I saw an article on the BBC News website last week that described the church service of Klaas Hendrikse, an agnostic reverend in the Netherlands.
Go back and re-read that if you like. Agnostic. Reverend. Yes. Seriously. As in an agnostic who is a preacher. As in, a man who runs a church but does not believe that we can know that God is real. He also doesn’t believe in any kind of afterlife.
According to this article, 1 in 6 Dutch ministers in the Protestant Church of the Netherlands self-identify as either agnostic or atheist.
One of these ministers, a lady named Kirsten Slettenaar, does not believe in the divinity of Jesus. Yet she defends this stance by claiming that, while she may be going against what the church has historically said, this position is not not changing the “real meaning of Christianity” [source].
I was flummoxed. I mean, surely it doesn’t take a doctorate-level theologian to realize that changing our understanding of Christ changes the real meaning of Christianity. But here it was, by two separate people in one article — the claim that Christianity is only tangentially related to Jesus Himself. There is even a third person interviewed whose two cents are that “The Church has to be alert to what is going on in society[...] it has to change to stay Christian.”
I couldn’t help but gawp at the article. People are seriously trying to practice Christianity while denying Christ — and not in the subtle sense of confessing one thing while secretly believing another, but in the outright, explicit denial that He was the Son of God, or that He ever existed at all, while claiming to adhere to His religion anyway.
Have we really become so dull that we don’t see the non-sequiturs we’re spouting in order to try to stay relevant?
About this time, morbid curiosity kicked in and I navigated over to Google, wondering what the general tone of the interwebs was about this subject. I typed in “Christianity is all about”, and let autocomplete suggest the rest of the sentence for me, just to see. The first three suggestions were: “love // relationship // forgiveness”.
So according to Professor Google, Christianity is all about love. Christianity is all about relationship. Christianity is all about forgiveness.
Except it isn’t, because it’s not called Lovianity, Relationshipianity, or Forgivnianity.
I’m glad Professor Google does not teach at seminaries. But at the same time, I feel worried that his intellectual buddies might be.
Christianity doesn’t mean anything without Christ as its beginning and end. Yes, He loves us and empowers us to love Him and one another. Yes, He wants to be in real relationship with us. Yes, He forgives us of our sins. But those things are all conditional on Him being who He is. If He’s not God, He has no authority to forgive us for our iniquities committed against God. If He never rose from the dead, or if He never really existed, it doesn’t matter if we think He loved us or not. If He failed to live up to the shocking and exclusive things He said about Himself, then He is not a teacher to be followed.
Without Christ, Christianity becomes meaningless. There’s literally nothing left. You can’t redefine or dismiss Jesus without cutting yourself off from the Head from whom the whole body of Christ grows (Eph 4:15-16).
In an age where “common ground” is sought at all costs, where absolute truth is frowned upon, and where popular moral relativity trumps religious conviction, we have got to be sure of not just what we believe, but whom we believe. Christianity is not about living a good life and being nice to people. It’s about Jesus the Messiah — the Anointed One — the Christ — fully God and fully Man, who really was born, really lived, was crucified, buried and resurrected. And there can be no compromise about that.