Update on ‘atheist pastor’

by Mark Looy

29 July 2003

Last month we reported on the incredible account of an atheist pastor in Denmark (see Pastor openly rejects the Creator). Such an obvious ‘oxymoron’ was met with raised eyebrows from several web visitors who subsequently contacted [us]. They found it impossible to believe that an atheist was actually pastoring a Lutheran Church in Denmark—and, just as surprising, that most of his congregation was actually supporting him!

‘Pastor’ Thorkild Grosboell believes there is ‘no heavenly God, there is no eternal life, there is no resurrection.’1 Eventually, the local bishop suspended him, but church members rallied to the pastor’s side—many of them saying that the church should be ‘tolerant’ of his views.2

When [we] first learned of this bizarre episode, it was not hard to guess that acceptance of the evolutionary worldview would have been foundational to this pastor’s atheism. At the time, however, our research of English-language sources did not uncover any specific comments from the pastor regarding creation/evolution to demonstrate this to our readers.  As we posted our initial web article, we asked [a] supporter in Denmark to review Danish-language sources to find possible comments from this pastor that relate to evolution.

This ministry friend recently reported back to say that last year, this same pastor wrote a book called A Stone in the Shoe, in which he asked (this is translated from the Danish):  ‘What is faith in a world where a technical, scientific rationality has made it impossible to believe in the story of creation, a virgin birth, paradise, resurrection, eternal life and an out-of-date God?’ [emphasis ours].

Perhaps this slide into atheism within the context of a liberal state church should not be all that surprising, given the manner in which most pastors in Denmark (and perhaps most pastors now around the world) approach the Bible: as just another piece of ‘interesting’ literature, but certainly not a totally true and accurate revelation—the Maker’s authoritative message to mankind.

There have been many former Christian leaders, prompted by their acceptance of evolutionary ideas and millions of years of history, who have also renounced Christianity and have become apostates. For example, the late Charles Templeton, a famous evangelist who used to team with Billy Graham and sometimes preached to tens of thousands at a crusade, eventually rejected Christianity. In his book, Farewell to God, Templeton declared that the Bible was unscientific and untrue (for Templeton’s views on evolution, read our Death of an Apostate article).

The rejection of Christianity by both ‘Pastor’ Grosboell and Charles Templeton at least showed a consistency in their thinking. Their beliefs were logical outcomes of their repudiation of the historicity of the Bible, beginning in Genesis. If they couldn’t believe the Bible in Genesis, how could they trust it elsewhere?  And how could they then logically conclude that the Christian faith itself was legitimate?  Indeed, how could they believe in the salvation message, the Resurrection, etc., if they couldn’t accept the reality of Genesis, the Fall, and so on?  What sense did it make to accept the Bible’s teaching about the ‘last Adam,’ if the first Adam was a myth?

The ‘facts’ that supposedly convinced these men to become evolutionists—and eventually apostates—were not really facts for evolution, but interpretations of facts that they easily accommodated within their mindset of not accepting scriptural authority.  If they had only accepted the Word of God as written, and saw that the facts could be better interpreted within a biblical framework of history (and thus would actually confirm the Bible’s account of origins, the Flood, etc.), then the world might have instead seen two intelligent men earnestly proclaim the truthfulness of the Bible and the Christian faith.

Published: 6 February 2006

References and notes

  1. <cnews.canoe.ca/CNEWS/WeirdNews/2003/06/03/102536.html>, 3 June 2002. Return to text.
  2. The head of the parish council, Lars Heilesen, for example, declared: ‘The Church must be able to tolerate points of view that are not necessarily its own.’ Danish pastor suspended for refusing to believe in God, Agence France-Presse, <quickstart.clari.net/qs_se/webnews/wed/bo/Qdenmark-religion.RLdp_DuD.html>, 13 June 2003. Return to text.