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Guest William

What is Reformed Christian Theology?

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Josiah

 

 

 

Hi Josiah, the quote isn't mistaken, but your understanding of it is. To understand what Reformed Calvinism teaches about "double" predestination requires a bit more than the paragraph you posited for us offers.

 

In the end, I always regret doing this (and I'm sure I will this time too ;)), but I'm going to use a simple analogy. PLEASE, do not try to read to much into this. Thank you :)

 

Imagine, let's say, a factory with a conveyor belt, and running down this conveyor belt are freshly-picked oranges. At the end of the conveyor belt is a bin, and any orange that makes it to the bin will be discarded. At work alongside the conveyor belt is a person whose job it is to pick the oranges he likes by plucking them off the belt as they go by. ALL of the oranges are heading toward the bin, but not all of them get there because he "actively" selects the ones he wants to save for market by pulling them off the belt and setting them aside before they reach the bin at the end.

 

In a very real way, he also selects the oranges that end up in the bin at the end of the belt as well by NOT choosing them.

 

Likewise, God "actively" chooses some (the elect) for salvation by changing their hearts, causing them to be "born again", giving them the gift of faith so they can believe, and making them into "new creatures" in His Son. He also "passively" chooses all the rest (the reprobate) by doing nothing at all, by changing nothing about them, by simply letting them go on their merry way unhindered. So God, like the worker next to the oranges on the conveyor belt, "actively" chooses to save some, and "passively" chooses to damn all the rest by NOT choosing them.

 

I hope this has been helpful, but again, please do not try to read to much into this analogy (for obvious reasons).

 

Yours in Christ,

David

p.s. - I'll join you for a discussion on the other threads that concern this same subject matter, but I'll need to do so later today. See you then (Dv) :)

 

 

Appreciated.... I find it, well, difficult to read the defining statement and "understand" it as you suggest; the words IMO are saying something very different. I find YOUR view on this far more acceptable, of course, but I'm not seeing how the statement says what you do. Or the many other things I've seen from our Reformed friends on this.

 

I sense there MAY be a couple of possibilities....

 

1. In Calvinism, this point (one very definitive of Calvinism, one Calvinism itself insists is distinctive, different and defining in this theology) is simply poorly conveyed. Happens quite often, LOL, in theology! I can understand your point (and I agree, it's not too far from Lutheranism) but then why all the emphasis (including making part of TULIP - what makes Calvinism DIFFERENT)? Why all the emphasis on how God CHOOSES most to burn in language identical to how God is described as CHOOSING some for the blessings of heaven? Why the emphasis on this equal choosing if (If I understand you correctly) it's almost the opposite? Perhaps it's just a communication issue... It may be these Reformed theologians are writing to other Reformed theologians who know what they mean - and thus the language need not be clear or consistent since it will likely be understood even if what is meant isn't exactly what is written. Again, this isn't too uncommon. In Lutheranism, what is officially written to the Catholic Church is often just more accurately conveyed than the chats that happen in the tavern among Lutherans, lol.

 

2. It could be that Calvinism originally was not very definitive on this part (or at least Calvin) and as time progressed, this evolved into a view that actually isn't distinctive or really much different at all. In other words, perhaps the "half active, half passive" view (largely and abandonment of dual predestination) evolved out of what Calvin and the early Reformed theologians said - and there's enough quotes from them to support this. This certainly has happened in Lutheranism as Lutherans have been careful to note that Luther is not basis of Lutheranism, that Luther and the early Lutheran Fathers said things we'd at least word different (and clearly understand differently). One can observe modern Lutherans "wiggle" around things in Luther and early Lutheranism (even in our Confessions) concerning Mary and the Papacy, for example. It happens.... and the result CAN be that some of what defined the faith community or at least once was embraced eventually is "reinterpreted" - and in the process, the definitive, distinctive point largely vanishes. Side note: A Reformed Baptist pastor (with a doctorate in Reformation history) once posted to me that in the case of BOTH Luther and Calvin, what we came to think of as "Lutheran" and "Calvinism" actually isn't defined by either man but by the "Fathers" after them (soon after in some cases) so that in both cases, it can be very misleading to quote Luther or Calvin to understand Lutheranism or Calvinism. That might be part of the problem here, too.

 

 

Anyway... William indicated to me that Lutherans and Calvinists agree on this point. But then there's a thread on how we fundamentally disagree on it. I'm trying to reconcile that. A quote from Calvin was put up as THE defining statement of the Reformed position here - but you seem to be "understanding" it in ways that to ME seem almost the opposite. I'm trying to reconcile that. I guess part of the problem is clearly understanding what the CURRENT, most common Calvinist view is on this. IF it's "God chooses some (Period, nothing more said, end of discussion)" Or even "God chooses some but not all (stop, end of discussion) then I think we ARE essentially on the same page (and Calvinism has been grossly misunderstood for 500 years).... but I'm wondering WHY Calvinism has spent 500 years stressing its distinction on this, making it a part of TULIP that defines what is uniquely CALVINIST, why all the debate about God choosing most for hell? Why all the emphasis I've heard and read from Calvinists about God ALSO equally choosing some for hell? And if it's as the quote (I think William) offered (the one chosen to best, most accurately define the Calvinist pov IS the position) then Houston, we have a big difference and Calvinism is different and distinctive on this point and right to make it a defining point. Again, points 1 and 2 above. I'm not rebuking anything (again, witness Lutherans regarding the papacy). IF the Reformed ALWAYS essentially agreed with Lutherans here - good! (I think Lutherans are right about a bunch of things, too!) I agree the Lutheran view "jibes" with Scripture, lol! Calvinism has just been horribly misunderstood for 500 years on this. And IF the Reformed view has evolved so that NOW it's essentially the Lutheran view - same conclusion. It is good when brothers agree - even if this came after centuries.

 

Just trying to understand....

 

 

I'll read with interest your future posts on this! And thank you for taking the time to post so well (I hardly deserve it) - it is appreciated. And above all, thanks for the evident attitude. I sincerely hope nothing I post is at all offensive or disrespectful....

 

 

 

Thank you.

 

 

Pax Christi

 

 

- Josiah

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Guest William
Josiah said:
Anyway... William indicated to me that Lutherans and Calvinists agree on this point.

 

Yup, I stand corrected. Up until now I have found that the Lutheran brethren on this forum and in my bible study have agreed on Soteriology. For example, Diego made the comment that he is as Calvinist as they come. And Steve from my bible study has also expressed a similar sentiment after learning about Calvinism. RevT has also never expressed an objection, but then again he seemingly understands the historical context of the Synod of Dort and why Reformed/Presbyterians had to answer in such depth. Obviously, they are an exception to the Lutheran denomination. However, I will acknowledge the sloppy handling of context and reluctance to address the Scriptures at hand on the part of some Lutherans and just pass it off as a generalization onto all Lutherans. Up until now I have taken each person individually and given them direct face time and refrained from generalizations. That's a courtesy that was extended to you, but you seemingly reject the orthodox understanding of double predestination in favor of a strawman for Hyper-Calvinism. Although I will say that what you have ignored is shared by most that are not Reformed, I have read books by authors which only addressed Hyper-Calvinism under the guise of Calvinism. They had presented nothing more than strawman arguments. However, you, Josiah, seemingly want to drive a point home that Lutherans are not Reformed to which I say that those educated on this board in Reformed Doctrines are an exception.

 

For anyone wishing to know more on this subject: https://www.christforums.org/forum/c...an-vs-reformed

 

Josiah said:
A Reformed Baptist pastor (with a doctorate in Reformation history) once posted to me that in the case of BOTH Luther and Calvin, what we came to think of as "Lutheran" and "Calvinism" actually isn't defined by either man but by the "Fathers" after them (soon after in some cases) so that in both cases, it can be very misleading to quote Luther or Calvin to understand Lutheranism or Calvinism. That might be part of the problem here, too.

 

I believe you're actually on the right track to a degree. For example, I am amazed at the lack of "Semper Reformanda" from the Lutheran articles which I have been reading the last few days. The best way, IMO, to understand Calvinism is to begin at the Synod of Dort and also our Confessions. Historically speaking, one must take into account what they were addressing. What you shared about Luther and Calvin not always representing credited doctrine can also be said of Jacob Arminius whose followers didn't surface until after his death.

 

Lastly, a lot of Reformed/Presbyterians object to calling Particular/Baptist Reformed. Hyper-Calvinism actually is more common amongst the Particular/Baptist. The only time I generally see the positive-positive schema of double predestination is from that camp and during the "Cage Stage" of Calvinism.

 

God bless,

William

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David Lee

Hi Josiah, perhaps this will help as well. This is an excerpt from Dr. Sproul's famous little book called, Chosen By God. If you want to begin a study of Calvinism, I would highly recommend this book as one of the very first books you read on the subject (in fact, you can listen/watch it for free now on his website here if you care to do so .. though his teaching series Chosen By God and his book by the same name do not track each other precisely, just to be clear, but the same basic information is contained in both). Hopefully this will give you a better insight into what we Calvinists teach AND what we don't teach concerning double predestination (and a little insight into the differences between us and Hyper-Calvinists (who again, are NOT Calvinists but rather are, AT BEST, heretical Christians .. if they are Christians at all).

 

Enjoy 🙂

DOUBLE predestination. The very words sound ominous. It is one thing to contemplate God’s gracious plan of salvation for the elect. But what about those who are not elect? Are they also predestined? Is there a horrible decree of reprobation? Does God destine some unfortunate people to hell?
 
These questions immediately come to the fore as soon as double predestination is mentioned. Such questions make some declare the concept of double predestination out of bounds. Others, while believing in predestination, declare emphatically that they believe in single predestination. That is, while believing that some are predestined to salvation, there is no need to suppose that others are likewise predestined to damnation. In short, the idea is that some are predestined to salvation, but everyone has an opportunity to be saved. God makes sure that some make it by providing extra help, but the rest of mankind still has a chance.
 
Though there is strong sentiment to speak of single predestination only, and to avoid any discussion of double predestination, we must still face the questions on the table. Unless we conclude that every human being is predestined to salvation, we must face the flip side of election. If there is such a thing as predestination at all, and if that predestination does not include all people, then we must not shrink from the necessary inference that there are two sides to predestination. It is not enough to talk about Jacob; we must also consider Esau.
 
EQUAL ULTIMACY
There are different views of double predestination. One of these is so frightening that many shun the term altogether, lest their view of the doctrine be confused with the scary one. This is called the equal ultimacy view.
Equal ultimacy is based on a concept of symmetry. It seeks a complete balance between election and reprobation. The key idea is this: Just as God intervenes in the lives of the elect to create faith in their hearts, so God equally intervenes in the lives of the reprobate to create or work unbelief in their hearts. The idea of God’s actively working unbelief in the hearts of the reprobate is drawn from biblical statements about God hardening people’s hearts.
 
Equal ultimacy is not the Reformed or Calvinist view of predestination. Some have called it “hyper-Calvinism.” I prefer to call it “sub-Calvinism” or, better yet, “anti-Calvinism.” Though Calvinism certainly has a view of double predestination, the double predestination it embraces is not one of equal ultimacy.
 
To understand the Reformed view of the matter we must pay close attention to the crucial distinction between positive and negative decrees of God. Positive has to do with God’s active intervention in the hearts of the elect. Negative has to do with God’s passing over the non-elect.
 
The Reformed view teaches that God positively or actively intervenes in the lives of the elect to insure their salvation. The rest of mankind God leaves to themselves. He does not create unbelief in their hearts. That unbelief is already there. He does not coerce them to sin. They sin by their own choices. In the Calvinist view the decree of election is positive; the decree of reprobation is negative.
 
Hyper-Calvinism’s view of double predestination may be called
positive-positive predestination
. Orthodox Calvinism’s view may be called
positive-negative predestination

 

The dreadful error of hyper-Calvinism is that it involves God in coercing sin. This does radical violence to the integrity of God’s character.
 
The primary biblical example that might tempt one toward hyper-Calvinism is the case of Pharaoh. Repeatedly we read in the Exodus account that God hardened Pharaoh’s heart. God told Moses ahead of time that he would do this:
 
You shall speak all that I command you. And Aaron your brother shall speak to Pharaoh, that he must send the children of Israel out of his land. And I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, and multiply My signs and My wonders in the land of Egypt. But Pharaoh will not heed you, so that I may lay My hand on Egypt and bring My armies and My people, the children of Israel, {pg 144} out of the land of Egypt by great judgments. And the Egyptians shall know that I am the LORD, when I stretch out My hand on Egypt and bring out the children of Israel from among them (Exodus 7:2-5).
 
The Bible clearly teaches that God did, in fact, harden Pharaoh’s heart. Now we know that God did this for his own glory and as a sign to both Israel and Egypt. We know that God’s purpose in all of this was a redemptive purpose. But we are still left with a nagging problem. God hardened Pharaoh’s heart and then judged Pharaoh for his sin. How can God hold Pharaoh or anyone else accountable for sin that flows out of a heart that God himself hardened?
 
Our answer to that question will depend on how we understand God’s act of hardening. How did he harden Pharaoh’s heart? The Bible does not answer that question explicitly. As we think about it, we realize that basically there are only two ways he could have hardened Pharaoh’s heart: actively or passively.
 
Active hardening would involve God’s direct intervention within the inner chambers of Pharaoh’s heart. God would intrude into Pharaoh’s heart and create fresh evil in it. This would certainly insure that Pharaoh would bring forth the result that God was looking for. It would also insure that God is the author of sin.
 
Passive hardening is a totally different story. Passive hardening involves a divine judgment upon sin that is already present. All that God needs to do to harden the heart of a person whose heart is already desperately wicked is to “give him over to his sin.” We find this concept of divine judgment repeatedly in Scripture.
 
How does this work? To understand it properly we must first look briefly at another concept, God’s
common grace
. This refers to that grace of God that all men commonly enjoy. The rain that refreshes the earth and waters our crops falls upon the just and the unjust alike. The unjust certainly do not deserve such benefits, but they enjoy them anyway. So it is with sunshine and rainbows. Our world is a theater of common grace.
 
One of the most important elements of common grace we enjoy is the restraint of evil in the world. That restraint flows from many sources. Evil is restrained by policemen, laws, public opinion, balances of power, and so on. Though the world we live in is filled with wickedness, it is not as wicked as it possibly could be. God uses the means mentioned above as well as other means to keep evil in check. By his grace he controls and bridles the amount of evil in this world. If evil were left totally unchecked, then life on this planet would be impossible.
 
All that God has to do to harden people’s hearts is to remove the restraints. He gives them a longer leash. Rather than restricting their human freedom, he increases it. He lets them have their own way. In a sense he gives them enough rope to hang themselves. It is not that God puts his hand on them to create fresh evil in their hearts; he merely removes his holy hand of restraint from them and lets them do their own will.
If we were to determine the most wicked, the most diabolical men of human history, certain names would appear on almost everyone’s list. We would see the names of Hitler, Nero, Stalin, and others who have been guilty of mass murder and other atrocities. What do these people have in common? They were all dictators. They all had virtually unlimited power and authority within the sphere of their domains.
 
Why do we say that power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely? (We know that this has no reference to God but only to the power and corruption of men.) Power corrupts precisely because it raises a person above the normal restraints that restrict the rest of us. I am restrained by conflicts of interest with people who are as powerful or more powerful than I am. We learn early in life to restrict our belligerence toward those who are bigger than we are. We tend to enter into conflicts selectively. Discretion tends to take over from valor when our opponents are more powerful than we.
 
Pharaoh was the most powerful man in the world when Moses went to see him. About the only restraint there was on Pharaoh’s wickedness was the holy arm of God. All God had to do to harden Pharaoh further was to remove his arm. The evil inclinations of Pharaoh did the rest.
 
In the act of passive hardening, God makes a decision to remove the restraints; the wicked part of the process is done by Pharaoh himself. God does no violence to Pharaoh’s will. As we said, he merely gives Pharaoh more freedom.
 
We see the same kind of thing in the case of Judas and with the wicked men whom God and Satan used to afflict Job. Judas was not a poor innocent victim of divine manipulation. He was not a righteous man whom God forced to betray Christ and then punished for the betrayal. Judas betrayed Christ because Judas wanted thirty pieces of silver. As the Scriptures declare, Judas was a son of perdition from the beginning.
 
To be sure, God uses the evil inclinations and evil intentions of fallen men to bring about his own redemptive purposes. Without Judas there is no Cross. Without the cross there is no redemption. But this is not a case of God coercing evil. Rather it is a glorious case of God’s redemptive triumph over evil. The evil desires of men’s hearts cannot thwart God’s sovereignty. Indeed they are subject to it.
 
When we study the pattern of God’s punishment of wicked men we see a kind of poetic justice emerging. In the final judgment scene of the Book of Revelation we read the following:
 
 
He who is unjust, let him be unjust still; he who is filthy, let him be filthy still; he who is righteous, let him be righteous still; he who is holy, let him be holy still (Revelation 22:11)
.
 
In God’s ultimate act of judgment he gives sinners over to their sins. In effect, he abandons them to their own desires. So it was with Pharaoh. By this act of judgment, God did not blemish his own righteousness by creating fresh evil in Pharaoh’s heart. He established his own righteousness by punishing the evil that was already there in Pharaoh.
 
This is how we must understand double predestination. God gives mercy to the elect by working faith in their hearts. He gives justice to the reprobate by leaving them in their own sins. There is no symmetry here. One group receives mercy. The other group receives justice. No one is a victim of injustice. None can complain that there is unrighteousness in God.
~Sproul, R. C. (1986). Chosen by God (pp. 141–148). Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House Publishers.

 

Your and His,

David

p.s. - again, I would recommend buying/reading this book, or listening to Dr. Sproul teach it online (for free :)), at least the rest of his chapter on double predestination anyway, as there are many more fascinating aspects of it to understand.

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David Lee
Appreciated.... I find it, well, difficult to read the defining statement and "understand" it as you suggest; the words IMO are saying something very different. I find YOUR view on this far more acceptable, of course, but I'm not seeing how the statement says what you do.

 

Hi Josiah, the statement you posited, like many similar statements, can be understood in more ways than one ;) It's important to remember that in Calvinism, God is always seen (perhaps first & foremost) as "sovereign", and many of the official statements that define what we believe are made to reflect that understanding.

 

So it is with the doctrine of double predestination. IOW, the understanding that is being put forward is that God is just as sovereign in his "passive" ordination/election of the reprobate as He is sovereign in His active ordination/election of the saints. That is, God acts with an undoubted intention whenever He "passes over" those who will not be saved by Him. Clarity is made therefore in such statements so that there is no misunderstanding about the fact that He is completely sovereign in both active and passive election, that it is His choice and no one else's that prevails.

 

Hope that helps!

 

--David

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David Lee

Here too, an excerpt from our principle Confession, to perhaps add a little more clarity. Take special note of what part VII has to say below:

Chapter III

Of God's Eternal Decree

I. God from all eternity, did, by the most wise and holy counsel of His own will, freely, and unchangeably ordain whatsoever comes to pass;
yet so, as thereby neither is God the author of sin,
nor is violence offered to the will of the creatures; nor is the liberty or contingency of second causes taken away, but rather established.

 

II. Although God knows whatsoever may or can come to pass upon all supposed conditions;
yet has He not decreed anything because He foresaw it as future, or as that which would come to pass upon such conditions.

 

III. By the decree of God, for the manifestation of His glory, some men and angels
are predestinated unto everlasting life; and others foreordained to everlasting death.

 

IV. These angels and men, thus predestinated, and foreordained, are particularly and unchangeably designed, and their number so certain and definite, that it cannot be either increased or diminished.

 

V. Those of mankind that are predestinated unto life, God, before the foundation of the world was laid, according to His eternal and immutable purpose, and the secret counsel and good pleasure of His will, has chosen, in Christ, unto everlasting glory,
out of His mere free grace and love, without any foresight of faith, or good works, or perseverance in either of them, or any other thing in the creature, as conditions, or causes moving Him thereunto;
and all to the praise of His glorious grace.

 

VI. As God has appointed the elect unto glory, so has He, by the eternal and most free purpose of His will, foreordained all the means thereunto.
Wherefore, they who are elected, being fallen in Adam, are redeemed by Christ,
are effectually called unto faith in Christ by His Spirit working in due season, are justified, adopted, sanctified,
and kept by His power, through faith, unto salvation.
Neither are any other redeemed by Christ, effectually called, justified, adopted, sanctified, and saved, but the elect only.

 

VII. The rest of mankind God was pleased, according to the unsearchable counsel of His own will, whereby He extends or withholds mercy, as He pleases, for the glory of His sovereign power over His creatures,
to pass by
; and to ordain them to dishonor and wrath for their sin, to the praise of His glorious justice.

 

VIII. The doctrine of this high mystery of predestination is to be handled with special prudence and care,
that men, attending the will of God revealed in His Word, and yielding obedience thereunto, may, from the certainty of their effectual vocation, be assured of their eternal election.
So shall this doctrine afford matter of praise, reverence, and admiration of God;
and of humility, diligence, and abundant consolation to all that sincerely obey the Gospel.
]
~Westminster Confession of Faith

 

Even in this, you can see why a greater understanding, from a document like I posited above from Dr. Sproul, is both valuable and probably necessary as far as truly understanding what Calvinism truly teaches about this subject.

 

In Christ,

David

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Josiah

This may be helpful to our process. This from Read More

 

All below is verbatim from there (I'm just not putting it into quotes since that seems to do unwanted things at this site, but it's all the article from that site, in total.

 

 

Martin Luther and the Doctrine of Predestination

 

by Don Matzat

 

The doctrine of predestination or election has confused and separated Christians for generations. To believe in predestination is to believe that we are "saved," born-again, or brought to faith in Jesus Christ because God has chosen us for salvation. Both Luther and Calvin believed in predestination. But if the doctrine of predestination is logically "pushed," many difficult questions arise: Does God choose people for damnation? Can the grace of God be resisted? Did Jesus die for all sinners or only for the elect? Can a Christian fall away from the faith?

 

These questions have caused a major debate within Protestant Christianity. Let us consider the participants and the particulars.

 

John Calvin:

 

The French theologian John Calvin (1509 - 1564) was, after Martin Luther, the key figure in the Protestant Reformation. "Reformed" churches follow Calvin’s interpretation of Scripture. His massive Institutes of the Christian Religion set forth his systematic theology. Other Protestant predestination positions, with the exception of the Lutheran position, were formulated out of reaction to Calvinism. Calvin’s understanding of predestination is summarized by five points. The first letter of each definition comprises the famous TULIP of Calvinist theology:

 

o Total Depravity: Because of the fall, man is unable of himself to savingly believe the gospel. The sinner is deaf, blind, and dead to the things of God; his heart is deceitful and desperately corrupt. His will is not free, it is in bondage to his evil nature, therefore, he will not—indeed he cannot—choose good over evil in the spiritual realm.

 

o Unconditional Election: God’s choice of certain individuals unto salvation before the foundation of the world rested solely in His own sovereign will. His choice of particular sinners was not based on any foreseen response or obedience on their part, such as faith, repentance, etc. On the contrary, God gives faith and repentance to each individual whom he selected.

 

o Limited Atonement: Christ’s redeeming work was intended to save the elect only and actually secured salvation for them. His death was a substitutionary endurance of the penalty of sin in the place of certain specified sinners. The gift of faith is infallibly applied by the Spirit to all for whom Christ died, therefore guaranteeing their salvation.

 

o Irresistible Grace: In addition to the outward general call to salvation which is made to everyone who hears the Gospel, the Holy Spirit extends to the elect a special inward call that inevitably brings them to salvation. The external call (which is made to all without distinction) can be, and often is, rejected; whereas the internal call (which is made only to the elect) cannot be rejected; it always results in conversion. By means of this special call the Spirit irresistibly draws sinners to Christ.

 

o Perseverance of the Saints: All who are chosen by God, redeemed by Christ, and given faith by the Spirit are eternally saved. They are kept in faith by the power of Almighty God and thus persevere to the end.

 

John Calvin’s logical system of theology built upon the doctrine of election or predestination has resulted in two primary reactions: Universalism and Arminianism.

 

Universalism:

 

The major criticism of Calvin’s understanding of predestination was: It is not fair! Would God simply choose to send people to hell without offering them any opportunity for salvation? Some reacted against Calvin by the extreme teaching of "universal salvation".

 

John Murray (1741 - 1815) believed that every individual shall in due time be separated from sin. Of Calvinist background, he was influenced by the Methodism of John Wesley but was converted to Universalism, the doctrine of universal redemption. He organized the first American Universalist Church in 1779 at Gloucester, Mass.

 

Hosea Ballou (1771 - 1852), a New England theologian and clergyman, formulated the basic tenets of Universalism. Upon reacting against the Calvinist position on salvation of the elect only, he began teaching that all people are saved (universal salvation) and that there is no eternal punishment.

 

The Universalist Church of America and the American Unitarian Association merged in 1961 to form a single denomination—the Unitarian Universalist Association—which currently has about 173,000 members. Unitarian Universalists, because of their rejection of the doctrine of the Trinity and distortion of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, are not regarded as a Christian denomination.

 

Arminianism:

 

Arminianism, which takes its name from Jacobus Arminius (Jakob Harmensen), is a theological revision of Calvinism that limits the significance of the doctrine of predestination. Arminius (1560 - 1609) was a Dutch Reformed theologian who taught that God’s sovereign will and human free will are compatible. The name Remonstrants was given to his followers who in 1610 drew up a document known as the Remonstrance. This document set forth a revision of Calvinism: Christ died for all, not only for the elect; divine grace is not irresistible; Christians can fall from grace, through free will, and be lost. These affirmations constituted a rejection of the most extreme Calvinist interpretation of predestination. The Remonstrants were condemned by the Dutch Reformed Church at the Synod of Dort (1618 - 1619).

 

Modern Protestant Arminianism, greatly influenced by 19th century Revivalism, counters the five points of Calvinism by declaring:

 

o Although human nature was seriously affected by the fall, man has not been left in a state of total spiritual helplessness. Each sinner possesses a free will, and his eternal destiny depends on how he uses it.

 

o God’s choice of certain individuals unto salvation before the foundation of the world was based upon His foreseeing that they would respond to His call. He selected only those whom He knew would of themselves freely believe the Gospel.

 

o Christ’s redeeming work made it possible for everyone to be saved but did not actually secure the salvation of anyone.

 

o The Spirit calls inwardly all those who are called outwardly by the Gospel invitation; He does all that He can to bring every sinner to salvation. but inasmuch as man is free, he can successfully resist the Spirit’s call, The Spirit cannot regenerate the sinner until he believes; faith (which is man’s contribution) precedes and makes possible the new birth.

 

o Those who believe and are truly saved can lose their salvation by failing to keep up their faith, etc. All Arminians have not been agreed on this point; some have held that believers are eternally secure in Christ, that once a sinner is regenerated, he can never be lost.

 

This is the conflict. What does the Bible say about these issues?

 

What does the Bible teach?

 

The Scriptures clearly teach that fallen man is not capable of cooperating with God in spiritual matters. He is spiritually dead and an enemy of God. For example:

 

Ephesians 2: 1: And you [hath he quickened], who were dead in trespasses and sins.

 

Ephesians 4: 18: Having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them. because of the blindness of their heart:

 

To say that man is not dead in trespasses and sin and is capable of making a decision, or cooperating with God is an example of the heresy of Pelagianism (see Pelagianism in the "Glossary.") Charles Finney, the father of modern Evangelical Revivalism, taught that faith is a decision based on persuasive argumentation and that man decides to be born-again. Finney rejected the necessity of the imputation of the righteousness of Christ to the believer, claiming that such imputation hindered moral reform. To deny human total depravity in spiritual matters is a return to the theology of Rome.

 

There is clear biblical evidence to support a doctrine of predestination or election. For example, in Romans 8: 28-30 we read:

 

And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to [his] purpose. For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate [to be] conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified.

 

Of course, this biblical teaching raises many questions which confound human reason. If a person is saved because he is chosen for salvation, what about those who are not saved?. Do they wind up in hell because they have been chosen for damnation or, to put it another way, not chosen for salvation? Has God limited his great salvation only to the elect?

 

While in the Old Testament God specifically chose the nation of Israel from whom the Messiah would appear, when it comes to the application of the great salvation won for us by the promised Messiah, the biblical witness is clear. It is God’s desire for everyone, not simply a certain chosen people, to be saved. God’s grace is universal. The entire message of the New Testament is inclusive. To limit the scope of God grace to merely a select group of people is a major distortion of the divine intention. The following verses, together with many other verses in the New Testament, speak of God’s universal grace.

 

I Timothy 2: 3-4: For this [is] good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour; Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth.

 

John 3: 16: For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

 

2 Corinthians 5: 15: And [that] he died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him which died for them, and rose again.

 

2 Corinthians 5: 19: To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself not imputing their trespasses unto them: and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation.

 

I John 2: 2: And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for [the sins of] the whole world.

 

Those who believe that God’s grace is limited to the elect and that the atonement was only for the elect interpret the words "all men," or "all," or "the world" to mean the Christians or the elect. In so doing they are imposing their preconceptions on Scripture and not allowing Scripture to simply speak. It is what is called eisegesis (reading a meaning into the text) rather than exegesis (pulling the meaning out of the text).

 

The Bible clearly teaches that sinful man is able to resist the Holy Spirit and reject the grace of God. A person who ends up in hell is not there because he has been consigned to hell by God’s sovereign choice, but rather because he has rejected the Gospel of Jesus Christ. For example:

 

Matthew 23: 37: 0 Jerusalem, Jerusalem, [thou] that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under [her] wings, and ye would not!

 

Mark 7: 9: And he said unto them, Full well ye reject the commandment of God, that ye may keep your own tradition.

 

Acts 7: 51: Ye stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears, ye do always resist the Holy Ghost: as your fathers [did], so [do] ye.

 

2 Timothy 3: 8: Now as Jannes and Jambres withstood Moses, so do these also resist the truth: men of corrupt minds, reprobate concerning the faith.

 

Hebrews 4: 7: Again, he limiteth a certain day saying in David, To day, after so long a time; as it is said, To day if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts

 

Finally while God promises to keep us from falling (Jude 1: 24) and to complete the work of redemption in us (Philippians 1: 6), because of the reality of our sinful nature, the Bible teaches that we can reject and turn away from the truth of the Gospel. If falling away was not possible, there would be no reason for all the New Testament admonitions and warnings. Jesus himself, in the parable of the sower, speaks of those who believe but later fall away.

 

Luke 8: 6-8 And some fell upon a rock; and as soon as it was sprung up, it withered away, because it lacked moisture. And some fell among thorns; and the thorns sprang up with it, and choked it. And other fell on good ground, and sprang up, and bare fruit an hundredfold. And when he had said these things, he cried, He that hath ears to hear, let him hear

 

Jesus explains this parable by saying:

 

Luke 8: 11-14 Now the parable is this: The seed is the word of God. Those by the way side are they that hear; then cometh the devil, and taketh away the word out of their hearts, lest they should believe and be saved They on the rock [are they], which, when they hear, receive the word with joy: and these have no root, which for a while believe, and in time of temptation fall away. And that which fell among thorns are they, which, when they have heard, go forth, and are choked with cares and riches and pleasures of [this] life, and bring no fruit to perfection.

 

Martin Luther and Predestination:

 

At the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals gathering this past April, a noted Reformed theologian presented a paper on "grace alone." He defined "grace alone," not by the cross of Jesus Christ, but by the doctrine of predestination or election. In the course of his presentation, he attempted to demonstrate that Martin Luther was a participant in the historic Protestant predestination debate. In my estimation he failed to accurately present Luther’s position.

 

Luther’s approach to predestination, which I happen to believe is the best approach, can be summarized by three points:

 

1) In dealing with the issue of election or predestination, Luther understood the impasse at which one arrives by retaining the total depravity of man, universal grace, and God’s election of individuals, but he never tried to harmonize the teachings. He feared that he would be forced to make concessions that would violate biblical truth.

 

Luther believed that divine election was the cause of our salvation. The doctrine was for the comfort of the believer. He wrote: "The human doctrine of free will and of our spiritual powers is futile. The matter (salvation) does not depend on our will but on God’s will and election."* Since salvation is totally of God’s doing, the doctrine of election comforts those who believe. We can say, "I belong to God! I have been chosen by God. I am one of his sheep!"

 

While accepting divine election, Luther refused to embrace the logical conclusions that led to an atonement limited to the elect and irresistible grace. He retained universal grace and man’s power to resist and reject the Gospel. For Luther, it was a mystery. Concerning investigating the doctrine he wrote: "we are not allowed to investigate, and even though you were to investigate much, yet you would never find out."

 

Luther believed that Christians are eternally secure, but in Christ. After admonishing his readers to continue to look to the cross of Christ, he wrote:

 

For if you concern yourself with this alone and believe that it has happened for your sake, you will certainly be preserved in this faith.... Look for yourself in Christ alone. . . . Then you will find yourself eternally in him.

 

2) The doctrine of predestination was not central in Luther’s theology. The substance of sola gratia or "grace alone" was not in the doctrine of election but in the cross of Jesus Christ. He believed that one should follow the systematic presentation of

 

Scripture, especially as illustrated in the Book of Romans. He writes:

 

In chapters nine, ten, and eleven (of Romans) the apostle teaches about the eternal predestination of God.... Follow the order of this Epistle: first be concerned about Christ and the Gospel, in order to recognize your sin and his grace; then fight against your sins.... Adam must first be quite dead before a man is able to bear this subject and to drink this strong wine. Watch that you do not drink wine while you are still an infant. Every doctrine has its limit, time, and age.

 

Later Lutheran theologians varied in their positioning of the doctrine of election in their systematic presentation of Biblical doctrine. Francis Pieper, for example, in his three-volume Christian Dogmatics, presented the doctrine of election at the very end of his work, immediately before his section on the end of the age.

 

3) Luther believed that any debate, discussion, or argument over the doctrine of election should be avoided. He wrote:

 

A dispute about predestination should be avoided entirely... I forget everything about Christ and God when I come upon these thoughts and actually get to the point to imagining that God is a rogue. We must stay in the word, in which God is revealed to us and salvation is offered, if we believe him. But in thinking about predestination, we forget God . . However, in Christ are hid all the treasures (Col. 2:3); outside him all are locked up. Therefore, we should simply refuse to argue about election.

 

Such a disputation is so very displeasing to God that he has instituted Baptism, the spoken Word, and the Lord’s Supper to counteract the temptation to engage in it. In these, let us persist and constantly say., I am baptized I believe in Jesus. I care nothing about the disputation concerning predestination.

 

Martin Luther did not know of the confusion and contentions that would later exist among Christians and the major heresies such as Universalism and the rebirth of Pelagianism that would arise as the result of the debates over the doctrine of predestination. If he had known, he most certainly would have reminded us of his words: "For this you should know: All such suggestions and disputes about predestination are surely of the devil."

 

Perhaps the great Reformer John Calvin, if he had been able to see all the contentions that would arise in reaction to his position on predestination, might have stopped where Luther stopped and allowed a mystery to be just that - a mystery!

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David Lee

Finally (for now anyway ;)), one BIG difference between Lutheranism and Calvinism can be found in the scope/efficacy of water baptism. We do not hold to baptismal regeneration like you guys do, and you cannot hold therefore to our understanding of the Perseverance of the Saints (since we believe, along with the Bible, that none of God's chosen/elect will be lost .. i.e. John 6:37-40/John 10:26-28/Hebrews 7:25). I turn yet again to the WCF:

Chapter XVII

Of the Perseverance of the Saints

I.
They, whom God has accepted in His Beloved, effectually called, and sanctified by His Spirit, can neither totally nor finally fall away from the state of grace, but shall certainly persevere therein to the end, and be eternally saved
.

 

II. This perseverance of the saints depends not upon their own free will, but upon the immutability of the decree of election, flowing from the free and unchangeable love of God the Father;
upon the efficacy of the merit and intercession of Jesus Christ,
the abiding of the Spirit, and of the seed of God within them,
and the nature of the covenant of grace:
from all which arises also the certainty and infallibility thereof.

 

III. Nevertheless, they may, through the temptations of Satan and of the world, the prevalency of corruption remaining in them, and the neglect of the means of their preservation, fall into grievous sins;
and, for a time, continue therein:
whereby they incur God's displeasure,
and grieve His Holy Spirit,
come to be deprived of some measure of their graces and comforts,
have their hearts hardened,
and their consciences wounded;
hurt and scandalize others,
and bring temporal judgments upon themselves.
~Westminster Confession of Faith

 

 

 

 

Yours and His,

David

 

 

All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and

of all that He has given Me I lose nothing,

but raise it up on the last day"

John 6:37,39

 

Edited by David Lee

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Josiah

Again, my point here is discussing Williams' point that no Lutheran objects to TULIP..... The point that Lutherans and Reformed agree with the TULIP theologies. My view is that Lutherans DO disagree: I'm not arguing who is right or wrong, only that there IS a difference.

 

I'm a newbie here and it seems what happens is that copy/pastes from sources are put into the record. So, I finally did that. When I posted my words about my view, that was largely ignored (I don't think that's how this site works).

 

I'd be willing to lay aside the issue of whether Lutherans and Reformed agree or disagree on predestination/election..... and our discussion of the view(s) switching instead to the "P" (although maybe a separate thread would be better). But here again, MY point would be one of disagreement with William: I hold that Lutherans and Reformed disagree on this point, each actually rejecting the stance of the other - underlining MY view that while the two Reformation movements are largely the same, TULIP defines Calvinism, not Lutheranism .

 

 

On OSAS, I already touched on that earlier. I gave the references Lutherans tend to give. I think all that was unreplied to. From the Lutheran perspective, this is a Law/Gospel issue where all the verses are relevant - none eliminated by others. And I think Lutheranisms' other "issue" is pastoral - that OSAS creates a terror of the conscience and threatens Sola Gratia - Solus Christus - SOLA FIDE. That it's best leaving Law as Law, Gospel as Gospel - and applying each appropriately in each pastoral situation - not blending, mixing or subjecting either to either. Again, I posted all this several days ago and there was no reply.

 

 

Thank you!

 

 

Pax Christi

 

 

- Josiah

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Josiah
Here too, an excerpt from our principle Confession, to perhaps add a little more clarity. Take special note of what part VII has to say below:

 

VII. The rest of mankind God was pleased, according to the unsearchable counsel of His own will, whereby He extends or withholds mercy, as He pleases, for the glory of His sovereign power over His creatures, to pass by; and to ordain them to dishonor and wrath for their sin, to the praise of His glorious justice.

 

 

"Extends or withholds mercy" suggests to me equal actions, predestination. Not, "God elects some (period, end of discussion)."

 

Note that it says that EACH is as God "pleases" (interesting: this says it PLEASES God to send most to hell..... hum).

 

Note that it says that God "ordained" them to dishonor. I'm having trouble reconciling two very different things in this statement you asked me to especially consider. Yes, it says "pass by" (as you stressed with embolding and underlining) but goes on to say AND TO ORDAIN THEM TO DISHONOR AND WRATH." It's not just the "pass by" point you made, there is an equal and fully functioning part - there is an AND to connect that to something else, something additonally true: AND (in addition to passing by), AND TO ORDAIN THEM (that seems active to me) TO DISHONOR AND WRATH." If "ordain them" is active with the saved, how is "and ordain them" not active with the damned? If the point was God simply doesn't choose ALL, it's just a case of not doing something then why the "..... AND..;. AND ordained them to dishonor and wrath?" If we are to dismiss the "ordained them" for the damned, why not also dismiss the "ordained them" for the saved? Seems to ME this point you asked me to study suggests it's NOT a case of only an entirely passive "but not all" a "just passed by.' The sentence would have ended where you ended the emphasis, the embolding, the underlining ... but it does not. It continues with an equal statement, fully equal to the part before..... AND to ordain THEM to dishonor and wrath. Now, as I raised earlier (there was no reply), maybe the second equal half of this sentence is deleted in modern Calvinist theology, and that's okay, but it does seem to suggest there's more to this than the 'pass by', the PASSIVE thing you stress, there is an "AND......" that is equally and also fully true that is at least stated (even if now rejected).

 

At least that's as it seems to me....

 

 

I already gave my view on this....

 

 

 

Thank you.

 

 

Pax Christi

 

 

- Josiah

 

 

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David Lee

Josiah, God has clearly "ordained" every action that we humans make in this life long before we do any of it. Quite frankly, if He did not, He could not be considered "God" (IOW, He is not "surprised" by anything we choose to do). However, His "ordination" does not mean that He "causes" everything that happens, that He, for instance, "causes" us to sin (we choose to do that ourselves), or that He ever approves of us doing so, it simply means (in the case of something like sin) that He "allows" it to occur. If He did not, at least most of the time, our wills would not be free.

 

I can't help that the way our Confession was written does not meet with your approval (you might want to consider when and where it was written, Westminster, 1646 AD, when you make your future assessments of it however), or that it doesn't say what your preconceived notion of Calvinism says it must say. The fact that the Westminster Divines used the phrase, "pass by", to describe God's ordination of the reprobate ends the discussion of what they meant. They did not intend a Hyper-Calvinistic understanding in 1646 AD anymore than we Calvinists intend one today.

 

Here's something that's important to remember (for this discussion and/or for any other similar discussions you may have in the future), words normally have more than one meaning, so getting at the author(s) intended meaning is always vital!

 

We've told you what Calvinism teaches and what the words we use mean, both 500 years ago and today, so the vocabulary lesson is now over. You are, of course, free to believe whatever you "think" Calvinism teaches, just like you are free to believe that we Calvinists are either 1) ignorant concerning the teaching and meaning of our own faith and/or what it has taught historically or 2) that we are all liars who are trying to deceive you for some reason about what we "really" believe. You are also, of course, free to be wrong ;)

 

If choices #1 and #2 above do not make sense to you (and they shouldn't), then perhaps it's time to stop arguing that we "Calvinists" don't understand "Calvinism". We've told you what we believe and why, and we've shown you what Calvinism teaches (using the words of both ancient and modern theologians to do so), but you press on with your arguments anyway. It's like going to the Blackhawks' Patrick Kane and continuing to argue with the man himself that he shoots right-handed (even though he's told you plainly and has shown you, again and again, that he shoots left).

 

Your arguments have become nothing short of inane, so for me, I'm done. If you have something substantive you'd like to discuss however, that would be fine :) (as long as you don't continue to insist that 'you' understand what I mean about the things I say better than I do myself ;)).

 

Yours and His,

David

Edited by David Lee
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Josiah

 

 

"Extends or withholds mercy" suggests to me equal actions, predestination. Not, "God elects some (period, end of discussion)."

 

Note that it says that EACH is as God "pleases" (interesting: this says it PLEASES God to send most to hell..... hum).

 

Note that it says that God "ordained" them to dishonor. I'm having trouble reconciling two very different things in this statement you asked me to especially consider. Yes, it says "pass by" (as you stressed with embolding and underlining) but goes on to say AND TO ORDAIN THEM TO DISHONOR AND WRATH." It's not just the "pass by" point you made, there is an equal and fully functioning part - there is an AND to connect that to something else, something additonally true: AND (in addition to passing by), AND TO ORDAIN THEM (that seems active to me) TO DISHONOR AND WRATH." If "ordain them" is active with the saved, how is "and ordain them" not active with the damned? If the point was God simply doesn't choose ALL, it's just a case of not doing something then why the "..... AND..;. AND ordained them to dishonor and wrath?" If we are to dismiss the "ordained them" for the damned, why not also dismiss the "ordained them" for the saved? Seems to ME this point you asked me to study suggests it's NOT a case of only an entirely passive "but not all" a "just passed by.' The sentence would have ended where you ended the emphasis, the embolding, the underlining ... but it does not. It continues with an equal statement, fully equal to the part before..... AND to ordain THEM to dishonor and wrath. Now, as I raised earlier (there was no reply), maybe the second equal half of this sentence is deleted in modern Calvinist theology, and that's okay, but it does seem to suggest there's more to this than the 'pass by', the PASSIVE thing you stress, there is an "AND......" that is equally and also fully true that is at least stated (even if now rejected).

 

 

At least that's as it seems to me....

 

 

.

 

 

 

Josiah, God has clearly "ordained" every action that we humans make in this life long before we do any of it.

 

 

Lutherans make a distinction between foreknowledge and predestination so it seems I misunderstood your point.

 

 

I'm not seeing the sharp distinction you are making between "active" and "passive." Are you conveying that actually there is no "passive" ordaining? It's always, equally, with the intent, desire of God? You didn't comment on the rest of the sentence you stress, the part after you emboldened and underlined, the "....... AND to ordain them (the damned) to dishonor and wrath." The identical word used for what God does with the saved, connected with an "and."

 

 

 

 

He is not "surprised" by anything we choose to do

 

 

Again, Lutherans make a distinction between foreknowledge and predestination. Perhaps this is not the case in Reformed theology. Sorry.

 

 

 

 

The fact that the Westminster Divines used the phrase, "pass by", to describe God's ordination of the reprobate ends the discussion of what they meant. They did not intend a Hyper-Calvinistic understanding in 1646 AD anymore than we Calvinists intend one today.

 

 

Sorry, forgive me, I don't know what is meant by Reformed theology.... TULIP.... that is "hard" or "soft", "hyper" or "regular." Forgive me, I'm just unfamiliar with this, I have no idea what you mean by those adjectives. I raised the possibility of variant understandings within Reformed theology on that and you dismissed that.

 

 

I simply read the paragraph you requested. And, IMO, reading the words you called on me to consider, I don't see the point you made. It would if it was truncated to eliminate everything after what you highlighted but there's not even a comma there, it continues with ".... AND....." I'm trying to understand why the second, equal part of that sentence you asked me to study isn't equally significant.

 

 

I earlier raised the possibility of communication and of evolving understanding, but you dismissed that possibility.

 

 

 

Again, I'm not debating ANYTHING. I've said not one word about which position(s) may or may not be correct. I'm responding to two things:

 

1) Williams point that Lutherans agree with TULIP (including this point)

2) Attempting to understand how the Reformed Confessions don't teach a double predestination.

 

 

 

 

 

you are free to believe that we Calvinists are either 1) ignorant concerning the teaching and meaning of our own faith and/or what it has taught historically or 2) that we are all liars who are trying to deceive you for some reason about what we "really" believe. You are also, of course, free to be wrong

 

 

WOW!! Where did that come from?

 

 

I never remotely - ever - in any thread - posted ANYTHING about who or what is right or wrong. I raised the issue of vocabulary, communication, evolving and variant understanding and you evaded every word of it - you dismissed that possibility.

 

You specifically asked me to carefully consider a paragraph. It simply noted that the words there SEEMED to be variant with the idea that there are two very different forms of ordaining in Calvinism, a very sharp distinction is made. I simply and only added that the sentence where you embolden two words seems to actually note the opposite and asked you about that.

 

 

 

 

perhaps it's time to stop arguing that we "Calvinists" don't understand "Calvinism"

 

 

I never remotely, wildly stated or implied such a thing. I did raise the issue that there might be communication issues, variant understandings - but again, you dismissed that possibility. You directed me to a specific paragraph. I asked you about it.

 

 

 

 

Your arguments have become nothing short of inane, so for me, I'm done.

 

 

I've haven't made any arguments. In a FEW cases, I inserted into the discussion what I think is the Lutheran position, but that's not arguing anything. I don't even think I indicated that the Lutheran position is true.

 

 

 

I seem to be upsetting you. And so with that, I'll exit from the site.

 

 

 

Blessings to you and yours. Thank you for my time here.

 

 

 

- Josiah.

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