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The Francis A. Schaeffer Foundation

Long Letters


Udo and Debby Middelmann:

Dear Friends,

The unusually long and dry season of summer passed since my last letter to you, and now the rains finally came. The lettuce had shot up and went to seed, the zucchini grew fat and hard and the Mediterranean herbs reached unusual heights. We could have all our meals with guests and students in the garden, facing ‘our' beautiful mountains across the narrow valley. They are such a stable presence of great beauty, for which we thank our God. Between days of studies we also visited Roman ruins in Martigny, swam in the lake before supper and saw a wonderful exhibition of the French painter P. Signac. On Sundays we went to Leysin above another valley, where the English church had asked me to preach each Sunday.

We managed a health scare when Edith Schaeffer fainted in the heat, once here and then again, that time ending up in an English hospital for five days before she could return to her home here for additional care. Isaac's continuing troubles and multiple tests, searching for an explanation, kept us concerned, worried and puzzled.

Now autumn is here, school has started again and we are back to the fall routine that includes many possible surprises. On my schedule follows a week of teaching for YWAM on issues relating to poverty and Christian efforts to overcome it; I will preach in Lausanne for the International Evangelical Church and also prepare more material for publication. Some more students will exceptionally be with us again in a few days and more in a month's time.

Debby will also pick up the catechism classes in the village in October; at least we hope so, since the local ‘pastorette' seems to have questions about what is taught. She has a hard time with our setup and wonders why the children like to come to our house on a weekly basis and are given Bibles to read. Why do they discuss what they learn with their friends and families? She teaches ‘trust' and ‘relationships', attends monastic prayer samples and urges children to discover the ‘spiritual side' in them. She knows much about Buddhism and the spirituality of the forest, but little about God, revelation, truth and understanding life in a fallen world.

In November I shall be in the US for lectures I am setting up now, and for a Board Meeting of the Foundation. A week in Slovakia with students from Eastern Europe is also planned. There will be time in between, I hope, to catch up on the work put aside during the past summer.

Many of you have followed Isaac's very frustrating health situation during the past eight months with great kindness, interest and your prayers. You will notice that we looked to further tests in pursuit of an explanation that made sense. Even if there is no therapy there should be a reason for the cramps, the pains and aches, the unusual fatigue. Not satisfied to learn that nothing could be done about it we found a Christian specialist who does research in the area of Isaac's problems. He ran further tests in Bern, which in fact show increased mast cells and eosinophiles in the intestine. The immune system is activated constantly as in a false alarm. These cells release inflammatory substances, which can lead to hypersensitivity of nerve endings, changed gut motility, perception and absorption/secretion. This also explains the constant aching in muscles and joints due to inflammation there as well.

The mononucleosis virus, which remains for a while afterwards, seems to have upset the whole immune system, thyroid gland included, which now overreact and, in a sense, are in constant war, when in fact there is no cause for it. There is some treatment for the condition in the form of stabilizing medication, so that the war-like reactions are tamed, but only over a longer time.

While we worried and wondered over what to do next in his life and with his schooling it became obvious that he would loose a year, especially since the next level school would be very different in approach and much harder in content. We received a most generous offer of a full scholarship from Aiglon College, in Anglo-American private school in Villars, where Deborah teaches in the primary school already about 14 hours a week plus tutoring duties. It is real answer to prayer and a marvelous provision. Isaac does not loose a year and will be better prepared, as he wishes to go to College later in the US anyway. The school has a deliberate focus on the education across the spiritual, intellectual and social demands of children from about 60 countries. Now two weeks into the year Isaac is thoroughly enjoying the teachers and the courses.

We are thankful that the long pursuit of an answer has born fruit. The beast is recognized and now something can be done about it. Asking questions around a problem rather than bowing to its presence as if it were inevitable has given us coherent explanations and possible solutions. We have had advice to the contrary as well. Some people find this insistence on explanations a form of denial of the inevitable. They tend to see life's problems as indications of another stage to accept. Worse, some may see a condition as the will of God. But to us the Bible speaks of a God who makes explanations possible. "Whoever seeks shall find" is as true in the material as in the spiritual reality. It describes our access to knowledge about God and his creation as well as central questions of ethics and salvation.

I am always surprised when friends pull out the ‘mystery' button to cover unknowns with amazing ease. Such a ‘deus ex machina' has brought out untold rejections of Christianity, as explanations and insight have replaced in time what earlier believers called ‘a mystery'. To my knowledge the Bible speaks of only one mystery, and as it relates to the coming Christ and his work on the cross it has now been explained. Other questions may require more knowledge to find future answers, but that is not spoken of as further mystery.

How interconnected our body systems are and how intricately they are made! An accurate knowledge of reality (science) and a reasonable imagination within the bounds of real connections (projection, abstraction, thought and intention) has been the result of the Biblical view of life in our culture's past. We perhaps forget to marvel over that and fail to benefit from that connection when we forget that a concern for reality and its condition is part of the study of God's creation, part of the mandate to have dominion. Such mandates are absent from any religions in which Man is not in the image of the creator, but advised, using Chirac's words, to shut up believingly.

I have often suggested that most religions urge the believer to accept reality as closed, as fate. Beyond that lie mystery and magic, not scientific reasoning and human compassion. Only the Bible lays the basis for two complementary forms of dynamic action in contrast to any finality. In each case something new is created, new territory claimed. In neither area is reality finished, closed or set in concrete forever.

These two forms are first (1) an open creation and second (2) a battle against sin and the results of sin. Note that I do not speak of an ‘open God'.

The first dynamic is based on the fact that God created in six days and then gave Man the mandate to have dominion, to give shape to and to explore this reality. That mandate includes imagination and invention of new realities. The creation of a personal relationship between husband and wife, of a family and a new generation will necessarily result in additions and changes to the original creation. Parents are commanded to have children, which they create by their choice. God determined that it would function that way, but not when or how many.

Along the same lines dynamic action is undertaken when God orders Man to name the animals and to dress the garden. Reality is not finished, closed and determined. Boundaries are set on all sides, yet not without giving enormous space for creativity, change, invention and responsibility within. When the Westminster Confession states so well that God ordains whatever comes to pass it refers to the boundaries of his creation: Apple trees will only produce apples, people will also exert real dominion and produce real choices.

This unfinished or open situation is rooted in God's person himself. He created the "tohu wabohu" and gradually in each succeeding ‘day' gave more precise shape to it. He was not finished at once. God is not static, creation is not mechanical, life is not repetitive.

God rested on the seventh day, but there is no indication that he did not work again on the eighth and subsequent days. He certainly ‘worked' each miracle or intervention or answered prayer in the course of all later history. Making lunch for 5000 people from two fish and five loaves is the result of choice and power, not of natural conditions.

This kind of ‘work' is marvelous when we consider that Christ was raised, after his finished work on the cross to redeem us from Adam's and our own guilt, on the first day of the new week after Sabbath, which in fact makes it the eighth day!

All religions, whether they are ‘spiritual' as Buddhism, Shinto, African tribal religions or Islam, or ‘materialist' as Marxism and naturalism, assume something else. In their view reality, if it exists at all, is a self-contained system with all the bits and pieces fitting in a perfect and determined order. Only to us are our experiences are something new. Everything is in some form already contained in what has always been.

This explains the first area of dynamic.

The second mandate for dynamic action is stated after the Fall of Adam and Eve. It touches not so much on variety, but on moral efforts. We live in a universe, in which we are challenged to discover not only what we can do, but also to discern what we should do. The former deals with factual variety, the latter demands ethical priorities and restraint. We no longer live in a world in which all things are good, all experiences beneficial, all actions honest and nothing possible should be missed. Self-discipline, service and a critical evaluation of what is good, just and beautiful are now required.

The Bible's teaching through the ages has nurtured an awareness of such considerations. They lie behind much of our Western scientific inquiry for facts in order to know how things work in a reasonable universe. They also nourish the desire to explore creative alternatives and logical extensions. They lie behind all efforts to deny the finality of history, whether in the form of government or a painful medical condition. Acceptance of one's lot, destiny or fate, whether as ‘the will of God' or as ‘part of the cosmos' is not the Biblical answer to any situation. Foolish youth and feeble age should not be simply acknowledged. Both foolishness and feebleness should in a good measure be opposed and transformed. God has the final word, not history.

These insights are very central to our heritage. They are taught by Jesus, who came to do the Father's will. Again and again he rejects the idea of a closed system, of inevitable conditions and of a hopeless loss of the human in the cosmos. Not rules and regulations are that important, nor power structures and conditions. He rather reveals God as one who awakens our dependent sovereignty to be ‘sons of God' (John 1: 12). This contrasts with being ‘children of nature' or ‘citizens of state' or ‘wheels on the cart of history'.

This whole discussion is of central importance in today's world. The subject comes up frequently around the table with a variety of people. Clarity is needed here. I try to introduce it often, such as when I contributed to the course on Apologetics in a Bible School above Vevey last March. I also spoke about it a number of times during the lecture tour for two weeks in the US back in April.

For at least three reasons our contemporaries are distracted from this rich Biblical heritage. They easily embrace what turns out to be a more fatalistic view. That is a constant temptation, for it offers the neatness of a tension resolved, even though it ties God to all kinds of questionable events and assumes his approval of various evils.

First there is the longing for a reasonable coherence found in a closed system of cause and effect that would explain and excuse why things happen, why people act the way they do. The appeal lies in the set of explanations that removes any area of darkness and uncertainty. People want to know that things are already right, necessary and inevitable. We do not like unfinished business. Yet the Bible speaks of God's unfinished work and an on-going conflict.

In search of a similar resolution in a troubled reality some people prefer a socialist system with its equal, but limited benefits now to personal freedoms with unequal greater benefits later. Richard Adams describes that well in his classic story ‘Watership Down".

Or look at it this way. When you can blame someone or something else like the stars, your genetic makeup, an absent parent or any other prior cause for your present condition the quest is closed: your own responsibility is removed. You know where to lay the blame.

Second, the uniqueness of the Bible is easily abandoned in favor of equating Christianity with other religions. When the Bible is not seen as either true or false, but merely as a culture's way of addressing a variety of life's issues it loses both its authority from revelation and its relevance to all reality. It becomes a story about a people's effort to reflect on the human condition. It has noting definitive to say about God or reality.

Any possible awkwardness about truth, any accusation about arrogance, any embarrassment about what I conclude to believe is removed when ‘they' have their ‘story' and I have ‘mine'. All stories become a people's efforts to explain and reduce the suffering of life in the real world. The German theologian Schleiermacher already proposed 200 years ago that all religions are different ways of expressing a common human feeling of dependence. God for the Christian becomes Allah for the Muslim and Buddha for the Buddhist. We each have a story, our tribal symbols, our masters. We readily agree only when we value nothing enough to test it out in real life and then to state possible disagreements from a desire to shed light on ignorance or confusion.

Such conformity is easily achieved in a time of growing illiteracy about what the Bible actually proposes and when we are exposed to all kinds of offerings on the wider market of ideas. Its unique explanation is not distinctly recognized in the concert of other sounds. Making Christianity so incredibly light benefits any attempt to resolve embarrassment in our culture's view of tolerance. Any exclusive view of truth contradicts our culture's teaching. Yet we easily forget that ‘tolerance' is only a qualifier, not a quality. One cannot be simply tolerant, but is at best tolerant in or about something. Tolerance may seem virtuous, but interestingly there is no tolerance in either nature or in any other religion's claim about the truth of the real world. In addition all propositions, whether religious, scientific or philosophical, start from fundamentals; else they would not be worth making.

Global exposure requires kindness and an open mind, a willingness to reconsider with patience in light of a wider reality. But no-where is tolerance in matters of content seen as anything other than lack of understanding and commitment. That may be the reason we are attracted to become tolerant: we don't even understand what difference a particular view would make, nor do we seem to care. By contrast, kindness, compassion and the space given to others to hold their ‘mistaken' views are not tolerance. These qualities flow first from a deep confidence that truth is always eventually evident, as it fits the real world; and then from compassion that understands how easily one could be mislead about what is true in our mixed-up world. Our confidence rests on the Bible's teaching in relation to reality, in which the persons of God the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit are not merely a Christian variant of some ultimate Being, but the only possible eternal creator and historic redeemer of this same reality.

The third reason for being distracted from a Biblical view is more psychological and cultural. Modern Man is more disjointed from various spheres of life than before. His day is divided into compartments, his relationships are temporary and accidental, his goals are projected years ahead and his love and life take place at several places between office, factory and on the road. Much of his experience is transient, without continuity or predictable location. Little wonder that Man, created to build a life and relationships over a lifetime, craves something steadier, more personal, more affirmative. Often abandoned too early as a child into adolescence as a parody of adulthood he seeks to be cradled in a protective setting. What better place than to be able say that it is all God's will.

The God of the Bible is in control in so far as History will never be hijacked by another being. Salvation is sure in Christ. But God is not in control in the modern sense of mechanics or psychology or Islam, in which all reality is understood to be a giant program without delay, deviation or distraction. In reality wicked kings, false prophets, unfaithful priests and a host of minor and unofficial sinners are not doing God's will. There are viruses, a broken nature, a hostile climate and other circumstantial evils to be opposed and conquered. We look forward to a restored world and repaired bodies and resurrected people for the simple reason that this is now a broken world, where the will of God is not, yet, being fully done.

Scientific reductionism, poor intellectual reasoning and fragmented psychology contribute to common forms of unquestioning acceptance and resignation in our culture. Enterprise, inquiry and daring are left for people, who often lack a sufficient moral framework, when good people do not choose to restrain them.

Many conversations and lectures with discussions tied into these and related issues also during the speaking trip that took us to many places this past spring. Isaac joined me all the way to hear me in other settings than a pulpit. We started with a lecture in New York and went to Albany, GA. Todd and Joy Handelman had invited friends and partners to a stimulating evening. From there we drove to Brevard, NC, and were graciously delivered from the clutches of a Georgia Highway Patrolman, who caught me doing 77 in a 55 mile zone. "I'll need you to slow down" he said rightly, and I obeyed, tucking away my Yankee license. Paul and Denise Sawyer had organized an evening in their home with friends on the first, and a church supper with lecture in the local PCA parish on the second day. We flew to Alma, MI, for a longer weekend under Bill MacDonald's direction. As so often before I found a house full of tapes, good books and 25 attentive and willing guests. The four sessions gave us enough time to work through the importance of understanding and applying a Christian worldview.

Unhappily the Easter service in church the next day would have dismantled much of what we had talked about concerning the historic facts and the nature of Christ's redeeming work. The story of the ragman just does not communicate the person and work of the Lord's Christ, nor a Biblical worldview. It seeks to contextualize the Gospel, but merely presents a touching and unreal story. It deals very poorly with certain concepts, but neglects the actuality of God in the flesh. It nourishes our world's craving for camaraderie and the mysterious, but distorts the reality of what went on in Jerusalem 2000 years ago. In so doing it is in fact quite blasphemous, though most people would not dare say that about an Easter program in a church. And that is part of the trouble.

I don't understand why we reach for such poor illustrations, when the reality has light of its own. The illustration of the ragman actually darkens comprehension, for it is so outrageously improbable and totally outside of the miraculous reality of the Bible and of life. Jesus was not like a homeless ragman in our cities, who somehow miraculously works in odd situations without further explanations.

It confirmed to me the need to discuss at greater length the lamentable state of large parts of the church. She no longer leads and directs our culture, but merely wags like the tail of an animal. An entertainment culture sets the standards for what is good, true and helpful. And then we are not even very good at it, when we try to compete for the audience.

Both admiration for the church's life and lament over her more recent compromises is the subject of my book, which Crossway Books, Wheaton, will publish in January 2004. The title will be: ‘The Market-Driven church.' A further manuscript is almost finished. It addresses issues of the Christian worldview and how that has affected our life so differently than other worldviews in Africa, Asia and South America.

From Alma we drove to Toledo, where we were guests of Bob and Marilynn Baldwin. Lunches and dinner with their friends and guests, as well as an evening in a large Bible study group filled our days, while Isaac found rest, coffee and plenty of books at Barnes and Nobles. In Minneapolis, our next stop, I lectured for the Maclaurin Institute at the U of M on the subject " Can the clash between civilizations be avoided". The same title served for the lecture in Ames, IA, in the context of the State College there. Meetings with students, in people's homes and around the edges made it a very full program. But there was no Barnes and Noble bookstore to give the relaxing break between sessions. Ames turned out to be the university town where the ‘Coming Soon" sign to welcome Borders as an actual bookstore promised much for after our departure!

We had a generous end of our time with a visit to a real Iowa farm: hogs, corn and a seemingly endless horizon. They were gracious about our interrupting their busy schedule. Our discussion reminded me of a conversation around my observation that in the US cattle so often stands in mud around the feedlot rather than grazing in the pasture. While I now understand that this image refers more to the final days before slaughter than to a general practice, it was also interesting to learn that the European with his longer history of husbandry sees animals as fellow creatures: not in some sense of a common ancestry, but in the sense of the animal not being a machine or a stone.

Animals live and experience pleasure and fright; traditionally they even live under the same roof, though in the stables of course, to heat the house. Cows, goats and horses, and sometimes even chickens, would have names. Eventually they would be slaughtered for meat, but with a measure of regret or grief. The Jew even has a prayer for the occasion of butchering. It is considered to be a tragic result of the fall that we are commanded to kill in order to eat meat.

In American history early immigrants were mostly farmers of cotton, tobacco, and grains. They were not so much keepers of livestock. When beef, pork and mutton were raised for food, animals received a sanitized designation before arriving on the table. They were no longer cow, pig and lamb, which designate living animals. Cattle farming for food coincided in the US historically with the beginning of the industrial revolution. It was therefore easier to see in the animal not a fellow creature to be respected in its own order, but to see it as a meat-for-the-table producing machine. It was that much more difficult to respect the animal according to its kind, as God had made them. Francis Schaeffer's Pollution and the Death of Man is an early treatment of a Christian view of Man and the environment. Schaeffer's argument is that the Bible speaks of animals as God's creation, part of a living world, to be treated according to its kind.

After our return from the US, in May, June and July, we had a number of very interesting students come and study in Gryon in our Summer Study Program. In addition to them Devin and Tracey visited with their four children the place and the people, where both parents had been students before their marriage many years ago. Ted and Gladys visited for a delightful four days for meals, conversation and shared concerns. Todd and Joy came back for a week with their family to where Joy had studied alone and then stayed as a faithful helper for many months years ago. Marla, who regularly sends out these letters to you, joined us for two weeks as well. Cynthia and Kathryn stimulated hours of interesting discussions. They were a joy to have, with their interest and pleasure to find so much valuable material for their lives. Heather also spent the time in books and tapes, as did Nathan between two other experiences.

Another subject we frequently addressed with our students, as well as the wider community, was Iraq. Previously I have shared our concern about a failure on our part to understand the cultural, philosophic and religious components, which so powerfully form people's mindset anywhere. They set the priorities, goals and habits in people's lives. How a person thinks will effect his action. We have not paid attention to the strong nationalist feeling, which coupled with religious harshness in Islam and the absence of any democratic or human rights tradition and suppressed public debate in that country creates a lethal mixture of anger, resentment and hostility.

But such problems are more internal already to Iraq and other Muslim states than due to the recent war. Saddam had his own kind of terrorism, which now surfaces. Too many Allied soldiers die, but far fewer Iraqis are murdered now than during Saddam's term and with his policies. The attack of the UN office expresses hostility to any outside influence, any benevolence or dialogue; the murderous activities in Israel from the hand of Hamas show no regard for the innocent. The assassination of the Shiite moderates reveals a rejection of dialogue within the Islamic community that is unfamiliar with pluralism or patient debate. More is at work than Saddam in hiding, continuing the war by different means. Those who commit such insane crimes have defied the ranks of the human and continue to act in light, or shall I say in the darkness, of the devilish evils of the preceding 20th century. ‘Good will', ‘innocence' and the freedom required for ‘pluralism' have been attacked in these deeds. Our faint hopes for a new century are fallen.

The widespread assumption that people will choose the good when given the chance through ‘liberation' or ‘economic' progress is always naïve at best. It fails to see that people make choices along other criteria than our own. In addition, the secular Bathists in Iraq and Syria are trained in Western revolutionary ideology and have trained others along Marxist models. Many of the early Palestinian assassins were secular ‘Christians' with the same philosophic roots in Western Enlightenment with the Janus-like faces of Hitler and Stalin. After all, Pol Pot in Cambodia, Ho Chi Minh in Vietnam and Japanese anarchists are all students of Western Marxist thought and practice, married to similarly authoritarian religious traditions in Islam, know no mercy, grace and therefore also no debate in pursuit of their social plans.

I have received strong reactions to my having been in favor of intervention for the sake of human rights, the rule of law, and developing a person's individual mind and being. As a teacher I have always tried to dismantle ideologies, secular and religious, that demean the human being, the crown of God's creation. The discovery of four neglected and overgrown Jewish cemeteries in German forests a few years back justified the urgency. They are witnesses to non-interference and wishful thinking that evil will stop somehow at the next turn of history. The last burials were from 1937. There were only smoke and ashes after that.

I found the discussion papers published by the Religion and Public Policy Center in Washington of great insight and help. Bits and pieces by the editor of COOP, a free paper for all households here, have also shown great courage in his stand against the prevailing cynicism about the West. Such cynicism may come from the mental and moral gymnastics of past years, when we have tolerated all kinds of wickedness in the name of multiculturalism and now need to justify it.

Objections to intervention come from those who oppose American power as such. Some would rather go with a world community, such as the UN. Yet none of them has been able to show a parallel situation where the UN has been able to introduce a better situation without America's powerful help. In Iraq the failure of the UN, which had been lied to, manipulated, laughed at for 12 years, became obvious. In its debates members of the UN not only revealed their material, but also their moral weakness. Thereby they strengthened the resolve of Saddam to disregard the UN or other threats.

Others assume pure economic interests behind the war. Yet even if that were the case they fail to admit the same economic interests in the countries that backed out of the UN resolution and opposed the interference. Their interest is openly opportunistic. It has nothing to do with morality, human rights or concern for Iraqi people.

Does it strike you as curious as well how turned around various viewpoints have become. The political left used to pride itself of internationalism, the rights of man and the need to uphold universal values. The right was seen as nationalistic and selfish, paternalistic about others. With the questions around Iraq and what to do there, the right is now accused of imposing universal values, while the left embraces universal relativism. What happened to their former interests in women's rights, child labor laws and power to the people. To leave millions in their cultural misery under the guise of local, national and religious variety is a new form of paternalism. With great indifference the same left now ‘knows' what is best for others.

Another objection is more subtle. It suggests that an older, confrontational paradigm of power, in which we think only of national rivalries, territorial aspirations, trade advantages and express it in the judging and interfering habit of our past must be replaced with another, softer and international paradigm. Hope is placed in the Internet to create a community of equal people interacting through trade and transfer of ideas. Electronic links would undermine old orders through a direct approach to individuals. Electronics would replace the formerly national and religious communities we had in the past by a worldwide body of the informed, free and respectful. Old local and religious identities would be transcended in favor of a world community.

I don't think they have recent ‘flash' communities in mind, such as when hundreds of people, alerted by email, gather without knowing each other, to look at a tree together or to bow to the Southeast at 10 AM on Times Square for no other reason than that they have received random notifications. Afterwards each goes on their way.

Electronic media do slip through barriers of the most watchful authorities and reach people with words of wisdom, hope and liberation, as we have seen in China. But they also accede to details on how to make a bomb, to child pornography and scams. It is a very effective and faster method of reaching people, but it is not a new paradigm for peace and liberation. Any partners in an electronic community still have the same moral problems as before. Cain still kills Abel from anger and envy in any generation. Information, like market forces, still need the control of moral commitments of people, or as The Wall Street Journal wrote in another context: "The blackout of 2003 offers a simple, but powerful lessons: Markets are a great way to organize economic activities, but they need adult supervision."

The old paradigm of the human race still describes us. It is not improved by more information. It requires moral and rational discourse, ethical choices and an admission of human sinfulness and repentance. That has not changed with electronic communication and access to global markets. Trade of goods and of information will broaden a person's horizon and experiences. A cosmopolitan town already had advantages for everyone. But it did not make people in themselves better people.

When external power or imposed discipline fades each of us needs more self-discipline, which is a matter of chosen priorities, worldviews and wisdom. When we reject adults ruling over us, we have to begin acting like adults ourselves.

Markets are the most efficient means of exchange, but not always the most moral, humane or honest. People have not been changed in their readiness to neglect, despise and hate their neighbor by finding lovely poems or useful information and opportunities on the Internet. Instead of cheating on my neighbor across the street we can now do it across the globe.

It is simplistic to expect that more information "better men will make." Just like not all conservatives are Christians, not all Christians are good people. A free market does not create justice or fairness, only smoother exchanges. Not all religions teach the same view of life and the individual, and good people are not only found among Christians. Where internal moral restraints diminish, we all need ‘adult supervision'. Trade agreements, quality control, fiscal transparency and judicial access are forms of the rule of law and function as adult supervisors, locally or internationally, because all of us have a problem acting like adults and supervising ourselves.

When we confess our sin against God and reality we are also mandated to apply that standard across the board. It may require us to interfere against evil done to our neighbor. Governments have the obligation to protect their people, to use the sword against evil and for the protection of good. Romans 13: 1-7 tells us to serve such government in pursuit of the good. Then we can more easily express our obligation to love our neighbor, Romans 13, 8-10.

Universal human rights, rationality and love transcend in their very definition our personal preference or personal faith. El-Qaida, Islamists of many colors and shades of old and Neo-Marxists hate America and the West, including Israel's sheer existence, because we have a different view of Man, life and responsibility. But they also dismiss their own people, for they have no constructive alternative to Islam and other totalitarian systems and their cultural, economic and political failures. A curious marriage of radical Islam and Hegelian revolutionary dynamic brings together a hate of new ideas, of freedom, of individual personality. The mind (‘heart' in the Bible), open debate and discovery question any assumed final religious or ‘scientific' authority. Allah and Lenin with his children are dictators, socialist authoritarians, who demand conformity. Even the church has done that at times. But by contrast Jehovah is a merciful covenant keeper, committed to Man and his redemption, who addresses our minds with words of content, love and hope to remind us frequently of the work yet to be done.

It is not surprising that after the demise of Marxism and its universal claim Islam would continue with the same claim to truth. Both are direct heresies of Judaism and Christianity, since both are born out of exposure to people of the Bible. While the former is a materialist heresy, the latter is a spiritual heresy. Marxism says ultimately everything is material, Islam teaches that everything is Allah. Each one stresses one of the central themes of the Bible, creator or creation, but without holding them together in the infinite-personal God of the Bible. Without the dynamic of the Trinity in Islam and the mandate to be human in thought and action in Marxism each imposes great cruelty on man. Marxism emphasizes that we live in a real and material world, but then erroneously reduces everything to matter in the flow of history. Islam teaches that there is a mind, creator and power beyond matter, but then errs by reducing everything finally to this metaphysical being.

Both are deterministic in outlook, neither gives room for the individual mind and soul, though of course people as people made in the image of Jehovah will always find ways to explore their mind and reveal their soul. Both require systems of control to limit human reality by imposing the orthodoxy of the state and the Imam. Both also cover up their internal cultural and economic problems by accusing the rest of the world: imperialism on one side, colonialism on the other. In a curious way this ends up being evil, yet such evil is only possible in a culture that offers choice, located only in the "Western World".

Where they place the origin of all evil you will also find a closer affinity to Biblical and creational realism, which are absent from both Marxism and Islam. It is always only a shadow of things true, as through a glass darkly, a reflection of both the greatness of man and his depravity, but in both most centrally Man in the image of God. And when he uses his head (lat.'caput') it results in capitalism, which also and always benefits from adult supervision or moral participants.

As I end this letter I follow the memorial services on September 11 around the world. Indeed, we live in a dangerous time, in which again we do not have only one pole to direct what is done. September 11 was a gauntlet against the whole world, against people who have tasted their own freedom and ability to make choices. Even though we often choose poorly, out of wrong motives and for selfish reasons, that freedom is a birthright of people made in the image of God and will manifest our unique difference from all other things as real people.

In a moral universe there will be consequences, a judgment. But in the same moral universe and by the same reasoning there is as well a need to judge, to limit evil and to proclaim with kindness, imagination, power and enterprise that we are not children of nature, nor totally determined by our past or prisoners of tyrants or any ideology.

People favor the ease of accommodation over the effort of containment. They associate with accusers from a false sense of guilt and avoid the continuing challenge to be moral, wise and human. It seems irresponsibly blind to seek such appeasement with culture and their proponents, who themselves would never give people the freedoms to be moral in their own cultures? There they impose their demands and allow little variety of thought and life.

We have perhaps fallen into a bit of historic and intellectual bankruptcy when so many in Europe and the US, in Canada and Australia, appease themselves to Islam and its demanded submission to a collective, where no voice was given to anyone questioning the authority. The parallels to Marxist tyrannies of the past are obvious. The real danger to civilization is not the West, and Israel is a part of the West, though we have grave moral, social and intellectual problems to work on. They can be and are addressed. They can be dealt with through better reasons, repentance and wisdom. The grave danger lies in cultures that address neither open questions, including those of morality, nor the human person, who deserves mercy, compassion and a restraint of evil. Such a culture claims to be the one and only truth and can therefore make no room for a healthy debate demanding evidence, humility and renewal.

The greatest hindrance to solving problems is to believe that they only exist elsewhere.

The Roman church in the past staked out similar claims until the tension between crown and staff, between nobility and tradesman limited the arrogance of power. The Marxist state was like that until the tension between ideology and reality became too obvious. The lies were unmasked, the state of society revealed and the economy failed. Islamic rule tends to be similar. Since there is already no love, dialogue and diversity in God it also is suspicious on earth. Islam has had long ‘open' periods when it came in contact with Greek philosophy and science as well as predominantly Jewish culture. But during such periods of Islamic high culture both philosophy and science became ways to express the total otherness of Allah and his being everywhere completely, rather than tools to understand both creator and creation.

The focus on such a god makes it intolerable to listen to a second voice, to argue with God and reality. The God of the Bible has everything in his presence, but he is not present in every thing. You can confidently eat your sandwich! He distances himself from what evil men do. Discernment about what is of God and what of my neighbor past and present is essential in a historic and bi-polar world, while Islam sees all things and people already in their appointed place.

In the absence of such reflection and social practice it is also immensely difficult to introduce democratic ideas and practices. It has been very tough going in Russia and will be in Islamic countries. Voting power does not guarantee law, respect and responsibility. A Shi'ite majority would at this time not allow genuine democracy, including the protection of the minority. The problem here is not with Arabs as people, but with Islam as a worldview. Where there has been no multi-sided culture in the give and take of ideas and habits, of books and debates, no groundwork has been laid for democracy. Millions fled their homeland to where they find greater affirmation of their mind, heart and humanity in our Western societies.

Under Jehovah Israel was never supposed to have a central human authority, teacher, king or priest. God was their Lord, the Scriptures their text, their mind and prayer the means to understand what is true, just and good. There were twelve tribes, various prophets and all kinds of good and evil governments to be judged by each generation. In Islam there is only the prophet's book, not a culture of debating what the text might, can and cannot mean, and how it relates to human circumstances. The Biblical text requires study, the Koran only constant repetition. The Bible needs to be translated into meaning and application, The Koran is recited without a translation into English, or basic meaning.

Blessing to you after this letter short on events and long on reflections. Thank you for your friendship and gifts to the work. We love to hear from you and greet you with fondness and love,

Udo, Deborah and Isaac

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