Saturday, 29 November 2014

Postmodernism and the Homosexual Christian (Part 1 of 3)

     In March 2011 a website was covertly launched on the campus of one of our Christian universities, promoting the homosexual lifestyle. When the administration blocked the site on the university’s network, activists printed and distributed across campus a thirty-two page manifesto pushing their agenda. The school’s president then issued a public response during the chapel assembly the following day, respectfully but firmly denouncing the defiant initiative.1
     How could such an alarming state of affairs surface on the campus of a Christian university affiliated with mainstream churches of Christ? While the gay rights movement has increasingly influenced and noticeably shaped secular society in the United States since the 1960s,2 religion has not been unaffected. In 1972 the United Church of Christ was the first mainline denomination in the USA to ordain openly gay clergy, and subsequent decades have witnessed practicing homosexuals unconditionally accepted and incorporated into numerous denominations and independent religious groups.3
     Among churches of Christ, Dave Miller prophetically warned in 1996, “While the liberal element in the church has not been drawn into a wholesale endorsement of homosexuality, philosophically, the liberal mindset will inevitably relax its opposition to those who insist upon their right to engage in homosexuality” (Piloting the Strait 345). A few years later Phil Sanders observed that congregations sometimes fool themselves into thinking they are immune from the volatile mentality of the times, even though what “happens in the world has always profoundly affected the church; today is no different” (Adrift 14, 21).
The Rise and Influence of Postmodernism
     As “both a broad cultural and sociological phenomenon and an ideology,” postmodernism is hard to define (Erickson 12). The term itself is descriptive of the changes in knowledge perception in popular culture, and it stands in stark contrast to the concept of modernism. At the risk of oversimplification, modernism can be characterized as the pursuit of truth, certainty and absolutism with linear thinking and rationalism. It seeks undisputed foundations and rigorous methodologies for attaining knowledge. Postmodernism, on the other hand, is a reaction to what is perceived as the inflexibility, arrogance and attempted control of modernistic thinking. It advocates “knowledge” as the product of cultural conditioning, shaped by emotions, experience, aesthetics, and environment. In the realm of religion, modernism is viewed as the rigid pursuit of truth versus error and right versus wrong, whereas postmodernism is a softer and more flexible approach that emphasizes love, relationships, tolerance, acceptance, authenticity, and relativism (Carson 26-34).
     Postmodern secularism maintains that there is no universal or absolute truth with respect to morality. Religion, therefore, especially Christianity, is to be summarily dismissed because of its traditional stance against "secular values" (e.g. abortion and gay marriage). However, postmodernism has also made significant inroads into religion and into the contemporary Christian movement in particular (Erickson 59-69). “Notions of objective morality are among the first things to be questioned,” D. A. Carson observes, and professing Christians are increasingly changing their views on moral issues (101). According to recent studies by the Barna Group, a leading research organization focused on the relationship between faith and culture, only 34% of American adults believe that moral truth is absolute, while less than half of those claiming to be religiously “born again” (46%) believe in absolute moral truth.4 There was a time when affirming an openly homosexual lifestyle demanded the complete severing of ties with orthodox Christianity. But nowadays, thanks to postmodern rationalization, embracing same-sex relationships while claiming allegiance to biblical teaching is normative.
--Kevin L. Moore

     1 See <>; also <>.
     2 Recent studies show that about 62% of the American public believes homosexuality should be accepted by society. See Pew Research Center, “Views on Religion, the Bible, Evolution and Social Issues,” 26 June 2014, <>.
     3 Jaweed Kaleem, “Unearthing the Surprising Religious History of American Gay Rights Activism,” in Huffington Post (28 June 2014), <>.
     4 The Barna Group, “Barna Survey Examines Changes in Worldview Among Christians over the Past 13 Years,” 6 March 2009, <>.

Works Cited:
Carson, D. A. Becoming Conversant with the Emerging Church: Understanding a Movement and Its Implications. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2005.
Erickson, Millard J. The Postmodern World: Discerning the Times and the Spirit of Our AgeWheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 2002.
Miller, Dave. Piloting the Strait: a Guidebook for Assessing Change in Churches of Christ. Bedford, TX: Sain Publications, 1996.
Sanders, Phil. Adrift: Postmodernism in the Church. Nashville, TN: Gospel Advocate, 2000.

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Friday, 21 November 2014

May We Pray to Jesus? Should We Pray to Jesus?

     Historically very sincere and intelligent Christians have come down on either side of these questions with varying degrees of dogmatism. Our purpose is to examine the most commonly asserted arguments both for and against, and carefully consider what is and what is not supported by the evidence.1
     Prayer in relation to the Triune Godhead: (a) addressed to God the Father (Matt. 6:9; Luke 11:2; John 15:16; 16:23; Eph. 1:3; 3:14; 5:20; Col. 1:3; 3:17; Jas. 1:5); (b) in the name of Jesus (Eph. 5:20; Col. 3:17; cf. John 14:6, 13, 14; 15:16; 16:23, 24, 26; 1 Tim. 2:5; 1 Pet. 2:5);2 (c) the Spirit makes intercession (Rom. 8:26-27).
     The Example of Jesus: addressed his prayers to the Father (Matt. 11:25-26; 26:39-44; 27:46; Luke 10:21; 23:34, 46; John 11:41; 12:28; 14:16; 17:1, 5, 21, 24, 25; cf. Heb. 5:7). Obviously he would not have prayed to himself. But neither did he pray to the Holy Spirit. The Instructions of Jesus: taught others to pray to the Father (Matt. 6:6, 8, 9; 7:11; Luke 11:2, 13; 18:7, 13; John 15:16; 16:23).3
     Contextually Jesus is speaking directly to his immediate apostles, and not everything he says or promises on this occasion is universally applicable (e.g. 13:14; 14:25-26; 16:13). John 14:13-14 says, “And whatever you ask in my name, that I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask [me?] anything in my name, I will do it.” There is a textual variant in v. 14, and some manuscripts include the word “me” and others do not. While the UBS Greek NT committee gives its inclusion a “B” rating, a definitive case about praying cannot be made based on whether or not the word was in the original. For inclusion of the word “me,” see ESV, NASB, NCV, NET, NIV, NLT, NRSV, HCSB. For omission of the word “me,” see ASV, KJV, MEV, NKJV, NLV, RSV, TLB, YLT.
     Were the disciples to ask the Father in the name of Jesus, or ask Jesus in the name of Jesus? If they were to ask Jesus, was this to be a prayer to him after his ascension, or a face-to-face request prior to his ascension? The only certainty here is that Jesus is involved in the response – in conjunction with the Father (15:16) and the Spirit (16:13) – irrespective of the one to whom the request is directed.
     In John 15:16 we read, “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain, that whatever you ask the Father in my name he may give you.” John 16:23-24 states further, “And in that day you will ask me nothing. Most assuredly, I say to you, whatever you ask the Father in my name he will give you. Until now you have asked nothing in my name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full.” The expression “in that day” refers to Christ’s impending resurrection (vv. 16-22). The apostles had become so reliant on Jesus, he now instructs them to direct their petitions to the Father in his name.
     John 16:26 says, “In that day you will ask in my name, and I do not say to you that I shall pray the Father for you.” Again, “in that day” is a reference to Christ’s forthcoming resurrection (vv. 16-23). Before “that day” Christ does pray for them (17:1-26), and after “that day” Christ continues to intercede (Rom. 8:34; Heb. 7:25; 1 John 2:1). It is difficult to find any clear modification of the New Testament model for praying in these passages.
     In 1 Timothy 1:12 Paul writes, “And I thank Christ Jesus our Lord who has enabled me, because he counted me faithful, putting me into the ministry.” If the apostle had said, “I thank Ananias for having taught me the gospel,” would it ever be mentioned in a discussion about praying? Is Paul expressing internal gratitude or voicing an actual prayer? Does this written statement provide sufficient proof that the well-established model for praying in the New Testament should be altered?
     In 1 Timothy 2:5 we read, “For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.” In prayer do we communicate to Jesus or through Jesus? Either way, is Jesus on the receiving end? While Jesus, as mediator, grants us access to God (Heb. 4:16; 10:19), should we then be content to simply direct our prayers to him instead of to the Father?
     Note 1 Thess. 3:11, “Now may our God and Father himself, and our Lord Jesus Christ, direct our way to you”; and 2 Thess. 2:16-17, “Now may our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and our God and Father, who has loved us and given us everlasting consolation and good hope by grace, comfort your hearts and establish you in every good word and work.” Although these passages are sometimes labeled “prayers,” they are actually recorded statements expressing the collective desire of Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy for divine providence. Do these affirmations provide sufficient proof that the well-established model for praying in the New Testament should be altered?
     In Revelation 5:8-10 the Bible says, “the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each having a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. And they sang a new song, saying: ‘You are worthy …’” In this literary sea of metaphors, “the prayers of the saints” are brought before the Lamb; thus praying to Jesus could be inferred. Nevertheless, unless clear teaching occurs elsewhere in scripture, should we be quick to embrace a doctrine or practice that is only or primarily found in such a highly symbolic narrative? In 8:1-4, “the prayers of the saints, ascended before God from the angel’s hand.” What literal doctrine or practice on earth are we willing to base on this symbolic text?
     What about the prayers addressed to “the Lord” (Matt. 9:38; Acts 1:24; 2 Cor. 12:8; cf. Eph. 5:18-19; Col. 3:16)? Is the title “Lord” in these passages applicable to Jesus (Acts 1:6, 21; 2:36; etc.) or to God [the Father] (Acts 2:20, 25, 39; 4:24; etc.) or to both (Acts 2:34; etc.) or to the Spirit (2 Cor. 3:17-18) or to all three? Is the Aramaic expression maranatha in 1 Corinthians 16:22 an exclamatory “prayer” or an emphatic “assertion”? Grammatically it could be either marana-tha, meaning “O Lord come,” or maran-atha, meaning “Our Lord has come.” Whichever position one wishes to take, scholarly support can be found.
     What about conversations within a vision? In Acts 7:59-60 we read, “And they stoned Stephen as he was calling on [God] and saying, ‘Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.’ Then he knelt down and cried out with a loud voice, ‘Lord, do not charge them with this sin.’ And when he had said this, he fell asleep.” Since Stephen actually saw Jesus (v. 55) and then spoke to him (vv. 59-60), would this be comparable to someone conversing with Jesus while he was on earth? Does this establish a precedent for praying to Jesus in normal circumstances?
     In Acts 9:10-16; 22:17-21 Ananias and Paul speak to the Lord and are spoken to by the Lord. Both of these conversations took place during a supernatural visionary experience. Do they provide a pattern for praying under normal circumstances? Revelation 22:20 says, “… Even so, come, Lord Jesus!” The revelation to John is visionary (1:10; 4:1-2; 9:17), in the context of which he also speaks to a heavenly “elder” (7:13-14) and a “mighty angel” (10:9). Does the unusual circumstance of a dialogue within a heavenly vision establish a precedent for normal prayer on earth?
     Jesus is deity (John 1:1; 10:30; 20:28) and is therefore worthy of worship (Matt. 2:2, 11; 8:2; 9:18; 14:33; 15:25; 20:20; 28:9, 17; Mark 5:6, 22; Luke 8:41; 24:52; John 9:38; Heb. 1:6; Rev. 5:8-14; cf. John 5:23). While this impressive collation of scripture references seems to provide a powerful testimony about worshiping Jesus (inclusive of prayer?), we need to be careful about assuming that all of these accounts of “worship” necessarily involved a recognition or understanding of Christ’s divine nature. After all, it took the Lord’s own apostles quite some time to figure this out (John 20:28). If simply paying homage or earnest respect was the intent of those who did not yet comprehend the deity of Christ (e.g. Mark 5:22; 7:25), not all of these examples convey what many have assumed. Worship that is insincere (Mark 5:6; 15:19), or blindly offered in ignorance (Acts 10:25; 14:18; 17:23), or misdirected (Matt. 15:8-9), is not the same as properly acknowledging and venerating deity.
     More importantly, we must not be imbalanced (and therefore unbiblical) in our perception of Christ. Is he divine or is he human? Jesus Christ is fully divine (John 1:1; 20:28), and he is also fully human (John 1:14; Heb. 2:9-18; 5:7; 10:5, 20). To exclusively or primarily emphasize one to the virtual exclusion of the other is not biblical (cf. 1 John 4:2-3; 2 John 7). After his resurrection and ascension, and in view of the coming judgment, Jesus has not ceased being a “man” (Luke 24:39; Acts 17:31). At the end of time, the Father-Son relationship remains intact, all “to the glory of God the Father” (Phil. 2:9-11), while Jesus forever remains subject to the Father (1 Cor. 15:23-28). The affirmation in 1 Timothy 2:5 is, “For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.”
     While Jesus is certainly worthy of worship due to his inherent divinity (Rev. 5:8-14), there is still a clear biblical distinction between God the Father and God the Son, and Christ’s brotherhood with humanity must not be ignored (Heb. 2:11-18). We should honor Jesus’ repeated and consistent emphasis on exalting the heavenly Father in view of his own subordination (John 4:34; 5:19, 30; 6:38; 7:18; 8:29; 14:13, 28; et al.). Accordingly, biblical instruction regarding prayer (to the Father in Jesus’ name) remains unchanged.  
     In my humble opinion the controversy and division over this issue is most regrettable. It appears that many on both sides have expressed certainty without sufficient biblical grounds, and at times have even grasped at straws to construct a seemingly definitive (sometimes emotive) case from the unprovable. While I am fairly confident in my own understanding, I hesitate to be dogmatic for the following reasons. First, the deep respect I have for good brethren with whom I disagree, and the well-reasoned arguments they present. Second, my awareness of my own limitations and fallibilities. Finally, and most importantly, much of the information is just not as clear and straightforward as I would prefer.
     While there are some New Testament passages that seem to suggest praying to Jesus, the overwhelming weight of biblical evidence unquestionably affirms praying to the Father in Jesus’ name. May we pray to Jesus? Perhaps. Should we pray to Jesus? Probably not. Should we publicly pray to Jesus in our church assemblies with brethren who are sensitive to this matter? No.
--Kevin L. Moore

     1 For reasons in favor of praying to Jesus, see James L. Gardner, “Should We Pray to Jesus?” in The Patience of Hope: First and Last Things in Thessalonians. Ed. David L. Lipe. Henderson, TN: FHU, 2014: 384-89; also Wayne Jackson, “May a Christian Address Christ in Praise or Prayer?” <>. For reasons against praying to Jesus, see Gary Workman, “Jesus and Prayer,” in The Person and Life of Christ. Ed. Eddie Whitten. Bedford, TX: Brown Trail Church of Christ, 1983: 115-30; also Robert R. Taylor, Jr., “Shall We Pray to Jesus?” Taylor Publications, 2011. What about the testimony of ancient ecclesiastical writers? In support of praying to Jesus, bro. Jackson cites Joseph Bingham (Dictionary of Christian Antiquities 1:576ff.), who “introduces passage after passage from the early ‘church fathers’ which demonstrate that the primitive church unhesitatingly offered worship to Christ, in both hymns and prayers.” Against praying to Jesus, bro. Workman cites Everett Ferguson (Early Christians Speak 143-44), concluding: “A perusal of history reveals that uninspired writers of the early centuries did not think it was proper to pray to Jesus” (116).
     2 Further on the significance of “the name of Jesus,” see John 1:12; 2:23; 3:18; (15:21); 20:31; also John 14:26. Jesus himself operated in “the name of the Father” (John 5:43; 10:25; [12:13]; 17:6, 11, 12, 26).
     3 While the “model prayer” is addressed to the Father, some would point out that it is a brief but not comprehensive model; additional passages (e.g. Jas. 5:14) add other details.
     4 Unless otherwise noted, all scripture quotations are from the NKJV with added words and/or textual variants [in square brackets], emphasis added with bold type, and capital letters modified to lower case when the translation does not require capitalization.

Related Articles: Jason Hardin's When We Pray in Jesus' Name

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Friday, 14 November 2014

Questions for My Mormon Friends

Please give honest and satisfactory answers to these questions . . .

1.  Are the testimonies recorded in the front of the Book of Mormon credible and impartial? Is it not true that the “three witnesses” all left the Mormon Church and were later condemned as reprobates and criminals by the Mormon Church? Is it not true that the other “eight witnesses” were all related to either David Whitmer (one of the “three witnesses”) or to Joseph Smith, Jr., and that Whitmer’s living relatives had all left the Mormon Church by the eighth year of its existence? [cf. Apostle George A. Smith, Journal of Discourses 7:114-15]

2.  Why were portions of the Book of Mormon copied word for word from the KING JAMES VERSION of the Bible?  For example, compare the following:

Isaiah 2:1-9 (King James Version)                            2 Nephi 12:1-9 (Book of Mormon)
1 The word that Isaiah the son of Amoz saw concerning                      1 The word that Isaiah the son of Amoz saw concerning
Judah and Jerusalem. 2 And it shall come to pass in the                       Judah and Jerusalem. 2 And it shall come to pass in the
last days, that the mountain of the Lord’s house shall                          last days, when the mountain of the Lord’s house shall
be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be                      be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be
exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow unto it.                     exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow unto it.
3 And many people shall go and say, Come ye, and let us                    3 And many people shall go and say, Come ye, and let us
go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the                        go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the
God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we                        God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we
will walk in his paths: for out of Zion shall go forth the                       will walk in his paths: for out of Zion shall go forth the
law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. 4 And he                    law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. 4 And he
shall judge among the nations, and shall rebuke many                       shall judge among the nations, and shall rebuke many
people: and they shall beat their swords into plowshares,                  people: and they shall beat their swords into plowshares,
and their spears into pruninghooks: nation shall not lift up               and their spears into pruninghooks: nation shall not lift up
sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any                       sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any
more. 5 O house of Jacob, come ye, and let us walk in the                   more. 5 O house of Jacob, come ye, and let us walk in the
light of the Lord. 6 Therefore thou hast forsaken thy people             light of the Lord.... 6 Therefore...thou hast forsaken thy people
the house of Jacob, because they be replenished from the                 the house of Jacob, because they be replenished from the
east,  and  are   soothsayers  like  the  Philistines, and they                east, and hearken unto soothsayers like the Philistines, and they
please themselves in the children of strangers. 7 Their                      please themselves in the children of strangers. 7 Their
land also is full of silver and gold, neither is there any end                 land also is full of silver and gold, neither is there any end
of their treasures; their land is also full of horses, neither                 of their treasures; their land is also full of horses, neither
is there any end of their chariots: 8 Their land also is full                  is there any end of their chariots: 8 Their land also is full
of idols; they worship the work of their own hands, that                   of idols; they worship the work of their own hands, that
which their own fingers have made: 9 And the mean man                which their own fingers have made: 9 And the mean man
boweth  down,  and  the  great  man  humbleth  himself:                   boweth not down, and the great man humbleth himself not:
therefore forgive them not.                                                                     therefore forgive them not.

Except for minor variations, the above passages are identical (even the verses correspond). The King James Version was published in 1611. The Book of Mormon was supposedly translated into English “by the gift and power of God” in the 1820s. Thus either (a) God speaks 17th century English, or (b) the King James Version of 1611 is a divinely inspired English translation, or (c) whoever wrote the Book of Mormon had access to the King James Bible (which was available and commonly used in the 1820s) and copied portions from it.

3. If the Book of Mormon is from God, why is it filled with errors and contradictions? For example:

·      2 Nephi 5:15 says that these precious ores “were in great abundance,” yet verse 16 says, “They were not to be found upon the land”???
·      2 Nephi 5:15 mentions “steel” being in America between 588 and 570 BC, yet steel was not made in America until the 1800s.
·      In 1 Nephi 18:21 it is recorded that Nephi used a “compass” in 589 BC, but the compass was not invented until the 12th century AD.
·      In 1 Nephi 18:25 asses and horses are mentioned as being in America in 589 BC, yet these animals were first introduced in America only about 500 years ago by the Spaniards. 
·      Alma 11 mentions various coins that were supposedly used, yet inhabitants of North & South America did not use coins before the 15th century AD.  None of these coins have ever been found, while every coin mentioned in the Bible has been found in abundance.
·      Alma 7:10 states that Jesus was born in Jerusalem, when in reality he was born in Bethlehem (Matt. 2:1).
·      Heleman 14:20 and 3 Nephi 8:3,20-23 assert that the sun was darkened for three days, when in reality it was only three hours (Matt. 27:43; Mark 15:33).
·      Alma 14:13-16 refers to the people in 73 BC as “Christians,” so they were presumably wearing the name of Christ 73 years before Christ was on earth. The Bible says, “the disciples were called Christians first in Antioch” (Acts 11:26).

4.  Mormon 9:32 says that the Book of Mormon was originally written in the “reformed Egyptian” language. Nephi was supposedly a Jew who lived in Jerusalem around 600 BC. At that time both the written and spoken language of the Jews was Hebrew. Where did Nephi learn “reformed Egyptian”? Why did God cause copies of Hebrew and Greek manuscripts of the Bible to be preserved in greater numbers than those of any other ancient book, whereas in the case of the Book of Mormon he purportedly left us with only an English translation? There is not a single manuscript for the Book of Mormon. The gold plates from which it was supposedly translated are nowhere to be found. There exists no literature in the so-called “reformed Egyptian.”  What assurance do we have that “reformed Egyptian” was actually spoken and written?

5.  How do you explain the fact that Mormon teaching is inconsistent with the Book of Mormon?  For example:
·      Baptism for the dead: Alma 34:32-35?              
·      God is changeable: Moroni 8:18?
·      God is flesh and bones: Alma 22:9-10 (cf. John 4:24)?          
·      Plural wives: Jacob 2:24?
·      Water in communion: 3 Nephi 18:8 (cf. Matt. 26:29)?

6.  How do you explain the fact that the Book of Mormon contradicts Doctrine and Covenants?  For example:

Book of Mormon                                        
Having multiple wives and concubines is abominable to the Lord (Jacob 2:23-24,35).
Doctrine & Covenants
Having multiple wives and concubines is not sinful, is a commandment of the Lord and part of his everlasting covenant, and failure to comply results in damnation (D&C 132:1-6,29-38).
Book of Mormon
Baptism is for remission of sins (3 Nephi 12:2).       
Doctrine & Covenants
Baptism comes after remission of sins (D&C 20:37).

7.  Why is Mormon teaching inconsistent with the Bible?  For example:
·      Those who enter the “Celestial Kingdom” will be gods (D&C 132:20); compare Isaiah 43:10; 44:6.
·      “unto that soul who sinneth shall the former sins return” (D&C 82:7); compare Hebrews 8:12.
·      “Man was also in the beginning with God” (D&C 93:29); compare Genesis 1:26; 2:7; Zechariah 12:1; Ecclesiastes 12:7.
·      John was not to die (D&C 7:1-3); compare John 21:20-23.
·      The Bible alone is insufficient (2 Nephi 29:6-10); compare 2 Timothy 3:16-17; 1 Peter 1:25; 2 Peter 1:3-4; James 1:25; Jude 3.
·      The Mormon Church was established in 1830, and Joseph Smith was its head and laid its foundation (D&C 21:1-3; 28:2,6); compare Matthew 16:18; 1 Corinthians 3:11; Ephesians 1:19-23; Colossians 1:17-18.

8.  Have Mormons obeyed (or do they intend to obey) the instructions set forth in Doctrine & Covenants 57:2-3; 84:5 in regard to building a temple in Independence, Missouri?

9.  Would you like to learn more about the Bible, true Christianity, and God’s will for your life? 

--Kevin L. Moore

Related PostsMormonismQuestions for My Jehovah's Witness Friends

Related articles: Jess Whitlock's Differences between the Bible and Book of Mormon

Recommended Websites: Nathan Franson's Mormon Study, Lance Mosher's 3 Tests Book of Mormon Can't Pass

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