Archive for November, 2008

Seers, Choice, Open Theism, Molinism, and Calvinism

November 30, 2008

The recent vampire movie, Twilight, contains a cinematic element that is frequently employed: a seer, a character in the movie that can see the future. Most movies that I’ve seen generally treat the visions of seers in one of two ways:
1) As projections based on a current but mutable stream of events; and
2) As inevitabilities.

Twilight is a type 1 film. The seer in the film is able to see the future, but her visions are subject to change if people make different choices. Other stories employ type 2 seers. An example of such a story is the famous ancient tale of Oedipus. In that story, the king is told that his newborn son will commit various heinous acts. He tries to prevent these acts by leaving the child to death by exposure. However, despite the king’s attempts to prevent the inevitable from happening (and, indeed, even in part as a result of the fact that the grown son does not know who his parents are), the seer’s vision comes true.

Most people – the average Joe, if you will – would view the type 2 situation as essentially fatalistic. “X” will happen, and there is no way to prevent it from happening. Thus, the average Joe prefers the kind of seer found in Twilight, in which the future is somewhat predictable, but still subject to change at the leisure of the common man.

Now, the charge of “fatalism” to type 2 seers is not necessarily appropriate. Fatalism, properly expressed, views some force as ensuring the important thing seen in the vision, quite without regard to (or perhaps “despite”) the way in which the thing comes about. Thus, one could view the chronology of a particular person as a string that is generally loose, but pinned down at one particular point. By their choices, a person can try to to avoid arriving at that particular point, but all they will do is change how they arrive at that point.

To provide a specific example, in a fatalistic outlook, a man be told that he will die in Paris. Consequently, in an attempt to prolong his life, the man may purposely never go to Paris. Nevertheless, fate will bring it about that the man will have a wreck in the French countryside and be airlifted to Paris while unconscious and then die in a Parisian hospital.

The concept of “fate” is not a Christian concept. Christianity does not posit an impersonal force that brings about certain important events essentially in isolation. Instead, Christianity describes a God, who “of him, and through him, and to him, are all things” (Romans 11:36) and “we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28) Thus, Christianity does not view history as a bunch of mostly loose strings pinned down at certain points, but as a tapestry woven together by an Almighty Artist.

Nevertheless, from the standpoint of a person simply learning the seer’s vision, the two positions are interchangeable. Unless the seer explains exactly how event “x” will occur, the person listening to the vision cannot distinguish the fatalistic worldview from the Biblical worldview. We see the same thing in Biblical prophecies. For example, the Scriptures clearly teach that Christ will come again in judgment. Still, some people treat that prediction as though it were a fatalistically determined event pinned to the end of the string of history, while others view it as the final act of a most well-written play. It is important to note that either of those views is consistent with the bare prophecy itself.

Reverting for the moment to the type 1 seers, one can see that this form of prognostication is really the only kind fully consistent with view of complete human autonomy. Thus, this view (like modern Arminianism) appeals to the humanistic side of man: the side of man that likes to think that he is the master of his own destiny. It is the view, one might say, of Open Theism. Certain Open Theists would object that God can make fatalistic prognostications, because he can bring about certain outcomes he wants regardless of what happens in the near term. Nevertheless, unless the Open Theist is to deny that God himself has the same kind of autonomy they attribute to man, they must assert that any future prediction that God makes is based on the contingency that he does not decide to do otherwise.

On the other hand, both Molinists and Calvinists acknowledge that God has complete knowledge of the actual future, knowledge that is not subject to being changed. Thus, both Molinist and Calvinist seers see an inevitable future – they fall into the second category.

This may seem a bit odd. Molinism claims to hold to the autonomy of man, and asserts that it holds that man has Libertarian Free Will (LFW). Nevertheless, Molinism also is forced to acknowledge that God’s omniscience includes future events, and that consequently, God has advance knowledge of what will be.

There is sometimes an attempt by proponents of Molinism to argue that God’s knowledge of the future does not convert to God being a causal influence on the future. While this attempt is doubtless important to the philosophical defense of LFW, it does not address the psychological difficulty that the Average Joe has with what he perceives to be a fatalistic future.

The Average Joe is not fond of the idea that the length of his life is already known and cannot be changed, particularly if that time is short. The idea that the future is – in effect – already written, poses a psychological problem for the autonomous man. If a seer comes to him and says, “You will die in a plan crash tomorrow,” you can imagine that the Average Joe would not immediately go and board a plane, but would try to get as far as possible from planes.

Of course, if the seer is a true seer, the event will come to pass. What the Average Joe has overlooked is that the seer has seen what will be, and what will be, will be. What would be more puzzling for the Average Joe is if the seer not only announced the day and means of death, but also all the events leading to that death.

A sufficiently knowledgeable seer could even tell our Average Joe whether Average Joe will like the fact that events will unfold just as the seer said. Imagine yourself in the Average Joe’s shoes. One feels a bit helpless knowing what will happen, without being able to bring it about that the seer’s prognostication is wrong.

Indeed, between the two extremes of simply knowing the date and manner of death, and knowing every event leading to that death, the Average Joe would really rather not know what will transpire, so that he can maintain the illusion that what will be is not a fixed concept.

One might even note that while knowledge of the day of one’s death is useful for planning other things (such as when to write one’s will, whether to invest in a long-term investment, or the like), having an exhaustive knowledge of the future doesn’t seem to have any particular use from a planning purpose.

From a Molinist standpoint, this result is somewhat paradoxical. Knowledge of the actual future doesn’t help one to plan – more importantly it doesn’t even help God to plan. Molinists try to avoid the idea that God causes the actual future to be the actual future, but they cannot escape the fact that God has exhaustive knowledge of the actual future.

Calvinism has a ready explanation for this difficulty. God’s exhaustive knowledge of the actual future is logically the consequence of God’s decision. That is to say, God knows what the actual future is, because he planned it to be that way. The exhaustive knowledge of the actual future is as useless for God’s planning purposes as it would be for us. Nevertheless, this is not problematic because the actual future is logically the result of God’s plan, not the premise of God’s plan.

Molinism relies on this same explanation, but attempts to evade the impact of God’s deciding what the future will be, by asserting that God has a special category of knowledge known as “middle knowledge.” The basic premise of middle knowledge is that God knows what a particular person would do in a particular situation, prior to God’s decision as to what the future will be.

In other posts we have discussed (for example, here) and will discuss how “middle knowledge” is not only an unbiblical concept, but also an incoherent philosophical concept. Suffice to say, however, for the purposes of this article, that whether “middle knowledge” is correct, Molinism does not and cannot escape the “Average Joe” concept of fatalism, since now – after the decree – God has an exhaustive knowledge of the future.

Molinism (like Calvinism) does not permit type 1 seers, and consequently movies like Twilight should be recognized as portraying a mistaken (albeit) popular view of “free will” in contrast either to LFW of Molinism or the simple Calvinistic model of free will.


More Batting About On the Blind Quest to Besmirch "Protestantism"

November 27, 2008

Bellisario, not the biggest fan of rap music (as discussed previously), has decided to try to remedy his previous deficient selection of a rap music video. He now claims,

When I posted my last blog article on bad Sacred Music I had several Protestants try and [sic] tell me that it was never used in Church, but that it was just for entertainment. Well here it is being used by two clowns in a Protestant “church”. I guess they think it is edifying to have people watch them act like two fools in a “church” with bad music playing. The one below has a guy rapping in a “church” service.

(source) Let’s examine these statements.

1) The criticism to which Bellisario is referring is the criticism that the rap music video he posted was entertainment, not worship. Neither of the two videos that Bellisario has now posted are worship either. Both are for entertainment rather than worship. So, unfortunately, Bellisario hasn’t found a solution to his problem.

2) Yes, both videos are taken from within a Baptist (or at least it appears to be Baptist) church sanctuary. However, neither is during a worship service. What Bellisario may not realize is that many folks don’t view the interiors of church buildings as though they possessed some special aura of spirituality, such that they can never be used for anything but worship. One wonders whether Bellisario would think that even Catholicism was so rigid.

3) Bellisario’s claim with regard to the second video in his post just isn’t even true, as he would have discovered if he had taken the 30 seconds necessary to check out the information associated with the video, which explains that the performance was during an annual Thanksgiving talent show. Likewise, the first video’s information also indicates that it is from a non-worship service, namely the end of a kids’ summer camp.

4) Given Bellisario’s apparent view that rap music is such a degradation, one wonders whether Bellisario has bothered to note that rap music is not the exclusive domain of non-papists. Upon whom will Bellisario blame the following video, and to what will Bellisario attributes its degradation from that ultimate expression of musical genius, the Gregorian chant?

5) If Bellisario searched long enough he could probably find someone who had decided to incorporate a rap performance into a church service. In my view, that would be a travesty indeed – there is no place for performance in the middle of worship service. It would indeed be a degradation of worship, not because rap is such an inferior kind of music, but because God has not asked to be worshiped through performance art. On the other hand, given the lunacy one sees among the “Call to Action” types (and the like – do I even need to post the videos?) within Catholicism, I wouldn’t be surprised if some folks who are still part of the Roman communion have done the same thing.


Latria/Dulia Debate – Technical Problems

November 22, 2008

Apparently, Mr. Albrecht had some serious Internet connection difficulties that precluded the scheduled debate from occurring, although I waited 3 hours from the time he had picked out. If he is still interested in debating, we could try again in two weeks, once he has had time to address the technical issues involved.

Latria/Dulia Debate – Update

November 21, 2008

So, the debate is a go. The resolution is as shown below:

Resolved: That Dulia and Proskuneo can be used in a Religious context without being worship.

Since Albrecht is Affirmative, he has the burden of proof and consequently gets to speak first and last. The time limits will be as follows:

1AC (first Affirmative Constructive) – 7 minutes
Cross Ex of the Aff by the Neg – 3 minutes
1NC (first Negative Constructive) – 8 minutes
Cross Ex of the Neg by the Aff – 3 minutes
1AR (first Affirmative Rebuttal) – 4 minutes
NR (Negative Rebuttal) – 7 minutes
2AR (second Affirmative Rebuttal) – 4 minutes

Plus four minutes of “prep-time” per side that can be used after cross-examination or before any rebuttal.

Please pray that God would use the debate for the edification of many,


Blind Elitism

November 21, 2008

My first thought at reading this post by the papist Matthew Bellisario at The Catholic Champion (link to post), was “Elitism, alive and kicking in a church with a monarchical episcopate. Who would have guessed?”

It’s not simply a matter of Euro-centric elitism at play in Bellisario’s obvious preference for Gregorian chanting over Gangsta rap. It’s blindness on several levels.

First, Bellisario seems to be blind to the transformation of music for worship into music for entertainment. Gregorian chanting was developed as a musical style during the medieval period primarily as part of worship. Although today some people listen to Gregorian chanting for entertainment, this was not its original or primary purpose. While Bellisario levels the accusation of “degradation” one might argue that taking “sacred music” and putting it to common use is itself a “degradation.” To aid in seeing how this works, imagine someone using a large crucifix as a coat rack, or an icon of the Virgin Mary as a doormat. If the Gregorian chant is “sacred” (as Bellisario seems to claim) then surely this conversion of sacred to common is degrading to the thing considered sacred in Catholicism.

While I personally share Bellisario’s musical taste (I think Gregorian chanting is much more euphonic than Gangsta rap), Bellisario is (in the second place) blind to the fact that the Gangsta rap piece is not intended for worship. I would agree that the need for reverence in public worship would seem to preclude the Gangsta rap category. Furthermore, the absence of Scriptural warrant for instruments in New Testament worship would encourage the use of musical styles like the Gregorian chant, that do not require instrumental accompaniment. Nevertheless, the Gangsta rap piece does not appear to be intended for worship, but for recreation. It happens to relate to religious themes, but it is not a worship song.

Third, even if the rap piece were a worship song, the two musical styles are about equally unsuitable for congregational singing. While there are some who could probably follow each of the respective styles, most people would have a lot of trouble joining in either song. Accordingly, for the purposes of public worship, neither would be particular suitable in this day and age. Bellisario seems to be blind to this similarity in unsingability.

A fourth area of blindness on Bellisario’s part is his failure to consider the communicative aspect of religious song. The Gregorian chant may soothe one’s headache or put one to sleep, but it does not edify. This particular chant appears to be in Latin (though the pronunciation of the consonants is so indistinct that it is hard to be sure). If people cannot understand what is being said, they are not edified. In contrast, the rap piece mostly uses enunciated English words (albeit using a certain amount of street slang and an accent that may be challenging for some listeners). Between the two, the message of the rap piece is more clear.

Fifth, Bellisario is blind to the fact that the Gregorian chant itself is a departure from tradition – and has been departed from in Catholicism. Like so much else in Catholicism, the Gregorian chant has its origins in the middle ages. The legend that Gregory himself invented the style is almost certainly false, but it developed not too long after his bishopric. Furthermore, the unaccompanied singing that had marked Christian worship for a long time before the advent of organs and the like instrumental worship became popular. As late as the 13th century, Aquinas himself noted that the church had no musical instruments and defended that practice.

Finally, the sixth aspect of blindness here is the failure to appreciate that the rapper in the rap video is starting from “secular” gangsta rap and Christianizing it. He’s not trying to provide a degradation of European musical styles, but an improvement on the urban black music style. Do I fully approve of Christianized gangsta rap? No. I don’t. The music still seems violent to me, even with Christian lyrics and message, perhaps simply because of the connotations of the genre.

While certain parts of Romanism are happy to lock up the Word of God in the Latin tongue, parts of “Protestantism” (whatever that may be) are shining forth the light of God into the streets. There will always be those who mock us for taking the Word of God to the poor, of putting the Word of God in the common tongue, and who wish to see that light extinguished. Though the Gregorian piece’s title translates to “And light in darkness,” it is the rap piece that actually is an example of the light of God’s word shining forth in the darkness of the Gangsta rap genre.


N.B. Yes, I am aware that Rome has, in another departure from tradition, stopped requiring the Latin mass and then indicated that it had never turned its back on (ha) the Latin mass. Also, I am aware that “Gangsta rap” has particular significance in the rap world. I may be using the term wrong as an outsider. Combox comments identifying the correct species of rap are welcome.

Not Because of Sola Scriptura

November 20, 2008

This ultra-traditional (not a technical term) sect of Catholicism is effectively its own denomination (link). They would claim, I believe, to be “Catholic” and they claim that the real pope is locked up in a Vatican dungeon, so they cannot really be called Sedavacantists.

The folks out there who have been trying to wield the “Sola Scriptura causes disunity” claim have trouble dealing with this kind of data. Rationally, though, if cultic groups of this sort can crop up without any reference to Sola Scriptura, why besides blatant exercise of the post hoc ergo propter hoc fallacy would one blame the large number of denominations on Sola Scriptura? To put it a different way, don’t groups like this demonstrate that people tend to form their own groups regardless of Sola Scriptura?


All the Gods of the Nations are Dumb Idols

November 20, 2008

In response to my earlier post on how Catholicism claims to worship the same god as the Muslims (link to my post), Dozie wrote:

Before pontificating about the differences and similarities between your god and the God of Islam, you may want to inform us how may Gods there are. If in deed there is only one God, then you have no choice between the God they worship and the one you worship.

There is only one God and some who purpose to worship do so in truth and others in error or rebellion. Catholics would throw Protestants in the last category since they purposefully reject the true worship – the Mass, as Catholics would put it. For this purpose, a Catholic who attends your form of worship for some reason on a Sunday would be obligated to find a Catholic Church and attend proper worship. So, I think you need to worry whether or not you worship the same God with Catholics before worrying about who else worships the same God with Catholics.

(all errors in original)

The “pontificating” line is a bit amusing coming from a papist. Also interesting is the fact that Dozie uses a lowercase “g” for my God, whereas Dozie uses an uppercase “G” for Islam’s god. Poor Dozie seems to have lots of things backwards and confused, perhaps at least in part because of Dozie’s attempt to make rational sense of the popes’ position set forth in my previous article (linked above).

To answer the question, “How many Gods are there?” I reply: There is but one only, the Living and True God.

Dozie’s claim, “If in deed [sic] there is only one God, then you have no choice between the God they worship and the one you worship.” Actually, though, the Muslims worship something that is not god – a fictional deity. It is Jesus who created the Heavens and the Earth, but the Muslims deny that Jesus is God, claiming that Jesus is merely a prophet of their god. Their fictional god forgives sin arbitrarily and without satisfaction. He’s a fiction that is drawn, like so many false gods, with some elements of the truth. The true God is the God of Abraham, but Abraham worships Jesus. The true God is He who created the world, but Jesus is He by whom all things were made and without Him was not anything made that was made. Yes, there is a difference between the True God, whom we worship, and the god portrayed in the Koran and Hadith literature.

Furthermore, Scripture addresses this issue. Though there are many gods that are called gods, to us there is but one God:

1 Corinthians 8:5-6
5For though there be that are called gods, whether in heaven or in earth, (as there be gods many, and lords many,) 6But to us there is but one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we in him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we by him.

Dozie’s claim, “There is only one God and some who purpose to worship do so in truth and others in error or rebellion.” This is an interesting claim. It is easily shown to be false. There are some who explicitly worship Satan. Will Dozie claim that those people are actually worshiping God as well? I would assume Dozie would not engage in such blasphemy.

Furthermore, recall the rebuke Jesus had for the Samaritan woman:

John 4:22 Ye worship ye know not what: we know what we worship: for salvation is of the Jews.

Recall as well what else Jesus told this woman that undermines Dozie’s claims:

John 4:23 But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him.

You see, those who do not worship the Father in spirit and truth are not true worshippers of God. As Jesus continued:

John 4:24 God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must [Greek: δει] worship him in spirit and in truth.

The only way to worship God is in spirit and in truth. What then do the heathen nations worship? They worship false gods, as distinct from the true God. The prophet Zephaniah noted this contrast:

Zephaniah 2:11 The LORD will be terrible unto them: for he will famish all the gods of the earth; and men shall worship him, every one from his place, even all the isles of the heathen.

Indeed, as noted in the subject line of this post, all the gods of the nations are non-entities. There is nothing behind their idols:

1 Chronicles 16:26 For all the gods of the people are idols: but the LORD made the heavens.

Psalm 96:5 For all the gods of the nations are idols: but the LORD made the heavens.

And the Psalms likewise contrast the worship of idols and the worship of God:

Psalm 97:7 Confounded be all they that serve graven images, that boast themselves of idols: worship him, all ye gods.

Likewise, Paul makes the same contrast:

1 Thessalonians 1:9 For they themselves shew of us what manner of entering in we had unto you, and how ye turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God;

Contrary to Rome’s super-ecumenical expressions, the Apostle Paul also declares:

2 Corinthians 6:16 And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.

When the Muslim prays to the “Allah” of the Koran, he is not praying to the LORD of the Bible – at least for the obvious reason that the “Allah” of the Koran is not Jesus.

Dozie’s comments about the practices of those in communion with Rome (“Catholics would throw Protestants in the last category since they purposefully reject the true worship – the Mass, as Catholics would put it. For this purpose, a Catholic who attends your form of worship for some reason on a Sunday would be obligated to find a Catholic Church and attend proper worship.”) are not particularly relevant. We do reject “the Mass” as idolatry, but that’s not especially germane to the topic at hand.

Likewise, Dozie’s assertion, “So, I think you need to worry whether or not you worship the same God with Catholics before worrying about who else worships the same God with Catholics,” badly misses the point. Actually, what I am worried about is making sure I worship the God of the Bible. The God who inspired the Apostle John to write, “Whosoever denieth the Son, the same hath not the Father” (1 John 2:23).

Likewise it is written:
2 John 9 Whosoever transgresseth, and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God. He that abideth in the doctrine of Christ, he hath both the Father and the Son.

The Muslims who do not abide in the doctrine of Christ do not have God. They may use the Arabic word for God, but they do not know the one true God. This in contrast to us:

1 John 5:20 And we know that the Son of God is come, and hath given us an understanding, that we may know him that is true, and we are in him that is true, even in his Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God, and eternal life.

The Mass and the other worship of Catholicism (such as the veneration of saints and relics, prayers to and for the dead, and the worshiping of God by images) is not acceptable in the sight of God for it is not the worship ordained by His holy Word. Catholicism properly recognizes God to be the Trinity, but does not submit itself to the Word of God, to conform its doctrines and practices according to that higher standard. That’s something that should seriously concern Dozie.


Debate Challenge Received

November 19, 2008

William Albrecht (aka GNRHead) has issued a “live cellphone debate” challenge. Specifically, he states that “Once again this blogger is dead wrong. Before my video series or 20 page paper dealing with a study of the Greek and the relevant Biblical terms comes out, I will challenge this blogger to a live cellphone debate on these very terms. We will see if he can handle the Greek terminology. This is an open challenge to this individual to message me and we will debate these terms, on my cellphone and I will record it and then we’ll come back and let the people judge for themselves our conversation here in Youtube.”

I would be happy to take him up on the challenge.

Obviously, for this to be a debate, there would have to be rules:

A resolution, so that the debaters will stick to a topic;

Time limits, so that one side does not dominate the other by simply hogging all the time;

Cross-Examination, so that each side gets a chance to ask relevant questions of the other side; and

A moderator, to make sure that the rules are followed.

If Albrecht is still interested, he can easily contact me either by leaving a comment in this comment box or sending me an email (my email address is available via my Blogger profile).


Evangelical Parents – Could This Be Your Child?

November 19, 2008

I was disturbed to read this article (link) about a young lady who is, in her words “Exploring Catholicism all on my own.” Although the young lady claims, toward the end of the article, “I’d never become one of you Catholics, though,” still one notes that the young lady doesn’t appreciate the true problems with Catholicism and has horrible reasons for not joining that communion.

Consider her reasons: “Your faith is still far too exclusive overall for my taste. You seem to condemn too many actions, and my opinions don’t really match the church’s on issues like birth control, abortion, stem-cell research and even the transfiguration of the bread and wine.”

Even leaving aside that this young lady has used “transfiguration” in place of the word “transubstantiation,” the reasons are terrible.

a) “Your faith is far too exclusive”
Any true religion is going to be exclusive. It must needs be. There are valid criticisms of Catholicism, but this is not one of them. In fact, if anything, Catholicism is much too inclusive (as demonstrated here), not much too exclusive.

b) “for my taste”
There is no room for “taste” in religion. One’s religion must be based on the truth. There is a valid reason to reject Catholicism, and that is its lack of agreement with Scriptures, not its contradiction of one’s taste. Tastes change: the truth does not.

c) “You seem to condemn too many actions”
It may be that in some areas Catholicism condemns “too many actions,” but this young lady hasn’t provide an epistemological basis upon which to render that judgment. The way to determine whether Catholicism condemns too many actions is Scripture. Once Scripture is brought in, it may be discovered that while Catholicism condemns too many actions in one area, it permits too many actions in another area. One senses (although the young lady is not explicit here), that the young lady would like to see a church that doesn’t impose very many rules on her.

d) “my opinions don’t really match the church’s”
Again, this standard is an invalid standard. It doesn’t really matter what one’s opinion is. What matters is what the truth is. The way we have access to the truth is through the Scriptures, not through our gut feelings about things.

e) “on issues like birth control, abortion, stem-cell research and even the transfiguration of the bread and wine”
With respect to the first three issues, I think it is fair to state that the young lady’s objections are not principled objections. For example, while Catholicism may be wrong in generally condemning all forms of artificial birth control, Catholicism is right in identifying the intentional taking of the life of an unborn child as homicide. Since the young lady has not even found the correct word to describe the Romanist view of what happens at the consecration of the “host,” it stands to reason that the young lady cannot provide a valid rebuttal for the “physical transformation” error associated with the Romish doctrine of transubstantiation.

Here’s my question to Evangelical parents out there. Could this be your child? Is your child unaware of why he believes what he believes? Would your child willingly attend a “Mass” and report back that he “really enjoy[s] Mass”? Have you explained to your child, before sending him off to college, the fundamental principle of Sola Scriptura? Or have you left your child with relativist values that leave your child having as his strongest argument against other religions as being that they don’t match his opinion or fit his taste? Is your child grounded in the concept of Absolute Truth?


A Second Testimony to the Obvious

November 19, 2008

Further to my previous post (link) Thomas Twitchell at A Rose by Any Other Name has provided a similar essay demonstrating that Dr. White is not a Hyper-Calvinist.


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