Wednesday, June 30, 2010

My Recent Time in Holland

My recent trip to Holland was roughly what I expected. People were warm and kind. I must say that I was not expecting the great beauty of the conference center where we met for the meeting of academics from the Free University of Amsterdam (below is a little pic of a Dutch home in Doorn where the conference center is located).

Another thing I expected was a good dose of liberal views regarding Scripture. Exposure to this view came not only during the actual meetings I was attending but also during breaks and meals in which I had the opportunity to talk with different people.

One such conversation happened during my first lunch at the center, called Hydepark. I was sitting with a group of ministers who were there to attend sessions on counseling. A woman said to me, "I'm a minister." Without my asking more, she continued, "And we don't treat the Bible as history, but as a source to inspire our search for meaning in our inner being." She said, "And I don't like evangelicals." Wasn't sure if I should have gotten up and moved to another seat at that point. Undaunted, I just said, "Really?" She said, "You look surprised." "Not really," I replied, "Just curious." She asked, "What would I be called in America?" My silent thought was, "Heretic." But instead, I responded, "Likely Unitarian or Unity church." "Oh, are there a lot of those in America?" she asked. "Not really, but enough," I said.

That evening at dinner I ate with a minister and PhD in theology who was leading a group of ministerial students in Holland. He told me of how the topic had come up earlier that day among the students regarding whether or not Jesus really walked on water. He said, "Many don't believe it happened. But some do and others think maybe it happened." I said, "Well what do you think? Did it happen, not happen, or maybe happen?" He said, "Maybe. But fundamentally it doesn't matter if it really happened. All that matters is the message the text is trying to convey: that Jesus is great." [In liberal circles there is a difference between historical truth and "religious" truth. As long as one thinks the take away value of a bible passage has religious significance, why bother with history?]  He went to say, "I'm not going to start a fight in my church over whether or not the stories in the Bible really happened."

Let me share just one reason why it is important that we see the Bible for what it is: real history. Our sins are real. The consequences of our sins are real. And Jesus taught hell as a real place. Esoteric ideas about God are fine just as long as sin, guilt, and damnation are esoteric. Such is not the case. So how can one think one is dealing with concrete problems with abstract solutions? Real problems demand real solutions. Historical problems demand historical solutions. This is why God came in a real body, lived a real and perfect life, died a real death for our sins, and rose from the dead in real time and space. History for history. Reality for reality.

I feel badly for those who think less of God but more of themselves. And I pray that those whom God has as his remnant in European countries will continue to proclaim the truth of the gospel in fulfillment of the Great Commission.