A weird story from the Dutch Bible belt today. A study of the archeology of the Dutch municipality Staphorst has caused discussion in the town’s council. One of the conclusions in the report was that the area of Staphorst was likely already inhabited more than 6,000 years ago, and that is a bit of a problem. Council member Klaas Hanke of the Christian Union: “Estimates of the age of the Earth vary in Christian circles between six and twelve thousand years.” Mr. Hanke is seemingly in favour of the most recent of these dates.
For ‘Christian circles’, please read ‘certain Protestant circles’.
The company who did the soil studies is willing to include a paragraph in the final report that acknowledges the existence of different opinions, but they will not go so far as to say that the age of the Earth may be only 6,000 years. Different opinions are one thing, changing facts is something else altogether.
Science secretary Ronald Plasterk asserted that the Earth’s age of some 5 billion years is sadly non-negotiable.
Facts and faith sometimes do bump into each other, but in my experience rarely as blatantly as this. It’s almost like saying that the sky is green because you read that somewhere, despite all evidence to the contrary. But I suppose that this is the risk you run if you own one book, the Bible, and treat it like a science book.
Or if you let politicians dabble in science, for that matter.
Populist newspaper De Telegraaf published an extensive interview with Archbishop Wim Eijk today. Sadly, it’s not available online, but excerpts have been quoted on various websites and blogs. Obviously, the standard questions were asked: Ariënskonvikt, financial situation of the archdiocese, the criticism against his person and actions…
Some interesting tidbits from the interview:
On losing church buildings and their future functions:
“In the next decade we will close 1000 churches: 600 of the PKN (Protestant Church in the Netherlands) and 400 on the Catholic side. The coming ten years will be years of truth.”
“The bishops prefer these churches to be demolished. But in some cases that is not possible since they are monuments.”
“As Bishops’ Conference, we decided in the 1990s that churches can’t be used as mosques. It is a fact that, from the point of view of some Muslims, the use of a church as a mosque can be seen in the light of the mission people have, to convert everyone to Islam.”
“The church can get another function, but it must be a worthy function. […] I can think of roles in health care or culture.”
“If a Catholic church gets a new function as a church, we prefer it to be used by a Christian community.”
About his decisions and his personal role:
“I think that we should continue on this way, quietly and decisive. Jesus said that the servant is not above the master. That means that you won’t be more comfortable than Jesus. You must dare to invest something in the preaching of the Gospel.”
“I am simply orthodox and I represent and preach the faith that the Church has preached for the past two thousand years, and I want to remain faithful to that. […] In the 1960s and 70s there was a diminished sense of religiosity in society [To put it mildly]. We now see a reconsideration. In general, young people are more open to tradition. If they still go to church, they generally want to celebrate the liturgy according to Roman custom. They look for authentic Christian faith. I see myself as a representative of that younger generation. I may have become a bit more visible because of certain policy decisions I had to make as archbishop. But I don’t consider myself a victim. Not at all.”
About the future:
“I am bishop for all Catholics. I go everywhere and try to be open for contacts with everyone. I am pointing out a more general trend. At the moment, some 16 percent of the Dutch population is still Catholic, but that will drop to 10% in 2020 [All the more need for us to become more visible, I would say]. The Catholics who practice their faith now are looking for the authentic faith.”
“Our goal is to bring people into contact with God via Jesus. The preaching of the Gospel is not dependant on enormous financial means. Jesus and the apostles also started out with nothing. In the end it comes down to God’s mercy and power. He gives the fruits. We are asked to sow, but the Lord must reap. So sometimes you simply have to go on sowing and see where it will flower.”
“The Church looks for dialogue. Dialogue is only worthwhile if it comes from the heart. […] If you don’t agree with something you can voice that disagreement, but you should do it on a basis of reasonable arguments and knowledge of your own opinions and those of others. Well, there is a lot lacking on both sides, I think.”
About the trend to push anything religious out of the public sphere:
“That is also a form of dictatorship, which leads me to think that that is not the way to go.”