Double thickness daily newspaper

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An earlier article by D J Bolt published on this site last month[i] indicated how what was once a highly respected reformed (GKv) daily newspaper Nederlands Dagblad (ND) is now reflecting a greater interest in, openness toward, and influence by Romanism (Roman Catholicism).  In the below article, Bolt continues to show that slide towards RC influences both in the Nederlands Dagblad and through Perspectief, the youth movement of ChristenUnie. Bolt reports as follows:

Romanisation

The Roman Catholic bishop, De Korte, looks at us with a friendly smile. But he does have a problem. At the digital presentation of the ‘Church Deficit Action’, a clear signal was sent out: dark financial clouds are gathering above the participating churches, of which the Protestant Church in the Netherlands (PKN) and the Roman Catholic Church are the largest.

De Korte believes that the proceeds from the annual fundraising will remain the same. The collections in particular suffer during ‘corona’. And we must try to compensate for that through the Church Deficit Action, he said. Give!

The above is our summary of the report published by Nederlands Dagblad on page 2 of its Saturday 23-01-21 paper. It was on that same day that we published our article ‘A Fatter Newspaper’ (Dikker Dagblad), in which we pointed to the danger of this ‘reading friend’ trying to take up time in our homes seven days a week. That Saturday paper even had eight pages more than the standard eighty of previous Saturday-Sunday editions.       

One of the dangers we pointed to was the stealthy romanisation that comes with this newspaper. We want to illustrate, among other things, a little more of that, especially with reference to the newspaper of that Saturday.  

First a brief overview of what was presented in matters relating to Roman Catholicism.

Overview

Page 2 – Financial deficits in churches

As mentioned above, Bishop De Korte calls for donations to Church Deficit Action because especially his Roman Catholic church, as well as the PKN, are in financial difficulties and therefore desperately need money.  

Page 7 – People in their twenties talk about praying and church walls   

Four young board members of the ‘ChristenUnie’ youth organization talk about ‘praying’ and ‘church walls’. They belong respectively to the Christian Reformed Churches (CGK), the Dutch Reformed Churches (NGK), the Netherlands Protestant Church (PKN) and the Roman Catholic Church (RC).  

Page 8 – Jesuits’ sexual abuse

The Roman Catholic Hendro Munsterman (a permanent ND employee) reports that 96 Spanish Jesuits apologize for the sexual abuse of 81 minors and 37 adults. The abuse took place between 1927 and 2020 in Jesuit-run educational institutions. 

Page 8 – Investigation of RC cardinal’s cover up

Munsterman also reports that the investigation of Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz by the Polish Public Prosecution Service has been stopped. He is suspected of covering up sexual abuse by a priest. At the time Dziwisz (81), Archbishop of Cracow from 2005 to 2016 and secretary to Pope John Paul II for 27 years, was not legally obliged to report the abuse.

Page 8 – Short beards

The men of Oberammergau (Germany) must let their beards grow for a year if they want to play in famous Roman Catholic passion plays. But long beards reduce the effectiveness of anti-corona face masks. Fortunately, this time the management will ‘turn a blind eye’, says Munsterman. A two or three months’ old beard is also OK.

Page 1 – Reading the Bible

Bishop De Korte looks at the reader again, somewhat more sternly, with in the background Rev. De Reuver, who is secretary of the PKN. The topic of their discussion is: The Bishop and the Pastor about the Month of the Bible. But first another matter receives attention.  

Pages 4 to 6 –   an ex-romanist in Poland

Hendro Munsterman interviews Polish priest Polak, who is a professor at a papal faculty, a priest of the rich and powerful Polish church, and a member of the Vatican International Commission of Theologians. Polak developed a relationship with a woman, and his ‘theological thinking developed at the same time’. He wanted ‘free air’, and therefore turned atheist. The ‘system’ of the church was no longer ‘tenable’ for him and ‘the church cannot be reformed because the error is in its core’: the first Christians were (already) convinced that they were ‘chosen, and therefore in fact better’.

His ethics resemble that of Jesus, says Polak: ‘solidarity between people, and an eye for the poor and the vulnerable’.

Pages 9-11 – More Bible Reading

Bishop De Korte and Rev. De Reuver wrote five letters to each other about the role of the Bible in their lives and collated them in the booklet Houvast [Security]. They relate how they deal with the Bible. 

So much for the overview. We will now discuss two articles in more detail: the interview with Bishop De Korte and Rev. De Reuver, and the one about the youth organization PerspectiveF. We summarize them first.

Interview De Korte and De Reuver

Bishop De Korte and Rev. De Reuver. Photo Nederlands Dagblad

Based on their booklet Houvast, Bishop De Korte and Rev. De Reuver discuss how to live your life with Scripture.   Roman Catholics are not used to reading the Bible at home. That’s something you do in church and at school. De Korte began reading the Bible when he started studying history. Now he reads two Bible passages at the morning Eucharist, and prays some Psalms daily at home. De Reuver would also like such daily church services: something that ‘protestants have to learn’, because reading from the Bible at every mealtime often does not happen, also not with him. The clergymen like Psalms 31 and 139 very much (De Korte: except for the verse ‘that You would slay the wicked’). The Bible is a comfort book, even when it comes to dying.

But it is a big problem that people have become ‘religiously illiterate’. Moreover, Roman Catholics are more people of rituals than of Scripture, for example by going on a pilgrimage, or receiving a cross on their forehead. Even so, both RC’s and protestants should spend more time in Bible reading, else ‘the secularization can go very quickly. For those who do not know the Scriptures, Christ remains a name from the past’ the men think. And such reading ought to be communal, not personal. Structure and discipline are important in this.  

De Reuver always focuses strongly on the explanation of the Scriptures. And to love God with head, heart and hands. Protestant interest is growing in spiritual ways of reading the Bible, such as bibliodrama, lectio continuo. De Korte, however, favours a short address at the daytime mass ‘to make the text a little more accessible and practical’. He learned not to explain too much, but to pray and read like ‘a ruminating cow’, and then see ‘what comes in’. The Bible is not an easy book.  

De Reuver wants to ‘bring the diversity of Bible books and styles to you’. Leave the text alone, even if you can’t use it yet, or if you have any questions. 

The men observe that in practice there is a canon (that is: beloved Bible passages, for example the Gospel according to John) within the canon. But De Reuver does emphasize that God has revealed Himself in all of Scripture. Immerse yourself in the text with its context, which does justice to its meaning.

Further explanation from the bishop

In the ND of 11-02-21 bishop De Korte returns to the interview and wants to clarify his position on reading the Holy Scriptures. He did not mean to speak negatively or suspiciously about exegesis or to put a more spiritual reading of the Bible above it but wants to plead for the Holy Scriptures to be read in more than one way, thus not only with the head but also with the heart.

Certainly there is nowadays plenty of room in Roman Catholic circles to research the Scriptures thoroughly, he argues, and fear of too much exegesis is not justified. Exegetical research can indeed ‘crush’ existing images, such as of the creation, but does not in any way have to undermine faith in the creating God.

But not every exegesis is equally fruitful, especially not complex hypotheses which render the text flat and dead. Every exegete would do well to realize that bible texts are meant to be testimonies of faith. The writers bear human testimony to God’s revelation and want to win people over to the faith. 

Spiritual reading is meditating on and chewing fragments of Scripture until nourishment comes out for the soul. Think of the Modern Devotion from the late Middle Ages. This gives comfort, encouragement and leads to imitation. Spiritual reading is legitimate.

Core issues

The bishop and the pastor touch on core problems in their churches: no longer reading the Bible can indeed speed up secularization very quickly, with Christ remaining just a name from the past. 

We are happy to hear this from the RC corner where private reading of the Bible is a relatively unknown practice. As well as from the protestant leader who, he says, apparently no longer gives Bible reading the highest priority.

But we also have some reservations about the story. Are these leaders alive to the fact that the process of secularization in the Netherlands is already going very fast? And here it is not: ‘can’ go fast, but: ‘is’ going fast already! This is no doubt caused by people’s lack of Bible knowledge, but also, and perhaps especially, by the spiritual guidance itself in these churches. For example, by Rev. De Reuver and his church tolerating ministers who deny the existence of God as well as the fact that Christ ever walked on earth.      

De Reuver looks with a certain jealousy at De Korte’s daily morning masses. He, too, would not mind a protestant version, and then, just like the bishop, read a few pieces from the Bible. Is there, maybe somewhere, still a tie-in between the nation’s citizens and the Word? 

Yes, that would be nice. But looking around in the protestant world we see a powerful opposite trend, namely that of a declining church attendance. Take for example these (small) Reformed churches. [ii] The number of congregations who no longer conduct a second church service is growing rapidly; as many people no longer need it, there is no interest in it. Once a Sunday is enough.

While we do not have the actual numbers, we think that also the morning masses of De Korte are attended by only a part of the parishioners. And so the Word reaches only a select group. The fight against secularization is therefore seriously weakened already from the start. Moreover, as reported almost every week, the Roman Catholic Church is being ravaged by sexual abuse scandals – see the above. In this situation it will be difficult to reverse the downturn.

This does not alter the fact that his call to read the Bible more often and to do this in a disciplined way (also) in a group is very valuable. We cannot omit to say that reformed people have been doing this for many years!

Very nice, therefore, this episcopal opening to dealing with the Bible. We are, however, not satisfied with what that Scripture means for De Korte and his church. We shall for now ignore the dead orthodoxy [formalism] that the interview with the Polish ex-priest appears to identify. From the interview and De Korte’s detailed explanation, he seems to regard the Bible as a collection of human testimonies of faith of God’s revelation. But isn’t that totally different from the infallible Word of God that has absolute and supreme authority in ‘all areas of life’? And haven’t reformed people always strongly objected to the romanist view that the pope claims the predicate infallible when he makes so-called ex cathedra [from the pulpit] statements about the Bible.       

We become even more frightened when, almost in passing, De Korte seeks to persuade us that ‘further investigation can crush images of the creation, but need not in any way have to undermine faith in God the creator’. If we understand it well, this amounts to distancing oneself quietly from Genesis 1 while embracing the evolution theory. And that is, of course, easily done if you are prepared to read the Bible ‘spiritually’. Then it is no longer true what the Bible says, and Scripture does not have the last word, but the unique interpreter is whatever may ‘ruminatingly’ well up in your own head and heart.

Aren’t we here touching core problems that result in so much secularization in both the romanist and protestant church?  

Let’s in this context now also listen to ‘christian committed’ young people.

Youth organization PerspectieF

The ND interviews the four board members of PerspectieF , the youth organization of the ChristenUnie (CU). The four, all in their twenties, are members of different churches: Bina Chirino (26) is Roman Catholic (RC); Sylvana Bal (28) is Protestant Church Netherlands (PKN); Pieter Dirk Dekker (25) is Dutch Reformed (NGK); and Justin den Harder (20) is Christian Reformed (CGK). 

Board members of PerspetieF. Photo Nederlands Dagblad.

Bina is board chairman, and on the House of Representatives candidates list for the CU.

Topics in the interview are prayer and unity. We focus on their vision of the unity of churches and summarize this, identifying the young people by way of their church membership.  
Praying for unity is ‘desperately needed’, says NGK, as unity continues to be ‘an assignment’. He observes that church walls are now really lower than before. More unity is being created, especially among and by young people. And that is necessary, according to CGK. His CGK / NGK church is increasingly joining forces with the GKv (GK liberated) because the evening services were being attended less and less. The young people are showing the way in this.
There is also more toning down of one’s own opinion, according to NGK. In the past, people stuck ’stubbornly to their own truth and thus thought they knew better.

Now the attitude is more: you have your opinion, I have mine; without trivialising the matter.’

Unity among christians is something that keeps them occupied.  RC states that their like-minded church members are more practically concerned with unity. They represent the different (ecclesiastical) backgrounds in the political party. It is true that differences between christians are sometimes getting bigger, note the happenings around Trump. Yes, according to NGK, it is shocking and incomprehensible that in christian circles politics is so often restricted to one or two indisputable themes, e.g. in medical ethics.

The future

The delicate mutual sniffing around, practised formerly among the older generation of leaders from RC and PKN, stands in stark contrast to the uninhibited outspoken conduct of the PerspectieF youngsters. Fundamental political cooperation of young people from Christian Reformed to Roman Catholic appears to be no problem at all. It is obviously possible without knowing much about each other’s background or seeing obstacles in terms of content.

These young people want not only political but also ecclesiastical unity. For them, the church walls are much lower than before.

The candid insight these young folks allow us is nice. It shows how the spiritual development in the churches also affects their minds. They say things in their own straightforward manner. While De Korte speaks gracefully about reading the Bible in different ways, the young people just say: … no longer stubbornly hold on to your truth, as our grandfathers did, two generations ago. Now everyone has their own truth and that is possible.   

Did we not also come across that already at the GKv synod of Goes, where both pro and contra women-in-office were found to be absolutely ‘equally Biblical’?

Here, too, applies the ancient observation: as the old cocks crow, so the young ones squeak.

The course

The bishop began his article saying: ’In our newspaper, the Nederlands Dagblad …’ .

This makes it easy to understand how with time this RC clergyman is feeling more and more at home with the former Gereformeerd Gezinsblad.  It’s not because the bishop has acquired reformed attributes, but the ND is starting to smell more and more of incense. The paper has increasingly become a general christian newspaper (‘christian involved’) with a strongly increasing romanist accent. It forms a platform for contributions to all kinds of ecumenism in the direction of the ‘world church’, in which roman catholic and protestant, in all kinds of variations, are united in one way or another. The newspaper’s former confessional-lined character has disappeared, even though it still flirted with it in the same Saturday-Sunday newspaper. In an advertisement for a section manager it sounds like this:            

‘Nederlands Dagblad is an unashamedly christian newspaper that does not mince words. While safeguarding our long tradition of solid, reliable quality journalism, we approach the media future in an open, uninhibited and innovative way …’

Yes, we have no problem accepting the word ‘unashamedly’ with regard to the handling of the original reformed character of the newspaper. But we have not encountered this ‘safeguarding our long tradition’ as far as course and content are concerned.    

Both reading and listening

In our earlier article ‘A Fatter Newspaper’, we warned against the great influence that this paper tries to impose on our reading time and thereby on our minds. It uses all kinds of subjects to grab our attention. It is striking that the paper’s new format, insights into personal lives and relationships occupy a very large place. Subscribers are also explicitly invited to showcase their lives and circumstances. Those 80 pages must be filled! It is not unusual for us to get the feeling that we are peeking into the lives of our neighbours. A subscription to the Sunday newspaper removes the need to buy magazines like Libelle and Margriet from the newsagent. 

We wish to repeat our warning against this everyday ‘friend’ who has become so demanding. If you’re not careful, it will continue wasting your time just as easily as a TV show does, making you no wiser or pushing you in the wrong direction.

An even newer development of the newspaper reinforces this trend even more. The ND launched ’two current podcasts’. For what purpose?

The editors promote it like this:

In the new podcast This Week, EO presenter Joram Kaat, relationship coach Cocky Drost and ND editor-in-chief Sjirk Kuijper go through the week. They discuss the news of the week with well-known Christian experts and take a fresh look at current events. 

And also:

In the podcast ‘Dick and Daniël are happily believing it’, Dick Schinkelshoek, editor of ‘Faith’ in Nederlands Dagblad, and deputy editor-in-chief Daniël Gillissen, discuss this week’s church and faith news. ‘We want to inform listeners in a pleasant, personal and substantive way about the background to religious news and developments,’ says Gillissen.  

Go right ahead. In addition to reading many hundreds of pages of ND each week, the weekend hours can now also be filled by listening to ‘Christian interpreters’ with ‘pleasant’ and ‘fresh outlooks’.    

As far as we are concerned, this is all the more reason for warning against this medium. As well as an (extra) incentive to think about the use of scarce personal time. Shouldn’t reading and studying the Bible, good books and magazines, and talking about them and building each other up, be given high priority over spending all our time on a newspaper that in many respects does not deserve our attention (anymore), and which presents much that is better left unread? 

A final remark. Reformed people do well to read and studying the Bible – personally and in groups. But … let those who think they are standing be careful not to fall.[iii]

 

From ééninwaarheid (20 February 2021). Translated by J Eikelboom 7 April 2021.

Notes

[i] “A Fatter Newspaper”

[ii] An example. A few decades ago the four church services each Sunday in GKv Zuidhorn were packed, so that if you happened to run late you had go looking for a seat. Now they are busy scaling it down to only one service! (See also the youth interview.) 

[iii] 1 Cor 10:12.