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  Between 'God's Will and Nature';

Insisting on Life Support


Udo W. Middelmann

The Francis A. Schaeffer Foundation

Chalet Les Montaux, CH 1882 Gryon, Switzerland #41 24 498 1656

Dear friends and readers of Footnotes :

For some time, you have not had anything like a letter from us to tell you about the places we have worked,

talked and preached or the books I have read and enjoyed. Although you have received a few issues of
Footnotes mailed out by post or electronically, I do want to write a proper letter again and combine it with

this third issue of Footnotes for 2010.

Thank you for your interest in our work and your ideas and efforts to stimulate our thinking. I am always

happy to hear back from you. I depend on that to be part of stimulating my own thought, interest and
reflection. And we depend on your support as well, without which I would need to retire, though I would still

put out what seems important to us in the different ways we are able.

Besides teaching first Classical and then Modern Philosophy at The King’s College in New York,

(which was of much benefit to me and mostof my students), I also spent a long weekend in Amarillo for a great mix
of venues, where I was able to speak and answer questions. Our Amarillo connection dates back to many years ago,

and each time it has been a joy to meet interested people and to help them understand the Bible and
the responsible life of Christians.

Unfortunately, Deborah could not join me, as she had to rush back to take over her

mother’s care. I will further address how demanding that is and what it involves. But it meant that we were apart for almost

a month at a time when we expected to spend more time alone together. That will hopefully be possible in the future, as

Isaac graduated in May and, after teaching for four weeks in the summer school of his own high school near us, which is also where Deborah taught for eight years, left for a year in Taiwan.

When we did have time together, we enjoyed New York’s rich offering of FREE events: lectures, theater, exhibitions. We thoroughly enjoyed the performance of Hamlet by the New York Classical Theater. It was performed in the many hallways, staircases and public spaces of the World Financial Center. We sat on the floor, moved with the actors for each scene and were much closer to them than if they had been on a stage.

Both of us went to Southeastern Baptist Seminary in Wake Forest to give a lecture on Christianity

and the Arts. On another weekend we visited family: Jeremy and Lucinda Jackson in Syracuse (No Other
Foundation is his book on church history) as well as Kirsty and Roger Fitro in Schenectady, NY.

During the entire semester, I prepared a new manuscript. I pray that I might find a publisher, who would be interested

in its ideas, which were set in motion by a phrase in “Cultural Amnesia” by Clive James: “History is

a record of things that did not have to take place.” Never is the history recorded in history books or the Bible inevitable,
running along by itself. Instead, history is a record of things that were chosen, whether byaction or by neglect,

in praise or judgment, by Man or by God. There is therefore no necessity for everything that has happened to have
happened. We do well to remember the true significance God has given Man, as Psalm 8 states so magnificently.

That is something often neglected, as I found out from a lecture on the changing symbolism of NY gravestones.

Yes, that also can be fascinating when one observes the shift in emphasis over the past 200 years from
symbols of death to eternal life, to the romantic images of weeping willows, and now to the modern blandness

of a mere name with the birth- and death dates.

Much of that is on my mind as I refer you to several very fascinating books. They happen to link up with those things

I find so remarkable and which I teach and discuss in my books and around our table.

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Jean Bethke Elshtain, Professor for Social and Political Ethics at the University of Chicago, gives us a study of the

historic development of the understanding of Sovereignty. Sovereignty: God, State and Self (Basic Books, 2008)
reveals a profound and consequential change in the meaning of the concept and practice of sovereignty since Augustine.

This change over 1600 years of European history has influenced how divine, worldly and individual power is
justified. What I found was an explanation of why the frequent use of the term “sovereignty”, in relation to God,

government and self, is so easily misused and often leads to false views about life – whether by Christians or in other political/cultural efforts and justifications of power.

Briefly, Elshtain shows how Augustine’s understanding of God’s sovereignty was tied into his Trinitarian perspective.

God is bound in character and action, because each person of the Trinity relates to the others in love. Love and grace are

constant parts of God’s nature, not occasional expressions of his will. No one Person of the Trinity is independent or a “free” power. The dominant factor is that God has a character, a specific nature; His being is specific and not
arbitrarily willful.

In light of this, His ”will” is also specific, defined, expressed. It is a different perception of “the will of God” than

what has haunted us up to our own days since William of Ockham. ”Will” is often associated with all kinds of
directions and purposes. Duns Scotus even suggested that if God had so willed, He could have come to earth as an ass, or a donkey. Others have proposed that God could have turned a married woman back into a virgin.
Modern versions of such thought are found when God is understood to be free to ”will”
evil, or to have “willed” the fall of Adam and Eve.

This presents a shift from the ”nature” (or character) of God to the “will” of God; from God’s nature defining
(and therefore limiting) His will, to God being seen to will anything, good or evil.
Prof. Bruce Little,

who teaches philosophy at SEBTS in Wake Forest, NC, reminded me that Timothy George, in his The Theology of the
Reformers, and Gerald Brey make this point. The emphasis became the “will of God” instead of the “nature of God”.

Whatever God wills is right, which is, in terms of ethics, voluntarism. With this in place, if God wills evil, it is okay;

or if He wills what is contradictory, that is also okay. The will always represents the particulars. According to that view,

there is no universal, nothing eternally defined to or in God.

We can easily see the mischief this has started and see the logical conclusion of all this in Jonathan Edwards and now

in John Piper --pure occasionalism. By way of contrast, Francis Schaeffer always made the point of the
PAGE 2 Footnotes VOLUME 18, NUMBER 3 importance of universals as the only way to properly understand

the particulars (Grace and Nature). In the theological realm, i.e. speaking of the Trinitarian God, the universal is the
essence of God defined by His attributes, while His will is a particular.”

This shift turns God’s will into the factor behind His power. No longer is God’s nature central. Using God’s

particular will as final authority is helpful in the papal/imperial conflicts for domination between the spiritual and secular

powers. Is it God’s will that the Pope or the Emperor rule? The effort for one power against the other is to profit from “the
will of God”. Power is then rooted in force, not justice. Obedience is demanded to invented laws that lack

the legal justification which God’s law and true justice provide and demand. God’s law placed king, pope and
citizen equally under the law. The divine right of kings and popes knows only the “will” and power of its claimants.

Law was meant to bind power, but with the rise of Machiavelli and the absolute monarchies of the past, or of “the State” or

“the People”, law no longer articulates, but rather invents what is to be obeyed. It becomes “posited law”, or “positive law”, in distinction to the absolute law of God and Creation. Posited law always expresses someone’s will, but often not
true justice.

According to the Bible, even God is under the Law -- not an external, invented one, but the law of His Own holy

character and the boundary of love within theTrinity.

With a diminished sense of justice, the individual self or ”the People” will their freedom, their power to rule and their power to
define what is right. Without the universal of the nature of God and the discovery of an already existing natural and lawful Creation, such a self-will pursues its rights, claims and independent views based less on what is true than on what one wills

to do, to believe and to practice.

From an effort to understand God as not just in His nature, but instead willful in His power, the affirmation of the finality of

“the will” follows -- whether of God, rulers or “We the people”. For when sovereignty, whether it be of God, the State or the

Self, is no longer tied to moral character, it becomes seen as unbounded will. Such a will cannot be trusted to be the ultimate

source of good decisions,reliable hope or certain salvation. This type of a “blanket will” is not accountable to anyone, and can change and contradict on its own authority. This frequently happens in human social and business affairs, resulting in things
opposed to God’s character and which did not have to take place. If one believes that God wills everything that happens in history, one must come to the conclusion that He cannot be trusted to be loving, just and merciful.

The God of the Bible and Father of Jesus Christ is not revealed as so unbound in Scripture.

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We first had only heard of Bernard Schlink, the author of the book you may have seen filmed as The Reader. We later met him
personally during an interview at a Barnes and Noble bookstore reading and were intrigued again. We have since read

other books by him, in which he repeatedly touches on guilt and reconciliation. To my great delight, his views
are very similar to ours, which we have expressed numerous times here and other places.

Schlink repeatedly addresses the subject in connection with German guilt and the impossibility of being forgiven. Guilt about the
Past as a treatise and the biographical Homecoming are most insightful into the impossibility of forgiveness when the injured party is no longer there, or of forgiving when no forgiveness is requested. Here are fresh reflections on the nature of evil, history and justice. Short stories in Flights of Love bring us tales of moral acuity.

Schlink is both a judge and a law professor, teaching jurisprudence six months out of the year at the Benjamin Cardozo School

of Law in New York. Raised in a Protestant home, Schlink rejects the quick and easy forgiveness teaching of much of modern Christianity, which comes from a desire to free oneself rather than the guilty party. It addresses psychological needs and abandons the recognition of true evil done, after which nothing is ever clean again.

That is a convincing parallel to the work of God in Christ on our behalf. There, too, forgiveness comes with a price paid, a
relationship wounded and the realization that nothing will ever again be as it was before.

When the guilty party is gone or unwilling to confess, no forgiveness is possible. Only God can then deal with it and judge rightly,

for both need to admit that wrong has been done. Only then can some form of reconciliation can take place, without the scars ever being totally removed.

As God does not gratuitously forgive without cost to Himself and does not clear away guilt without confession, so also are
we not free to avoid the pain of real wrong having been done. That needs to be addressed by both sides.

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One of the benefits of living in NY is the 92nd Street Y, the Jewish cultural center. Lectures, readings, concerts and films are frequently offered. We heard John Irving read from his current work and then discuss and answer previously submitted questions about his writing, philosophy and life. What a moving introduction to and feast with a great American

He told us that he always writes the last paragraph of a book first and then leads the reader to it through hints and little
suggestions. Watching his mother on stage and knowing the story from rehearsals, he saw the play unroll through each

scene towards the conclusion. And that is how he has always written.

He has characters in his books whom he hopes we shall never meet in real life. Yet they are so human, with all the tragic

and comic elements our life consists of! His own life had much sadness and many difficulties, but he has
made very deliberate choices to counter them. He has grieved, for instance, over the fact that he never met his father. Colored by that, he has spent a great deal of time with his children over 40 years, from the first one he had while still in college, until his last went off to college recently. A Prayer for Owen Meany, Cider House Rules and, of course, The World According to Garp are well known. The 158- Pound Marriage describes his life-long pleasure and practice of wrestling.

John Irving spoke as a person in love with life, his family and the human race in spite of all the tragic and awkward, wounded people that are part of our single human race.

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Speaking of life – it is the ”stuff” we are all engaged in. It is of immediate interest, though
it often brings heavy burdens with it. In the midst of it we discover abilities of service and compassion, meet interesting and disappointing human beings close at hand, out in the street and at work. We see their lives and ours reflected in the richness of the
Western literary traditions, in film and theater and museums. Many artistic efforts, from a child’s speech to a neighbor’s lament or scolding, a person’s discovery of love and the description of the cruelty of which we are capable -- all of that is life.

Gertrude Himmelfarb describes in The Road to Modernity the distinctly English version of the Enlightenment, which, under the teaching of both philosophers and Christians, is markedby “social affection” contributing to the “age of
benevolence”. The Reformation influenced our culture to such an extent that we have been only weakly influenced by the French and the Russian revolutionary ideals. Actual people and lives, rather than lofty abstract ideals like “Reason” or Marx’s embrace of “Social Conflict”, have made our recent past more human, caring, and socially sensitive.

Many pages of everyday life are also described in the Bible. In fact, it may even be suggested that our literature is so rich in describing people and their lives because the Bible invites us to see in life a vivid illustration of what can encourage and discourage, warn or make us emulate at times. Take heart then, for the Bible not only tells us what is, but also what ought to be and what shall be. We struggle for that now through art, politics, skills and risk taking as well as through prayer, with hope of something more, something new, and eventually the return of our Lord.

Life and hope are two concepts intimately linked to the Bible’s admonition to seek rightness. It involves fighting
death and despair, not for reasons of a future life and hope for another existence elsewhere, but for this life -- the hope that we might not have to die before the return of Christ to earth.

That was the view held by Edith Schaeffer’s father, Dr. George Hugh Seville, who prayed every day of his life until his death at 102 years of age that Christ would return, so that he would not have to die. To help make that possible, he walked every day to the post office and the soda fountain at the drug store, and took vitamins, etc. From such a hope comes the refusal to live as if life in old age matters less than before, or to include one’s own death in one’s plan for life. We acknowledge death as real, but we do not accept it. It is not part of life, not a further phase to be welcomed, not a door to a better life afterwards. Even the saintsin the  presence of the Lord wonder when His work will be finished and the resurrection will take place (Revelation 6: 10f).

Evolutionists would like us to believe that our only final purpose is the propagation of offspring. Marxism teaches that the meaning of life lies in having a child so as to mix our genetic information with that of other people in order to improve the human race. The modern Western life perspective also suggests increasingly that one should not make an effort to allow for life beyond a certain measure. Sex is now the center of life -- with or without procreation. Christians, too,often depict life as birth, salvation, death and eternity as one harmonious and continuous run.

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We encountered that view close-up when we had to rescue Edith Schaeffer almost six years ago from a convalescent hospital. She was recuperating from an injured esophagus when the medical staff started to give her morphine for a pain in her shoulder, which she had had for 30 years. This slowed down all her systems, so that she could not eat or drink by herself. Family members were with her most of the day to read, feed her and talk with her. The staff concluded that her need to be surrounded and assisted showed that she no longer had a will to live. She should therefore be allowed and helped to slowly die with ease!!

Frank Schaeffer was with his mother at the time. For a whole week he talked with her, read to her and fed her the meals. He asked
her outright, whether she was trying to die, to which she gave an emphatic “no”. The hardships of eating and drinking are necessary, but are outweighed by the benefits of continued enjoyment of life, family, people, paintings, and music.

Many of you will remember this “rescue”. We took her home, where she has now lived for more than five years, surrounded and assisted by us and those we have been able to hire to care for her every hour around the clock. She recognizes her own things, lives with her memories, her music, enjoys being read to and goes on occasional outings with us. She enjoys her jazz recordings even more, since she is able to accompany them on instruments we purchased at the Metropolitan Museum store.

For all those years, we have followed the medical advice provided by the eight doctors who follow her. We use a great deal of imagination to give Edith a life that respects her needs and wishes. It has often been very difficult -- frustrating both for her and us. It has not been without extra, and at times seemingly endless, efforts to find ways for her to take food and drink.

Needs are objective, the same for any person. They include food and drink, rest and mental stimulation. They do not depend on our likes and dislikes. They are part of the reality God created. They need to be respected and met, often with the assistance of an outside person who has greater objective knowledge of the complex human situation.

Wishes, however, are subjective. They are often unrealistic, and unattainable. God made our bodies to require food, drink, and sleep as well as upright, bipedal walking to stretch our chest cavities for the internal organs; at every age our minds require conversations, refreshed memories and questions posed and answered. Dislikes and hardships are frequent; with a diminished

sense of taste or loss of the sensation of thirst and hunger, life becomes hard. Without conversation it becomes boring, even
seemingly meaningless. And the mind goes to sleep, eventually affecting all bodily functions.

Apparently, we have been told, such efforts to meet a person’s objective needs are forbidden by law in England. It is
considered abusive and disrespectful to insist on elderly people eating and drinking and walking.
One can suggest,
place food in front of them, but not make them eat or drink. If they do not feel like it, one just removes the food.

That is, in fact, no kindness to the person. It does not produce a better life, a happier experience or the “nice death” described

by a hospital. The alternatives set up between eat or die is fallacious. Failure to insist on meeting objective needs produces an increasingly miserable and painful life of small strokes, of being unable to get out of bed; gradually one becomes more and more confused, dependent, incapacitated and unable to enjoy even the small pleasures of human company. This is a slow way to die by means of abandonment, even if it is done with good intentions.

When death is not seen as a brutal, violent interruption of all God intended with His creation of people and as the last
enemy to be conquered in the resurrection, euthanasia through neglect becomes an acceptable part of what I call the “roundness” of the fatalistic perspective.
In this view, everything has its place and time; nothing is out of order or is to be opposed. All is part of a cosmic ONE, with all conflicts, opposites and distinctions ultimately removed. There is no more hope of
anything eventually being different, right, made whole, and eternal. In this new view of life, death is also considered normal.

This smooth inclusiveness marks the end of the many intellectual and social efforts and results which have come down to us from th
Bible. That Word taught us to oppose wrong, death and resignation. It confirmed our recognition of evil and called for intervention. “We weep, but not as those who have no hope,” is the Biblical prescription, a statement and commandment of both anger and hope.

The new mindset believes and teaches that a person’s wants, feelings and actions must not be interfered with, regardless of mental age or capacity. Logically, with such a view children must be allowed to play on highways (or eat manure and snails, as the parents of a 2-yearold said as she went straight for the manure pile in our village). Alzheimer patients would have to be allowed to walk off on their own (and die, as Olivia Ausoni did, near us, a couple of years back).

We would not be allowed to insist that Edith Schaeffer eat, drink and take some steps, even though all her doctors tell us how necessary that is for her. The social service personnel add that moving her to an old folks’ home would mean that she would never walk again or eat, and would die shortly thereafter, because they do not have the personnel to give such intense attention to each patient. They speak from multiple experiences of people who were put into such a home even temporarily. Her medical doctor confirmed as well that failure to continue our specific care practices would bring about her death in a few days.

Edith does not want to leave her home or the life she enjoys in it, as she tells us on an almost daily basis, even though she often
doesn’t like to do the work on her part that makes this possible. This is in no way unique. We are all in similar situations, when we want knowledge without study, a beautiful home without cleaning, a delicious meal without often lengthy and tedious food preparation.

The teaching of Christianity once brought forth the Age of Benevolence, of Compassion, of the Rule of Law. No more.Many dear people do not understand the philosophical and cultural shift that has taken place. The embrace of life has been weakene
and replaced by an embrace of what is “natural” in old age or illness -- death when the impersonal wheel of time has taken a turn, and it is your turn to go . . . or to be dispatched!

This should not surprise us that much. Euthanasia is the practice behind the seemingly gentler methods of calling death a passing, encouraging the elderly and the infirm to “let go”, respecting the wishes of people who are too handicapped
to make an educated decision.
It is a way to starve and dry out a person “until death does them part” from the living.

Yet, all the effort is worth it for the sake of a human being. A person needs help. Dependency is not a fault; it is the way we
were made to begin with, and certainly after the Fall we need it even more. We depend onthe patience, wisdom, kindness and generosity of people, on their better insight, on their broader knowledge of what a person needs to live. Babies, teens, people tired from work and frustrated with life, older people -- we all need help and instruction from others in our physical
and intellectual limitations.

There is a way in which you can help. Edith used to get much mail in the past. That was her contact with people who
love and value her. However, in the past three months she has only had four letters, which we read to her several

It is ironic that our friend and long-time colleague in Sweden, Per Staffan Johansson encountered such a change of climate and
became a prisoner of this new philosophy. He had turned against Christianity as a young man, when he was taught that man is a
“worm”, that life as it happens is the expression of God’s will. He came back to God when he first studied with us 40 years ago and
saw that the Bible gives a very different perspective -- that Christ came to intervene, oppose, correct and encourage us against any

When it was discovered that he had an inoperable brain tumor, he was again placed under the teaching he had rejected in word and
life, in his lectures and political engagement with the Christian Democratic Party and asDeputy Mayor of his town. He was locked into his body so that he could no longer use it to express and do what he wanted.

Instead of getting the medical treatment he longed and asked for, he was left mostly alone “to rest” and to “see what God is telling him with his brain tumor,” and then encouraged to “accept death from God.” Per Staffan was not given the treatment he longed for, the MRI and chemotherapy he was promised, to aggressively oppose and fight his demise in all its creeping forms, and finally in death.

Caregivers floundering in this new religious and secular philosophy easily tired of hearing repeatedly of his pain and frustration, of his longing to live and not die! They no longer saw death in any of its forms as an enemy never to be accepted. While death may catch us eventually, we in no way simply accept it. It is not a tolerable addition or follow-up to life.

We wait for the return of Christ, not heaven. We were made to live, not to pass through life into death and then to some heavenly existence. From the very first, God did not plan death so that we would have a focus on something spiritual beyond what He had created. The spiritual is not higher or more lasting than the material! We do not have an eternal soul in a temporal body. Scripture tells us that Adam became, not that he received a living soul separately, as one would receive something precious in a vessel.

Adam was made to be what we shall be again when Christ returns -- a living soul in his material existence. What an absurd idea lies in the opposing view of spiritual otherness, ignoring the significance of the events when Christ came to earth, died and ate again with the disciples after the Resurrection. Why do people “stand there looking into the sky? This same Jesus, Who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven” (Acts 1:11).

The expectation of a physical return of Christ to this earth at any time was why Dr. Schaeffer insisted that the work associated with his name have a pre-millennial outlook. We look forward to Restored life on this earth, not death as a door to something spiritual. For him it was one of the few specific doctrinal details in our consensus. Any other view removes the Biblical emphasis on the hope and urgency of expecting Christ’s return to earth.

The hope of the Christian is not an attitude of optimism, but rather the expectation that there will be, in real history, one generation of believers who will not ever have to die. They will be alive at the coming of the Lord (1st Thessalonians 4:13 ff).

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