You may remember Klaas Hendrikse, the atheist pastor from the Protestant Church in the Netherlands (PKN) who apparently gets paid to play word games. (I wrote about him here and here.) According to the Ecumenical News Service, not one but two different regional judicatories within the PKN have decided that disciplining him isn’t worth the effort:

Two regional church authorities in the Netherlands are reported to have decided to take no disciplinary action against a self-proclaimed atheist pastor, Klaas Hendrikse.

The decision of the authorities in the southern Dutch province of Zeeland was published in a letter to their congregations, the Protestant daily newspaper the Nederlands Dagblad reported on 24 March.

The church authorities said disciplinary proceedings against Hendrikse, who is a pastor of the Protestant Church in the Netherlands, would be likely to lead to, “a protracted discussion about the meanings of words that in the end will produce little clarity”. The letter also noted that people have debated the issue of “God’s existence” throughout time.

Well, yes, but the church doesn’t generally put one of the debaters on the other side in charge of any of its congregations.

The abdication of responsibility here is breathtaking. Because Hendrikse insists that words are merely animal noises that have no relationship to anything in the real world (thus making communication impossible because of the lack of common referents, and making anyone who has plunked down money for his book a real sucker, since nothing he says in print means anything more than “booga booga!” or “jdcjbcbcibck?”), the PKN bodies shrug and say, appropriately enough, “whatever.” Of course, I can imagine the conversation if they brought him in:

Church official: So you say you don’t believe that God exists?

Hendrikse: Oh, I love Manos, the Hands of Fate–it’s my favorite movie.

Church official: But what about God?

Hendrikse: I like pie, too.

Church official: But is God real?

Hendrikse: Did you know that if you take cranberries and stew them like applesauce they taste much more like prunes than rhubarb does?

Church official: Please answer my question.

Hendrikse: I am. Booga booga!

I can see that would be a frustrating experience. But the end result of it shouldn’t be, “oh, well, then, since we can’t communicate with you, go back and mess with the heads of the people who pay your salary.” It should be, “why don’t you demonstrate some integrity and get yourself a real job.”

John Calvin said that there are three marks of a true Christian church: the Word rightly preached, the sacraments rightly administered, and church discipline rightly exercised. At the very least, the PKN has shown that it is incapable of the last of those marks, and should no longer be considered a true Christian church. But their buildings would probably make really neat condos.