Archive for the 'Blogging' Category

Here’s a quick post to direct your attention to a fantastic sermon by Tim Keller from the 2009 Gospel Coalition National Conference. This sermon, from the book of Acts, delves deep into the problem of idolatry in the church.

The sermon was particularly pointed and caused me a great deal of discomfort as I realized that I have far too many idols in my own life–idols that I was unaware that I possessed. I was quite surprised, for example, that preachers can make idols of preaching! Wow, that was shocking to my system. I am certain, if you are brave enough to listen, you will find Keller attacking your idols too. I love Tim Keller and the more I listen to him, the more I am convicted by his powerful and penetrating Gospel-centered sermons.

I fully realize that there are plenty of points where Keller’s commitment to Reformed Theology will grate against your sensibilities, but give him a chance. I think you will be far less concerned about his commitments when you are finished listening to him confront and destroy your idols.

In particular, pay close attention to minutes 36-45 or so where he talks about ‘religious idols’: “Those who worship religious idols think they are very devoted to God; but they’re not.”  In those minutes he will expose, attack, and dismantle one of our favorite idols here in the world of the www: our blogs. Pay attention, and learn. I did. Three things very busy people idolize: Truth, gifts, and morality.

For example, concerning truth, a religious person might say, “Is it possible to say, ‘I am ok, saved, by the rightness of my belief’, instead of ‘I am ok because Jesus Christ made it possible?’” (Minutes 39-40 here are especially pertinent to the world of blogs.)

The Grand De-Mythologizer: The Gospel and Idolatry

Even for those who find Keller’s theology somewhat abrasive, there is something here for them to learn. I highly recommend this sermon. It takes about 60 minutes.

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First off we are not journalists so ‘journalistic integrity’ is not really a charge that we need to hold to. Christian integrity, however, is.

Recently I’ve begun to notice a trend with ODM’s, they don’t actually do ‘research’. They claim to do research, some even have it in their URL’s. Actually I’ve known this for a while but lately it appears that the ‘chicken littles’ of the Christian family are more apt to take so and so’s word for it. They link to themselves, they link to each other, they proof text, and they rip quotes out of context. Sometimes, dare I say, they make stuff up.

For instance:

“The more I follow grace, the more I’m drawn to him [God], the more I’m willing to stand up for people being persecuted,” says Jay today. “This sounds so churchy, but I felt like God spoke to my heart and said ‘[homosexuality] is not a sin.’ ”

This quote comes from Jay Bakker (allegedly) via Apprising.org but it’s not the exact quote and I couldn’t find the direct link to this quote, nor could I find any reputable website who has the quote. What I did find was a lot of heresy hunters self linking and cross linking each other. I’m not saying that Jay didn’t say it I would just like an accurate, in context, direct link to prove he said it. But all I have is this link from Ken at Apprising.org. So much for research and integrity*.

If you have a few minutes to waste, google the quote, and visit some of the sites that purport it. I found (1) Link to Radar Online but no article, anywhere on their site about the quote, (1) Link to a portion of the full article with the incorrect quote, and (9) Links to Kens articles about Jay Bakker. I did find the cached article but it’s not exactly how Ken reports it. According to the date stamps on the comments and photos it appears the article was first published in 2006. The cached article is cobbled together with what appears to be several articles and the word ‘Homosexuality’ was inserted into a seemingly non-sequiter paragraph about growing up PTL.

I do have an email into the writer, Martin Edlund, about the interview and also an email into Radar Online. Hopefully I can find the full transcript of the article.

Don’t take my word for it though. Go and do the research.

*Yet another case of those so offended by the worldliness of the church getting their info from the world to build a case of hypocrisy against those who they claim are in the world. Integrity?????

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So often I’ve tried to convince those in the blogosphere that what they are printing is false or less than accurate with no success.  But I can tell you that whenever someone sends me an email from the “source” I dismiss it out of hand because…well…that source is less than credible.

Often times we here try to point out that what is being promulgated as fact is actually skewed opinion wrapped with shreds of truth. This is done with a varying degree of success.

In lieu of the following article appearing this morning on MSN I will forgo my previous planned closing of the article.   Irish student hoaxes world’s media with fake quote.

The student Shane Fitzgerald had this to say:

“I am 100 percent convinced that if I hadn’t come forward, that quote would have gone down in history as something Maurice Jarre said, instead of something I made up,” he said. “It would have become another example where, once anything is printed enough times in the media without challenge, it becomes fact.”

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I got an audio cassette in the mail the other day.  It  was unmarked, the envelope had no return address, and the postmark was illegible.  As best I can tell, it’s from a church service.  It appears to be a re-working of Fanny Crosby’s “Rescue the Perishing“.

I had to listen to it a few times to pick up all the lyrics.  I’ll reproduce them here for you.

If anyone knows anything more about this recording, let me know.

 
icon for podpress  Point Out the Perishing: Play Now | Play in Popup | Download

Point out the perishing, notice the dying,
Snark at them — how pithy — they won’t get on board.
Tsk o’er the erring one, trample the fallen,
Call it a ministry, it’s good in the Lord.

Refrain
Point out the perishing, notice the dying,
You don’t think like I do; you’re going to hell.

Since they have slighted Him, their fate is sealed.
It’s just too late for God to intervene.
Deride them constantly, use lots of quote marks.
They’re dead already; it’s not being mean.

Refrain
Point out the perishing, notice the dying,
You don’t think like I do; you’re going to hell.

Down in the human heart, crushed by the tempter,
Feelings lie buried that you can divine;
You know their deepest thoughts, God told them to you.
Be sure to scoff if someone says “Be kind”.

Refrain
Point out the perishing, notice the dying,
You don’t think like I do; you’re going to hell.

Point out the perishing, God called you to it.
Strength for your blogging the Lord will provide;
But He’s a little short with the finances
Ask for donations while you’re being snide.

Refrain
Point out the perishing, notice the dying,
You don’t think like I do; you’re going to hell.
Point out the perishing, notice the dying,
My God’s a wrathful God; you all are screwed.

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Every once in a while a truly and thoroughly evil villain appears, such as a Hitler or Stalin, an Ivan the Terrible or Vlad the Impaler. Folks such as these are easy to oppose. But, when opposing someone who does not exhibit pure evil, building a caricature helps. The first step in any confrontation, be it political, military, or otherwise is to portray your adversary in as poor a light as possible… and the weaker your position/argument the more sever (and important) the caricature becomes.

We have seen this time and time again with various amateur discerners and their blogs. Arguing from a position of weakness, often employing logic based on faulty information, hyperbole, or mere preferences – they must create a caricature of their opponent. Addressing real issues, taking people at face value, using complete statements, bothering to understand the nuances of a thought or comment are either lost or ignored.

The process is exacerbated when the ADM echo chamber kicks in and they start cross-linking and reposting – each time hardening the categories and expanding the caricature.

For example; here is a recent post (in its entirty) by Ingrid on SoL:

Here is an excellent post by Chris Rosebrough at Extreme Theology on the emergent whine that anyone who states anything authoritatively about God is “putting God in a box.” That line is a favorite of those who simply like to make their god up as they go. God has revealed Himself to us in His Word. But emergents, kicking that Word to the curb, would prefer to have a god who changes with them. It is much, much more convenient.

Notice the definitive statements of supposed fact: anyone who states anything authoritatively about God, [they] make their god up as they go, God has revealed Himself to us in His Word. But emergents…

I challenge this ADM to show an example where anyone whom she regularly names says “Any definitive and authoritative statement about God is placing him in a box.” Her hyperbole in caricature creation renders her objections shrill, comical, and useless.  She may have had a point, but her method of re-creating her foe into an unrecognizable caricature renders her argument meaningless.

But this is just the echo chamber exacerbating the ridiculous. If you read the original by Chris R., you will see it is somewhat more tempered – but still guilty of caricature creation and assassination – or straw man – and therefore it is to be rejected.

The very title of the post betrays the false dichotomy upon which it is built – God in a Box” or God As He Has Revealed Himself? This is not a dichotomy. These are not mutually exclusive choices. God has indeed revealed himself, and we finite humans routinely place him in a box.

The thesis of the post is this:

Today, if you happen to be conversing with a group of CHRISTIANS and you boldly, confidently, and succinctly talk about God and His characteristics, attributes and what He has done you are very likely to be accused of “putting God in a box”?

To a point I agree, though I would say “You may be accused…” But instead of exploring this thesis, instead of advancing when God is boxed and when he is not -the ADM jumps immediately to a caricature of his own creation.

He writes:

One of these Christians might even throw a Rob Bell quote or two in your face and tell you that you need to not be so arrogant and should adopt a more humble hermeneutic. According to Bell, “The moment God is figured out with nice neat lines and definitions, we are no longer dealing with God. We are dealing with somebody we made up.” (Velvet Elvis, Page 25)
Poppycock!

Humility is poppycock?

It’s supposedly poppycock because

In the scriptures we have God’s revelation of himself and that divine self-revelation gives us some very hard neat lines and definitions about who God is, what He is like, what He has done and what true worship of Him entails. … But, we must always be careful to not allow our imaginations to go beyond what God has revealed about Himself in his word. That which God has not revealed about himself is still mystery.

At this point I would again agree… and so would Bell if he were allowed to speak for himself. After quoting a few of the giants of the faith the ADM points out “…that Paul didn’t say that we ‘can’t know’ but that we only KNOW IN PART.” Here he is denying a statement Bell never made. He’s arguing with a caricature of his own creating not any actual statements made by Rob Bell.

In context, Bell was simply affirming what the ADM himself said; “That which God has not revealed about himself is still mystery.” To deny and subvert this context the ADM must ignore statements that affirm the existence of truth and that Bell affirms the historic Christian faith. Which, by the way, he in no ways denies.

Basically, the ADM and the echo chamber have taken a simple and true statement – If your goal is to figure [God] out and totally understand [Him], it’s not going to happen. and twisted it into “You cannot say anything definitive or authoritative about God.” Then they attack.
This is sloppy at best; it is dishonest as worst… I don’t think they are that sloppy.

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(or Ingrid never ran over my puppy)

OK, people, time for a level-set.

It would appear that the (irrelevant and inaccurate) references to this site in the meta of Tim Challies’ post the other day have garnered us some new readers.  To them I say “Welcome”.  This post is actually in response to “pre-Challies” readers of this blog who seem to have missed something.  Before you new folks make the honest mistake of ascribing to the same misconception, maybe we ought to clear it up (again).

Many of the veteran detractors of this site routinely state that the purpose of this blog is to spew hatred against a select few.

The Greek word for such a viewpoint is “skubala“.  A (very) rough English translation would be “baloney”.

Some time ago, Chris Lyons (with input from other contributors here) wrote Our Mission, detailing what this blog is all about.  Chris outlines six guidelines for this blog, only one of which deals with the addressing of points in which we disagree with those that write the various watchblogs out there.  In fact, Chris calls this “the lowliest” of these six tasks.

Even if we throw several bones to the skubala-merchants and ignore the existence of the other five tasks, their viewpoint is still inaccurate.  Which brings me to the point of the title of this post.

I don’t hate Ken or Ingrid or Chris R or PB.  Regardless of the mutuality of the sentiment, I consider them all Christian siblings of mine.

Now, admittedly, I do hate theological error — very much so — especially when it is presented at the expense of others.  And this is what I write against.  This is why I am here.  The fact that it often happens to be presented by one or more of the afore-mentioned people (that I allegedly hate) is either purely coincidental or cited as an example.  While I sometimes cross the line, I do my best to remember that my anger is not directed at them, but at the error that they are presenting and the damage that it can do to others.

Sidenote: I do find it rather telling that one of the most vocal (and oft-repeated) accusations against Tim Challies’ post was that he didn’t “name names”.  The fact that he didn’t screams that his “beef” was with a concept, not a person.  Such writing demands that the reader not simply write Tim off as a “hater”, but actually determine if the points he made are applicable to themselves.  (Or at least gripe about the fact that he didn’t “name names”.)

As Chris noted about himself recently, I used to wield a weed-eater indiscriminately, too.  But God worked on my heart, both directly and through others, to see my sin.  My purpose here is to try to be the “others” for someone else.  Not as someone who has arrived, but as someone that’s been to a few “places” that you’re better off avoiding.

For you new(er) folks here, please be warned — the veteran dissenters on this site will state unequivocally that I am lying and what I have written here is not the true nature of what’s in my heart.  They will most likely misappropriate the first half of Matthew 7:16 as proof-text of their ability to read my heart.  These are people who apparently ignore passages such as 1 Samuel 16:7.  By tacitly stating that they are God (by the measure of this latter verse), they are committing nothing short of blasphemy.  I would ask that you think for yourselves, rather than take the word of a blasphemer.

Maybe even use a little discernment.

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Obama wants to forbid church attendance… or so some say.  Every time this kind of hype and hysteria is promoted, Christianity in general, and individual Christians in particular lose a little more credibility.  And (just maybe) rightfully so.  This time it is in response to a bill that would create a youth corps which would require anyone receiving school loans and others to serve at least three months as part of the brigade.

I admit from the outset that I have not studied, nor read, HR1388.  Nor do I need to, since I am not addressing the bill at issue (it’s a pet peeve of mine when some condemn a book they have not read, a movie they have not watched, etc….); what I am addressing is the hype and hysteria of this article.

The title makes a pretty amazing accusation.  The Obama Youth brigade forbids church attendance – simple statement of fact, there is no hint that this is a question – it is presented as fact.

The article begins with the necessary data on HR 1388:

This bill’s title is called “Generations Invigorating Volunteerism and Education” (GIVE). It forms what some are calling “Obama’s Youth Brigade.” Obama’s plan is require anyone receiving school loans and others to serve at least three months as part of the brigade. His goal is one million youth! This has serious Nazi Germany overtones to it.

It’s that final phrase that introduces the hype, hysteria, and the first crack in credibility. “This has serious Nazi Germany overtones to it” – seriously?  OK, I see the parallel between the so-called Obama Brigade and Hitler Youth in the Governmental sponsored youth organization sense.  But lots of countries have youth organizations and they are not Neo-Nazi.  If we used this kind of logic, any gathering of religious people that serves flavored water could be said to have “serious Johnstown overtones to it.”

That silliness aside, the real issue is stated in the next paragraph:

The Bill would forbid any student in the brigade to participate in “engaging in religious instruction, conducting worship services, providing instruction as part of a program that includes mandatory religious instruction or worship, constructing or operating facilities devoted to religious instruction or worship, maintaining facilities primarily or inherently devoted to religious instruction or worship, or engaging in any form of religious proselytization.” That means no church attendance or witnessing.

This followed by a few select lines from the actual bill.  They are:

SEC. 1304. PROHIBITED ACTIVITIES AND INELIGIBLE ORGANIZATIONS.

Section 125 (42 U.S.C. 12575) is amended to read as follows:

SEC. 125. PROHIBITED ACTIVITIES AND INELIGIBLE ORGANIZATIONS.

(a) Prohibited Activities- A participant in an approved national service position under this subtitle may not engage in the following activities:

(1) Attempting to influence legislation.

(2) Organizing or engaging in protests, petitions, boycotts, or strikes.

(7) Engaging in religious instruction, conducting worship services, providing instruction as part of a program that includes mandatory religious instruction or worship, constructing or operating facilities devoted to religious instruction or worship, maintaining facilities primarily or inherently devoted to religious instruction or worship, or engaging in any form of religious proselytization.

According to this article the bill would require those receiving student loans to serve three months in a civil corps.  [As an aside, I think this is a great idea... what better way to stem the tide of entitlement than require a little "sweat-equity?"]  The article also says that being part of the brigade “means no church attendance or witnessing.”  According to the article, the Bill would prohibit any student from participating in worship, religious education, and witnessing.

But is that what it really says?  When I read the quoted portions of HR1388 it read as these religious activities were not eligible as fulfillment of the three months of service.  It does not say anything about forbidding church attendance or witnessing… you just cannot work off your three months leading worship, teaching the Bible, or mowing the church yard.

Now, it is possible that the bill does in fact say, that for the three months you belong to the brigade you cannot attend any worship service, receive and religious instruction, or even talk about your religion – but I doubt it.  But even of it does, this article does not come close to demonstrating this fact.

All this article does (and others like it by the the accumulative effect) is lessen our credability in the arena of ideas by making Christians appear unable to discern nuances of meaning, or make credible and logical arguments.

(HT: Slice of Laodicea)

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Dogs and cats sleeping together - mass hysteria!A friend of mine sent me this recently:

_________

Anyone who has spent any amount of time in a church or in the Christian blogosphere knows that the body of Christ is easily divided over many issues, some of which are hardly worth arguing over much less dividing over. Christ Himself recognized how easily His bride would turn on herself, and prayed for her in John 17:

“My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, 21that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you.

Paul, too, was concerned over the potential for division in the very churches he had planted. In Ephesians 4 he writes:

Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.

All too often we have seen within various internet battlegrounds unity being the first thing shattered through the drawing of battle lines between emergent and Reformed bloggers. Perhaps, the unity of the Bride and Body of Christ can be at least a little less tattered if we focus on what those two groups have in common, rather than the differences.

Let’s start with Reformed preacher, theologian and all around influencer of Reformed Christians everywhere John Piper who writes:

So my take on this prophetic word is that the scare will probably do good for a lot of people. The Bible is a scary book. And the future that is coming on unbelievers is scary beyond anything any preacher could conjure up.

But my own effort to be discerning says: Stick with the Bible, David. It is scary enough.

Next let’s move onto emergent hipster and communicator Tony Jones who writes:

I am quite convinced that the Bible is a subversive text, that it constantly undermines our assumptions, transgresses our boundaries, and subverts our comforts. This may sound like academic mumbo-jumbo, but I really mean it. I think the Bible is a [...] scary book

What’s fascinating about both of these quotes from two movers and shakers (that’s a small s for the discerning individuals among us) writing from what seems like opposite ends of the spectrums is that both are writing from almost exactly the same place. Both Tony Jones and John Piper are reacting to people who they believe are misusing the Bible. Both are concerned that the people they are writing about are missing the message of scripture and both are concerned that the scriptures are delivering a message of the utmost importance.

Perhaps, if these two often opposing groups of Christians would focus on what they have in common, the truth of the scriptures, we would see a little more of the effort Paul wrote about that will result in the unity of the Spirit, rather than the divisiveness that so often defines the relationship between these two groups of brothers and sisters.

______________

I think he makes some very good points here.  I would wholeheartedly endorse his sentiment…

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Reading through part 25 of the Westminster Confession of Faith, a decidedly Reformed Confession, one comes across this:

V. The purest Churches under heaven are subject both to mixture and error; and some have so degenerated, as to become no Churches of Christ, but synagogues of Satan. Nevertheless, there shall be always a Church on earth to worship God according to His will.

Well, my friend Chris L., who also blogs here sometimes :) has taken a lot of heat for his use of the ’synagogues of Satan’ phrase found in Scripture and his particular application of it. But here we see that even in this Confession, this is a validly used phrase to describe *some* who have drifted away from so-called orthodoxy. So, let’s rework this ‘confession’ of faith and give it a broader application, 25:5:

V. The purest blogs on the internet are subject both to mixture and error; and some have so degenerated, as to become no blogs of Christ, but blogs of Satan. Nevertheless, there shall be always a blog on the internet where the Word of God is rightly divided.**

Thanks Chris, for a great series of posts on the Revelation.

**in case you missed the categorization, this is satire and meant to lessen the tension by giving you a laugh or two. May your pleasures be many, your troubles be few!

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There is much lamenting these days, particularly on blogs, about the state of Christianity in America. It is not uncommon for contemporary (and I strategically avoid the term “modern” at this point) Christianity to be criticized for its lack of biblical fidelity and for churches to be criticized for their methodology and/or beliefs – though the two are often confused. Usually the remedy involves some form of return – return to the Bible, return to tradition, return to…

And today a study was released showing the decreasing value Americans place on religion in general and their decreasing belief in Christianity in particular.

Most often, those complaining the most vigorously display three flaws in their reasoning: 1) an overly simplistic reductionism that assumes there is, or every was, such a thing as monolithic “American Christianity” or “the church in America” in the first place; 2) a dismissive misunderstand of the current trends within younger emerging generations of Christians; and 3) as well as a completely lack of any grasp of history.

There is no doubt that there is a segment of today’s “American Christianity” that is barely biblical… that is, they are Christian in only the most tangential manner. Many voices are promoting an openness to ideas that are quite incompatible with historic biblical Christianity. That this exists there is no argument.

Of course, this is nothing new; a brief review of American Evangelicalism will show it has its very birth in the liberal swing cause by modernism in (predominately) New England over 150 years ago. And those who are so quick to blame and deride post-modernism for Christianity’s downfall in America should remember that it was an embrace of modernism that first gave momentum to the liberalization of the mainline denominations. Couple this fact with the popularity of Deism and Unitarianism in Colonial and antebellum America and any claim that “American Christianity” is, somehow, just now threatened shows an astonishing level of their naïveté.

And while the bloggers lament, and the pollsters poll, hundreds of little churches meet every Sunday as faithfully as their predecessors did in the last century and the one before that and the one before that and the one… And while the bloggers lament and the pollsters poll, hundreds of new churches are being started by a new generation of Christians. And although they may be significantly different in appearance and methodology and even world-view – they to are just as faithful to the Scriptures, to their heritage of the faith, to their Savior as faithfully as their predecessors did in the last century and the one before that and the one before that and the one…

Personally, I have grown tired of the “Chicken-Little-ness” of it all. The beauty of Christianity (its truth notwithstanding) is its translatability. Christianity is ultimately translatable because it is not bound by any one culture… and those who are screaming loudest about the state of “American Christianity” are often those who are the most willing to bind the faith in their own traditions – all the while complaining about the “Man-centeredness” of how others express the faith.

It’s a good things those of whom I speak were not present at the Council of Jerusalem as recorded in Acts 15 – for if they had been, they would have shouted down Peter and Barnabas and Paul as they told stories of Gentiles receiving the Spirit… and when they lost (which the purposes of God would guarantee) they would have been the first to blog their lament of the demise of Palestinian Christianity by those emergents in Antioch.

**UPDATE in response to this post being addressed at CRN:**

This post was not a swipe (not so veiled or otherwise) at “ministries” like CRN (and in this case I use quotations in the same spirit as they are often used at CRN). A “swipe” would be a critical or cutting remark with little or no further comment (e.g. my parenthetic comment above regarding ministries in quotations would be a swipe). What I offered was a reasoned post, an alternative interpretation of “Christianity in America” – which, in true ODM style, was glossed over… the heat ignored for the flash of rebuttal. Just repeating the same “The sky is falling” mantra, yet again, does not make it true.

In true ODM style, though, the editor’s response took a true swipe at my/our biblical literacy by suggesting we blow the dust off our Bibles and read Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonians – at least we were given credit for having a Bible. And in true ODM style, it was implied that the editor’s brother in Christ is among those who are unsaved… those who do not have the light of Christ. It’s a shame that instead of addressing the issues raised, my/our status in Christ was questioned. Instead of addressing or rebutting the argument, it is assumed that disagreeing with the editor means I/we lack the light of Christ and are, instead, among those in darkness.

At this point I will not get into a debate on the possible applications of Paul’s warning in 1 Thessalonians 5 – for that is not the point. In this post I never advocated “peace and security.” I did not deny the existence of many unbiblical churches. I even went so far as to acknowledge the same. Further, assuming this passage is speaking of the ultimate end (as we know it) it seems arrogantly ethnocentric to assume this end is at hand based on an interpretation of what may be happening in our own particular culture… ignoring completely the massive work of the Spirit in emerging cultures. This too is typical ODM myopia. If God is supposedly losing his grip on America – the end must be near.

Therefore the editor’s employment of this passage is moot.

If, in the future, CRN wishes to debate a topic or question within the bounds of the brotherhood of Christ, and if CRN is willing to address a topic beyond the myopia of American ethnocentrism, I would be more than willing…

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