Beautiful Churches?

You never know where it’s going to lead, especially when exploring the internet.

I was recently looking through articles in USA Today, and a picture of a beautiful church caught my attention. I clicked on the article, “Great Protestant Churches Around the World”, and enjoyed looking at 44 pictures of beautiful churches. Then I noted that several of them were located in the Netherlands. In fact, when I went back to see how many, I discovered that seven of the great Protestant churches were in the Netherlands.

Since my daughter-in-law’s mom is Dutch, I hate to admit that I had to double check to make sure that the Netherlands was the same place as Holland. Then my curiosity led me to explore the current status of Protestant churches in the Netherlands. I almost wish I hadn’t.

The Protestant Church in the Netherlands, the largest Protestant body there, was founded in 2004 when three Protestant denominations merged. Nearly 12% of the population, or over 2 million people, claim membership in the church. Of those members, however, 42% consider themselves to be non-theists, meaning they don’t believe in God, and one in six of the clergymen are either agnostic or atheist.

Then things got even more interesting. I discovered that while 17% of the population do claim to be theistic, 25% are atheists, 31% are agnostic, and 27% are ietsists. Obviously, I had to hit the link to “ietsism.”

Ietsism is Dutch for “somethingism.” It’s the belief that “there must be something undefined beyond the material and that which can be known or be proven.” They have not found any of the “pre-packaged” gods offered by traditional religions to be satisfactory. The term was coined in 1997, and is now more widely used in Europe than the “spiritual but not religious” that is used here.

As I pondered this, I couldn’t help but think of Paul in the midst of the idols of Athens. I could almost hear him standing in a great Protestant church, declaring, “What therefore you worship in ignorance, this I proclaim to you.”

Sadly, what secularization has done to the great churches of Europe, it’s doing to many of the historically great churches here as well. May we have the courage to be a Paul in the midst of unbelief.

God Bless, Rick

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