The book went through four printings within the first four weeks of its release. The author, Klaas Hendrikse, pastor of the Protestant Church in Middelburg and Zierikzee, the Netherlands, is a self-designated “rank atheist.” According to Hendrikse, ultimate authority for understanding truth rests in one’s own experience, since there is no such thing as a ‘wrong experience.’ Scripture is therefore only true to the degree that it matches personal experience. Hendrikse views ‘biblical history’ as an oxymoron. To him, the stories of the Bible are merely mythological expressions of people’s experiences, not factual records of a personal God’s dealings with them. Accordingly, we can have similar meaningful experiences today, which in hindsight we may call ‘God.’ For example, when someone promises he will not let you down, and that person is true to his promise, Hendrikse calls that ‘God.’ A foundational creed for Hendrikse is that God does not exist, but God can happen. Specifically, God is what can happen within a human relationship when you have an experience that is meaningful to you. His views on the person of Jesus Christ are as deplorable as his views on the existence of God, although he is sparing in expressing his opinions concerning Christ. Hendrikse thinks it is conceited to claim that Jesus is the exclusive way to God. To Hendrikse, Jesus was merely one among other religious figures who “lived God.”The unbelieving pastor claims that his last intention for writing the book would be to rob any believer of his faith in God, but hopes that the book may be a help to so-called believers who already have nagging doubts about the existence of God. The book is to assure those believers that they don’t have to believe in order to be a believer. Sadly, Hendrikse is not the only Dutch pastor who does not believe in God. According to a recent investigation of 860 pastors in seven Dutch Protestant denominations, one in six pastors have doubts concerning the existence of God. In one of those denominations, the Remonstrant Brotherhood, the number of doubters was an astonishing 42 percent. Surprising and perhaps somewhat encouraging is the fact that the greatest percentage of doubters was not the younger generation of pastors, but those between ages 55 and 65.
An Atheist Protestant Pastor: Oxymoron or Reality in the Netherlands?Written by Theo van Reijn
In November of 2007, a controversial Dutch bestseller hit the market. The title of the book alone explains why it has initiated ongoing controversy among numerous Dutch Protestants – “Believing In A God Who Does Not Exist, Manifesto Of An Atheist Pastor.”