A report and comment on religious trends and events being covered by the media. This week’s item is from the Associated Press, June 3, 2003, with the headline: “Pastor Rejects Belief In God, Copenhagen, Germany—A Lutheran priest was suspended today after his remarks that God doesn’t exist and there is no eternal life rankled many of his peers in Denmark’s state church. Thorkild Grosboell, the pastor of Taarbaek, a town of 51,000, just north of the capital, Copenhagen, said in a recent interview that ‘there is no heavenly God, there is no eternal life, there is no resurrection.’
“The claims have mystified church leaders in the Scandinavian country of 5.3 million, where about 85 percent of the population belongs to the State Evangelical Lutheran church. Yet just 5 percent attend church services regularly.
“Lise-Lotte Rebel, bishop of the Helsingoer diocese, which includes Taarbaek, said Grosboell’s comments caused confusion within the church. “There should be no doubt that priests have committed themselves to act within the church’s Confession of Faith,” she said. After meeting with Grosboell today, the bishop demanded he retract his comments and apologize. She also suspended him from his duties as town pastor.
“Grosboell declined to comment but will meet with Rebel again next week in her diocese in Helsinger, twenty miles north of Copenhagen. Rebel says it’s up to the Danish government’s ministry for ecclesiastic affairs to decide if Grosboell should be defrocked. In Denmark, Lutheran priests are employed by the state, and bishops cannot fire them.
“Many priests, including Tove Fergo, the minister for ecclesiastic affairs and a Lutheran priest herself, have said it’s not possible to be a pastor without believing in the existence of God and the resurrection of Christ.
“Others, however, including Mogens Lindhardt, the leader of Denmark’s Theological College of Education, called Grosboell’s claims ‘refreshing.’”
Tom: Dave, the reaction to an article like this—among some, disbelief, shock, and so on, but there’s plenty of this. This isn’t abnormal, and it may seem a little unique, but, Dave, I know you have had a conversation with a pastor who was involved in one of the committees on the World Council of Churches, and he was stunned because those on his committee—they may say, “refreshing”? I don’t think so. This was the…”No, you’re not going to pray. Who are you going to pray to?” It became a social kind of…solve the problems through social reforms and all of that kind of stuff.
Dave: Yeah, Tom, it’s ridiculous. I mean, it is so obvious that it shouldn’t cause any controversy. What are you doing as a pastor? As you said, to whom do you pray? You have any prayers? Maybe they don’t have prayers. Maybe they really just talk about social issues. Well, what is the solution to social issues? What is the point? Why are you getting a salary as supposedly being a man of God when you don’t believe in God? But this is, as you say, this is the situation more widely than generally makes the news.
Tom: Well, it’s a state church. We’re going to go to the Danish government, the ministry of ecclesiastic affairs? I’m sure there are some really spiritual people in that bureaucratic mess.
Dave: There might be, Tom, but I don’t know what they are doing there, how they got there, and why they stay. And this, frankly, I mean I have lived in Europe a couple of times—this was a situation that was left by the Reformation: a state church. It’s either the Lutheran Church, Calvinist church, or the Catholic Church. Now you do have some so-called “free church”—the Evangelical Free came from over there. You know, this is called the Evangelical Lutheran Church. Evangelical? What’s the evangelism about? If there is no belief in God, there’s no resurrection, there is no afterlife, what are you talking about?
So, what happened was, it left a state church. The salaries of the pastors are paid for, and the expenses, by the government. Well, then, you’ve got to pay taxes. People resent that— they don’t even go—5 percent go to church. You know, our good friend, Hans Kristian—he called them four-wheel Christians. They come in the baby buggy on four wheels to get christened and they come in a car to get confirmed…and I’ve talked to some of these people. Confirmation? Forget it! I mean, most of them have gone through confirmation because you get presents, you get gifts from your relatives—it’s a big day, confirmation. And then they come in a car, four-wheels, to get married, and then they come in a hearse to get buried, and he called them four-wheel-Christians, and that’s about the only time they are there.
Well, then there is resentment, and I have tried to witness—I mean, I have talked to a lot of people in Europe—Christianity isn’t even a valid topic. They have dismissed that long ago because of the hypocrisy and they resent being taxed to pay salaries of pastors who don’t believe anything anyway—don’t believe any more than they do.
Tom: Dave, we’ve got about a minute and a half left. Isn’t this a religious organization—isn’t this the mentality of religious institutions and organizations? Can’t we go all the way back to Judaism? The Sadducees, for example—they didn’t believe in the resurrection. It was more of a political entity—take over the high positions and so on. The Pharisees were more conservative, but still…
Dave: Of course, Tom, we have this talk on some Christian radio and TV about this “last days revival” and how many multitudes are getting saved and how it’s getting better. But Jesus, in Luke:18:8, He asked a question: “When the Son of man returns, will he find the faith on the earth?” It doesn’t sound like he expected a great revival. He said he would come for a sleeping church—even the true believers would be sleeping. This is the apostasy that Paul warned about. Now, does that make me happy? Does that say we are going to rest content and just shrug our shoulders and say, “Well, it’s the apostasy?”
No, we are going to do everything we can to deliver as many people as we can from this delusion, and it doesn’t make us popular, but we’re going to stick with it, by God’s grace.