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On the Death of a Friend

This year, 2008, a person whom I counted as a close friend, Heinz Klein, died of complications associated with cancer. As a follower of Jesus Christ, I have to come to terms with the fact that, as far as I know, Heinz did not turn to Christ. (Of course, it is possible that he did unbeknown to me or perhaps in his heart just before he died, but I do not feel it is right to cling onto such possibilities. For one thing, Heinz himself would not want me to do so, for reasons that will become apparent.) How have I done so? The process I went through is actually part of an on-going process, just applied in Heinz' case.

Heinz Klein

My view of Heinz Klein is complex, but here is some of it. The main things that struck me about Heinz, a very sharp mind coupled with honesty and a great humility. In addition, he was great at things like skiing and tennis, though I could not share these. He had a rather nice wit and sense of humour. He loved good food and so on.

His sharp mind meant that he was able to do what few of us have done, to understand deeply the ideas of four or five major streams of philosophy, sufficiently to apply their ideas to information systems and to critique them. Most people who use philosophy in relation to IS (including me) take one stream of philosophy and explore and apply that, but Heinz understood several but did not attach himself to any. As a result, he gave four Leverhulme Lectures at Salford University on these various streams (two more planned were never delivered). From all this, he published a large number of key papers. He was always scrupulously honest, and I learned that, by comparison with him, I had not been as honest as I assumed I was.

His humility. Most of his papers are written with someone else. It seems he saw his role in the information systems community as encouraging and mentoring others, rather than promoting himself. As a result while those he mentored obtained full chairs, Heinz never did. This, I think, was not a failing on his part, but rather arises from a deep humility in him. Not modesty, but a realism and common sense, being able to see himself as talented and yet just one among many. When he came to Salford University for a spell, he was not demanding of expensive or prestigious accommodation or facilities.

In both these ways, Heinz was a better person than I am. Of course, he had flaws - I don't know what he was like to live with, for example - and even his intellect, honesty and humility were limited. He had some particular blind spots. I do not mention them here, because I don't need to.

Perhaps what I valued most was that I felt in him a kindred spirit with my own. He and I seemed to understand each other, even though we knew each other for only a couple of years. I felt comfortable with him, and able to talk with him in ways I talk with few others. One thing we talked about was Jesus Christ and theology. We were planning a trip round Scotland together, and I was hoping for some good theoretical chats. Heinz was a bit hung up on whether Jesus was son of God or not. Though we had a number of discussions on this, I had hoped to turn the conversation in a different direction, expressing something of my living relationship with Christ and my hope in him. But it was not to be.

Heinz held himself to be an agnostic. At one stage he doubted whether Jesus Christ ever existed as a human being, let alone as God. But on reading 'The Gnostic Gospels' (Elaine Pagals) he came to believe that Jesus had indeed existed as an historical figure (ironic!). But, as far as I know, that is as far as he got towards any faith in Christ.

My Theological Problem

I believe that Jesus Christ alone is the way to salvation and to acceptability with God. According to the traditional view, which I held for years, a strong implication of this is that only those who turn to Christ (e.g. by asking Jesus Christ to be their Saviour and Lord: being 'born again') can become accepted by God. In which case - to put it bluntly - my friend Heinz is lost, as far as I know. This would make me deeply sad on God's Judgement Day, because my friend, who was better than I am, is lost while I am saved. So what do I do?

Do I try to find 'comforting verses' in Scripture which might suggest otherwise (e.g. a doctrine of universal salvation)? Honesty forbids that, because I cannot bend Scripture to my preferences, but must bend myself to its truth as far as I understand it. Moreover, Heinz's honesty would disallow that, so I would be dishonouring Heinz if I were to bend Scripture.

However, I have seen a few other things in Scripture, and these I want to set forth.

I find these make sense to me. They suggest that I will not find myself, on God's Judgement Day, harbouring in my heart a sadness that my friend is lost while I am saved. Heinz' eternal destiny is ultimately a matter for God, who is Justice and Love.

If what I understand from my experience of Heinz is not completely wrong, and the above four points are correct, then I think it reasonable to expect that both Heinz and I will be deeply satisfied with the result, and we will both see clearly. Heinz will then know what he did not know in this life, that Jesus Christ is the God-Who-Saves. In response, not only I but perhaps Heinz too, will fall down in love and praise before Him. Then Heinz' superb intellect and humility - and many other qualities - will be purified from dross and blind spots and will be enabled to grow in ways that were not possible here. I look forward to that time beyond Time, that Resurrection effected by Christ.


For a more general discussion, see my page on Salvation.

This page is offered to God as on-going work. Comments, queries welcome.

Copyright (c) Andrew Basden 2009. But you may use this material subject to certain conditions.

Part of his www.abxn.org pages, that open up discussion and exploration from a Christian ('xn') perspective.

Number of visitors to these pages: Counter. Written on the Amiga with Protext.

Created: 20 December 2008. Last updated: 21 December 2008 thanks to M+MAS and AF for comments. 1 January 2009 new .end, .nav, corrected link; page made public with Linda Klein's permission. 25 January 2009 a few changes, making the argument clearer with extra bullet. 21 April 2014 corrected link.