Framing Our Understanding of Grace and Sin to Favor an Expression of Freedom

The whole New Testament throws out to us the concepts of sin and grace as though we understand properly what they mean. However, we quickly fall into uncertainty. There is a particular uncertainty about what happens when someone who believes falls into a sin. This burden has grown so heavy on me lately, actually, that I am convinced I practically forgot what it is to be forgiven. What it is to understand that true grace is not contingent on our future works is really eternal life.

Now the argument that one should not “sin” after receiving grace is by no means unclear in Scripture. I never had any problem with all of this until the day when I began to become aware that not all Lutherans see things the same way. I mean the quest to belong to the right faction of Lutheranism is quite a distraction from the reality that we are sinners. So I became more concerned with the work of doing church correctly.

Yet, the guilty conscience in me thought too much that it meant I needed to not commit sins after becoming Christian. Then, of course, I became frustrated at my seeming ineptitude in Christianity, because of the multitude of sins about which I could not help being conscious. And the more I struggled to rebuke myself and correct my behavior, the more miserably I failed.

Now I realize how far I have fallen from the days when it was sufficient for me to simply reflect on the grace of God. Now the grace of God is not enough. You have to be more something. Not enough is not enough. We need enough, or sufficiency in the grace of God. If we have a grace of God which is not enough, then we have no grace and are still lost in transgressions.

Now this is how I reflect on the teaching that one should not sin. Here is how I study those teachings. The real thrust behind that teaching, I say, is that one should not hear about the grace of God and then think, cleverly, “well, this religion stuff is obviously insignificant, because it provides a way out of itself.” In other words, a religion of works, in which we are found sinners, gives way to a religion of grace, but a “sinner” at this stage is not one who “sins” but one who thinks that being freed from sin is nothing remarkable whatsoever. Such a person is criticized in the New Testament and assured that God’s punishment is so real as to certainly condemn him to perdition.

From this we can focus on the grace of God as not expecting a certain result from us. It is faith, not the effect of good deeds, which preaching sees as its goal. Of what use is a good work committed by us? If we do it as a legalist, it is nothing but pride. If we do it as desperate to produce something, then we are doubting and in despair. There is no point in seeking for good deeds apart from faith.

For this reason, we can indeed say that good deeds ought to be done, but not in such a way that we imply that unless good deeds follow your faith, it is not genuine. Here I must seem to bump into the hard boundary of St. James. Well, let us take up the idea that a living faith produces good deeds. Does it say, then, that a living faith does not sin? No, in that context it does not seem pre-occupied with “sinning”. For it does, indeed, speak about good deeds, “But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing.”

I will not make the case “St. James is just preaching law.” Instead I want to say that all such commands are first and foremost contingent on liberty. Liberty precedes good deeds. If you don’t have freedom from sin, how can you do anything good? Out of slavery?

So break down the walls of this nasty Jericho. If you are intent on seeking an effect, if your faith is an enslaved faith that seeks works in slavery, then I must confess my opposition. What good will you do with your slavery? Nothing but to enslave others. “It is for freedom that Christ has set you free.”

So when St. James speaks against dead faith, he is doing nothing other than criticizing the absolute hypocrite. I spoke about such a person before when I heard that one say that he thought faith was just a polite convention of conversation. Such people, despite the seriousness of sin, are really out there and they are concerned too much with their appearance rather than concerning themselves with the reality.

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Another Reason Why Syncretism Is So Confusing Now

One of my favorite books that I have picked up in the last year is a little treatise by Quenstedt on the Church. If it becomes feasible, I think I would like to get my Latin in better gear if only for the sole purpose of properly digesting Quenstedt. I found this little proposition amongst his writing.

 

Thesis XX: The one purpose of gathering and preserving the church is the highest, the other is subordinate. The highest is the glory of God, Eph. 1:11-12; the subordinate the conversion and eternal salvation of people, 1 Ptr. 2:6; 5:10.

 

In short, I was taken aback by this quote and left a little aghast and full of wonder that anything could be more important than what we humans do, think, or feel. But nevertheless, the point is rather obvious: worship is not determined by the mental intention or construction of the worshiper. Hence, the outward act of worship is not mediated by the intention to witness. Job says, “Will a man lie for God?” Now if worship is most highly for the glory of God, then it is not primarily for the emotional comfort of victims, etc. And indeed, the subjectivity which totally removes outward confession from worship is not the true faith. Nor, for that matter, is it true faith when one does not genuinely believe that which one outwardly shows. Yet if worship is perceived to be not so much about man and his interests but about God and his interests, then it becomes clear that the principles which ought to govern our practice do not stem from human need but divine truth.

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One and Many in Scripture

The first time I began to pay attention to the dialectic of the one and the many was when I read Plato’s Parmenides, which both amused and dizzied me, and then I began to see a similar dialectic at work in Scripture. The words of Parmenides need not be dwelt on at length, but I think the topic has a lot to do with how one predicates one (predicate) onto something particular (that is, something chosen from the manifold). To the end of giving a taste of this, here are a few brief selections:

 

[Parmenides replied] You will not despise any of these objects then, but at present your youth makes you still pay attention to what the world will think. However that may be, tell me this. You say you hold that there exist certain forms, of which these other things come to partake and so to be called after their names; by coming to partake of likeness or largeness or beauty or justice, they become like or large or beautiful or just?

Certainly, said Socrates.

Then each thing that partakes receives as its share either the form as a whole or a part of it? Or can there by any other way of partaking besides this?

No, how could there by?

Do you hold, then, that the form as a whole, a single thing, is in each of the many, or how?

Why should it not be in each, Parmenides?

If so, a form which is one and the same will be at the same time as a whole, in a number of things which are separate, and consequently will be separate from itself.

 

Okay, so here is a straightforward statement of the problem. If a platonic form is in a thing, which is separate, then it must be separate from itself. Thus things proceed. I will just throw this in and then move on to Scripture:

Well, take smallness. Is one of us to have a portion of smallness, and is smallness to be larger than that portion, which is a part of it? On this supposition again smallness itself will be larger, and anything to which the portion taken is added will be smaller, and not larger than it was before.

That cannot be so.

Well then, Socrates, how are the other things going to partake of your forms, if they can partake of them neither in part nor as wholes?

 

Here is becomes apparent that the true purpose of philosophy is to challenge the expression, sympathies, and execution of all human thought. But it is suitable to lose focus on this point to take stock of the Scriptural record.

 

Ecclesiastes 5:7 says: “For when dreams increase and words grow many, there is vanity; but God is the one you must fear.”

Isaiah 31:1 says: “Woe to those who go down to Egypt for help and rely on horses, who trust in chariots because they are many and in horsemen because they are very strong, but do not look to the Holy One of Israel or consult the Lord!”

Isaiah 53:11: “Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied; by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant, make many to be accounted righteous, and he shall bear their iniquities.”

 

Here I must confess that I have not pursued an inquiry into whether the Hebrew word that means “one” is used or whether it simply translates the adjective substantively as “righteous one” rather than simply “righteous”. It is not entirely decisive, because the usage of the term “one” would not necessarily determine whether the rhetoric deals with this dialectic. Of course, the dialectic itself may seem purely philosophical, but I would rather bear out the testimony of Scripture before buying in to that explanation.

 

Psalm 32:10: “Many are the sorrows of the wicked, but steadfast love surrounds the one who trusts in the Lord.”

Matthew 24:9-11: “Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and put you to death, and you will be hated by all nations for my name’s sake. And then many will fall away and betray one another and hate one another. And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray.”

Romans 5:15-16: “But the free gift is not like the trespass. For if many died through one man’s trespass, much more have the grace of God and the free gift by the grace of that one man Jesus Christ abounded for many. And the free gift is not like the result of that one man’s sin. For the judgment following one trespass brought condemnation, but the free gift following many trespasses brought justification.”

And 18-21: “Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men. For as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous. Now the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more,so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”

And 12:4-8: “For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function,so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith;if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching;the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness.”

1 Corinthians 10:1-5: “For I do not want you to be unaware, brothers, that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea,and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, and all ate the same spiritual food, and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank from the spiritual Rock that followed them, and the Rock was Christ. Nevertheless, with most of them God was not pleased, for they were overthrown in the wilderness.”

And now at length I cite 1 Corinthians 10:6-22: “Now these things took place as examples for us, that we might not desire evil as they did. 7 Do not be idolaters as some of them were; as it is written, “The people sat down to eat and drink and rose up to play.” 8 We must not indulge in sexual immorality as some of them did, and twenty-three thousand fell in a single day. 9 We must not put Christ to the test, as some of them did and were destroyed by serpents, 10 nor grumble, as some of them did and were destroyed by the Destroyer. 11 Now these things happened to them as an example, but they were written down for our instruction, on whom the end of the ages has come. 12 Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall. 13 No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.

14 Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry. 15 I speak as to sensible people; judge for yourselves what I say. 16 The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ? 17 Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread. 18 Consider the people of Israel: are not those who eat the sacrifices participants in the altar? 19 What do I imply then? That food offered to idols is anything, or that an idol is anything? 20 No, I imply that what pagans sacrifice they offer to demons and not to God. I do not want you to be participants with demons. 21 You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons. You cannot partake of the table of the Lord and the table of demons. 22 Shall we provoke the Lord to jealousy? Are we stronger than he?

 

There is a lot to dwell upon here, but in a few more I will be done…

1 Corinthians 10 (again), verse 31: “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.”

Galatians 3:16-17: “Now the promises were made to Abraham and to his offspring. It does not say, “And to offsprings,” referring to many, but referring to one, “And to your offspring,” who is Christ. This is what I mean: the law, which came 430 years afterward, does not annul a covenant previously ratified by God, so as to make the promise void.”

Ephesians 4:1-7: “I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, 2 with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, 3 eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. 4 There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call— 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6 one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. 7 But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift.”

Genesis 1:9: “And God said, ‘Let the waters under the heavens be gathered together into one place, and let the dry land appear.’ And it was so.”

John 1:3: “All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.”

Deuteronomy 6:4-5: “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.”

 

In presenting this list, it has not been my purpose to be exhaustive, but to be demonstrative of the number of options available to explore. The citations from St. Paul seem, of all the discussions, the most thoroughly related to the overall theme. In discussing a “one” we different aspects to mind than in discussing a many. But I think it is essential to sense the connection to idolatry. Especially in the Lord’s Supper, we must not foolishly suppose that there is no reason St. Paul connects the discussion in 1 Cor 10 so tightly to the past.

Lack of consciousness about the “one” corresponds to a sexual immoral approach to your own oneness. I think it is important to note that it says, they ate and drank Christ, and yet with most of them, God was not pleased. Why? God is attracted to the specialization by which the one body is made of many members. Nothing would displease him more than a cohesive unity formed by everyone by non-distinctly identical. Yet, there is one Lord, as Ephesians 4 discusses. The value of the many is found in the one. We need to diligently reflect, therefore, that the value of our unity exists in the one thing in which we are truly united, rather than in the copulative or conjunctive power of our togetherness as functional entities. The constructive force of the members is, in this sense, less than the whole.

Aristotle too, therefore, discusses the whole and the sum of the parts, and he comes to the familiarized conclusion about this matter. It also connects loosely to another dialectic: being and becoming. Harnack says of Neoplatonism that the original essence is the “one” as opposed to the many. In other ways, of course, one can trace the importance of this little vein. It is worth seeing, however, that it is not merely an obscure Platonic reference that I am forcing onto the text. It is a wholly constant issue in ancient philosophy that cannot fail to catch our notice when we pay attention to Scripture.

Just as Socrates wanted to discover forms in the particular, so that a chair is a matter that exists and participates in the form “chair”, we too contemplate the idea that Christ is in us without in any way be lessened in himself or dependent and contingent upon us. This is against the over-rationalizing of Zwingli and those who constructed foul arguments to oppose the sound teaching of Christ’s presence in the Supper. Even from Parmenides alone they can be shown to be fraudulently simple-minded. But that Scripture elevates this discussion and uses it in a truly profound way should not utterly escape our notice.

There is also, of course, an innate relation to the doctrine of choice when one invokes such a simple mathematical concept as one and many. The one is selective and arbitrary with respect to the many. Hence, we can say that the Bible doesn’t speak directly from the angle of choice with much regularity. And though it does at times speak about this, it really present a well-rounded discussion. The problem is that we are so lazy and indifferent to thought and so content with the momentum of our practice, that we make no effort to regulate our minds and rather satisfy ourselves with a regulation of our concrete executions. But perhaps the day will come again when we will recognize the value of thought on the Word of God.

 

 

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Against Kantian Transcendentalism and Yet Pro-Ministerial Reason

It is obvious to almost everyone that the empirical doctrines of science had much to do with expansion of knowledge. But while modern philosophy has always embraced this, the chief instigator of modern philosophy is always assumed to be Descartes. And he engaged in such blatant subjectivizing speculation about the reality of the universe around him that he set a standard for introspection for several centuries after him. Descartes did not do much to buoy empiricism so much as begin the soul-searching process of rational doubt, but empiricism was clearly the subject of many philosophers, such as Bacon, who were plainly interested in the advancement of human learning and activity. Yet the questions of morality in philosophy never fail to emerge, and no amount of transition in epistemology would ever eradicate a survey of moral implications. At this crossroads of skepticism concerning empirical reason, dangerous concern for morality, and exploration of the implications of empirical reality, Kant stands ready to answer all our questions. Primarily on the basis of transcendental logic, Kant has sought to supply a critical basis for reason’s tasks.

 

As Christians, I suppose there are basically three kinds of responses to philosophers. The first is outright rejection. This has the purpose of protecting theology from the influence of philosophy. The problem with this way of thinking is quite clear. It doesn’t actually seem to work. And merely outwardly rejecting philosophy does not “win” the ideological battle for minds. If it were so simple that I could subjectively refuse something and determine events on that power, then discourse and words would have no power whatsoever. The second kind of response, I will distinguish as a kind of hybrid policy. It treats certain philosophies as very bad and deleterious, and rejects them in much the manner of the first way: as intrinsically bad. But it is willing to explore certain philosophies that do not actually flagrantly violate scruples. Furthermore, it is willing to distinguish between philosophical subjects so that something can be strong in one area and weak in another, allowing you to pick and choose line items from the thinker’s overall structure. The third approach, and the one that I seek, is to fully bear (in one sense), fully encounter, and yet (in another sense) fully reject the entire weight of philosophy. Philosophy is not unlike the world itself, fully useful, sensory, and useless. What I mean to arrive at, therefore, is a fully ministerial concept of reason and philosophy, or the construction of a philosophy with service as its purpose. This differs quite radically from the construction of philosophy that aims at mastery or freedom, for these two objects undertake to form a philosophy that suits their purpose. But the same subjects grasped by them must be fully addressed and yet so that the end is not our mastery or freedom (which ultimately comes only in the Word) but rather our servitude and inability, which expresses itself most fully in the contradictions and limitations of reason.

 

Now that we have set forth the historical matter that concerns us along with the practical concerns that guide us, I want to comprehend more fully the idea of empiricism as it pertains to the other concern, service. For reason to be used ministerially means nothing further than that it is service. And service is the use of reason on behalf of someone else, although this is not its sole suggestion or definition. Service aims to accomplish something unworthy and without merit, and reason generates a will to act. That action which we perform for another on the basis of reason is rightly said, therefore, to be service, unless, of course, we are using our reason magisterially. In this sense, we use reason to free ourselves or on account of thinking ourseles masters. We therefore use reason to lord it over others and magisterially imply that they ought to follow our lead. Yet it cannot be claimed that because there is this false and usurping use of reason, that the true use of reason in service is bad. Nor can it be claimed that because true service is a good thing, we should not take time to examine the dangers of thinking ourselves masters.

 

This limitation affects all our works so that we can never think or speak about our works of service as anything other than rationally-motivated service, which must happen–if at all–with all the limitations not only of our senses, talents, and performance, but also of logical reason. Consequently, Christian service as a human being means nothing more than being a limited creature using partial faculties in a way that only makes sense to us insofar as it can be rationalized. (I do not know how angels think about their service, and I can only speak about God insofar as he has revealed himself.) I say, therefore, of heaven that when the Scriptures say that Christ will be their light and they will need no sun or temple, this teaches us that our thoughts will be primed to true mastery and our service will, in fact, be meritorious in that glorified condition, the praise and glory of our God. For now, however, I can only judge about the usefulness of a thing by means of the limited conspectus of human reason. If I must make a pizza according to the needs of a customer, I use reason to provide them with that pizza. Yet, it is service to God our maker who has given us a mind and body with which to conduct works. But I have used reason, not faith, to order the food product, hire workers, market a product, arrange a workspace, instruct employees, purchase services, contract a business, and take an order. In the same way, every human profession entails a use of reason to serve others. If there were no person, no customer, that is, who took any interest in the pizza, then my reason for making pizzas would cease. For reason provided the entire motivation for the service that consisted of rational work. On these grounds, I wish to placate and ameliorate our position to those whose practical minds have carried them away from Christ and yet at the same time firmly note that while this is an integral use of reason and pragmatically important, it is not on that account firm or valid so much as demanding and servicable. Hence, we must explore how this reason functions subjectively in order to properly digest the pizza-making process.

 

We could, of course, make ourselves radicals and declare against all use of reason. The problem with reason, we find, is that it is thought to obtain a sense of validity. At an axiomatic level, the validity of reason breaks down. When you get to undefined terms, you no longer have logical validity to undergird your propositions. You simply have an agreed upon disposition to explore certain concepts a certain practical way. Euclidean geometry is more practical than non-Euclidean, but the latter has applications as well. Which is valid? The limited notion of validity, therefore, differs from the wide and downhill notion of validity which expresses a “freedom” of inclination so long as one can validate it. Logic is not a tool for independence but for service. Otherwise, Solomon would have written something like “rely on your understanding.” Instead, we use our understanding, to be sure, yet in a servile and humble manner. And there is no inner faculty of the human mind which can liberate us from this “prison house” which is so deplored by the post-moderns. When we confess in the Third Article that we cannot by our reason or strength come to believe in Christ, we mean most implicitly that reason cannot free us.

 

So there are a good deal of objections to reason as master, but the idea of reason as servant is not without value to God. In the first place, if we look at the Genesis narrative of creation, man was put in the garden to serve it. This is the same word that crops us when God addresses Israel in the declaration of the Ten Commandments, when he most sternly says, I am the Lord your God who brought you out of Egypt, out of the house of servitude. So God created us for service, and yet, he brings us out of servitude. This is a duality to pay attention to, to say the least. Now how could Adam serve the garden? In the first place, he gave rational names to all the animals, and whatever he called them that was their name. Now, was there any creative merit in this? I think it is clear that God created the reality, and Adam the nominal ascription. The reality is real, and Adam’s excellence lies in that he knows that reality under the rubric of a term. This is how reason functions. Reason knows what God has created and serves the author of that creation through reason. It does not lay claim, thereby, to an unconcealed and bare knowledge of the creator.

 

For this reason, that I think true service is an act of a reasonable and gentle disposition to serve, I cannot get lost in intrigues about faith and works. It is really quite simple to me to see what many have noticed, that man is a rational animal. Yet, as rational, he is either using reason magisterially or ministerially. If the former, then faith is not real faith. If it is the former, then he is simply alloting rational space or rational probability to the concepts of veracity and faith. If, however, the latter, then reason can no longer do anything but serve with works. For as long as a human lives, his mind functions in some rational way, unless he has been completely deprived of his mind. Yet, if faith destroys the magisterial use of reason, it alone makes possible to ministerial use of reason. If faith tramples the authority of reason, it lifts up the benefit and value of reason. If faith lays hold of propositions in trust and without proof from reason, then it subjects reason to the tasks of advantages and benefits for others.

 

This confusion over faith and works is also, therefore, a confusion about reason and works. If one supposes that rationally approved works are meritorious before God, then the question of justification is no longer answered so clearly. Why should it be through faith, when it might be by works? Only when reason is fully deprived of its mastery can it be shown that no amount of rationalizing can justify us. Yet in this same light, the doctrine of Luther becomes clearest. Unfortunately, if one overcorrects and says: reason has no value or purpose, then you must also proceed to ask: how then can good works happen? Only in this limited sense in which reason serves a neighbor can good works happen, as rationally produced labors without merit.

 

Man, I have spent a lot of my life thinking about this… Where then shall we proceed? I meant to get to Kant and explore how his thinking treats reason as master. Yet even Kant, so completely subjected to the catechism as a pietistic youth cannot allow the notion of reason’s unrestricted use. And after all, neither could the skeptics allow the glorification of reason to pass without doubt. But the practical advantages of reason were so desirable and good that one hated anything other than the most enthusiastic appraisal of empiricism. The truth is that God has given us minds and capacities for the purpose of service.

 

As such we must see what it means to be an idolator and serve images, idols, and creatures rather than to serve the creator who is over all. This is, after all, the first commandment and the most germane to all service. It is this, that on the sensation of an image, idol, or creature rather than God we justify ourselves. This is a concept of rationalization whereby one’s self becomes rationally validated by sensory perception, subjective experience, or objective observation. None of these powers have created man, and none of them can sustain him. If we explore this principle, it can be seen how Kant’s devices fail us.

 

Kant decided that reason could know things in a certain sense, as phenomena, but not, in fact, as things in themselves, ding an sich, or noumena. From this phenomenal appraisal of the use of reason, carefully asserted through trancendental thinking, Kant led inadvertently to Hegel, whose logical criteria were essential to the development of existentialism, Marxism, and just about everything that can seem disturbingly wrong with the Western world. Because the phenomenal use of reason seemed to adequately address the skeptic’s concerns over empiricism, science has proceeded rather unbridled to deconstruct every theistic narrative of the universe. This is exactly the sort of magisterial use that must be forbidden. All such magisterial reason is a delusion.

 

There is an obvious failure in the idea of reason as master, and this failure comes to light in existentialism. If I could use reason to do whatever I wanted, then any proposition could be asserted and truth would become meaningless. This is precisely, in fact, how many view the subject. There is probably one philosopher, unfortunately, that I have to read more deeply on this subject, and that is, alas, Heidegger, because it is pretty clear to me how Sartre operates. For Sartre personal experience becomes a unique way of identifying reality. The tangle of reason, then, is that in its efforts to serve, it instead has a completely arbitrary choice. And its main purpose, then, is for the self to make a choice. But the self’s faculty of choosing, in reality, ought to be seen as an opportunity to use reason to make a choice that serves. This is a reflection, also, of Luther’s doctrine, for he taught that there was, indeed, an arbitrary service. And how is one to make decisions except through reasoning?

 

The balance of reason depends on philosophy. Reason cannot be detached from that field of enquiry which pertains most explictly to its function. Reason cannot be “scripturalized”. The best thing that can happen to reason is that it be bound, not liberated. This happens, as I said, not accidentally when the Word displaces reason, through faith, as the authority on which we depend. For this reason, I submit that in order to do true and ready service, we ought to exercise our minds in knowledge of God’s creation. This is a difficult thing when all of philosophy has been warped, as by a black hole, towards the absence of the divine. One cannot simply make use of a secular philosopher the way that a pizza created by a non-believer can still be a good thing to eat. One does not simply walk into Mordor.

 

Accordingly, I have not simply thrown Kant out here for consideration without much prefacing. But in the Critique of Pure Reason, Kant basically adjusts the mind to think of experience in two kinds of aspects. First, he treats of transcendental intuition, then secondly, transcendental understanding, and finally he uses transcendental logic to make assertions about experience based on these two. I am concerned with the logic he used, which generally seems flawed to me on the main basis that it asserts too much. It asserts as magister rather than minister.

 

This is the “experience” with which the secular mind cannot grasp. The secular mind cannot tolerate being a servant. It must needs rationalize some way by which to make itself master. The full expression of this is in oppression and exploitation. Yet to make oneself a servant, who can do that? Who has the power to cease being master in order to become a servant? Yet God does this. Christ becomes man. The incarnation sets a new tone, as fully realized when Christ takes the garb of servant and washes the disciples feet. Did Christ need to use his hands and a bit of water to wash feet? No, he could have used his divine powers to cause it. But he wanted to institute a policy of service in a way that would be memorable for all later times.

 

Because there is a clear use in service, I think that the Enlightenment period needs to be appraised with respect to the spin that gets put on reason. Someone might argue that reason inevitably leads to magisterial assertions. This evokes a lot of emotions about how bad rationalizations are. So be it. Deny that man ought to use his reason to do good deeds. But how then can a man count that he has two coats while his neighbor has none? How can he count without the use of reason? Without an axiomatic or ideal form of “coat” in his mind, has he any way of grasping that he has two of what his neighbor lacks? Can anyone even create a coat without the skill that God gives him? Yet, is this skill as reasonably conscious something which we ought to deprive a man of in order to make him more pious? Accordingly, the Enlightenment definitely errs, except in this regard: that the reason which is so deplorable as magisterial is absolutely necessary as minister. But we make a greater error if we treat God’s creation of human reason as something without which we can still be of service. For thought and will are intimately connected, and yet now it seems appropriate to advance the actual agenda.

 

As I said, Kant devotes his first section to Transcendental Intuition. Here he presents his doctrines of time and space as fields of sensory intuition. Here we have the basic skeptical concerns of the validity of empirical knowledge. We have to have a rigorous sentiment concerning sensation, because sensation is the primary quality attacked by skeptics. It seems so easy, after all, to delude impressions and sensations with masks and disguises. Thus, the rigorous exposition of time and space as subjective, a priori fields of intuition eludes and yet embraces the skeptical doubts.

 

In the next section, he handles the understanding. Here he speaks about the twelve categories of his transcendental thought. It is a very interesting position, but essentially it handles certain predicable characteristics as a priori formulated according to a necessary handle. I think it is interesting and useful work here. But I subject it to criticism on account of what follows it.

 

The notion of transcendental deduction depends on the dichotomy of the subjective and the objective. If there were not a strict delineation of the subjective and the objective, then the Kantian deduction would not make sense. But I have this to say about this easily accepted standard of division: Kant takes it for granted that human experience can be experienced as generated by a merely rational function without God. Indeed, he applies his effort to come up with logic that denies the existence of God. This is because, again, of a magisterial tone towards reason. When Kant does try to preserve ministerial sense, he does so by arguing of our limitations with respect to ding an sich, thing-in-itself. This, however, is idolatry. The thing in itself is not an unknowable mystery. After all, water is water, heat is heat, and pain is pain. To confuse this is to lead to madness. But without ding an sich, Kant cannot simply address his simultaneous desire for a ministerial sense for morality and a magisterial sense for empiricism. By saying that we can have no real knowledge of things, he alleviates the concern that reason is invalid. That is, the limitation is moot, because there is nothing further which ought to be performed for anyone. Here is a particular passage that shows the dichotomy that ignores God as creator:

 

There are only two possible cases in which synthetic representation and its objects can come together, necessarily relate to each other, and, as it were, meet each other: Either if the object alone makes the representation possible, or if the representation alone makes the object possible.

 

Here there is no concrete assertion of a deity. Now, because it is so far removed from the context of a discussion of God’s existence, and it seems to address the manner of consciousness rather than the manner of reality, I was delayed with contemplation on this dialectic. For the true Lutheran confession is that God is the maker of the world around me that I experience. It is not subject to lunacy, nor disinterested, nor short on curiosity. Synthetic representation, of course, refers to the mentally conjured image of a thing according to law and order we understand a priori in our minds, and the object, of course, alludes to the factually existent thing. Now the subtext proves to be that meritorious morality can only actually really deal with objects, but as Kant will later express, in the metaphysics for morality, his concern is that we act according to a subjective standard, by which we could wish that our action were a universal law. But for someone who believes that God is the author of his actual experience, that the divine Word knew these things prior to all things, then there is a reality in them that demands my actions. And yet I cannot, as a rationally limited creature, sufficiently rationalize my actions. Hence, Kant not wishing to support anything like the Gospel, reduces to the romance of subjective experience. Yet it is clear that such a move cannot support us in the last day. Only the grace of God can lift us up.

 

Thomas Aquinas, long ago, spoke of man as a rational animal, following Aristotle, and tried to explain sin using the dialectic that man is rational. Yet it is clear for us that we ought to be able to supply the good works God demands and reason ought to be able to perform good deeds. But this is impossible unless reason is serving. Reason is something we experience ourselves using. This is why the existentialists, on the one hand, sought to orchestrate it to validate themselves; and the Marxists, on the other hand, thought that on the basis of reason they could ignore subjective necessities and deal only in socially conceived terminologies. But Luther clearly teaches that sin is such a defect that it cannot perform anything good. Thus all human pride is dejected. Not only so that we might have a villain to deplore, but so that we might learn to think of reason as a servant.

 

I say all things of this sort, because I cannot give myself the satisfaction that I am in the right on the basis of my actions. I cannot suggest that my taking action makes me right. I cannot. That which I cannot do, I trust that Christ has done for me. I cannot attain to that glory, but he has and does attain to me. This then must be my doxological conclusion. Amen.

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Sexual Purity in a Gender-Confused Society

I don’t think it is possible for the church to take any other stand than a completely comprehensive stance against all of the combined implications of the sexually-liberated world. The world regards the libertine activities instincts want as unavoidable and interminably necessary. They justify the flesh. Hence, they theologically deny concupiscence and lose the important precursor to the true Gospel; what good is a savior when there is no sin? Is it any shocker, then, that the Christian chuch does not flourish at the same time as sexual immorality does flourish? If we think not, then we will have to answer an army of texts in the NT.

 

Gender is an important element of spiritual life not just because it is parcel to sexual fidelity, in that one may only marry the opposite gender, but also in that it is an essential part of the message of the Gospel in three ways, historically, sociologically, and symbolically. Historically speaking, there is a record of original sin and God’s promises in the arrangement of gender. Eve was deceived, became proud, and ate the fruit, then gave some to her husband. This is one of the main reasons why it is not given to a women to become preachers. Mary heard God’s promise and humbly bore the woman’s seed, our savior, and hence, sociologically, it is well for us if women are busy bearing and rearing children on this account–not just that it is a wonderful gift of God for which we should be thankful, but that it provides a constant stream of testimony to the fact that we were saved by a child borne by such a woman. This is, I say, an argument that it is fitting, not that it is necessary. Thirdly, marriage, in general, is symbolic of Christ’s love of the church. This is a great mystery. I do not think that human marriage is the essence which Christ came to redeem; rather, I think that Christ bore our flesh to redeem us from sin in general, not simply imperfect marriages. Thus, since it is not the reality Christ came to perfect, it is rather this, that marriage is a daily reminder of Christ’s love for the church. I also say it is “symbolical” in the theological sense. It is a kind of symbol of what one believes. Upon these three bases, most of the NT language about marriage can be explained.

 

As I mentioned, I do not side with those who romance that the brokenness of human marriage (empatically and specifically) is the main thing Christ came to fix, viz., by being the perfect husband for the church, as though what we needed was an ideal husband to enter the world. Mainly for two reasons. First, it doesn’t sound right and in reality seems speciously feministic, as pertaining to the inadequacies of average men. Second, why would the Scripture permit singleness? If human marriage is so important that Christ came and died primarily for it to be fulfilled as it ought to have been, then what kind of low-life infected bacteria are we if we allow men and women to remain in the single life past the point of marriage? It is base and unChristian of us at that point. You see, we cannot always decide a point based on the pathos and rhetoric we take in, sometimes, we must pull out a sword and get ready to cut the child to see where the truth is concealed. Certainly, we could push for a more marriage-focused view, but this is little more than to despise single people.

 

From men, we have a different historical track, sociological track, and symbolical track to examine, just as there are two different genders and I noted three different ways of noting it. In the first place, men are summoned by history to realize that the origin of sin is in their flesh and that on account of that, they should expect troubles and weeds in life and business. If this gets you depressed and anxious, you should reject psychological acceptance and see that these things are the punishment for sin and that God leaves them there so that you may be aided in your (sometimes shallow) theological repentance. Next, what of the sociological implications? There is a much too frequent attempt to get men to what they are supposed to be doing. This emanates from the desire of women; anything that so obliges men for sociological demands to a certain behavior in view of masculinity is utterly Christ-less and harmful either to their masculinity or else to their faith. Neither of these is desirable. It is rather, therefore, to be taught that Christ in human flesh, as a man, bore the sins of the world. From this light, men are to be encouraged that though they are, indeed, by nature sinful and unclean and sin much daily, nevertheless, God has called upon them to deal with the troubles and challenges in this world, even though they cannot equal their master, Christ. This is a rational service engaged upon with willingness in religious conviction devoted to Christ’s pre-eminence. The manner in which Christ made contact with and dealt with human sin ought to beckon men to avoid cowardice and laziness and not be deterred by the difficulty from doing what is right, nor to be tempted, by the ease of accepting the status quo, to do what is wrong. Thirdly, I say that there is symbolical value to sexual fidelity, just as Christ does not abandon the church or cease to love and care for her, men in their own lives should not become so concerned and busy with matters of importance that they do not love and cherish their wives more than their very lives. Sometimes, to be sure, such business must make heavy demands of men, as when men must go to battle to defend the nation, they cannot simultaneously be present to take care of their wives. This is amplified in our messed up world, where a conflict in a third-world nation can require American attention for 10 years. But be that as it may, a man must not leave her in his heart, even if his duty calls him to service. Yet it is best to explore the situation outside of the exceptions and in the normal course of life, and from this we see that men should be gentle and loving towards their wives. Of course, a man cannot literally kill himself for his wife; and he is not called to give up his breath per se, but to give up something, nonetheless which pertains to it. For in the motion and business of daily activity, if he did not give up the priorities which pertain to his tasks, he could not be gentle and loving towards his wife. It would be a repellent distraction and idiotic to do so if one remained motivated by self-interest in one’s tasks.

 

We discern quite clearly whence the energy comes from the Christian performance of gender-construct nuances. It does not come even remotely from an inner perfection by which we are all superior to unbelievers. Every one of us, rather, has learned from the circumstances of the Gospel, to adhere most faithfully to this way of life in the fear of God as respective of the manner in which the message of the Gospel is proclaimed. Suppose I told you a story in which a woman got up and declared a solid truth, and the men heard it and put a Utopia into action. This farce has such a contrast with reality that if the church ever took that angle, or even parts of that approach, it would be a sign that we were overtly distorting the proclamation of the good news. This, then, is the delicate matter which motivates our sexual morality, in a world where sexuality is so obviously used as a pretext for foolishness. Hence, when the Scriptures say “life in the spirit” as opposed to the flesh, they mean that if the wind of the Gospel blows a certain direction, then it is worth paying attention to it. If there were no humble, faithful women around, I would seriously begin to question the reality of the Magnificat. And yet, because they do not grasp the significance of Christ, there are those who think submission is a laughable concept. Hmm… I don’t know what to do about that. Do I respect Mary or them? I will continue to think highly of the mother of our Lord. To Eve, though she was deceived, we owe the praise and honor of acknowledging that to her the promise came and she was aptly named as the mother of us all. But Mary is acknowledged for her humility and reception of that promise as the mother of our Lord. I have spoken sufficiently about the excellence of submission. It is only excellent to one who views the promises of God in faith; to anyone else, it is a by-word, an oppression.

 

To speak more rigorously of the importance of sexual purity: due to these concerns, the Scripture is determined to show us that the true Gospel in all its purity intimately corroborates with sexual purity, decorum, and order. This is profoundly contrary…profoundly may be to tame a word…to the “live now, die young” attitude of our culture. Christians are actually called to reject the flesh and control their bodies. I used to think: ah, that is the LAW! How bad of us to focus on the LAW, right? But I was a little mistaken. Yes, it is true that the law commands such things. But then, we cannot perform the works of the Law and be justified thereby. Apart from faith, God is not pleased. Yet this goes to show that blatant materialism and looking at the world through a purely biological-psychological-sociological-ecological angle fails to demonstrate how humanity should live. If we just allowed one another to be persuaded by our society that it’s okay to act in accordance with the desires of the flesh, we would be wrong insofar as it is not beneficial to the Gospel. Now what deeper value can be given to marriage and sexual purity than this? It benefits quite directly the testimony of the Gospel. Suppose you went on a million marriage retreats with your partner, yet could you ever drum up more romance than this? Could you stir enough poetry to imbue your love with perpetual meaning? Yet the Gospel does this and more. For in the first and most important place, it forgives your sin. But second, in view of it, the purity of your conduct and the marriage vow are kept in heavenly concord. For who can really imagine that someone is really so wonderful? I mean, how can anyone sustain the consciousness of the other person as such a great gift? No sinner can do that. But he who sins and receives the Holy Spirit through the Word of God has become a new man, and in Christ, the value of the marriage is not just that it achieves what the flesh is capable of, but rather that it represents something far greater than either individual stands for in their flesh.

 

Sexual immorality is forbidden for those who are single because such behavior articulates a false justification of the flesh, in that it reasons from the desires of the flesh towards license and furthermore–and this must be the most important reason–that it contradicts what we learn in the Gospel. From this I mean to say, that the Scriptures warn us that our bodies are a “temple” of the Holy Spirit (who proclaims the Gospel to us) and they warn us that we are united with Christ. In this light, we are to see our bodies as a very living temple of the Gospel and functionaries of Christ’s body. So if the Holy Spirit has redeemed us freely and not by performance of works of the law, nor by satisfying the desires of the flesh, then in faith, how can we unite our very bodies, which God is planning to resurrect, with corrupt sexual desire? The question is not whether we believe strongly enough, but whether we are making all the connections between ourselves and God’s promises clearly. God promises to raise your very body, and the Holy Spirit has your flesh as a temple in that you have heard and received by faith the Gospel. The question, therefore, is not whether you will succeed at avoiding temptation (although this is a serious and important matter) but whether or not you see in the midst of temptation the Gospel. Of all the things which temptation can do, it has the effect of controlling our thought-process and convincing us that our action is the basis for our righteousness. This cannot be so. God provides a way out of temptation. For temptation must come our way, and we are not without sin, yet out of a fearful and glad reception of the Gospel, we should not become ignorant of God’s promise or become amenable to sinful lives. That which is founded on the promise of God, therefore, is not founded on the flesh and is from the Spirit, so when the Scriptures say to walk after the Spirit, the instructions conform with the Gospel not through merit but on account of promise.

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Existentialism & “This Is”

I have never really doubted the sacrament, but only after studying existentialism a little more have I begun to fully appreciate what a necessary and wonderful gift it truly is. It is a profound gift of forgiveness, peace, and renewal about which Christ says, “this is.” In existentialism (a philosophy that affects almost everything in America) there is no room for a single “this is”. A single “this is” would dispel existentialism’s entirely subjective line of thinking. A single “this is” would mean — although it may be the case that we are not (what we would want to be), this is. Faith doesn’t cling to its own subjective experience of trust or works, but to the external word. Without this object for faith to hold, we would have faith as consistent adherence to our subjective concerns. Christ’s “this is” prevents a lapse into subjective mire. If this is his body and blood, then all of our personal experiences are forgiven for their unrealities and granted a genuineness of reality that supersedes our inner consistency. We are no longer turned in upon our own perspective but enlightened with a gracious gift. Certainly we would have no power to cause this were not the Word of God given in our midst.

A few corollaries of this perspective:

Is the liturgy really valued or symbolically valued? This question connects to this: is the sacrament symbolically valued or actually-valued?

Here is how I answer this: one either has real liturgy and symbolic sacrament, or symbolic liturgy and real sacrament. Thus, the one is to be esteemed in light of its symbolic value, and the other in the light of its real value. Hence, vestments, rites, and hymnody have and retain their value not completely arbitrarily, but by virtue of their symbolic communication.

In this symbolic communication, the clear reality of the sacrament is esteemed and preserved.

Again: worship is our pining towards the actuality that is the glory of God, our Maker.

This statement reflects this understanding, that the subjective experience longs (though it is now fallen and twisted) to fulfill the intent of the objective Maker.

On the other hand, we have objective reason and work, which are also affected by the fall. I know that dirty dishes are to be washed. I do not need to be a Christian but a rational person to realize this. Reason and work are those closely interrelated. Reason tells me that I should buy or trade stock or commodity, whereas Christian faith does not articulate such things. Reason engages objective reality.

Existentialism has led to people that no longer debate and instead seek to actuate a intellectually-reduced agenda. This is why for a long time I could not eagerly embrace the full content of pushing the sacraments. I felt that though this was true worship in spirit, yet it was not thoroughly or sufficiently truth-oriented. Instead, I thought truth has been truncated, abbreviated, or otherwise reduced in value for the sake of the spirit.

Similar arguments hold for the valuation of the liturgy, even as symbolical.

What I hold to be the true case, however, is that God gives us a foretaste of the feast to come as a gift for several reasons:

(1) One cannot be subjectively secure in one’s salvation.

(2) Anyone who realizes this and tries to do good deeds, becomes aware of how far short they fall of this mark.

(3) Reasonable and good deeds, however sensible, always carry side-effect “weeds” that prevent us from actualizing or realizing any sort of paradise or utopia.

The Lord’s Supper, however, actually puts us in touch with it.

This is the importance of the concept of actuality and real presence.

To say that the liturgy is actual, in this sense, is not unheard of, but it is a less certain argument. The number of propositions involved in making are far more varied and uncertain than Christ saying, “this is my body.” And no particular set of propostions can prove that there are pastors wearing these colored vestments in heaven. This presents the grounds for my assertion that the liturgy must be indeed highly valued for its symbolical meaning, not for its actuality. There is a great ignorance about the actuality of the sacrament if the liturgy is raised onto a platform equivalent to the body and blood of Christ.

For the liturgy is not causative, but rather the Scriptures are causative. This is the only way I can reckon it without becoming thoroughly lost in obscure arguments about the heavenliness of our worship.

So one can say “this is” of the body and blood, but rather says, or thinks, “this seems” of the liturgy.

Again, I must add a word about the sermon. And this is to say: not everyone who eats the supper is saved by it. But those who hear the sermon and believe it are saved by faith. The point in reference is this: the sermon promises what it cannot deliver, but the sacrament delivers what is promised as a foretaste.

One cannot obtain heaven by constantly abiding in a sacramental worship. That is, if I hire 24 pastors to continually perform the divine service, in no way have I entered heaven.

What is meant rather is that with all my apparent shortcomings and frictions and disappointments in life, I have this foretaste secured for me.

The sermon, therefore, promises, but faith not the sermon receives. But he who eats receives the foretaste, whether he believes it or not.

These arguments purport to show, then, that they are correct who want to raise our consciousness of the liturgy, sacraments, and worship in general. However, if these ambitions be separate or sundered from a thoroughgoing concern for the truth, what does it matter if the genuineness of spirit be there?

Accordingly, mere analytical and propositional detail retains it place in the mix of efforts. After all, if I could not say “this is” the body and blood of the Lord…then is there anything of which I could say “this is” in the entire universe? I submit that those philosophies which deconstructed human reason to the point that you could not say whether an object was a log or a house are testimony that without the Word of God, nothing has come into being which is. And furthermore, that to fully recognize as actual our existence and these promises of God, it is a great gift that functions to actualize what “is”.

I consider this so far short of the actual dignity of this subject, that I am tempted not to post it, but since it represents what I am thinking at present… I share it.

I really wish it to be thought that my assertion that the liturgy is symbolically valued means its reverence increases somewhat. You wear a certain garb to the service symbolically, not because putting on that clothing makes you a Christian. Likewise, if a random man were to put on the cloth, he would not thereby be ordained. But if a random man were to eat the sacrament, he would partake. Thus, the vestments are not real in the sense that the sacrament is real. If this last proposition is used to interpret what I mean by “symbolic” then I can be understood helpfully, but if not, then I am sure it will seem that I mean “meaningless” when everyone knows that the only good symbols and symbolic things are the ones that have “meaning”. So Liturgy takes on symbolic but non-variable meaning by virtue of Christ, and worship has the presecriptive purpose of realizing a bit of actuality in a super-subjective or actual way.

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Lombard on the Fall

Lombard expresses a position which is at one and the same time different from what one hears in Lutheran circles and completely in line with the expression of Scripture.

In the first place, he describes the ‘elation’ of the woman at the thought of becoming like God.

For such was the order’s process: the Devil tempting said: “If you eat, you shall be as gods, knowing good and evil”; with which heard there immediately crept up into the mind of the woman a certain elation and love of her own power; out of which it pleased her to do what the Devil persuaded, and she certainly [utique] did (it). Therefore she sinned by a suggestion, because the temptation preceded, out of which there rose in her mind an elation, which the sin of the work and the punishment of the sin followed.

In the end, this is why Lombard finds a serious distinction between the sin of the man and the woman.

And, indeed, such an elation was for certain in the mind of the woman, by which she believed and willed to have the similitude of God with a certain equality, thinking, that that which the Devil said was true. And for that reason (St.) Augustine mentions the woman in particular, saying:  In what manner did the woman believe the Devil, if there were not in her mind from herself a proud presumption?

Here Augustine uses a familiar form of rhetoric: if she did not patently believe the Devil’s word that she would become like God, then in what way was she deceived? It seems incredibly stupid, and it was. It is hard to believe that it actually happened. The deception has a dimension on top of simply sinning which thought to actually become like God.

How about Adam’s sin?

Yet it can be believed that he was seduced in this, that he thought that (the sin) committed (was) a venial one, whereas it was a destructive one [peremptorium]. But neither was the first one seduced, nor (was he seduced) in that (manner) in which the woman (was), so as to believe, that God had prohibited touching that tree for this reason, that, if one did touch (it), they would become as gods. But yet Adam was a prevaricator, as the Apostle testifies. Therefore some elation could have been in his mind immediately [illico] after the temptation, out of which he willed to know the forbidden tree by experience [experiri], when he saw that the woman (had) not died, having perceived that she (had) eaten.

There are some attempts that follow to attempt to explain what experience of the forbidden Adam sought… We can see how Lombard uses Augustine’s explanation:

For after the seduced woman ate and gave (it) to him, so that they might eat together, he did not want to completely sadden her, whom he believed to be wasting away without his solace and entirely perishing alienated from himself; conquered (as he was), not indeed by carnal concupiscence, which he did not yet sense, but by a certain amicable benevolence, by which it very often comes to be, that God is offended, so that a friend is not offended; wherefore that he ought not have done this, the just outcome of the Divine sentence indicated.

Or for another look at the subject:

And though he did completely desire the equality of divinity, yet he did not burn up from [exarsit] nor was he affected with so great an ambition, as the woman (was), who thought she could become That, and for that reason she was more proud in seeking It. But perchance some undercurrent [subreptio] of ambition moved the man, but not thus, so as to think that it would be true and/or possible.

So in the end, what does it mean to say that the woman was deceived in contradistinction to the man? Does it mean nothing, and is the apostle wasting breath? We cannot say all, but we can say for certain that there is no pointless wasting of words.

All this stands against feministic interpretations that instead of grappling with the words of Scripture grapple with a woman’s perspective.

The temptation to be like God in one’s own subjectivity and view things in such a way that you are becoming like God is very great. The woman actually believed it was possible. The man believed that though it was wrong, “amicable benevolence” was justified in this case. God, however, thought otherwise.

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