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The Francis A. Schaeffer Foundation

Long Letters


Udo and Debby Middelmann:

Dear Friends,

It is hard to believe how long it has been since you had this kind of letter from me. I am sorry to have kept you in the relative dark since last summer. The quickly declining health of my mother since then, her move to Munich to be near my sister, her battle with cancer and then her death last month took some time, required decisions and moves in addition to our busy schedule. But I am so thankful that we had those days together all along, especially the last week, when, returning in haste from a speaking trip to the US, I was able to spend five days with her in conversation, quietness, with memories and in prayer until she died. All our children and grandchildren could come to the funeral.

You have had two issues of FOOTNOTES since last summer to tied you over, while you had few details of our lives and doings within the Foundation since our coming back to Gryon last year. You may have been able to glean from the articles some of the ideas I have been thinking about. In any case I trust that they have been helpful in your own study and enjoyment of the Lord's word.

For this summer we will be able to welcome friends and students against for

Schaeffer Foundation Study Sessions in Gryon June 6th to July 10 and July 28th to Aug. 31st.

You are welcome to recommend someone to us, who might benefit from a time of discussions, lectures and advice from us. Students listen to taped lectures for half the day, then join us for meals, discussions, a walk in the mountains or a visit to a stimulating place, as we reflect on the truth of the Christian view of life, history, the arts.

Even if in our silence you have not heard much from us, we appreciate, and are grateful for, the kindness, letters and other encouragement many of you have sent us during that time. Thank you very much. When I invite you to catch up with us now, I hope you will not be bewildered or bored. It is a way to continue keeping you informed and asking you to be a part of the work through prayer, interest, suggestions and gifts. We have been busy, but also confused, in doubt, sometimes anxious and fearful. Yet.......

Schaeffer Study Seminar in Russia

In August the Schaeffer Foundation had its first two study seminars in a little village just to the East of Moscow. Students and teachers from 12 cities traveled between 4 and 43 hours by train at their own expense to spend a week with Jesse James, Linda Dunshee and myself. They had heard me before or had been invited by someone else. A generous Russian believing business man gave a grant to house and feed the guests once they got there, as well as to pay for our expenses.

It was summer in Moscow. Often we could go outside and lecture to an audience seated on logs or blankets by a lake. We listened to Handel's Messiah in the evening and read all the passages in context. We went to a Museum together and discussed questions over meals. The lectures themselves tried to give an answer to the remarkable observation in history, that there are no more indigenous European tribes to be found after the preaching from the Bible. What was the 'stuff' that changed the lives of the Saxons, and Slavs, the Merowingians and Goths, the Lombards and Vikings, Celts and Bulgars, so that something of a Europe developed with its laws and culture, cities and confidence?

My proposition was that the successive preaching of a different view of seeing God and man, life and death, the place of the individual, of right and wrong, of true versus merely powerful, rooted in the Bible, brought about a dramatic change in the way people thought and lived. Always without perfection, not without tragedy and pain and disappointments, but different, nevertheless distinct and more human than any other cultural context.

Some of you will remember the report/description I sent you at the end of the summer to share my wonder and joy over the way it all fit together and some of the reposes we received to the lectures. For I laid out, beginning in Genesis, how the Bible jolts us into an awareness of a different, truthful and wholesome proposition of God's existence, character and effort. Different that is from religions, which exert a call to submit to nature, fate, gods, traditions and in every other form to the normality of BEING. By contrast the Bible speaks of a holy person, triune, seeking to redeem his creation after a Fall that destroyed the relationship with the creature, with created nature and changed the immediacy of being before the face of God.

Starting with Genesis, I say, because without that information from the beginning, the rest would not make sense. Without the beginning we have no understanding of the difference of man and the difference it makes. We would not know that God is in fact good and not the author of evil. We would not know of the effort on the part of God to run after the sinner, when he calls out for Adam hiding in the bushes after the disobedience. We would not know the place of work and wonder. We would not know why we can not see God at this time after having been evicted from the garden. We would not know why we should create against death, resist evil, see death as an enemy and why we should continue to express the meaning of our lives in the face of the absurdity of death.

In other words, without Genesis we would not know the role of Man and the Meaning of life, nor the foundations of Morals under a good God.

But we would also not understand the New Testament without Genesis. We studied this next, the different Gospels, the Sermon on the Mount and other passages. We would not know why Mark talks about the 'Good News' of Jesus Christ, unless we find an affirmation that we live in a mess, that there are problems in the world and in my life, problems of guilt and death, of uncertainty and of longing for the true, the good and the beautiful.

We would not understand quite why John talks about the word at the beginning, which became flesh, was seen, touched and dwelt among us. We would not quite understand why Matthew's genealogy is different from Luke's, and how these differences relate to the rest of each of their writings. The Old Testament in Genesis and the flow of Biblical promises of the Messiah through the remaining books lay the foundation for the discovery of God's work in Jesus Christ. He is not just a friend, inviting us to a relationship to resolve our loneliness. He is the Lord of the universe. His existence confirms that we are, and are meant to be, truly human. But he is also the judge, Savior and Lord, the only way of redemption. His word comforts, but also instructs, brings light, corrects and guides.

We concluded the week with a study of Paul's letter to the Romans during the first and of 1.Corinthians during the second week. That was to show the reality of the church, a place of fellowship, but also of confusion; of worship, but also of the need for clear and intelligent teaching. Jesse gave two talks to make the study of Scripture easier and more accessible, as well as to help folk understand their part in working on human relationships. Both were most helpful in the Russian situation. Linda was most gracious in her conversation with each participants, her administrative efforts and was also a good female balance and defense to our male team!

I just found out that we shall be able to invite students to a further seminar, this time in Omsk in Western Siberia at the end of March this year. Please pray with us for good sessions, serious discussions and for outside contacts in local universities. While the initial interest in work in Russia has diminished since 1991 (it is no longer flashy or news-worthy), the needs to explain Christianity and to demonstrate its reality, intelligence and coherence remain just as strong. Ways of thinking and living have to be brought under the purifying effect of God's word. I recall the words of the vice-principal of Ishevsk University last year, when he plead with us to come back to teach students in Christian thinking and life, since much more is needed than merely economics, management and statistics to create a more human society in the next generation.

Contribution in Europe

The Schaeffer Foundation is asked to make a contribution in Europe in a variety of venues. In early autumn I read a paper at the First Millstadt Forum on the Cultural Effects of Christianity on Europe, contrasting it to the cultural effects of Orthodoxy on the Russian land, people and society. I explained the fundamental concepts at the heart of Orthodoxy. Both THEOSIS and DENIAL on the way to spirituality distinguish this view from a more Biblical emphasis. What THEOSIS attempts to suggest is the need to become 'like God' from the valley of sin and death. But it neglects the realization that we are purposefully made in the image of God, who has created us to be truly human. THEOSIS comes from a more Platonic view of life than a Jewish, creational one. By this, all things human are a result of the Fall. Christ is then not the Savior from guilt, but the demonstration of what and how we should become "other than" human.

Likewise, DENIAL is not the call to deny the autonomous position of modern man in rebellion against God. It is much more a call to deny that we are human beings, meant to be created with and to use bodies and minds. DENIAL invites people to neglect their humanity. It calls for an abdication from a world of reason, of bodies and of work with hands and mind. It is a form of denying that we need redemption. Instead, it suggests that we need a different form of existence. Dr. Schaeffer used to point out that the problem of man before God is guilt, not size or kind. We should not be anything but human beings, using our minds correctly, being transformed to holiness in obedience to what God has said, not to absence from the real world. This is the distinction of Christianity from Eastern religions. There man must become something 'other' metaphysically. Yet that same suggestion lies in the principle of DENIAL. Could it be that here Orthodoxy has been influenced more by its contact with the East than maintaining its Biblical, Jewish roots?

In September I had the opportunity to teach for a week in a Christian World View Seminar in Wiler, Switzerland, on the subject of "The Roots of Poverty." The lectures opened some doors to consider both the material and spiritual needs which should be addressed in this matter. Unhappily still, so much Christian concern deals merely with efforts to arouse guilt about our success, rage about inequality in the world and compassion with the physical needs of the poor. Little awareness is evidenced of the power of wrong ideas in the life of people. The needs of the mind and of the soul are central beyond the immediate pain of the body. There is little understanding of the resource of proper scriptural thinking and acting as a contribution to material well being, a stimulus to work and a foundation to a moral society.

That subjects relates back to the suggestion that it was the Biblical view introduced in Europe over the centuries through believers like St. Paul, Irenaus and Boniface and rediscovered in Scripture at the time of the Reformation, which gave us the foundation for human value, the dignity of work, the call to have dominion over nature and the whole human rights concerns.

Since the beginning of winter I have been working on the ROMANS manuscript to be published by Crossway Publishers later this year. Dr. Schaeffer's studies on the Book of Romans have been of much basic help and insight to many students here through the years. In Romans Paul sets forth the content of Biblical Christianity, a basic sermon, coherent, well argued and scriptural explained to a distant audience. He starts with nothing but the declaration that we are all in a mess, because we are under the wrath of God. Both Gentiles without the Bible and Jews with the Bible fall short of the standard of God, making excuses and professing themselves to be wise, while actually being fools.

Yet there is forgiveness and hope in the work of God through Christ and the power of the Spirit on our behalf. Each person of the Trinity is engaged in that effort towards our justification and glorification. In the midst of the battle of life, there is hope and a recognition of God's work to reclaim his creation. Therefore our frustration with ourselves and the pain we experience in a fallen world and while we wait for our redemption, is being removed through the work of God in real history.

On Christmas Eve we had again, after a number of years of absence, a candle light service in the Protestant village church of Champery. We were glad to be back there and to let it be known to villagers and tourists alike. About 40 came to the service. In addition, I preached a number of times in the English church in Villars during the fall and winter.

In January we began the regular meetings with the student-age generation of the Action Biblique in Lausanne. We give a talk on an aspect of why we should believe as Christians ( they are all very well versed in what to believe, doctrine, etc, but have little notion about why!!), followed by a discussion in French. They are dear kids, but quite unaware of the larger world and what has been happening out there to make Christianity such a strange suggestion in this European context, or in the American for that matter. It is sad to see how much any esoteric, exotic suggestion of health and salvation finds a public much more prepared to listen than that word which gave rise to the European culture to begin with. Why, in important family in our town of Gryon took their children out of Sunday School last month, because real Christianity sounded to them so much like a sect!

I spent a week in Prague to sit in and to lecture at the Anglo-American College, where a good number of the humanities courses are taught by believers. I could add a weekend in Vienna on the way back, where Richard Fuller had invited me to share lectures at the International Church in their concern to discuss and discover what reverend worship involves. I t was a discussion of content and discerning the wasteful cultural baggage we bring to worship in pursuit of participation. I met kindred spirits and concerned people, who are neither old-fashioned nor merely following the times and the spur of the moment.

Continuing Work in the US

Last fall the C. S. LEWIS Institute organized a conference on the "Life and Thought of Francis Schaeffer" in Washington, where I lectured on three occasions with good discussions following. It was very satisfying to be able to focus on several issues, which were important to Schaeffer's understanding of our times and the Christian responsibility in it. These were the primacy of the word of God as the foundation, without which one does not have Christianity. But it also involves the certainty of God's character and an explanation of the origin of evil in the creature's rebellion rather than in the will of God. Thirdly there is the cultural mandate of Christianity, with God's word and spirit transforming thought and life, giving shape to the thought world of Man and the external world of creation.

I used the occasion to teach a Sunday School class for College students at Fourth Presbyterian Church the next day and took Joanne Kemp's study for Congressional wives, which she has organized, hosted and led for more than 20 years. I am always impressed by their interest and only wish their husbands would also show such concern, interest and discernment. I saw old friends again, shared a bit of life with some who had been in Russia with us, etc.

Later in October and then again in January I preached at a church in Ossining, NY, where I am welcomed whenever I am in town (or on that continent, it seems). John Edmark gathered our NY friends on both occasions for lectures in his flat, like in former times. I spoke once on "Reasons not to believe" and that deliberately. Several things can be used as reasons not to believe: Firstly, the horrors of the 20th century in terms of what has been done to human beings in the name of programs to improve mankind must make one wonder about God's existence. Secondly, the church's teaching about all events in life being the will (permissive or direct) of God must makes us wonder about the moral character of God. Thirdly, the seeming normality of our life, including its length mostly thanks to science, pharmaceutics and social assistance may make us wonder about the need for God. Of course I then showed that life is still without answers, without a base for Man, Morals and Meaning, unless the Bible is true and reveals to us God's holy character, real presence and authority.

In January I drove from New York to Cleveland, Ohio, to be with Bob and Marilynn Baldwin, dear friends and Board Members, whose energy to organize a worthwhile schedule knows no bounds. What a delight to be there again and to talk with their friends, preach twice in a PCA church in Hudson, talk to Christian men early on Saturday ('when they bring God to an ungodly hour'), and then to be sent on the way to Ohio State for meetings with Christian student works such as IVF, Campus Crusade, Reformed University Fellowship and a couple of others. Lunch with Christian faculty, a seminar with graduate students and some personal conversations with individuals were all included.

On a more personal note

As I mention at the beginning, my plans had to be changed. At the end of the time at Ohio State, and before I was to leave for a L'Abri Conference in Rochester, MN, I had news on a pay phone that my mother had been taken to a hospice in the final days of her battle against cancer. Debby and I decided I should return at once. Larry Snyder at L'Abri kindly excused me from my commitments at the Conference. I drove through much of the night back to NY, where Micah, Naomi and Hannah took me to JFK. I caught a flight to Munich the same night. To my surprise I ran into my older brother Raoul by the baggage carrousel. He had arrived from Australia just minutes before me. The next five days we were together. They were important, sad, beautiful and sweet at the side of mother's bed. We talked, laughed. I read to her, enjoyed her sometimes sharp comments and prayed with her before she died in the night.

Mother had found out about her lymphoma less than a year before. Through much of the summer, fall and winter I had gone to see her from time to time. She had moved nearer to my sister in Munich in August, but then began to get weaker rapidly. My sister and her husband took her in and cared for her wonderfully, while she took chemotherapy. But then the cancer won for the time being, and in the final days she was wonderfully cared for in a hospice.

Our whole family came together for the funeral , which I took last week. Naomi and Hannah came from NY, Natasha with her two children from Biel, Samantha from Lausanne and Debby and Isaac from here. I was good for each of us. It also bore witness to something of life, love and family. We chose the music, the flowers and the Lord gave me courage and strength to speak of the Lord's provision of the resurrection, God's involvement in our restoration. I defied the suggestion that this is merely a way I interpret our feeling about death.

It was a hard audience of modern materialists, relatives almost all influenced by the "modern" view of the finality of death, the blowing out of a candle, the closing of a lid on life. I suggested that rather than the Bible being peculiar it is we, who are peculiar in our refusal to seek answers to the question of what happens after death; for every other culture always posed that question. By denying its value or need, we actually demean the dead, for we reduce them to nothing but matter, far less than a human being is in actual experience. In contrast the Bible presents us as totally other than nature, for we have been made in the image of God. We are not faced with a totally other God (private, psychological, religious), but with a human being that is totally other, because God made us in his image.

The family

We had two birthdays at Natasha's home in Biel/Bienne this month. Alexandre turned three and Natasha thirty with a party each time. Samantha and Gregg are happy about Gregg's new job as assistant financial officer for an international company near Lausanne with less commuting distance and more team work. Naomi is very busy in the final stages of preparing a new magazine with the working title "GEAR". Hannah is under much stress in the final semester at NYU, mid-terms, a good but draining Social Work Internship program and the last of politically controlled classes, in one of which, for instance, homosexuality and the art of coming out seem to be the major focus of training future social workers! And you have to pay tuition for that! Hannah will graduate in May and is sending out CVs for future employment in drug rehabilitation. We would value your prayers for her decision on which side of the Atlantic to work.

Looking ahead

Also in the works in a MS for Crossway Publishers, which would combine several articles in FOOTNOTES with a few additional ones. Please pray for us, also for the Lord's direction in relation to the sale of the house in Briarcliff Manor.

We are glad for your friendship, interest and prayers for strength and faithfulness in our several parts in the Lord's battle. Let us stay together in this.

Udo and Deborah, Hannah and Isaac PS: Gifts and donations to the work of the Francis A. Schaeffer Foundation are tax-deductible in the USA. The Foundation is recognized as a 501 (c) (3) not-for-profit organization. In Switzerland the Foundation's account is with the Banque Cantonale Vausoise, Ch 1884 Villars, No: Z 0923.92.42. A receipt is always sent by us.

PS: Copies of the lectures made be ordered on tape against payment from Marla McGill, 4310 Omaha, Amarillo, TX 79106

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