Saturday, September 30, 2006

The Four Major Views of Christian Salvation: Part One

HOW IS A PERSON SAVED?
THE FOUR MAJOR VIEWS OF SALVATION

I. INTRODUCTION

In Christianity, there are few doctrines more important than personal salvation, particularly in the Wesleyan tradition. John Wesley’s oft repeated statement, “I only want to know one thing…the way to heaven” still reverberates among many Christians and seekers of God. Of course the idea of personal salvation raises two intimately related questions: (1) what is personal salvation and (2) how is a person saved?

The content of personal salvation entails a number of ideas: forgiveness of sin, reconciliation with God and humanity, deliverance from the power of sin, freedom to be fully human, bodily resurrection from the dead, and a ticket to heaven, to name a view. These are the fundamental ideas behind Wesley’s theology of what salvation entails. However, Wesley’s statement fundamentally addresses the second question – the means or way to salvation. Early in his ministry, more than a decade before his Aldersgate experience, Wesley recognized the end of Christianity, but it would take him years before he recognized the means to that end.

Like Wesley, many people recognize the end of salvation, if only vaguely. With the Early Wesley, they struggle in apprehending and appropriating the means to that end. They wrestle with the question, “How is a person saved?” In the history of Christianity, there have been four primary ways in which the achievement of salvation has been articulated. The purpose of this article is to explore the Pelagian, Semi-Pelagian, Semi-Augustinian, and Augustinian views of achieving Christian salvation. In this post, I will explore the Pelagian and Semi-Pelagian views. In next week’s post I will develop the Semi-Augustinian and Augustinian views.

II. THE FOUR MAJOR VIEWS OF SALVATION

To begin, while there are four major views on the means of achieving salvation, these views are not monolithic. Each perspective can be nuanced and taught in slightly different ways. For example, while there are certain defining characteristics of the Semi-Pelegian doctrine, there can be many different ways in which this view can be nuanced and taught; there can be disagreements among Semi-Pelegians about specific aspects of their teaching, while still remaining solidly Semi-Pelegian.

Perhaps, the best way to look at the different teachings on salvation is to see them as a spectrum of thought, placed on that spectrum based on how they handle two fundamental and intimately related Christian doctrines: (1) human depravity or original sin and (2) the work of salvation. The first doctrine addresses the degree to which humanity has been affected by original sin. To what extent has humanity been impaired by the Fall of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden? The second doctrine addresses the relationship of human effort to the work of salvation. Is salvation the work of God, the work of humanity, or some divine-human synergism?

On one end of the spectrum is the view that sees salvation as a human monergism; there is no original sin and salvation is entirely the work of humanity. On the other end of the spectrum is a divine monergism; humanity is completely dead spiritually, possessing no internal resources to contribute to personal salvation. Therefore if humanity is to be saved, God must do all of the work. In the middle are different synergisms; humanity and God working in cooperation with one another. Those synergisms closer to the human monergism side of spectrum will place greater emphasis on what human beings contribute to salvation, while those closer to the divine monergism side will place their focus on divine action.

A. Pelagianism

Pelagianism, which is to be distinguished from the actual teachings of Pelagius, expresses the strongest form of human monergism. As such, it exists at one end of the salvation spectrum. Pelagianism is a view of salvation that rejects the idea of original sin. Each person brought into life exists in the same state that Adam and Eve existed before their sin. Human beings have the same freedom that humanity enjoyed in the Garden. There is no inherited tendency, bent, proclivity or enslavement to sin. The human will is completely free to choose to follow God’s law or not. There is no temptation that can not be overcome through human will power; all divine commands can be fulfilled by a human being. Every human being possesses the necessary internal resource to be an obedient follower of Jesus Christ.

From this perspective, salvation is brought about by following the example and teaching of Jesus Christ. Jesus is the perfect model of how a person should live and his moral teachings provide humanity with the necessary instructions to live as His followers. As such, individuals earn or merit their salvation through their discipleship – imitating the life of Jesus and following his moral commands. Ultimately, a person will stand before God in final judgment and God will decide whether or not that individual’s discipleship merits the reward of heaven or the punishment of hell. Human action is the means by which salvation is achieved.

Pelagianism can take a variety of forms in Christianity. For example, there are many church members, people who attend worship services, and self-described Christians who believe that their good works (their church attendance, church membership, financial contributions to the church, their charitable giving, their acts of obedience in doing good, etc.) will earn them a place in heaven. Similarly, there are people who believe that their good deeds and their bad deeds will be evaluated in final judgment and if their good works outweigh their bad, then, they will earn a place in heaven.

While Pelagianism has been thoroughly rejected and is heresy and while no legitimate denomination or Christian body officially holds to this view, nevertheless it still finds expression in Christianity. Pelagianism can found in many “rank and file” members of liberal mainline denominations, peripheral religious groups like the Unitarian-Universalist Churches, pseudo-religious organizations like Freemasonry, and popular thought in American life.

B. Semi-Pelagianism

Semi-Pelagianism is a synergistic understanding of salvation, with priority given to human effort. As such, this perspective is placed on the spectrum closer to the Pelagian end. Semi-Pelagianism recognizes original sin. All of humanity has been affected by the sin of Adam and Eve. Every human being is born with a propensity or proclivity to rebellion and disobedience to God. Every human being has sinned, because by Adamic nature they are sinners. Obedience to God and holy love do not come easily to humanity. However, the moral image of God, the ability to choose the good, to do the right, has not been completely extinguished in humanity. Humanity still has some internal resources to offer in the work of salvation.

Because of personal sin, human beings stand in need of divine forgiveness and redemption. Human beings can not save themselves. They can not do enough good works and deeds to atone for their sins. If they are going to find redemption, then they must find it in the saving work of Christ in his life, death and resurrection. To appropriate this work, a person must repent of sin, exercise faith in Jesus Christ. The ability to repent and exercise faith is something a person can do. People have the power within themselves to repent and believe any time they choose. When they do this, God responds by forgiving and redeeming people through Jesus Christ.

This is a human-divine synergism. The work of humanity is to repent and believe. The work of God is to forgive and redeem. Priority is given to human beings, not because they do the most important work in salvation, but because salvation begins with the human initiative. God responds when human beings take this initiative. Perhaps the defining mark of the semi-Pelagian perspective is the belief that every human being, though impaired by original sin, has the power to move toward God, to repent and believe the Gospel, at any moment they decide.

Semi-Pelagianism can take a variety of forms in Christianity. For example, is some expressions of Christianity, salvation is achieved through belief in Christ and good works. Good works alone can not save a person, but they do contribute to earning the justifying work of God in Christ. The merits of godly actions by humans, is supplemented by faith in the merits of Christ. As such, both good works and divine work bring about the work of salvation.

While Pelagianism has been rejected by Christianity, Semi-Pelagianism has had a favorable reception in many Christian circles. Historically, the two most dominant expressions of this perspective are found in Roman Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy. However, this is the view of most generic evangelicals or this is how most evangelicals function pragmatically.

34 Comments:

At 6:41 PM, Blogger Kris Nordstrom said...

Dr. Bounds,

Thought I would weigh in here. It seems to me that the Semi-pelagianistic view still greatly minimizes the act of Christ on the cross and His subsequent ressurection. It assumes that humanity, without the work of God, would choose to have faith. It is not our nature to rely on anything we cannot control, much less a God that is willing to suffer for our shortcommings. That must be a sign of weakness screams our intellect. A willingness to suffer? A willingness to become man? A longing for relationship with His creation? In the eyes of this broken world all are signs of weakness. I cannot wait to read next weeks posts where God gets the credit for what we as humans will never have the capacity to understant, much less fully appreciate.

Peace be with you

Kris

 
At 2:54 AM, Blogger Chris Bounds said...

Chris,

Thanks for the comments. Faith is the real issue. Is faith an inherent capacity we have to exercise at any given moment or is it a gift of grace, a work of God in us.

Of course, the Pelagian view has been thoroughly rejected by the Church and while the semi-Pelagian view exists in Catholic, Protestant and evangelical circles, it is not the historic Protestant view and not the view of Martin Luther, John Calvin, or John Wesley.

Pax Christi,

Chris Bounds

 
At 8:29 PM, Blogger OnceaWes said...

It's difficult, given the Wesleyan view of prevenient grace, to see how that Wesleyan views of Salvation are not, in the end, synergistic and so semi-pelagian. The same could be observed of Lutheran views of regeneration.

Certainly, classical Protestant monergism is something different then what one finds in Holiness quarters. It could be though that you're considering this semi-Augustinianism, when someone from Geneva would see it as semi-pelagianism.

OnceAWes

 
At 8:34 PM, Blogger Chris Bounds said...

Dear Once a Wes,

We will see. I have a couple of cards up my sleeve and will discuss the difference between Wesley's view and Wesleyanism.

Thanks for your comments.

Chris Bounds

 
At 8:46 PM, Blogger OnceaWes said...

Cards up the sleeve hey?

Good thing I brought my extra aces.

Looking forward to your distinctions,

OnceAWes

 
At 6:35 AM, Blogger Kris Nordstrom said...

I fold.....

 
At 6:30 PM, Blogger Craig Moore said...

Chris
I am certainly looking forward to part 2 of your study. Semi-pelagianism is the reason why I stopped identifying myself as a Wesleyan a few years ago. I have met Wesleyan pastors who literally define salvation in semi-pelagian terms who probably never heard of, or who have forgotten what the term means. When I was fresh out of seminary, semi-pelagianism was advocated and taught by Wesleyans. Ask Drury about John Maxwell's evangelistic and church growth impact in the 80's. It was pure "revivalism" and semi-pelagian.

 
At 5:51 PM, Blogger Kris Nordstrom said...

Mr. Moore,

I concur with your disdainful view of semi-pelagianism. To steal a phrase, it smacks of "cheap grace." The same cheap grace that I fell victim to years ago and have just now recently found that grace does have a cost. A dear cost, that neither you nor I could ever pay on our own. A cost that had to be paid for us, and even at that, we still have as humanity a swolled headed view of our part in our own salvation.

I don't mean to sound completely pre-destinist, but I certainly do believe that we cannot make the first move. It is far beyond our fallen state to even acknowledge God, let alone reach out to him in any type of humility or repentant frame of mind.

I'm done rambling now.

 
At 5:54 PM, Blogger coach d said...

Looking forward to Semi-A position..when I bet I'll fall. {your deal}

 
At 5:48 AM, Blogger OnceaWes said...

KD wrote,

I don't mean to sound completely pre-destinist, but I certainly do believe that we cannot make the first move. It is far beyond our fallen state to even acknowledge God, let alone reach out to him in any type of humility or repentant frame of mind."

OAW responds,

Horror of Horros man ... the last thing you want to sound like is a pre-destinist. If you're not careful the next thing you know you'll become a Hyper-calvinist.

I was taught Theology from Miley and Wiley before I left Wesleyanism. Both clearly teach prevenient grace which in the Wesleyan construct is a form of semi-pelagianism. God gives grace to all men. Some men improve upon that Grace while others don't. Surely, those who do improve upon the grace, and so go from prevenient grace to saving grace do so because of the Holy Spirit. On the surface we can say with a straight face that God gets all the glory. Yet we are left asking what causes converts to differ from those who resisted the wooings of the Holy Spirit?

The only answer to that is those who went from prevenient grace to saving grace added their aquiessence and so co-operated with the Spirit's work,(hence semi-pelagianism) while those who didn't aquiess and so didn't co-operate with the Spirit remain unsaved.

Prevenient Grace, as articulated by Miley and Wiley is a semi-pelagian scheme. Wesleyan pastors define Salvation in those terms because it was what many of them were taught. I know. I was there.

And what was semi-pelgian in Miley and Wiley goes to full blown pelagianism in guys like Maxwell and Hybels.

If Scripture is correct when it says that men are dead in trespasses and sins, and if Scripture is correct when it says that the carnal mind is at warfare with God for it is not subject to the Law of God, nor indeed can be, and if the Scripture is correct that that the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them because they are spiritually discerned, then we must believe that the only thing the unbeliever can do with prevenient grace, because of his sin nature, is to suppress its truth in unrighteousness.

In order for us to have a biblical doctrine of conversion we must rid ourselves of not only synergism but also any synergism that advertises itself as monergism.

OnceaWes

 
At 8:18 AM, Blogger Kris Nordstrom said...

A clarification on my earlier statement regarding predestinism...

I find it difficult, if not neigh impossible to square the idea of God as loving creator, and in Christ blessed redeemer, with the idea that only a select handful are given the golden ticket.

There has to be some element, however small, that we as humans contribute. I'm not sure what or where exactly, but I do think that God wants all of His children to spend eternity with him. We have that choice obviously so therefor it can't all be 100% God's doing, can it? That was not a sarcastic or rhetorical question. I really wonder that.

Please understand that I am not nearly as educated in the realms of Theology or Philosophy as the vast majority of those who might post here, but I do feel like I have at least a clue. I just need assistance in organizing my brain.

KN

 
At 6:34 PM, Blogger OnceaWes said...

KD,

I find it difficult, if not neigh impossible to square the idea of God as loving creator, and in Christ blessed redeemer, with the idea that only a select handful are given the golden ticket.

OAW

Well, if you believe God's promise to Abraham that his descendents would be as the sand of the seashore, I don't think that being a predestinist requires a constrained vision of the number of the occupants of the heavenly realm.

But as you consider this question keep in mind that God chose Abraham alone out of a host of people that weren't chosen. Likewise He alone selected Noah and His family out of a host of people that weren't chosen. Particularity, with God as being the sole author of that Particularity is a theme that runs all the way through Scripture.

Finally, try to remember that what is fair is that all Adam's children should not be chosen.
What should leave us in amazement is not that people are not chosen but rather that we are chosen.

KN,

There has to be some element, however small, that we as humans contribute.

OAW,

Once God does everything then we respond but even our response is all of Grace. If we contribute something to our salvation, however small, how could we say with a straight face...

To God Alone be the Glory

????????????

KN,

I'm not sure what or where exactly, but I do think that God wants all of His children to spend eternity with him.

OAW

If God wanted that and if that doesn't happen then doesn't that do funny things to our understanding of God's omnipotence?

KN,

We have that choice obviously so therefor it can't all be 100% God's doing, can it? That was not a sarcastic or rhetorical question. I really wonder that.

OAW,

We have the choice but obligation does not imply ability. We are responsible to repent and choose Christ but all because we are responsible to that end doesn't mean we are able. If we are able to say 'no' to God's desire for use to be saved then we have limited God's ability to choose for our ability to choose.

Left to choose who's ability to choose is going to be restricted I'll have to go with man's ability to choose being dependent upon God's ability.

OAW

 
At 1:14 PM, Blogger Kris Nordstrom said...

OAW,

After careful consideration, I think I may have found a couple of flaws in the "predestinist" theory.

First: This concept assumes that God meant for Adam and Eve to fall, thus throwing into question the true perfection of His creation.

Second: If God truly has an A list, then why bother following the Great Commision? He'll find a way to get those He wants, right?

Just my thoughts.

 
At 10:10 AM, Blogger Kris Nordstrom said...

OAW

On the subject of Calvinism (let's call it what it really is), I have some more issues with your point of view.
I agree that God is The Sovereign of the cosmos. I also assert that God loving and cares deeply for each of us. I also agree with you that God's grace it that which makes our salvation possible. From prevenient grace to sanctifying grace. I do not agree, however that we have no say or part in whether or not we are saved. God has given us all of the tools needed to do the job, all we need do is pick them up, accept them as the gift they are. If we choose not to, so be it. We have in that instant exercised the free will God gave mankind.

Final point, does God's will determine his nature, of his nature confine his will? I think you know where I stand.

 
At 11:56 AM, Blogger OnceaWes said...

KD wrote,

After careful consideration, I think I may have found a couple of flaws in the "predestinist" theory.

OAW

Of course you have to make a good deal of the Scrpture unsay what it clearly says in order to call this just a theory.

Now that can be done but not without clearly involving oneself in a some clear acts of hermeneutical ledgerdomain.

KD,

First: This concept assumes that God meant for Adam and Eve to fall, thus throwing into question the true perfection of His creation.

OAW,

A.) If God predestined Adam and Eve to fall why would that throw imperfection into the mix?

B.) Arminian theories don't absolve God from the blame that they think Reformed folk are involved in. Arminians believe that God knew that man would fall and fully knowing that man would involve Himself in a fall that would lead to the damnation of many of Adam's Race, He went ahead and created. I don't see how God determining to not stop what He could have stopped and knew would happen, and further created all the conditions in which it would happen, makes Him any less culpable then determining that it would happen. In the end ... Arminian or Calvinist God is still on the hook.

And worse the Arminian has God creating our first parents with the ability to be Sovereign over Him. He didn't want them to sin but darn it...a God can only do so much with humans.

KD,

Second: If God truly has an A list, then why bother following the Great Commision? He'll find a way to get those He wants, right?

OAW,

God marries predestined ends to predestined means. He is not a gnostic God who saves people apart from means.

Secondly, we follow the Great commission as a matter of obedience. Ours is not to question why, ours is but to do and die.

KD,

I do not agree, however that we have no say or part in whether or not we are saved. God has given us all of the tools needed to do the job, all we need do is pick them up, accept them as the gift they are. If we choose not to, so be it. We have in that instant exercised the free will God gave mankind.

OAW

So what you're saying is that God is Sovereign enough to give us the tools for us to save ourselves, but if we don't want to save ourselves then God isn't sovereign enought to save us?

Also what do you do with Romans 8:7 and Eph. 2:1-3 and I Cor. 2:14
and a host of other Scriptures that teach we are dead in our trespasses and sins?

Finally, I do agree that man has a free will. Man's will is free to operate according to its nature. Birds are free to fly. Fish are free to swim. Fallen man is free to sin. Once fallen man is regenerated He is free to choose Christ -- and does -- every time.

KD,

Final point, does God's will determine his nature, of his nature confine his will? I think you know where I stand.


OAW

Since we hold to God's simplicity, God's nature and will are one. The question is a non-sequitur.

OAW

 
At 5:25 PM, Blogger Kris Nordstrom said...

OAW,

Alas, we agree to disagree. I still love you.

KN

 
At 6:55 PM, Blogger RightWingWesleyan said...

Calvinists are so muh fun..

a. They consider their own intrepretation of Scripture so obvious that they just can't understand any other way of reading it so they are always quoting "the plain teaching of Scripture." This is so cute it is fun to watch them.

b. And they write endlessly as if the making of many words will cause the walls to come tumbling down and everyone who disagrees with them to crumble.

But as was said above--I love them...and love to read their many words... they are so cute.

(I found this blog through Drury's left-tilting blog)

 
At 10:59 PM, Blogger OnceaWes said...

Hey, I think I pretty thoroughly understand the Wesleyan interpretations. I've read and studied Wesley's standard sermons. I've read a great deal of Wesley. I've read Miley and Wiley and others. I'm no expert but I think I understand their intepretations. In point of fact I would bet that I could give those interpretations better then most Wesleyan pastors. The problem isn't that I don't understand. The problem is that I understand all to well.

But KD is probably right. Our differences are so fundamental and go so deep that the hair's breath difference between us is a Grand Canyon. As such we would do well to agree to disagree while privately muttering about the thickness of the other.

 
At 5:18 AM, Blogger Kris Nordstrom said...

I agree that you have a great deal of knowledge and understanding of the Scriptures from your perspective. I also wouldn't bet against you in a review of Wesleyan doctrine. So on that point I disagree with the right hander.

It is sad that there is such a difference of interpretation, so that as a result there is such a schizm within the Body of Christ.

Go in peace, serve the Lord.
KN

 
At 9:06 AM, Blogger Aaron said...

I'll be honest part of me likes the semi-p view. I don't agree with it all the way, but I do have some leanings.

I would like to point out that the Tradition of the church does beleive in free will and Full blown augustinianism (as Beza tought) was condemned by the church corperate.

That being said I also think the Tradition of the church falls squarely on Semi-A .. I say that a bit relectantly.

OAW: Don't act like we can't all proof text our ideas. Statements like this:

"Of course you have to make a good deal of the Scrpture unsay what it clearly says in order to call this just a theory."

Drive me nuts. For you to say it is not God's will for all to get into heaven takes a good bit of "unsaying Scripture" as well.

Dr. Bounds my question is "where is the bounds bounce when you need it?"

 
At 11:35 AM, Blogger OnceaWes said...

Why would I be bounced?

How have I been rude?

I have pursued questions and teased out my concerns and for that it is suggested that I get bounced?

Are Wesleyans so voiceless that conversation can only be bent to a predestined end by bouncing somebody with questions and a counter argument?

Aaron wrote,


I'll be honest part of me likes the semi-p view. I don't agree with it all the way, but I do have some leanings.

OAW

The Church condemned Semi-pelagianism at the Council of Orange. Look it up.

Aaron,

I would like to point out that the Tradition of the church does beleive in free will and Full blown augustinianism (as Beza tought) was condemned by the church corperate.

OAW,

Would you mind to terribly in telling me where the Church Condemned Augustianism? Are you referring to the Council of Trent and its condemnation of the Reformers? If that is what you are referencing are you sure you want to appeal to Trent?

And as I said earlier ... I do believe in Free Will. The Will is perfectly Free to act consistent with its Nature.

Aaron,

That being said I also think the Tradition of the church falls squarely on Semi-A .. I say that a bit relectantly.

OAW,

Well, it depends on how you define semi-augustinianism. I haven't seen anyone define that yet so I can't say if either the Scriptures or tradition falls sqaurely on it.

Aaron,

OAW: Don't act like we can't all proof text our ideas. Statements like this:

OAW,

This is probably not the place to get into it but I can assure you that I don't do spoof texting. The Scripture is literally saturated with predestinist texts. I mean let's just take the book of Job. How could one ever come up with anything except God's absolute sovereignty if they read Job? And if people deny God's absolute sovereignty or make it to mean that God is sovereign enough to not be sovereign how do they comfort modern day Jobs?

Aaron,

Drive me nuts. For you to say it is not God's will for all to get into heaven takes a good bit of "unsaying Scripture" as well.

OAW,

I am not saying it. Scripture says it.

Scripture teaches that God sits in heaven above and does whatever He pleases.

Now, if what God pleased was for everyone to go to heaven how could it be that not everyone goes to heaven? Is this Scripture true or not? Does God sit in heaven above doing whatever He pleases?

Since everyone does not go to heaven then we must reckon that it is because God is pleased that everyone doesn't go to heaven.

Now, certainly it is God's revealed will that we proclaim that all men must repent and it is our prayer that all men might repent and we earnestly and vigorously pray God that He would send seasons of refreshing but clearly if God sits in heaven above and does whatever he pleases and if some people end up in Hell then it pleases God that they end up in Hell and in passing them by or in hardening their hearts it was something that He did.

But why are we so scared of this? Are we not confident enough in God's gracious character that it is good enough for us to trust that He has His reasons for why he runs the universe the way He does? Having questioned all authorities do we believe that God is answerable to us?

Beware putting God in the Dock and requiring of Him the necessity to answer us.

OnceAWes

 
At 4:19 PM, Blogger Aaron said...

OAW: The bounds bounce is a dance move that Doctor Bounds does when he does his lectures on the four major views of Christian Salvation. Ease up man. I wasn't asking for you to be kicked out, you jump to conclusions way too quickly

The council of orange did not condemn semi-p it condemned all out pelagianism .. "look it up" That same council also condemned augustine.

What do you do with texts that say things like "it is God's will that none persish?"

I don't want to get into a debate about God's character with you. But if you truly believe that God arbitrarily hands out salvation with no basis on the response of the individual and God damns some for no other reason than his own glory, then you are far FAR outside what the majority of the church has taught for 2000 years.

"if some people end up in Hell then it pleases God that they end up in Hell and in passing them by or in hardening their hearts it was something that He did."

That is one of the most disgusting and sad statements about the character of God I have ever read. It pleases God that some go to hell? How do you reconcile that with 2 Peter 3:9 (yes I'm going to proof text here) "not wishing for any to perish, but for all to come to repentance?"

I do not deny that God is sovereign. Just like a judge is sovereign over the death penalty. But what if the judge chose to not use the death penalty? Does that make him less sovereign? Absolutely not. So what if God chose to give is free will in salvation. To act totally free, not the pathetic "we are free in our natures." Because if we are only free to do what our nature allowed ALL would go to Hell.

What if that Grace was enough to overcome that nature, for one moment. Enough that each man got to choose to react positively toward it or not. And if he did react positively then more grace would come?

 
At 7:46 PM, Blogger OnceaWes said...

Aaron,

The council of orange did not condemn semi-p it condemned all out pelagianism .. "look it up" That same council also condemned augustine.

OAW,

First, apologies for thinking the worst of your bounce comment.

Second, I did look up the Council of Orange.

First this is what the online Catholic Encyclopedia said in its article.

"At a Synod of Valence (528 or 529) Cæsarius was attacked on account of his teaching, but was able to reply effectively. Having been assured of the "authority and support of the Apostolic See", he summoned on 3 July, 529, the sharers of his views to the Second Synod of Orange, which condemned Semipelagianism as heresy."

I would think the Roman Catholics would know.

Here is one of II Orange canons,

CANON 6. ... or if anyone makes the assistance of grace depend on the humility or obedience of man and does not agree that it is a gift of grace itself that we are obedient and humble, he contradicts the Apostle who says, "What have you that you did not receive?" (1 Cor. 4:7), and, "But by the grace of God I am what I am" (1 Cor. 15:10)."

This is what Wesleyanism does. It teaches that all men receive prevenient Grace and the difference is that some improve upon it while others do not. Wesleyans agree that it is the gift of grace by which men have humility and are obedient but it is a Grace that is defeasible. Since prevenient Grace is a grace that is defeasible they end up teaching a position that is condemned by article 6 -- and that is they teach that the assistance of Grace is dependent upon man.

So, having looked it up, clearly the Church has condemned Semi-pelegianism at Orange and Clearly Welsey's doctrine of prevenient Grace is an example of what Orange condemned.

Now, naturally, the Church has contradicted itself on this as Rome is the worst purveyor of Semi-pelgianism but it remains true that II Orange condemned Semi-pelagianism.

Aaron,

What do you do with texts that say things like "it is God's will that none persish?"

OAW,

Well I start by affirming that God is not contradictory. If Romans can teach that God endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath prepared for destruction then I must read other less clear scripture in light of that more clear Scripture. If I don't do that I must either

1.) Embrace contradiction (or)
2.) Read the more clear Scripture in light of the less clear.

But as I said earlier, the Wesleyan paradigm doesn't deliver God from the quandry that they seem to think that Reformed people are uniquely in. Even in the Wesleyan construct clearly it is God's will that people perish for in the Wesleyan structure God creates a World with all the attendent and detailed enviornment where He knows people are going to perish. Knowing all that the Arminian God goes forward with creation thus indicating that it is indeed His will that people perish.

Further, Aaron, since God foreknows that people are not going to choose Him they are constrained (dare we say predestined?) not to believe Him since at the moment of opportunity to believe they cannot do anything but what God knew beforehand they were going to do. That sounds to me like a poor mans version of predestination. The unbelieving damned are Calvinistically predestined by your Arminian foreknowledge.

Second, Aaron, I look at context.

Peter writes that the Lord is longsuffering towards 'US'. Who is the 'US' that Peter refers to? Obviously it is the covenant believing community. So when Peter immediately then says that "The Lord is not willing that any should perish," it is obvious that the reference remains the believing community. God is not willing that any of His elect should perish. This harmonizes well with passages like,

John 6:39 And this is the Father's will which hath sent me, that of all which he hath given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day.

Aaron,

I don't want to get into a debate about God's character with you. But if you truly believe that God arbitrarily hands out salvation with no basis on the response of the individual and God damns some for no other reason than his own glory, then you are far FAR outside what the majority of the church has taught for 2000 years.

OAW,

Aaron, you don't come to truth by counting noses.

Second, all because God hasn't chosen to reveal His reasons to me doesn't mean that God doesn't have reasons. Since that is so I must conclude that your accusation that God acts arbitrary is not well thought out. Scripture teaches that His good pleasure is the basis of His decision. Knowing the exalted and kind Character of God a decision that is based on His good pleasure is well with my soul.

Third Aaron, man's response of course is a necessary consequence of regeneration but it is not a necessary condition. If man's response is a necessary condition then we are not saved by grace alone but rather we are saved by our response alone. In the Wesleyan schemata what God does is across the board the same for all and the only thing that differentiates the saved from the unsaved is their work of response.

That sounds awful anthropocentric Aaron.

Aaron,

That is one of the most disgusting and sad statements about the character of God I have ever read. It pleases God that some go to hell? How do you reconcile that with 2 Peter 3:9 (yes I'm going to proof text here) "not wishing for any to perish, but for all to come to repentance?"

OAW

You need to read more Brother Aaron.

Here is Jonathan Edwards,

"It is a proper and excellent thing for infinite glory to shine forth; and for the same reason, it is proper that the shining forth of God's glory should be complete; that is, that all parts of his glory should shine forth, that every beauty should be proportionably effulgent, that the beholder may have a proper notion of God. It is not proper that one glory should be exceedingly manifested, and another not at all. . . .

Thus it is necessary, that God's awful majesty, his authority and dreadful greatness, justice, and holiness, should be manifested. But this could not be, unless sin and punishment had been decreed; so that the shining forth of God's glory would be very imperfect, both because these parts of divine glory would not shine forth as the others do, and also the glory of his goodness, love, and holiness would be faint without them; nay, they could scarcely shine forth at all.

If it were not right that God should decree and permit and punish sin, there could be no manifestation of God's holiness in hatred of sin, or in showing any preference, in his providence, of godliness before it. There would be no manifestation of God's grace or true goodness, if there was no sin to be pardoned, no misery to be saved from. How much happiness soever he bestowed, his goodness would not be so much prized and admired. . . .

So evil is necessary, in order to the highest happiness of the creature, and the completeness of that communication of God, for which he made the world; because the creature's happiness consists in the knowledge of God, and the sense of his love. And if the knowledge of him be imperfect, the happiness of the creature must be proportionably imperfect."

Aaron,

I do not deny that God is sovereign. Just like a judge is sovereign over the death penalty. But what if the judge chose to not use the death penalty? Does that make him less sovereign? Absolutely not. So what if God chose to give us free will in salvation. To act totally free, not the pathetic "we are free in our natures." Because if we are only free to do what our nature allowed ALL would go to Hell.

OAW,

1st Aaron obviously all don't go to Hell because God is in the nature changing business. That truth kind of eviserates that last statement.

Second, I do believe in Libertarian Free will --- for God.

In assigning Libertarian Free Will to fallen Humans you are granting to them a Sovereignty that you are disgusted at me for ascribing to God. By your own account God desires all men be saved but of course all men aren't saved? Why aren't all men saved? Because, poor God can't always get what He wants. Fortunately, He tries real hard and so gets what He needs -- Yeah Baby -- gets what He needs.

God doesn't have absolutely Free will but is constricted by your investing fallen men with Libertarian Free will. So in the Wesleyan Scheme man is Free but God isn't.

That sounds anthropocentric.

Aaron,

What if that Grace was enough to overcome that nature, for one moment. Enough that each man got to choose to react positively toward it or not. And if he did react positively then more grace would come?

OAW,

Is this prevenient grace that is enough for each man to choose to react positively irresistable?

I mean is it really fair that prevenient grace should be irresistable in bringing fallen man to that decision point?

If prevenient grace is irresistable in bringing fallen man to that point of decision then what is the problem with a irresistable grace that is irresistable to the point of giving them a new nature out of which they freely choose Christ?

Why is a irresistable prevenient grace that brings man to a point of decision theoretically possible but a irresistable sovereign grace that gives man a new nature not theoretically possible?

OnceAWes

 
At 9:08 PM, Blogger Aaron said...

If a father put his sons in a room. Then locked the room and filled the room with gasoline, and gave his children matches. When the room caught on fire the father rushed in and grabbed two of his sons, yet he leaves the other too. He could have saved the other two, had all to power to, but chose not too. When asked why he said "for my glory. So you could see my mercy and justice."

That is the picture of GOd you have painted.

I guess one of my questions is, can God limit himself?


While one doesn't come to truth by counting noses, one must at least hope that God in his soviergnty has guided the majority of his church towards the truth.

It's cool how you left out this part of canon 6: If anyone says that God has mercy upon us when, apart from his grace, we believe, will, desire, strive, labor, pray, watch, study, seek, ask, or knock, but does not confess that it is by the infusion and inspiration of the Holy Spirit within us that we have the faith, the will, or the strength to do all these things as we ought;

so no I am not saying any of that happens apart from the spirit.

"CANON 23. Concerning the will of God and of man. Men do their own will and not the will of God when they do what displeases him;..."

This would seem to say that when men go astray from God's will they "displease him". If you can't do something outside of God's will and he is totally soveriegn how can one do something outside of the will of God?

How about this Gem

"We not only do not believe that any are foreordained to evil by the power of God, but even state with utter abhorrence that if there are those who want to believe so evil a thing, they are anathema."

So people are not foreordained by God to do evil. Then how is it that they do this evil? Is it ... outside of the will of God?

Foreknowledge does not equate prestined. God knows what people have chosen because it is what they did. Not because it is what they are going to do. It happened in his eternal "now" not in some hypothetic future.

I have read edwards, piper, henry, mccaurther and a host of other 5 pointers that I disagree with and find outside of the orthodoxy of the church.

You ask if it can bring a man to a point, what is wrong with it bring a man to full salvation? A grace that cannot be denied at all is fine by me if everyone gets into heaven. Assuming that some do not, I cann buy your view.

 
At 11:48 AM, Blogger Kris Nordstrom said...

Guess I'm out knowed once again. Do you guys in your eternal thought stop to feel? What is it that the Spirit is moving in your heart of hearts. We can debate the nature and sovereignty of God til we're blue in the face, in the ehd what good is it? Do we, as the created, absolutely have to know everything about God and how He works? Is there no room for the idea that we may never know, probably will never know how God apportions His mercy and grace? As long as we continue to lead others to him, I am not so sure the how is nearly important as the FACT that it does occur, whether pre-destined or not, IT DOES HAPPEN. That's all that matters to me.

 
At 2:14 PM, Blogger OnceaWes said...

Aaron wrote,

"If a father put his sons in a room. Then locked the room and filled the room with gasoline, and gave his children matches. When the room caught on fire the father rushed in and grabbed two of his sons, yet he leaves the other too. He could have saved the other two, had all to power to, but chose not too. When asked why he said "for my glory. So you could see my mercy and justice.'"

That is the picture of GOd you have painted.

OAW,

How is your picture any different?

As I said earlier, the Wesleyan paradigm doesn't deliver God from the quandry that they seem to think that Reformed people are uniquely in. Even in the Wesleyan construct clearly it is God's will that people perish for in the Wesleyan structure God creates a World with all the attendent and detailed enviornment where He knows people are going to perish. Knowing all that the Arminian God goes forward with creation thus indicating that it is indeed His will that people perish.

It is as if the Arminian God knows that little children are going to the beach and that some of them are going to drown but not only does He not tell anyone He creates the conditions wherein their drowning will happen. He creates the oceans, he creates the surf, he creates the child with small lung capacity. The Arminian God knows all this and yet He creates the conditions.

You keep throwing brickabats at Calvinists and yet your own paradigm doesn't rescue you. Maybe you would like to become an Open Theist where God doesn't know the future?

By being an Open Theist you can escape these problems but only at the cost of embracing many others.

Aaron,

I guess one of my questions is, can God limit himself?

OAW,

Having discussed these matters with Roman Catholics for quite some time I was expecting that somebody would play the 'God's Sovereign enough to not be Sovereign' card.

Just keep in mind that for every degree that you find God limiting Himself by that much of a degree you are granting that Sovereignty to man.

Aaron,

While one doesn't come to truth by counting noses, one must at least hope that God in his soviergnty has guided the majority of his church towards the truth.

OAW,

Oh my... As I read the Scripture what I find normatively is a visible Church that is pretty much consistently getting it wrong. That is why God brought a covenant lawsuit against Israel. It's why you find the dire warnings to the seven Churches in Revelation.

No, the visible Church while she has seasons of getting it right is often on the wrong end of truth.

Aaron,

It's cool how you left out this part of canon 6: If anyone says that God has mercy upon us when, apart from his grace, we believe, will, desire, strive, labor, pray, watch, study, seek, ask, or knock, but does not confess that it is by the infusion and inspiration of the Holy Spirit within us that we have the faith, the will, or the strength to do all these things as we ought;

so no I am not saying any of that happens apart from the spirit.

OAW,

If you will read what I wrote you will see that I conceded that on one hand Wesleyans do teach that any response to prevenient Grace is in conjunction with the Spirit's work. But because they say that God's grace is defeasible they take away with the left hand what they have granted with the right hand. If God's grace is defeasible then it is the case that we must co-operate with saving grace and so to us be the glory.

Aaron,

"CANON 23. Concerning the will of God and of man. Men do their own will and not the will of God when they do what displeases him;..."

This would seem to say that when men go astray from God's will they "displease him". If you can't do something outside of God's will and he is totally soveriegn how can one do something outside of the will of God?

OAW,

Of course in Theology we must make distinctions. Clearly God's will of precept was that men would have honored His Son. Because God's will of precept is what it is men will be held responsible for their actions in murdering the Son. But God's will of decree obviously was that the Lord Jesus Christ be crucified for sinners and so when they crucified the Lord of Glory they were acting against God's will of precept but consistent with His will of decree. (Cmp. Acts 2:23f, 3:15-18)Because they violated God's preceptive will they are responsible.

This observation is no different then our Brother Joseph's comment that his brothers intended their actions against him for evil but God intended it for good. Joseph's Brother's violated God's will of precept but they were acting in concert with God's will of decree. God intended their actions for good.

We are responsible to God's will of precept in our daily doing.

Aaron,

How about this Gem

"We not only do not believe that any are foreordained to evil by the power of God, but even state with utter abhorrence that if there are those who want to believe so evil a thing, they are anathema."

OAW,

First, if you read my initial response you will see that I conceded that Orange II was filled with contradictions.

Second, Orange II has to justify their statement with the reality that Scripture teaches that God hated Esau -- and that before He was born.

Aaron,

So people are not foreordained by God to do evil. Then how is it that they do this evil? Is it ... outside of the will of God?

OAW,

Not outside His will of decree.

You do realize that if you contend that people do evil outside God's will of decree then you have a impotent God. Poor poor God, He wants to stop the evil in the World but He can only do so much.

Aaron,

Foreknowledge does not equate prestined. God knows what people have chosen because it is what they did. Not because it is what they are going to do. It happened in his eternal "now" not in some hypothetic future.

OAW,

People did things before they did them? Hypothetical people did hypothetical things and God being bound by their decisions responded accordingly?

You do realize this is post-destination don't you? God looks at what they are going to do and AFTER he finds out He post-destinates them. I don't know why Arminians even use the word 'predestination.'

In this scheme man is prior and not God. To man be the glory for his sovereign decision making.

Aaron,

I have read edwards, piper, henry, mccaurther and a host of other 5 pointers that I disagree with and find outside of the orthodoxy of the church.

OAW,

LOL ... outside the orthodoxy as defined by Aaron.

If it weren't for all these nasty five pointers you would still be listening to mumbled latin in the mass all the while wondering if you had enough money for the next papal indulgence.

Aaron,

You ask if it can bring a man to a point, what is wrong with it bring a man to full salvation? A grace that cannot be denied at all is fine by me if everyone gets into heaven. Assuming that some do not, I cann buy your view.

OAW,

Well, I guess someone who wants man to be Sovereign would have a problem with the most excellent and wise, majestic and beneficient God making the deciscion. Just keep in mind that your God is not a being that I would spend much time worshiping given His inability to stop evil.

 
At 5:18 PM, Blogger Michael R. Cline said...

"Just keep in mind that for every degree that you find God limiting Himself by that much of a degree you are granting that Sovereignty to man." -OAW-

What a black and white line you have painted, full of "if not a, than b", followed by strawmen gallore.

I'd love to write more, but I think I'll skip town before I get hit by these "god-like" carpet bombs. Quit throwing grenades unless the one holding the pin is God Himself.

The labels of "anthropocentric," are really clever as well. Let's be honest, the problem of evil is the central character at this point. Theodicy has driven several of us to our positions on salvation. Why is that? Ooh, I know...because we're human...yup...we tend to think "anthropocentrically." Shame shame all you naughty humans, trying to figure out God. How dare you? Let him just send you to Hell if its his desire. You better clap all the way, or he may just send you to Double-Hell, where all the semi-pelagians, semi-augustinians, and wesleyans hang out and play poker with Hitler. Give me a break!

I'd rather be anthropocentric than preoccupied with damnation. If God is the kind of God you have described OAW, The Father Almighty won't have to work hard to send me to Hell. I'll just volunteer.

 
At 8:45 AM, Blogger OnceaWes said...

Ah, somebody who's decided they would like to be polemical. Well, let us see where this will go.

Mr. Cline quoting my favorite author,


"Just keep in mind that for every degree that you find God limiting Himself by that much of a degree you are granting that Sovereignty to man." -OAW-

Mr. Cline,

What a black and white line you have painted, full of "if not a, than b", followed by strawmen gallore.

OAW,

Your job is to locate the strawmen which you have not done in this post. You may assert staw men all you want but assertion is not proof.

Mr. Cline,

I'd love to write more, but I think I'll skip town before I get hit by these "god-like" carpet bombs. Quit throwing grenades unless the one holding the pin is God Himself.

OAW,

Not only is God holding the pin Mr. Cline but He is the one throwing the grenades.

Mr. Cline,

The labels of "anthropocentric," are really clever as well.

OAW,

Clever but true. Calling them 'clever' does not relieve one from actually being anthropocentric.

Mr. Cline,

Let's be honest, the problem of evil is the central character at this point. Theodicy has driven several of us to our positions on salvation. Why is that? Ooh, I know...because we're human...yup...we tend to think "anthropocentrically."

OAW,

All because you think 'anthropocentrically' doesn't mean that everyone does. Surely, we are dealing with the problem of Evil but you're certainly not contending that all solutions to the problem of evil are equally anthropocentric just because Humans are the ones doing the thinking in all the proffered solutions. Do you really think that Rabbi Kushner, who is human, is just as legitimate in his solution that we must forgive God for evil as the Christian who reasons that

1.)God is Sovereign (Daniel 4)
2.)God is good (Psalm 103)
3.)God has morally sufficient reasons for doing what He does that might not seem to be good to us. (Gen. 50:20, Acts 2:23f, 3:17f
4.)We, being mortals, are at some point to end our questioning and trust God. (Job 38-42 Romans 9:19f)

Allow me to challenge you to realize that while being fallen Humans results in reasoning Anthropocentrically that does not mean that being redeemed Humans we can't reason increasingly Christocentrically.

Growing in Sanctification begins with increasingly taking God as our beginning and ending point for all our thinking. You might want to keep that in mind.

Mr. Cline trying to master sardony,

Shame shame all you naughty humans, trying to figure out God.
How dare you?

OAW,

Not all figuring is equal Mr. Cline.

Mr. Kline,

Let him just send you to Hell if its his desire.

OAW,

You couldn't do anything but let Him if it were His desire. Fortunately He doesn't require us to figure out our elect status but instead points us to the Cross where all those who find themselves burdened and heavy laden can find rest for their souls.

It's been my experience in the Pastorate that people who are consumed by this question are either using it as an excuse to avoid their responsibility to repent ("I can't repent because God won't let me)or they just can't reconcile themselves to the reality that God isn't man and that man isn't God.

Mr. Cline continuing with sardony,

You better clap all the way, or he may just send you to Double-Hell, where all the semi-pelagians, semi-augustinians, and wesleyans hang out and play poker with Hitler. Give me a break!

OAW,

Please quote me where I even came close to suggesting such a thing.

Me thinketh the lady doth protest to much.

Mr. Cline,

I'd rather be anthropocentric than preoccupied with damnation.

OAW,

LOL ... I'm the one who gets my chops knocked in my own movement because I want to change the 'L' in TULIP from Limited Atonement to Limited Damnation. If I'm preoccupied with anything it is a culture that has emasculated God and sees Him as a 'Slob like one of us,' which consistently lived out non-Reformed positions do.

Thank God though for Happy inconsistencies that are everywhere to be seen in Evangelicalism. (Mr Tozer and Mr Havener come immediately to mind)

Mr. Cline,

If God is the kind of God you have described OAW, The Father Almighty won't have to work hard to send me to Hell. I'll just volunteer.

OAW,

Be careful Mr. Cline. Such blasphemous talk could lead to the wish giving birth to the reality.

 
At 9:24 AM, Blogger Ben Robinson said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

 
At 9:37 AM, Blogger OnceaWes said...

Mr. Robinson,

Have you ever met any Calvinist that you did't consider a 'hyper-Calvinist'?

You might find it of interest that I have several Calvinist friends who call me 'Arminian.' I have discovered that such accusations, regardless of where they emanate from, say more about the accuser then they do the accusee.

Mr. Robinson writes,

Even if you consider the statement from Mr. Cline as being blashemous, are you implying that anything Mr. Cline does or says will affect his place of eternal residence?

OAW,

I am not Gnostic. God marries spiritual realities to corporeal instantiations. If somebody is or is not elect they will reveal that by what they say and do.

Mr. Robinson,

Under your philosophical system, is not Mr. Cline already predetermined for election or damnation?

OAW,

Yes, but do I know that? Certainly not! Therefore since Mr. Cline doesn't come with an 'E' or an 'R' emblazoned on his forehead I must warn him against inpropitious statements. Such warnings may serve to harden or soften Mr Cline and may be used as the means by which God brings about his predestined ends -- whatever those are.

Mr. Robinson,

In what sense, then, can anything he says "give birth" to this reality. Pragmatically you're not operating as a "good" hyper-Calvinist.

OAW,

First, read my comment on the distinction between narrative analysis and Authorial analysis. I think that will answer your 'give birth' question.

Second, it's only because I am not a hyper-calvinist of any stripe.

That should give you a real sense of relief.

OAW

 
At 1:20 PM, Blogger Kris Nordstrom said...

OAW,

I must commend you for taking your lumps here. If only more Christians, Calvinist or otherwise, had such a firm grasp of what they believed. That is the crime of the church today, it fails to instruct its people as to the doctrines to which they can cling when faith is challenged. I would venture to guess that an enormous majority of those who claim Chritianity would have turned tail and run after the first two or three exchanges in this forum.

In addition, a good number of those would probably use it as the springboard into agnosticism. What a shame that the church is so affraid of its own truths that it withholds them "for our own good"

 
At 7:06 PM, Blogger OnceaWes said...

I guess I'm not smart enough to realize I had taken any lumps.

My being ignorant has its advantages,

OAW

 
At 12:17 PM, Blogger Michael R. Cline said...

I'm not giving lumps, just sarcasm and cynicism to the debate. That's my role. I'm not taking shots at you OAW, I'm just not happy with the God you have painted. I am not smart enough for you. I'm not logically defending anything. I am but an intellectual peon.

YOU: "He doesn't require us to figure out our elect status but instead points us to the Cross where all those who find themselves burdened and heavy laden can find rest for their souls."

The only problem being, the word "all" in your system of thought doesn't fit. It should read "He doesn't require us to figure out our elect status but instead points us to the Cross where all those ELECTED find themselves burdened...and can find rest..." You can't use the word ALL, unless you want to change the very definition of the word, in which Wormwood would advise us to, that way we can be ensnared by the Devil's schemes. Confuse us on terms, and then they've got us. You can't say ALL...only some.

 
At 6:54 AM, Blogger OnceaWes said...

Let's examine Mr. Cline's reasoning.

He cites my favorite author,

YOU: "He doesn't require us to figure out our elect status but instead points us to the Cross where all those who find themselves burdened and heavy laden can find rest for their souls."

And then Mr Cline offers,

The only problem being, the word "all" in your system of thought doesn't fit. It should read "He doesn't require us to figure out our elect status but instead points us to the Cross where all those ELECTED find themselves burdened...and can find rest..." You can't use the word ALL, unless you want to change the very definition of the word, in which Wormwood would advise us to, that way we can be ensnared by the Devil's schemes. Confuse us on terms, and then they've got us. You can't say ALL...only some.

Once A Wormwood responds,

First if you read the context of what I said, I most certainly can say 'all.'

You will never meet a Calvinist who will disagree that 'all those who find themselves burdened and heavy laden can find rest for their souls by looking to Christ.' My use of the word 'all' is perfectly consistent within the Biblical paradigm.

We should consider the very Words of our mutual Lord on this issue.

On one hand He can say,


"Come to me ALL ye who labor and are heavy laden..."

While at the same time when dealing with people who refused to come to Him, he could say,

"But you do not believe, because you are not of my sheep, as I said to you. My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me."

So, the call goes out for ALL to come to Christ and ALL those who are not suppressing the truth in unrighteouness do find themselves weary and heavy laden and do come and find rest for their souls, while others who do not come do not respond to His call to come because they are not His sheep (elect).

But the call still goes out to ALL and ALL who find themselves weary and heavy laden are commanded to come to the only one who can provide rest for their souls.

Mr. Cline your Wormwoodian Calvinist Brethren hold Election as a doctrine that tells us why those who come, come. We do not hold Election as telling us that any people with names and faces who desire Christ can't have Christ.

 

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