From Ed Newby, email@example.com, on 24 September 1999
Dear brother Turner,
The doctrine of the security of the believer is certainly one that generates a fair amount of passion on either side. Therefore I appreciate you posting your dialogue with a OSAS Baptist in its entirety. I've been scanning the various websites that debate this issue and too often this is not the case. Several of the "debates" posted are often devoted to a slick display of the world's tactics including straw men arguments, grandstanding, and name calling. One disputer of Eternal Security even had a large headline posted which read, "Defending the Church from Eternal Security." Since words do have meaning, it's interesting to contemplate what he's literally saying.
As someone who does believe in the doctrine of the security of the believer, I've been replying to a few of the sites that promote an opposite view and thankfully it has been a time of learning and encouragement (hopefully for both sides).
I would like to touch on just two passages in your debate in order to present a differing view. According to Peter, scripture (specifically Paul's writings, but in general the entirety), contains things which are hard to be understood (2 Peter 3:16). Add to this the process of translating from one language to another with a shortage of exact equivalents and it's not surprising that two individuals can look at one passage and arrive at 2 interpretations.
Secondly, I do appreciate your stating that words do have meaning. Anything else and we are left with a nightmare far worse than Orwell's worse nightmare. With this in view, I would like to begin with this passage from the debate:
Of course, this sounds nothing like Jesus, who said:
"I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman. Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away: and every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit. Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me. I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing. If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned. If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you. Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples. As the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you: continue ye in my love. If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father's commandments, and abide in his love. These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full" (John 15:1-11).
The phrase "he taketh away" can certainly give an impression of a believer being removed from the vine which is Christ Jesus. As someone pointed out to me quite a while ago, it actually is a positive image in that the phrase should more properly (in the light of context) be translated "he lifteth up." In other words, the vine dresser finds some branches who have become mired in the mud and as a good vintner he lifts the branches up from what impedes their fruitfulness. This propping up of branches can be seen today in vineyards. As to the ones cast forth as a branch, if we take this to literally mean a believer being cut off from the vine, what does this imply for the men who gather them and cast them into the fire? God certainly does not employ men in the process of casting souls into hell, if that is what it is talking about. On the other hand, the believer who sins soon discovers that "men" are quickly there to exploit his failure. As Nathan rebuked David, "...by this deed thou hast given great occasion to the enemies of the Lord to blaspheme..." (2 Samuel 12:14).
The second passage is the following:
So, over and over again, the Bible teaches that a child of God can fall from grace. Those who erroneously cling to the "Impossibility of Apostasy" shamelessly contradict the Bible in many different places. Another example is found in Hebrews 6:4-6, where the writer says:
"For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, And have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come, If they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame."
Now, I don't know just who these folks are, but there is nothing that would cause me to think they are not Christians....
Well, if words do have meaning and mean what you think, the surface meanings would seem to support your point. I was recently given an article written by someone named J. L. Stauffer. The author professed to be a former promoter of OSAS theology who no longer did. As one read his article, it was easy to see that his problem was not a particular doctrine, but a doctrinal system, in this instance strict Calvinism.
He also referred to this same passage of scripture and said the following: "They [OSAS teachers] will tell you that Heb. 6:4-6 does not describe a true believer, and then will misinterpret the various statements to confirm their claim. They will deny that the word "partaker" (meaning ‘have part with') in this reference could mean actual connection with the Holy Spirit, but they accept the same word and allow the real meaning of the word without quibbling in [other passages]..." He then refers to 1 Peter 1:4, Heb. 3:1 and other references. I checked out the Greek and the words are different. In Hebrews 6:4 the word translated "partaker" is "metochos," which according to the Greek comes from a root word meaning "less intimate." In 1 Peter 1:4, the word translated "partaker" is "koinonos." It's similar to the word "koinonia" from where we get "communion," and "fellowship," words with a vastly different meanings.
Mr. Stauffer continues his thought by pointing to the word translated "tasted," again noting that the same word in other passages is accepted of saved individuals. He gets it half right. In the differing passages the word translated "tasted" is "geuomai." In 1 Peter 2:3 (speaking clearly of believers), a different tense is given, the aorist. The word in Hebrews does not have the same tense. The aorist tense used in 1 Peter 2:3 renders the "tasting" an ongoing or positional experience, not subject to time. "Tasted" in Hebrews, on the other hand, would directly imply a cursory relationship, much as someone could taste a food, but never truly ingest it. I can understand that. The writer of Hebrews is discussing a group of people who have a head knowledge of the Gospel, but have never actually come to the point of fully committing themselves to it. This is borne out by the direct contrast by the writer in verse 9. "But beloved, we are persuaded better things of you, and things that accompany salvation."
Although I just spoke of two passages, I would like to make just one comment about the passage in John chapter 10. You, as do many who argue against the doctrine of the security of the believer, insert conditions in this passage of scripture where none are given. Every thing said by the Lord Jesus Christ is in the form of a declarative sentence. "My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me" (verse 27). I don't think we have the liberty to recast the sentence to make it say "The sheep that I know are the ones who hear my voice and who follow me," as some do.
He continues, "I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand" (verse 28). Again, there are no conditions given in these verses, they are a simple statement of fact. And returning to the premise that words have meaning, Jesus is imparting "eternal life" (both quality and quantity) to his sheep. If it should cease at any point due to the disobedience of the sheep, it is not eternal life and what the Lord Jesus has stated is without meaning.
Finally, regarding sin, the Scriptures contain firm statements such as "for whom the Lord loveth he chaseneth, and scourgeth (literally to rip the flesh from the bones) every son whom he receiveth" (Hebrews 12:6). Anyone who tells you that OSAS is a license for sin is not telling you the whole story.
May God bless you beyond the limitations of our human expectation and understanding.
Reply from Allan Turner on 10 October 1999
This is to acknowledge receipt of your email. I appreciate you taking the time to write. I have read what you have had to say several times, and I don't see anything in what you've said other than an attempt to justify your OSAS position. It is interesting that you chide me for reading into the sheep passage what is not there, in your opinion, while, at the same time, you find it necessary to do to the vine passage what you do.
As you know from the site, I'm willing to discuss our differences with the hope that we can both come to a better understanding of the truth. But I'm not interested in just repeating what has already been discussed. Nevertheless, I realize you've handled this a bit different than what has already been said, and I welcome such an effort. So, if you'd like to respond further, please do!
In service to Him,
From Ed Newby, firstname.lastname@example.org, on 11 October 1999
Dear brother Turner
Thank you for your response. I probably should fill in a few details about myself, as you have on your website, in order to be a little more than some faceless entity on the other end of a modem cable. I'm married, the father of five and the grandfather of 2 (so far). I'm a graphic artist by trade and my wife teaches 3rd grade at a local Christian school. We've been involved with missions for many years (first with New Tribes Mission and for many years with Shield of Faith Mission International). At one point we were on our way to the Philippines, when due to some health circumstances recognized later as the Lord's steering, we ended up back in Oregon. Nevertheless, we still are in contact with several of our classmates from New Tribes who since have gone on to establish works in tribal groups.
At present I am working with the ministry of The Berean Call. I produce the newsletter, various resource design projects, and handle much of the correspondence in-between graphic projects. In addition, I have served as a pastor of a small, independent Bible church and have been a teaching elder for many years.
During the times I'm not teaching at our local church, the Lord has graciously given me opportunity to preach in a number of evangelical churches around the area. Although I have been known to suffer from a "peach inspediment" on occasion, these folks are gracious enough to overlook my demonstrations of human frailty and continue to invite me back.
As I alluded in my first letter, the doctrine of the security of the believer is a concern of mine, since I once took the other side of the issue.
It is never been my goal to seek to justify my position as you state, but my concern has been solely "what do the Scriptures say?" I will freely confess to my own number of foibles and follies (some in the past, and some yet to be revealed) and it would not take too lengthy a period in my presence to confirm this. Nevertheless, in this I find myself no different than other Christians and although I have walked with the Lord since 1975 there is no doubt that continual need for improvement remains.
Neither has it been my goal to win an argument, believing that the Lord has sufficiently demonstrated His proficiency in this, far surpassing my greater expectations. Nevertheless, words continue to have meaning and context remains a determinant of interpretation despite society's refrain (unfortunately increasingly adopted by the Church) that a word's meaning is subject to a situation.
You say that I am guilty of what I chide you for doing, which is reading into the meaning of a passage. You don't offer any evidence to support your charge, but it never hurts to return to the passage in question. John 15 (the vine passage) is where you suggest that I am reading meaning into the passage. It's a simple process to use either an interlinear, a concordance, or Bible software to dig a little deeper.
The phrase in question is "taketh away." The primary meaning of the Greek is "to raise up, or to elevate." The secondary meaning is "to take upon one's self and carry what has been raised up, to bear." It's not until we get down to the tertiary level that we encounter a meaning of "to bear away something that has been raised up." The context, however, precludes jumping to this definition. The Lord is using a very common image, something that members of an agricultural based society can understand. The Father is the vinedresser. He lifts (or props up) up those vines that are unfruitful (Romans 14:4) and prunes those that are bearing that they may bear additional fruit. What other conclusion can someone reach without reading something into the context?
In the second part of this passage which speaks of those who do not abide in the branch, the Lord says very plainly that these individuals which are cast forth as a branch, wither, and are gathered up by men who cast them into the fire to be burned. To say that this passage is talking about believers losing their salvation and being taken away to judgment requires some semantic juggling as well as ignoring the details. Men are not the ones who take other men away to eternal judgment. It doesn't make any sense to interpret this as believers losing their salvation. I honestly do not see how one can fit such an interpretation without forcing the interpretation.
What it does say resonates with something else Christ said: "ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be salted? It is henceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men" (Matthew 5:13). Please notice neither passage speaks of a final judgment of the Lord (ie., the eternal state of the wicked), but rather being made subject to men (thus limiting the discussion to this side of the veil). I can understand and I have seen how a Christian may besmirch his testimony and be "trodden under foot of men." Also, anyone who says that the security of the believer is a license for sin is not paying attention to the events of history, the personal testimony of others, or most importantly of all--Scripture. "...because by this deed thou hast given great occasion to the enemies of the Lord to blaspheme, the child also that is born unto thee shall surely die" (2 Samuel 12:14). "But them that are without God judgeth. Therefore put away from among yourselves that wicked person" (so the Lord may utilize a horrendous sounding procedure called the "destruction of the flesh (1 Corinthians 5:5; 13). "For whom the Lord loves he chastens, and scourges (literally to rip the flesh from the bones) every son whom he receiveth" (Hebrews 12:6).
Briefly regarding the passage in John 10, I was just pointing out that each sentence uttered by the Lord Jesus was in the form of a declarative sentence. Consider:
"My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me:" (verse 27).
Does our hearing sometimes falter? Do we sometimes follow afar off (Mark 14:54)?
"And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand" (verse 28).
"My Father, which gave them me is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father's hand" (verse 29). This statement appears to be the crucial verse as the Sovereignty of God clashes with those who presume to trump it with the free will of man. I had referred to a paper written by one J.L. Stauffer. He actually says, "They (OSAS promoters) will take John 10:27-29 and underscore the 'never perish' and 'no man is able to pluck them out of my hand,' but ignore the fact that this promise is made to "the sheep that hear his voice and follow him.' As long as this condition continues, the keeping continues. No other interpretation is consistent with free moral agency."
I realize this gentleman may not accurately represent your position on this issue, and like me you've probably never heard of him. Apparently others have felt him articulate enough to argue their case. Nevertheless, I quote him because he expresses so clearly what so many try to do to this passage of Scripture and particularly since he reveals his motive for so doing. First of all, he inserts a condition where none is expressed by the Lord Jesus Christ: "the fact that this promise is made to the sheep that hear his voice and follow him." Where does the Lord say that? I have searched this passage of Scripture up and down repeated times for this wording or a hint of such a meaning and it simply isn't there.
Mr. Stauffer, like so many people is recasting the sentence to align with his doctrine. His final statement reveals his predisposition: "no other interpretation is consistent with free moral agency." In other words, his doctrine determines the interpretation. The truth is exactly opposite that. The Scriptures determine our doctrine. If this passage is not supportive of Conditional Security, it should be left alone and allowed to say what it says, regardless of what we personally believe.
Further, my comments concerning the meaning of the words used in the Hebrews 6 passage were prompted by your remark, "Now I don't know just who these folks are, but there is nothing that would cause me to think they are not Christians."
I was specifically challenged on these verses by another writer who insisted that the words "enlightened," "tasted," and "partakers" could only be applied to saved people. Yet as I found from the Greek (not to mention the context, undiscussed as yet), each word only speaks of a cursory relationship, without the intimacy required for salvation. Salvation is much more than head knowledge or an external cosmetic change. I would venture that it is reasonable to conclude that this passage is not talking about saved individuals.
Another similar passage of Scripture thought to be supportive of the concept of believers losing their salvation is 2 Peter chapter 2. It begins with the word "but," drawing a contrast between the "holy men of God" of 1 Peter 1:21 and the "false prophets also among the people" of chapter 2. As the context explains, these individuals are "wells without water." Water is a consistent biblical metaphor for the Holy Spirit and one certainly understandable for dwellers in an arid region.
In addition, these false prophets are specifically contrasted with Lot who, despite his compromises, disobedience, and unseparated life, is still called a "righteous man" (verse 8). As verse 22 carefully explains, "but it is happened unto them according to the true proverb..." Peter is referencing Proverbs 26:11; "as a dog returns to his vomit, so a fool returns to his folly."
There is only one meaning possible if words have any meaning at all. The dog returns to his vomit, because that's what dogs do. The sow returns to wallowing in the mire because that is what a hog does. Neither the dog nor the pig has had its nature changed. Neither had been "born again" or changed into another species. The dog experienced a temporary purging and the sow underwent a washing. Neither "work" had any eternal consequences, no matter how it might have spruced up appearances (like the whitewashing of a tomb; Matthew 23:27). There is not the slightest implication that either creature had been "born again" into another animal and then for some reason "reborn" back.
In like manner those who have been drawn by Christ, who is engaged in drawing all men (John 12:32), may temporarily "escape" the corruptions of the world (Scripture doesn't say they have escaped the judgment) by an outward conformity based on head knowledge. But as Scripture plainly states, this outward conformity only masks the true nature of a dog or pig, which soon manifests itself. I don't know how many conversations I've had where the discussion came eventually to, "but my brother, my sister, my cousin, my friend...I know they were saved...and they fell away." How do we know when a pig is merely washed? He certainly sparkles and sure smells better...for a while.
I suppose this passage is of particular interest to me because I have taught it incorrectly myself in the past. I worked with a Baptist gal who was going through a time of rebellion. She told me that she was saved and she knew that what she was doing was wrong, but wasn't worried because right now she was having too much fun. I worked with her for about 6 months and as a baby believer I looked for anything I could use from Scripture to chase her back to sanity. I used 2 Peter 2 as my bludgeon, even though at the time I felt an uneasiness in my spirit when I referred to the passage. Further examination has brought the conclusion that it is rather plain in its meaning, particularly if we let the Proverb that Peter cites say what it says.
There is a happy ending (with a cost) to this gal's story. Shortly after she quit, I ran across her again. She had developed a bleeding ulcer and was going home to her folks. She was broken and I remember her last words to me: "Remember, I was having too much fun." It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God (Hebrews 10:31).
Well, you said you welcomed further discussion and I suppose you might be considering the old saying about giving someone an inch only to have them take a mile.
I trust the Lord will continue to bless the ministry he's given you and may He give us greater discernment in an increasingly darker world.
Edwin L. Newby
Reply from Allan Turner on 12 October 1999
I appreciate your attitude and welcome a discussion of this most important subject. You are right, I did not give evidence of "the teapot calling the kettle black" syndrome. I intend to do that now.
Yes, the Greek airo has been translated "taketh away." Yes, this translation reflects the tertiary meaning of the word. But, contrary to what you think, it is the very context that demands that airo be translated "taketh away." The translators are in agreement on this. This doesn't mean they could not be wrong, just that individuals familiar with the Greek are in agreement that airo, in the context, ought to be so translated. With this said, let's take some time to look at the context.
In giving your explanation of the passage, which goes against what the Greek scholars think, you either ignore or mistranslate another key word, which, when properly translated, conclusively refutes your forced explanation of this passage. Verse 4 uses the term "abide" (the Greek meno), which conveys the idea of "continue" or "remain." This theme is repeated in verses 5, 6, and 7. In verse 5, Jesus says, "He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit." Now, does this describe those in verse 2 who bear no fruit, or those having borne fruit, who are then pruned? In verse 6, the Lord goes on to say, "If anyone does not abide [read "continue" or "remain"] in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned." Your OSAS predisposition causes you to interpret this passage as introducing an additional group not mentioned in verse 2. Why? Because you believe the two groups mentioned in verse 2 are OSAS. But, you read that into the context in verse 2, and now you read this same interpretation into verse 6, and, therefore, think this is another group (viz., those who were never OSAS). You then say this gathering and casting into the fire cannot be eternal judgment because, "Men are not the ones who take other men away to eternal judgment." Because you have introduced an argument appealing to the translation of a Greek word, I think you must know that the word "men" is not in the Greek, although it does appear in the KJV. So, those doing the gathering could very well be the angels, who you and I already know have been assigned the task in connection with eternal judgment. Consequently, you have made an argument to bolster your highly questionable position that is not contained in the original language.
Comparing the "salt" metaphor of Matthew 5:13, which addresses influence and the "vine" and "branches" metaphor of John 15, which deals with life source, is a big mistake. These are two different things altogether and must not be made parallel. I think the reason you do this is obvious—to substantiate your wrong conclusion about John 15:1-7.
I do not teach that a Christian must fall from grace, only that he can (Galatians 5:4). I do not discount the chastening of the Lord in correcting many wayward Christians (Hebrews 12:6). I acknowledge the congregational procedure outlined in 1 Corinthians 5:1-13, and have seen the wicked person eventually repent and be restored. It seems to me that you OSAS folks think that those who disagree with you must believe that once a person is lost, he must always be lost, but this is certainly not the case!
I have no doubt that J.L. Stauffer interprets John 10 in light of his belief in the free moral agency of man, just as I have no doubt that you interpret John 15:1-7 in light of your OSAS belief. I, too, interpret Scripture. The question is not whether we interpret Scripture (we are required to do so according to 2 Timothy 2:15), but whether we've made the right interpretation. I believe John 10 teaches that the Lord's sheep hear His voice. Yes, it is a declarative statement; but, the fact that you can't see any conditions in this statement is because you don't believe there are any. Your definition of Sovereignty negates, rather than accommodates, man's free will. Therefore, the Lord does it all, apart from man's free will, and makes the sheep hear His voice. Those who were sheep but decided, for whatever reason, to no longer follow His voice, and are lost as a result, would, in your opinion, be a reflection on the Sovereignty of God, rather than on the disobedience of man. This is your interpretation of the passage, and it does not surprise me, because I know your doctrine. The question is, Are you right? I've tried to demonstrate to you in this email, and other places on the site, why I don't think you are!
I agree with you that Hebrews 6:4-8 "is not talking about saved individuals," and that's my point. Forget "enlightened," "tasted," and "partakers," and identify these words as only being indicative of a "cursory relationship," if you want to, but consider that the Scripture says it is "impossible...if they fall away [emphasis mine-AT], to renew [emphasis mine-AT] them again [emphasis mine-AT] to repentance [Does this indicate a cursory relationship?], since they crucify again for themselves the Son of God, and put Him to open shame" (verses 4-6). One thing for sure, in their present condition, these folks are not saved. Of course, OSAS doctrine says that if they are lost, they could never have been saved. But, you are completely silent on verse 6, which is where you really have the problem trying to justify your doctrine. The Scripture says they can "fall away," but your doctrine says they can't. The Scripture talks about the fact that, in these circumstances (whatever they are), it is impossible to renew them again to repentance, which sounds like they once had more than a "cursory relationship" with the Lord. This passage is not just thought to give support to the fact that one can fall and be lost, as you indicate; on the contrary, it clearly teaches it.
Your handling of the false prophets in 2 Peter 2 is equally telling. There is no doubt that there were, and are, false prophets who never had a relationship with the Lord, but the particular false prophets in this chapter are described as "even denying the Lord who bought them" (verse 1). Although these false prophets are lost and, as such, have returned to their own vomit and a wallowing in the mire, they had been blood-bought (verse 1), having escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ (verse 20). You argue that a dog is a dog and a hog is a hog, therefore, these dogs and hogs could have never been saved (or washed). This is your interpretation of the passage. Of course, I think you are wrong, and I believe the very context of this passage demonstrates it. Yes, Ed, words mean something, but do they always mean what you OSAS people say they mean? If your doctrine is wrong, will not your interpretation be wrong? This really is the question, is it not?
According to your illustration, those in Hebrews 10 who have forsaken certain things, continuing willingly in their sins, trampling under foot the Son of God, counting the blood of the covenant by which they were sanctified a common thing, are really saved, and the fearful judgment under discussion here is just judgment or correction in this life, not eternal judgment. Again, I'm not surprised at this interpretation. I know you must either interpret this passage this way or repudiate your OSAS doctrine. I believe, without repentance, those described in this passage will be eternally lost. On the other hand, you believe that the same God who made them believe will also make them repent, otherwise God is not really Sovereign.
For sure, it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God, whether in time or at the end of time. Hebrews 10 talks about the endurance necessary so we can receive the promise. Yes, I know His sheep (i.e., those who hear His voice) will endure. They will not turn back to perdition (Hebrews 10:39). But how about those who do forsake the Lord and turn back? The only thing they have to look forward to, according to Scripture, is "a certain fearful expectation of judgment, and fiery indignation which will devour the adversaries" (Hebrews 10:27). Other than your OSAS doctrine, what is it that makes you so sure that this is not the same end time judgment mentioned in 2 Thessalonians 1:7-10? My understanding of this passage is that, without their repentance, which they must do of their own free wills, these folks will be lost. If they are lost, it will not be God's fault, as you seem to think. On the contrary, it will be the fault of the ones who, having been saved by their obedience to the gospel, return again to their own vomit and to their own wallowing in the mire.
The apostle did not know OSAS doctrine. In the very context of the passage mentioned above, Paul wrote of a "falling away" which would come (2 Thessalonians 2:3), which is something you OSAS folks don't think can happen. You don't like passages like 2 Peter 1:10, which says, "Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall." Why would the Holy Spirit move Paul to write something like this if it wasn't possible for children of God to fall, thereby losing their calling and election? Now, is Paul telling us to "make it sure" because there is something lacking in God's ability? No! We are the ones who are lacking, and this is why, with God's help, we need to heed the warning to make our calling and election sure. Don't say the Bible doesn't teach this, because it clearly does. When it comes to the "Vine" metaphor of John 15, you don't like the idea of a branch being "taken away," consequently, you don't know what to make of Paul saying, "But I keep under my body, and bring [it] into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway" (1 Corinthians 9:27). Augment this with your knowledge of the Greek word translated "castaway," which is adokimos, and you must know that the word means "reprobate," "castaway," "rejected," that is, "not standing the test, not approved." Paul was determined not to let happen to him what you OSAS people say can't happen to a Christian. Poor Paul, all he needed was to be enlightened by your OSAS doctrine and then he wouldn't have had to muddy the waters by saying anything about the possibility of his own apostasy. Of course, Paul was directly inspired by the Holy Spirit to write what he did, so I'm going to place my confidence in what the Holy Spirit wrote about this, rather than what OSAS doctrine teaches.
Again, the apostle Paul, writing to the church at Galatia, was very concerned about them being turned away to a different gospel, which was nothing other than a perverted gospel of Christ (Galatians 1:6-7). I gather from this that Paul recognized these people as Christians who were being "bewitched" into no longer obeying the truth (Galatians 3:1). Were they Christians? Had they been saved? You might say they never were saved, but if this is correct, then words mean nothing and this epistle is gobbledygook. Who can believe it? These Christians, who had received the Spirit by the hearing of faith (Galatians 3:2), were in serious trouble, and Paul doesn't beat around the bush in saying so. In Galatains 5:1-4, Paul writes:"Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage. 2 Behold, I Paul say unto you, that if ye be circumcised, Christ shall profit you nothing. 3 For I testify again to every man that is circumcised, that he is a debtor to do the whole law. 4 Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law; ye are fallen from grace."So, if I am to believe OSAS doctrine, then Paul got it wrong once again. Who can believe it?—only those who cling to a doctrine that turns the grace of God into lasciviousness (cf. Jude 4). Note that I am not accusing you of being a lascivious person. Neither do I think that every believer in OSAS doctrine is looking for a way to circumvent his obedience and faithfulness to the Lord. But, it is a fact that many do. After "getting saved," many continue to live sinful lives. They justify this by saying it doesn't make any difference how they live, God will save them anyway. I could relate to you story after story that I have heard from those arguing along these lines. The "certain men who have crept in unnoticed" in Jude 4, turned the "grace of God into lacentiousness" (NKJV). In response to my teaching against the OSAS doctrine, an OSAS individual became quite disturbed by what I was saying. So, he went to his pastor and asked him for an explanation of the doctrine in light of some of the passages we have discussed in this dialogue. His pastor illustrated it this way. Being saved is like being married to Christ. But we know that a married man who is in the military may be transferred overseas, and while away from his wife, he may commit adultery, but this doesn't mean that he's not still married to his wife at home. Therefore, though we sin against Jesus, we are still married to him and are, as a result, still saved. Now, if this kind of explanation of OSAS doctrine doesn't fall under the category of "turning the grace of God into lasciviousness" then what does?
Notice that I'm not arguing that, after becoming a Christian, children of God live sinlessly. We do not! But, in order to have the blood of Christ continuing to cleanse us from our unrighteousness, Scripture teaches that we must meet the conditions (there's that word again) for this continued grace (1 John 1:5-2:2). Of course, most OSAS people don't see salvation as having any conditions, so they usually don't have a clue as to the import of a passage like this. They don't think it's possible to be lost after being saved, so they don't concern themselves with the implementation of this passage. One who is in the Vine, they tell us, can't be a castaway, therefore most of them know nothing of the conditions associated with this passage. Quite frankly, the quoting of such a passage—which is an extremely critical passage for those of us who are trying to live so as not to become castaways—falls on the deaf ears of those intent on defending OSAS doctrine. However, I expect better from you.
I could go on, but I'll stop here, giving you a chance to reply.
Yours in service to Him,
From Ed Newby, email@example.com, on 17 November 1999
Thank you for your reply. I wrote most of the following within a week of the receipt of your email of October 12. Nevertheless, I have sat on it since then, going back over it prayerfully, and hopefully not answering in kind or haste.
Your last email contained its own degree of fervency, evidence of your passion for this issue. Fervency does not always accompany correctness, based upon conversations I've had, positions in the past I have fervently supported and had to abandon, and correspondence exchanged with all manner of individuals.
As I stated from the beginning, my intention is not to win an argument, but you should know that I have as much passion for the many believers I have encountered who live in a constant state of nervous tension in their relationship with the Lord. You say you can refer to example after example of those whose testimonies demonstrated the deleterious effects of what you have labeled OSAS. I could reciprocate with examples that have done much to convince me that the opposite approach generates its own embarrassing baggage. God's kingdom keeping is not predicated upon fear (Romans 2:4) and I have seen many individuals who grope their way through their Christian lives, lost one day and saved the next and never seeming to obtain any stability or security in their lives. Neither does the fear that is so often emphasized seem to have any effect on the ones who opt out of marriages, remarry and are re-saved, and then resume their "ministry" with no further qualms. Neither is it apparently a sufficient deterrent to all manner of sin and loose living. Should we then compare notes on how many individuals failed either through improper instruction or false profession? Neither exercise would be productive and both would miss the original question: what do the Scriptures say?
As I believe I stated earlier, I formerly stood with your view and exerted effort to defend my position before being convinced otherwise. As to your red herring charge of bias, only those with no reasoned opinion, or the dead can claim total lack of bias. As Dr. Ironside is reported to have said, "if any two Christians are thinking the same thing at any given moment, one of them is not thinking."
We should never resort to tactics unworthy of the calling of God. I refer specifically to your curt remark "I expect better of you." While calling for me to join you in a self proclaimed moral high ground may be an acceptable debate tactic, it does not belong in what should be a presentation of the biblical evidence alone. I expect better of both of us.
It has been my experience in previous discussions on this subject that a particular pattern is followed. First, the preponderance of Scripture is claimed in support of a position. The scripture references are then examined point-by-painstaking point and it is then that spontaneous combustion may occur. It need not be that way. Neither should ad hominem tactics be resorted to. Although you stated that you did not believe I was living a lascivious life, your closing remarks directly contrasts anyone who teaches OSAS with those "who are trying to live so as not to become castaways..." Perhaps you did not pay enough attention to what you were saying? I hope you do not believe what your words imply.
Neither have you demonstrated that you sufficiently understand my position, regardless of your claims. Your words and reasoning would lead one to believe that you were reacting to what is perceived to be my position rather than what it actually is.
So let's just drop such tactics and go back to the question: What does the Word say?
I began with 2 Peter 2 because its words are not obscure and contain Peter's own interpretation of what he means. And it would be well to point out that it is not my interpretation as you allege, it is what the apostle says in simple language that is easily understood if we but accept it at face value, because yes, words do have meaning.
He says that what happened to them (the false prophets, those that "fall away") is illustrative of something the Proverbs teach. He then references Proverbs 26:11 which states very clearly, "as a dog returns to his vomit, so a fool returns to his folly." As with most proverbs, its words are familiar and unambiguous. That's why the book of Proverbs has such immediate application to us. Consequently, Peter's interpretation under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit is simple and direct. What happened to these false prophets can be understood through the behavior of a dog and fool. These are not examples subject to a wide range of interpretation. The meaning is up front, not veiled or hidden in some esoteric manner. A fool returns to his folly, because that's what fools do. A dog returns to his vomit because that's what dogs do. Their inner nature compels them to act this way. This is the plain and simple meaning according to logic, common word usage, and the facts of nature.
Any other interpretation must incorporate the idea that the fool or the dog or the sow experienced some sort of transformation and temporarily became another creature before reverting back to its ill mannered former self. This is not supported by context or the words used, and renders Peter's comment meaningless and is a direct contradiction to what he has said. As an experiment, quote Proverbs 26:11 to a number of individuals (adult or younger) and ask them to explain it.
I'm a farm boy. I had to feed the pigs. I never entered any of my charges in the county fair, but several of my friends did. I know about the careful washing and grooming their porcine entries underwent. I remember also the careful steering of the washed animal into a pen lined with fresh straw. Every effort was made to keep the pig away from the mud where excess water had spilled on the ground. Their exteriors had been washed, but we were absolutely unable to do anything about their very natures and as a consequence had to maintain diligence lest our fresh scrubbed, pink porker spoil our efforts.
You have insisted that "washed" must mean "salvation," something that is not supported by Peter's summary remarks. Your bias is showing, not mine. To support your preconceived notion, you point to verse 1 which speaks of the "Lord that bought them..." Have you now become a Calvinist? The Lord Jesus Christ has bought every one who has ever lived or will live on this earth, regardless of whether or not they ever appropriate that redemption. This "...man offered one sacrifice for sins [of the whole world] for ever..." (Hebrews 10:12). The Lord Jesus specifically stated that God "...so loved the world (not just the elect as Calvinists teach) that He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believeth should not perish..." (John 3:16). Scripture after Scripture proves this, but I don't think you believe in limited atonement. Rather, you grabbed on to the word, regardless of the rest of the context, because it seemed supportive of your conclusion.
You also emphasize the fact that these individuals had temporarily escaped the pollutions (it does not say judgment) of the world, as if I were avoiding this word. I have not. These pollutions, according to the Greek are vices. The verse says nothing about the internal reformation (being born again) necessary for salvation.
How many people have labored in rescue missions where time and effort is invested in the life of a drunk? He's dried out, bathed, given a new set of clothes, and a job is found for him. He's escaped the pollutions of the world temporarily. He has regular food, he sleeps between clean sheets, and there's a roof over his head. For a time he seems to be doing fine, but he happens to notice a gin joint along the way to work. He successfully avoids the pull for a time, but his inner, unchanged nature eventually surfaces and as a dog returns unto his vomit, so the washed pig returns to its wallowing in the mire.
Further, the word knowledge in this passage does not speak of an intimate relationship. The word Peter used refers to an accumulation of facts or head knowledge. These folks had a knowledge of the Lord, but they never knew the Lord as we can say we know the Lord. Head knowledge may prick a person's conscience and temporarily force a certain behavior, but it certainly is not salvation. You can continue to argue this passage, but no other interpretation lines up with Peter's own explanation of who these people were. Your argument is not with me, it's with the apostle. We don't need a post speech analysis to tell us what was said, we just have to pay attention to what was said.
In the context it is stated that these individuals are "wells without water" (verse 17). Water is a consistent biblical metaphor for the Holy Spirit. The Lord Jesus promised us "living water" (John 4:10). They "cannot cease from sin." There can never be victory or hope of victory for them, because they do not have a relationship with the Victor. They are "natural brute beasts." The natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God (1 Corinthians 2:14). Repeatedly they are described in ways that can never be descriptive of Christians. And again, Peter himself provides the key to unlock their identity.
A contemporary example of these false prophets would be someone like Dr. Norman Vincent Peale. Although he consistently identified himself as a Christian, his doctrine, writings, and public pronouncements were sufficient evidence that the "Jesus" he knew denied the Jesus who bought him as well as the rest of the world. Interestingly enough, even Trinity Broadcasting System ran a disclaimer when Peale was part of their line up, and we both know who they provide venue for.
You challenge me to consider the fact that if my doctrine is wrong, then my interpretation is wrong. Don't you think I've done this, particularly in view of the fact that I taught this differently at one time? I have gone over this passage again and again and I am not willing to overturn the meaning of Peter's words to accommodate my doctrine (as it was formerly) or for your doctrine as it is now. You are certainly free to believe whatever you will about the security of the believer, but if you can't do it without this passage something is wrong. Moreover, you deprive the church of one warning passage dealing with wolves in sheep clothing. Our discernment may certainly be impacted. The Lord Jesus warned us of infiltration and used the illustration of wheat and tares. I don't have to explain how the adversary sows tares among the wheat and how closely the tares resemble the wheat and how easy it would be to mistake one for another until maturity and time has their effect.
The point is that the tare has never been a stalk of wheat. No transformation has taken place. It remains a tare. No wonder the Lord gave us passages such as 2 Peter 2 in order to warn us about the infiltration which has taken place from the beginning. And lest we should waste our time speculating as to why these individuals end as they do, Peter explains it very simply if we ponder the teaching of Proverbs 26:11.
Let me ask you your own question: If your doctrine is wrong, will not your interpretation be wrong?
I've spent much of your time on this issue and so will just briefly comment on a few further points.
You say that my explanation of John 15 goes against what the Greek scholars think. Did you consult them all? The first one I consulted disagrees with you. Do we then descend into some form of "my dad can whip your dad?" I don't think so and as one commented, "there is some disagreement about the meaning with scholars equally divided." Apparently we can't get conclusive help there.
The context of the passage is fruitfulness, not "life source" as you allege, which the context and the words used refute. Therefore, is it permissible to insist that the word "abide" must only refer to salvation? Aren't we inserting our preconceptions to insist so?
As to the word "man" not being in the Greek, you are certainly correct. Nevertheless, "someone" is implied by the context, hence the KJV translators used "men," while others use the word "they." You suggest angels. It appears to me that your doctrine is guiding this insertion. The Lord Jesus is speaking metaphorically of a physical vineyard and all the accouterments therein. Keeping this in view, it is far more logical and consistent to understand that these cannot be angels. Consider where your idea takes us. How many vineyard owners employ angels to haul away branches and burn them? You spoke of rendering certain scriptures into gobbledygook. How about here?
You say that the fact that I can't see any conditions in the Lord Jesus' statements in John 10 is because I don't believe there are any. That accusation is made without any evidence to back it up. Further, it is one more use of ad hominem tactics rather than sticking to the issue. The fact is there are no conditions stated by the Lord Jesus Christ and you cannot show them in the context. I think that the Lord Jesus Christ said exactly what He meant to say and we do well to refrain from adding our spin to the words uttered by our Creator. As to interpretation, I have only noted what the Lord Jesus said, neither adding anything to His words, nor detracting from them. Millard Erickson writes, "Verse 28 is especially emphatic ... John uses the double negative ou mh with the aorist subjunctive, which is a very emphatic way of declaring that something will not happen in the future." He further states, "All in all, this passage is as definite a rejection of the idea that a true believer can fall away as any could be given."
Part of the problem the doctrine of falling away has created is evidenced by your treatment of Hebrews 6. Contrary to your interpretation, I find it impossible to insist that "fall away" in context and in meaning is speaking of more than a hypothetical example. One correspondent suggested that it must be a reference to the unpardonable sin, although this is never mentioned, nor is it even implied. Nevertheless, if this passage means what you think it says, then in context it states very frankly that it is impossible to renew or restore individuals who once were saved if they lose their salvation. You have already spoken of some individuals who have been restored, but if your interpretation is correct, this is impossible.
I have not ignored verse 6 and have considered it in full context, not stopping there but going on to the next verses. Verse 9 is interesting as the writer of Hebrews specifically contrasts the formerly mentioned individuals with those he is writing to. Of the latter, he is persuaded "better things...things that accompany salvation." This is a direct contrast and also must be considered.
The sarcasm employed on the last two pages does much damage to your case. In short, you demonstrate the very attitude that originally provided the motivation to challenge some of the more egregious websites. The common argumentative technique here is to throw as many things as possible in the hope that some may stick.
I am quite willing to go line by line through the Bible if necessary, but frankly I don't think either of us (judging by our priorities and duties) have the time. Therefore, agreeing to disagree I am reminded of what a man who has greatly influenced once remarked, "how can you tell if you ever have unity if you never disagree?" Keep this in mind.
Regardless of how you viewed the pastor's illustration comparing marriage with salvation, the illustration is still apt and contrary to your protestation–still Scriptural. Consider the book of Hosea and Ezekiel 16 to see how the Lord viewed His covenant relationship with Israel. Reading, considering, and meditating on the implications of the suffering Israel reaped in its disobedience is sobering and would give any sane individual pause. To the one becoming involved in sin, the Scriptures are unanimous in urging us to treat such ones as "unbelievers" and to toss them out of the congregation. We are not even to eat with such individuals.
Finally, let me quote to you from a letter we received at the ministry here on the 17th of November:
My heart goes out to anyone who truly believes that a believer can lose their salvation. I almost went insane trying to keep myself saved. Yet, I was very arrogant and constantly debated others whenever I could. I viciously attacked anyone who believed 'once saved always saved.' This was back in 1993. I quit reading your newsletter and I grouped you with all the other fools who believed like you did. Please forgive me for my arrogance. [About 1996], even though I still did not believe in eternal security, I chose to study the Bible on my own. I begged God to show me the real truth through the Holy Spirit. I began to see a more merciful God. Scripture became easier to understand. Every verse I had used to sow doubt in people about their eternal security had been taken out of context. I began to realize the simplicity of it all. 'Saved' means just that—SAVED! Sealed with the Holy Spirit—SEALED! Forgiven means forgiven! Your 'Once Saved Always Saved?' tract had been in my closet (undisturbed) for [years]. I found it just as I was making the final shift on my own to believe what those...fools believe: that once you are saved you are always saved. I appreciate being associated with 'fools' like you. Using your tract and the Holy Spirit [3 other friends have learned] to trust Jesus alone for their salvation through faith. Friend one now feels more secure knowing that God has a net (His hand) beneath him. Friend two was almost getting divorced, yet your tract helped to save his marriage. Friend three had fallen away but has now returned to the service of the Lord.
"Faithful are the wounds of a friend; but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful" (Proverbs 27:6).
May God bless you beyond the limitations of our human expectation and understanding.
Edwin L. Newby
Reply from Allan Turner on 24 November 1999
I wondered what had happened to you. Glad to hear you hadn't just quit after my October 12th response. It is interesting to me that you argue that I have resorted to "tactics unworthy of the calling of God," which include primarily an "ad hominem" argument pointed directly at you. What are these tactics to which you allude? I responded honestly and forthrightly to your arguments. I used no underhanded tactics. Actually, if I had done so, you would have done more than just allude that I had. Ed, you believe a doctrine, and you interpret certain passages through the grid of this doctrine. Admittedly, I do the same thing, and haven't even hinted that I don't. My pointing this out is not an ad hominem argument, as you incorrectly claim. As you are using this term, it means "marked by an attack on an opponent's character rather than by an answer to his contentions." It will be obvious to the readers of this dialogue that I have done no such thing.
Your intention, you say, is not to win an argument. What's wrong with trying to win an argument? You think you're right, don't you? You think being right on this issue is important, don't you? So, what could possibly be wrong with trying to win the argument/debate/discussion/dialogue? Absolutely nothing! This is what honorable men do. I certainly don't blame you for trying to win this argument—I expect it. This does not mean that I think you're not interested in what the Scriptures say. If I didn't think you were, I don't believe I'd be having this dialogue with you. But whether you like it or not, we are both on trial here. So, please continue to press your points and I will continue to counter, if I can. If I can't, then I ought to accept your interpretation and repent of the one I've held all these many years. Likewise, if you can't effectively handle the arguments I'm making for my interpretation, then you would be wise to reconsider your position.
You insinuate that I've labeled people who espouse your doctrine as "OSAS" in some denigrative way. If you will go back and read this discussion, you will discover that YOU were the first to use the term, and YOU applied it to yourself. For me, it is just a means of identifying a doctrine and those who hold it. I meant no offense and I don't think there should have been any taken. If I have offended you, I'm sorry, but explain to me how we can discuss this subject without identifying and being responsible for what we believe the Bible teaches.
In the context of "tactics unworthy of the calling of God," you referred to my "curt remark," as you called it, that "I expect better of you." Do you want me to now repent of thinking the best about you? Isn't this exactly what the Lord requires of me (Philippians 4:8)? Why then do you identify it as a resorting to "tactics unworthy of the calling of God"?
Your remarks about a pattern, implying that I'm following one, was an ad hominem argument addressed directly at my integrity. I point this out because you've become such a "fuss-bucket" about this. The pattern, you say, is a claim that the preponderance of Scripture is claimed by those who take my position. Then, according to you, folks like you come along and make a "point-by-painstaking point" examination of these passages demonstrating that they don't really teach what folks like me think they teach. And finally, spontaneous combustion may occur. It need not be this way, you claim. Then why has it occurred, Ed? Why have you now resorted to all the things you have tried to accuse me of? Is this not blatant hypocrisy?
So, let's spend a little time examining the pattern you refer to and see if it is as you claim. It seems to me there is a preponderance of scriptures that a child of God can fall from grace and be lost eternally, and I've cited some of them in this dialogue. So, you appear to be right so far. Then, it is claimed that your side makes a "point-by-painstaking point" examination of these passages, effectively refuting them. Do you honestly expect me and the readers to think that this is what you have done in this dialogue? You have, in fact, repeatedly failed to deal with passages I've brought up. For example, you have failed to tell us what the apostle meant when he said, "But I keep under my body, and bring [it] into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway" (1 Corinthians 9:27). According to your characterization, I reckon you think Paul lived "in a constant state of nervous tension in [his] relationship with the Lord." You said that perhaps I did not pay enough attention to what I was saying about those of us "who are trying to live so as not to become castaways," as if I've committed some faux pas. You wrote, "I hope you do not believe what your words imply." Like Paul, and with God's help, I try to live so as not to become a castaway. An OSAS person may indeed live a moral life, and I've assigned to you none of the ugly consequences of your doctrine, but an OSAS individual could not be living so as not to become a castaway for the simple fact that they do not believe one can become a castaway. That's my point, and it still is.
You write, "So let's just drop such tactics and go back to the question: What does the Word say?" Sounds like excellent advice to me, and I pray you'll heed it.
You have wanted to concentrate on a couple of passages. I think my interpretation of these passages is correct. You have made no convincing arguments to make me change my mind. This is not to say you are not right, but that I don't think you are. There is no need for me to repeat here what I have already written on these passages, so I won't.
In answer to your question, "Have you now become a Calvinist?," I will simply say, No!
You ask, "If your doctrine is wrong, will not your interpretation be wrong?" The answer is, Yes!
No, I did not consult ALL the Greek scholars in my understanding of John 15. I said what I said because YOU brought up a Greek scholar on this. You go on to say that the context of the John 15 passage is fruitfulness, not "life source," as I allege. Yes, it is about fruitfulness, but it is about "life source," as well. You say it is one and not the other. I say it's about both. Quite simply, you are wrong on this, and I'm convinced it's your OSAS doctrine that blinds you.
Your dismissal of the force of Hebrews 6 is absolutely astounding. You write, "I find it impossible to insist that 'fall away' in context and in meaning is speaking of more than a hypothetical example." Ed, a hypothetical example of what? Remember, you are the one who teaches it can't happen. Explain to me, if you will, why the Holy Spirit would waste time on a hypothetical example about someone falling away, if falling away isn't possible?
You assert: "The sarcasm employed on the last two pages does much damage to your case. In short, you demonstrate the very attitude that originally provided the motivation to challenge some of the more egregious websites. The common argumentative technique here is to throw as many things as possible in the hope that some may stick." I have no idea what you're talking about. I was not being sarcastic! I was, instead, making what I thought to be rather good arguments against your doctrine. Do you respond? No, you evidently hope to deflect the force of those arguments by reflecting on my alleged "sarcasm." This is another example of your own blatant hypocrisy, accusing me of doing what you yourself openly practice.
You then assert that you are quite willing to go line by line through the Bible, if necessary, to refute my doctrine and uphold yours. Then, you promptly sign-off on doing so, claiming we are both too busy. Frankly, I'd like to see you do what you say you're willing to do. In fact, this is what I've been trying to get you to do in this dialogue. So, if you're ready, then get to it. But, if you expect me to roll over and play dead, amening everything you pontificate, then you're going to continue to be disappointed.
So, the pastor's illustration is Scriptural, you say. It is impossible, according to you, that the Lord would divorce those joined to Him. Gomer, you argue, is the proof of this. It is certainly true that God is longsuffering, not willing that any should perish (2 Peter 3:9). If He were not, you and I would have been crispy critters a long time ago. I praise Him for His marvelous mercy. The nation of Israel was a spiritual whore. In spite of her whoredoms, God had a plan to redeem all mankind through her. In spite of her unfaithfulness, God did not put her away and ultimately brought His plan to fruition. Hosea and Gomer were an illustration of this drama. In the end, it was only the faithful remnant that was saved, not the whole nation (cf. Joel 2:32; Romans 9:27; 11:5). Remember, the Bible clearly teaches that they are not all Israel who are of Israel (Romans 9:6). So, I don't see where Hosea and Gomer have any bearing on the subject of whether a child of God can fall from grace and be lost. In fact, Galatians 5:4, another passage you have refused to deal with, says the very opposite of what you claim. The passage makes it clear that one who becomes deluded into thinking he could be justified by the law of Moses would be severed/separated/estranged from Christ, and describes this condition as being "fallen from grace."
In conclusion, let me talk about a pattern I see over and over again. Someone takes issue with something I've written on my website. They write to me, not to argue, they are quick to say, but to tell me that what I've written is contrary to God's Word. I counter. A dialogue is undertaken. After a while, when those on the other side begin to run out of ammunition, they begin to resort to ad hominem arguments because that's all they have left. Eventually they just quit. Time will tell if this is just more of the same.
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