Many North American Christians have been influenced by the remarkable political and social witness of the great Abraham Kuyper in the Netherlands. I am pleased to count myself among them. Thus it saddens me to read the following BBC report: Dutch rethink Christianity for a doubtful world.
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 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.
Much as a vibrant Puritanism had turned to unitarianism within a century of the settlement of New England, so has Kuyper’s Gereformeerd community been largely assimilated into the Dutch mainline Protestantse Kerk, which, though pockets of vitality definitely exist within it, is far from being a confessional church.
However, the story is not over, and signs were already present four years ago that secularism in the Netherlands may be running its course. This Weekly Standard article is cause for hope: Holland’s Post-Secular Future. Whenever we are tempted to despair over the apparent progress of secularism, we need only recall that ultimately it cannot satisfy. As St. Augustine put it so well, our hearts are restless until they find rest in the One who alone can provide it.