 

Jenell

Link to comment
Share on other sites

It is interesting that science finds no objective distinction between 'animate' and 'inanimate'. Many people take this to mean that the concept of the 'animate' must go, but whence the justification for this? It seems to me that 'inanimate' is a more likely candidate to be left behind. If it is as you suggest Jenell, the view of the cosmos as organism would literally re-vitalize our conception of existence.

 

I do think human thought has had a good grasp on these concepts of interconnectedness, though not in a scientific way. It seems to me that over the last couple of centuries the West has been suffering from a collective amnesia and loss of vocabulary, induced by scientific positivism.

 

Peace,

Mike

Edited by Mike
  • Upvote 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

 Share

×
×
  • Create New...

Important Information

terms of service