David Westerfield

Theology, Culture, Technology, Reviews, and Other Commentary

Tag: review

Mohler Reviews John R. Franke’s New Book, Manifold Witness

Is Truth Really Plural? Postmodernism in Full Flower – Albert Mohler (A Review of John R. Franke’s new book, Manifold Witness)

UPDATE (11/05/2009): [I do want to make clear that I have not read the book yet and so I am not authoritative as a source at all of anything that is contained within the book, nor would I presume to be anyway. My interest has definitely been peaked though and I will be reading it shortly. Looks like a great read and will give quite a bit of insight into this perspective I believe. I agree with and trust Mohler’s analysis on a host of other things (including that of the emerging/emergent church, since I as well believe it to be a repeat of the same errors from 100 to 200 years ago) and I wholeheartedly agree with his contentions with the ideas presented in this book, since I agree with his analysis of postmodernism in this review and elsewhere.]

Once again, as the case has been time and again, I agree with many of the critiques and assessments of the emerging/emergent movement concerning where modern American, Western Christianity has fallen short. The Reformed faith shares many of the those same concerns. But, once again, as the case has been time and again, I disagree with the conclusions and solutions to those problems offered by emergents. Albert Mohler’s review of John R. Franke’s new book, Manifold Witness, captures those concerns quite eloquently.

Mohler agrees with Franke where there is agreement, but offers differing points of view on many of Franke’s key arguments asserted in his book. The theological arguments put forward by Franke are concisely and forcefully written, which presents an even greater challenge to those of us who hold to historic evangelicalism: more people will read this and be convinced of the “plurality of truth” assumed to be inherent within Christianty, which will open the floodgates for a dead, theological, postmodern liberalism to creep into more evangelical churches. (To be clear, theological liberalism is not equal to modern political liberalism, they are two separate categories.)

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American Patriot’s Bible – Words Cannot Describe II

America has a rich history rooted in the Christian faith, drawing many principles from Scripture. And while this is true, it does not lend us the conclusion that America was a “Christian nation,” even at our founding. Such an assumption is absurd and presents a misguided interpretation of history and a misunderstanding of the nature of how people are converted and saved. Many of the founding fathers were deists, an ideology which runs counter to the Biblical portrayal of an all-sovereign God, which necessarily affects our understanding of the Gospel.

The assumption that this was a Christian nation, displayed prominently within this Bible version, will hurt the cause of the Gospel in that it delivers the understanding to the unconverted that if you are an American and support the Constitution, you are a Christian and are “in” God’s favor. This is blatantly fallacious and patently unbiblical. American Religion is opposed to the Biblical Gospel. The Biblical Gospel critiques American Religion much in the same way Jesus critiqued the Pharisees.

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American Patriot’s Bible – Words Cannot Describe

American Patriot’s Bible: combining God’s infallible Word with the idolatry of American nationalism.

If there is anything that really gets my blood boiling, it is any piece of merchandise or any program or movement that holds up the idea that being an American equals being a converted, born-again Christian, something plaguing many of our churches to this day. And this Bible version (particularly as it pertains to the commentary contained within) is no exception, but in fact, is the ultimate example of exactly what I am talking about.

Don’t get me wrong here on this point: I love this country. In addition, this in no way negates my support for our troops or my desire to see this country continue in its current (hopefully improved) state. If you have read any of my political entries, you will know this is the case. This is merely about God’s Word being used as a platform for another agenda.

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The Shack – A Review

There are so many reviews that have done a fine job of explaining the pros and cons of this book that I don’t feel I need to go into this for very long.

First, I’ll just say that after reading it, the picture of God’s sovereignty and reasons for ordaining that suffering be are attractive, though in my view, insufficient (see the book of Job or Romans 8 or John Piper for a better explanation). Also, the concept that God the Trinity is eternally happy in Himself (see Jonathan Edwards’ works) is refreshing. The emotional tug of the book (which made me cry at points, it really is a heart breaking story) gives great weight to its attractiveness in a culture absorbed in emotional appeal and presuppositions. Those emotional aspect of the book really caught my attention and I thought Young did a good job of making Mack’s situation enrapturing. I was really able to put myself in his shoes. And it is overwhelming considering the weight of that pain.

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Liberating a Captive Church – The Foreword to Christless Christianity

Here we are in the North American church—conservative or liberal, evangelical or mainline, Protestant or Catholic, emergent or otherwise—cranking along just fine, thank you. So we’re busy downsizing, becoming culturally relevant, reaching out, drawing in, making disciples, managing the machinery, utilizing biblical principles, celebrating recovery, user-friendly, techno savvy, finding the purposeful life, practicing peace with justice, utilizing spiritual disciplines, growing in self-esteem, reinventing ourselves as effective ecclesiastical entrepreneurs, and, in general, feeling ever so much better about our achievements.

Notice anything missing in this pretty picture? Jesus Christ!

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Shack Author William P. Young Explicitly Denies Penal Substitution (MP3)

Interview conducted by Kendall Adams with William P. Young, author of The Shack: http://rock-life.com/files/shakcomp.mp3

(To hear the specific denial, fast-forward 16 minutes into the audio)

I realize many people have a love affair with The Shack. I know some of those very people. They find it to have really given them a ‘fresh’ perspective of God and see Him in a new light, especially in the midst of suffering. As with The Purpose Driven Life, I Am Second, etc., though there are legitimate concerns about the methodology of each, I do not doubt this also can be used by God to bring people into maybe hearing about the Gospel clearly from someone else, you know, a friend or something. The Lord used TBN as an instrument in my salvation, even with Tammy Faye Baker’s busted up hair and make-up. So we have no clue how the Lord may work in others lives to reveal the truths of the Gospel. He can use broken truth presentations of all kinds to reveal Biblical truth. It is His work alone after all, right?

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Windows 7 Beta – An Initial Review

With permission, this is an email I received from a co-worker named Nathan Abbott, who sent me a quick run down of the improvements and drawbacks to Windows 7 Beta after testing it this morning. Sounds like there are still some things Microsoft needs to improve, like the TCP/IP network stack. But progress has surely been made from Vista.

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Active Services

Memory Usage

Well I have spent a few hours with Windows 7 and here are my initial thoughts and feelings.

1.)  The network stack still needs work.  M$ implemented an enhanced TCP/IP stack and they still have bugs they need to work out of it.  File transfer times are still a bit sluggish.  I tested 10 MEG, 100 MEG and 4.0 GIG file transfers and XP still beats Windows 7.  I did notice that after turning off their IPV6 Helper service, files transferred a little faster.

2.)  There are still too many services that start on startup or have a delayed startup.  A base install starts with 38+ services on boot up.  I trimmed it down to 28.  I have attached screenshots [above].

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Thoughts on Piper’s Book, The Future of Justification – A Partial Review

In the past, just doing a cursory reading of some of N.T. Wright’s statements on justification, I thought that I could at least grasp a basic concept of his understanding of this centrally important piece of the Gospel message. Then I picked up Piper’s book. Now I’m even more confused than I was before; I now have some clarity on various points, but I see now I haven’t even scratched the surface of where the man is coming from on justification. Wright’s comprehensive picture of God’s working out salvation in history seems to be coming from a totally different avenue, one the church has never been down in 2000 years. It seems Piper is confused at points to, or sees seemingly contradictory understandings within Wright that he is putting out there at various junctures. While reading Piper’s critique and seeing quotes of Wright’s, I think to myself, “This is a Catholic understanding of justification,” and then at other points, I affirm with Wright that part of his articulation is the traditionally historic Protestant view (i.e. the “Wright” one … get it? Wow, okay I’ll stop … you knew it had to come, ya know, a pun … okay I’m digging a hole).

Things became much clearer tonight though as I continued reading (as much as it can in waters already muddied by a whole new articulation of a super vital doctrine that has never once appeared in all of church history). One of the things that has really come to bear in my understanding of Wright on justification is the way in which he distinguishes present and future justification. I have never even considered these as two separate, yet related doctrines (nor do I at this point still, just so I’m clear … I believe I’m justified now and will be in the future on the same basis, Christ alone). In the present, says Wright, we are justified by faith alone, knowing that all Christ has overcome and achieved is ours, or in other words, the verdict is in: we are His and have been made His by Christ. Okay that’s comforting. Here it comes though … yet future justification, the justification yet to occur at the judgment seat of God, is faith and the entire life lived in love as a confirmation of true, authentic saving faith. Confused?

With Piper, along with Wright, I concur that our lives should be overflowing with good works (imperfectly) from the supposed supernatural change in our hearts we claim to have had happen in us by God’s working alone, and that if that isn’t happening in us now (or we have no desire or struggle even with such things), we should very well question if God has born us anew at all; that is, is our faith the work of God in us alone to save us and keep us, or is it a false faith we worked up out of our sinful flesh that cannot stand the test of time and trials that will inevitably come (and believe me, they will)? If God has created in us a new heart, made us a new creation by the resurrection of Christ, then what necessarily results from that supernatural work in us is sweetness and fruitfulness, not bitterness and rottenness. I affirm this with Piper and Wright.

Wright is correct to point out that so much of Protestantism has erred in not presenting a balanced view of Paul’s understanding of faith and works, that the two go hand in hand. You cannot have one without the other (James 2:14-26). If God brings about faith in your heart, faith that can only come from Him, a faith that is supernaturally struck by the “beauty of His majesty” and the extent to which He went to bring us to Himself, that faith will inevitably produce good fruit because that is what we’ve been redeemed to. Faith and works are indeed interconnected.

But are they interconnected as the basis for our final justification? Or even our present justification? And yet somehow that understanding in itself isn’t connected with my present justification before God’s throne (the very thing that gives me hope when I’ve sinned and fallen short of the glory of God)? Are the two “justification’s” even distinguishable other than by time? I have a hard time accepting that understanding. It’s like a synthesized version of Protestant and Catholic views on justification almost, patching the former into our present justification and the latter into our future justification. Ultimately though, it comes down to our works in his view, from my standpoint.

I affirm with Piper that in Wright’s view of these two “justification’s” (present and future), the basis or root of both is different. In the present, for Wright, justification is rooted in faith alone through Christ alone. Yet in the future, our justification, the final proclamation of our vindication, that we are God’s covenant people, is based on our faith and our whole life lived … or in essence, our works. I agree that faith “works in love” of necessity and the effect of faith is works, but negate the understanding that our justification, either present or future, rests on faith + works in any fashion. This itself is a perversion of the Gospel of Christ and, as Martin Luther said, sola fide (faith alone) was “the very hinge upon which the Reformation turned.”

I have a hard time accepting the idea that my present justification and my future justification are somehow not the same at the root, that is in Christ’s work alone, appropriated through faith alone, that is all granted by God’s grace alone. The thing that gives me hope, everyday, is that both forms of justification, present and future, are exactly the same and are both rooted in the singular saving work of Christ alone, wrought out upon the cross, sealed and confirmed in the resurrection, and applied by His Holy Spirit to His elect covenant people, and in my particular case. It is knowing I’m secured by His grace, that I’m declared righteous, that gives me freedom to work for His glory and honor, because now no longer am I doing it to be justified (or made right with God), but I do it because I want to out of a love that overflows in my heart (all of which is it self a gift a grace).

If in the present I look off into the future justification of my life at the judgment seat of Christ and I see that His judgment of me is based on my faith and the life I’ve lived (or works), and not merely faith alone, will I not attempt to work harder to make sure “I’m in” the covenant community of God? Does my final justification then not hone in and rest upon what I’ve done in my life, which is defiled and wretched? What hope is that?

You see then, in all reality, if I believed this, ultimately the final verdict of whether or not I go to heaven or hell depends on my obedience, my works, which once again hits at the very distinguishing mark between Protestants and Catholics for 500 years (which Wright, in my opinion is folding on doctrinally): for Catholics, their justification, or right standing before God, comes by faith and works, produced by the infusion of the Holy Spirit into their hearts; for Protestants, our justification is through faith alone, that we are accounted righteous by Christ’s working on our behalf … but we saved through a faith that works in love of necessity … because the faith that God grants His people is of Himself and full of power, effectively changing the course of our entire lives (though we still yet remain imperfect). Ephesians 2:8-10 articulates this Protestant doctrine the best: “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” God saves His people by grace, granting faith, which justifies them, and then He moves in them to work for His glory.

I find all of this highly confusing, especially to those who have only a fundamental understanding of what justification is, let alone Wright coming along and making distinguishing marks between two different kinds, a present and a future justification. Wright says the Reformers were confused on the issue and that the conversation between Protestants and Catholics got off on the wrong foot during the Reformation. But I can only say Wright seems to have confused himself 1) about what the Reformers were saying concerning faith and works, and 2) he may be reading too much Second Temple Judaism back into the texts of Romans and Galatians in particular.

But, I am no scholar, nor do I presume to be, nor have I read any Second Temple Judaism from which to make any kind of a standing assertion such as that. I have only grasped a few of the concepts Wright is articulating, or at the very least attempting to, so I could very well be wrong and misunderstanding what he is saying. As you study, one of the things you realize is just how little you know of anything really. If Piper is confused at points, surely I’m going to be. Somehow I feel that Piper’s confusion comes from (possible) contradictory statements and a (possibly) confused N.T. Wright who is uttering them. But maybe I have a bias.

The Reason for God: A Critical Interactive Review by David Robertson

http://www.reformation21.org/shelf-life … review.php

I respect the theologians, writers, and pastors over at www.Reformation21.org. I frequent that site because of the great commitment to uphold the Gospel in all of life, teaching, and preaching, as well as their commitment to Reformed theology. However, I’m going to jump right to the chase on this one: this review is unhelpful. And there is more to come apparently. I believe David Robertson is well-intentioned, but I do not see a whole lot of value to his critiques of the book, other than his few points against modern society. (Can you tell I’m siding with Tim Keller on this one?)

“Firstly I have a problem with the title. I am not sure what it means.”

The Reason for God. It is a defense of God’s existence, His character, His nature, and His actions in the world. Summed up, it is, well, the reason for God. A defense, an apologetic. It is a title that has an allure (at least in my mind) to an unbelieving, doubt-filled, skeptical, postmodern audience. Also, Robertson is not a postmodern so of course he is not going to get the point of the title. It’s not really meant to appeal to him. Postmoderns’ presuppositions consist of doubt, not just questions. They doubt the existence of God, the character of God, His nature, His actions, and His “representatives.” And they especially doubt the God of the Bible. Is that not kind of the point of the book? To engage unbelieving, postmodern, skeptical audiences? And also to give believers some rock-solid arguments to witness with? I believe this is a petty point to critique.

“Maybe it’s my Europeanness but I tend to think that God does not need a reason.”

Yes, He does not need a reason for anything. He is God and answers to no man. I agree. But try using that same language with a rebellious, Gospel-resisting postmodern in witnessing and you will likely get shut down right away. You have fulfilled their presupposition in this case. Anything said after that statement (that “God does not need a reason”) will bounce a lot of times (though of course God can speak through and use anything He well pleases and is constrained by no instrument of man – Jonah?).

“The subtitle ‘Belief in an age of Skepticism’ also causes a question in my mind – is this really an age of scepticism? …

… Speaking of doubts I have a slight question about the use of the term doubt. There is surely a difference between a question and a doubt. If a students says to her teacher ‘I have a question about what you are saying’ this is different from saying ‘I doubt what you are telling me.'”

To the first statement: Yes, this is an age of skepticism. People question everything now in our society, while never arriving at a knowledge of the truth; always searching, but never finding. That’s what is popular now. Most people in our culture, particularly postmoderns, have presuppositions about what they think Christianity says. So as soon as you open your mouth they think they already know what you are going to say. This is why you must start with presuppositional apologetics to knock out those underlying doubts from under their feet, removing blockades so they can hear the message of the Gospel in a way they may not have been able to before. Is that not the point of apologetics, to remove stumbling blocks as much as possible until you finally present them with Christ crucified for sinners? Apologetics for the Gospel?

Anyway, these presuppositions are in the form of doubts, not merely questions, because that is the way people are educated in our society now within the universities. “Doubt, prod, and question everything” is now a received dogma in our society. Regardless, because of these presuppositions, questions inevitably arise when confronted with the old Gospel message, but in the form of cautious, hesitating, skeptical doubt. They will ask a sometimes rhetorical question such as, “How can you believe in the Christian God? He’s so angry and narrow.” What they are really saying a lot of times is, “I highly doubt that type of a God exists on the basis of what I know and feel to be true in my heart.”

“At a time when the default position for the vast majority of people in the West is a form of agnosticism or practical atheism (living as though God did not exist) we need to make sure that we do not deify doubt.”

I agree with his statements concerning agnosticism and practical atheism making their home in people’s minds and souls, but that’s a side point. Deify doubt, though? I hardly think Tim Keller is coming anywhere close to doing that. He is appealing to unbelievers’ presuppositional doubts by answering the most common (doubt-filled) questions people have asked him in his over 20 years of ministry in the thick of one of the most postmodern, urban environments in the world, NYC. He’s not setting doubt itself up as an idol! Silly argument, at least against the book. Now the only people I would tend to say that Robertson’s analysis is true of is the Emergent church (ope sorry, not supposed to label it so as to not put it in a box, how rude of me :]). I do believe they deify doubt and have made it the lens through which they approach the Bible and it is tainting the pure message of the Gospel by saying we can never really arrive at a “knowledge of the holy and sacred” (their own – paraphrased – words).

Regardless, I am convinced Tim Keller engages the doubts honestly, takes them apart lovingly, and then shows the reader that maybe they are not the center of the universe through which all reality (“their reality”) is determined. It seems to me that most of David Robertson’s qualms with the book come from his lack of understanding the American postmodern mindset. I mean Tim Keller has been engaging a postmodern audience a bit longer than he has. By no means am I an expert on American postmodern thought, but the points Robertson chooses to critique, at least to me, show his ignorance of defending the truth and witnessing to postmoderns in particular. I could be wrong though, because I know nothing about the man really as far as his background is concerned.

The Courage to be Protestant – A Review

In The Courage to be Protestant, David Wells notes there are three major groups splintering within the evangelical church now that threaten the entire movement’s original cause (though one of them is remaining faithful and seeks to preserve it). There are smaller groups that are splintering of course, but the focus is on the three major movements. The word “evangelicalism” is rooted in the word “evangel” which means Gospel. This was the fundamental basis upon which the phrase “evangelical” came into existence, starting either during or right before the times of the Puritans (based upon the fact that John Owen and Jonathan Edwards used the term themselves in their writings). Now though, things are taking a drastic turn; a turn, in fact, that has not been witnessed in its entire history since the Reformation.

These three distinct groups that are “emerging” (no pun intended) are the Truth-lovers, those who hold a historic protestant understanding of the Gospel as recovered in the Reformation (though all of these people are not necessarily Reformed); the Marketers, that is those who hold to using corporate marketing techniques to, in a sense, manipulate people into the church (marketing primarily to an aging baby-boomer generation); and the Emergents, those who believe it is necessary to adapt and morph Biblical, theological and historical understanding to our postmodern culture in an effort to win them for Christ (marketing themselves primarily to my generation).

While not doubting the good intentions and desires of the Marketers and Emergents, Wells brings stinging indictments that reveals their shift on crucial doctrines of the Gospel itself, which Satan has historically used to tear the church apart from within and eclipse the Gospel itself, all in the name of Christianity. I have not been able to put this book down it is so good. It has really made me consider the need to be even more courageous (yet loving) to hold fast to historic Protestantism (that is the Gospel) in the face of those, even within our churches unfortunately, who employ worldly means to bring people in and in some cases attempt to save themselves through their own doing and “Jesus’ help”.

Within the Marketing and Emergent movements, everything under the sun (including substitutionary atonement even! Check out Al Mohler in this sermon) is being redefined outside of historic, Biblical definitions, but is instead defined upon what our culture thinks, says and wants. However though, in a lot of cases, historic doctrines are held, yet pastors and teachers seem to be ashamed of them and lighten them up significantly, or just never speak about them in the pulpit at all. Are you ashamed of the doctrines of hell, wrath, sin, justice, predestination even? Jesus Himself spoke more about hell than anyone, yet some teachers would make Jesus out to be this guy who spoke some hippie love language.

Shouldn’t we possibly be willing to talk about that which is uncomfortable (sin and wrath in particular) because it is a prerequisite for getting the Gospel right? Isn’t that why people hate us Christians to begin with, precisely because the Gospel is an offensive message to sinful man? And if our message is not met with a good level of opposition, could there possibly be something wrong with our message? It’s the truth, is it not? The Marketers sure do seem to be ashamed of these hard truths though. Are you ashamed of the Bible speaking in terms of absolute truth? The Emergents clearly are, because a majority of people in our culture now are not sure there is any absolute truth, and the Emergents are folding to the pressure to be culturally relevant. They therefore shape their message to fit what the culture wants.

This book is a clear wakeup call for the evangelical church to recover it’s Gospel-roots as its primary focus and not shift on Biblical language, so that we may preserve the movements’ initial cause: the glory of God and the Gospel through which people may be reconciled to God. Either we recover our roots and threads that hold us together, or the historic evangelical cause will be lost. Unfortunately, David Wells believes the movement may already be lost and so it may be time to just move on and start a new movement of Gospel-centrality in the church, for both salvation and progressive sanctification (for growth in our faith). To me, it seems that a new movement is already under way with the advent of the “truth-lovers”. David Wells, summed up, puts it like this in the book:

“It would be quite unrealistic to think that evangelicalism today could look exactly as it did fifty years ago, or a hundred, or five-hundred. At the same time, the truth by which it is constituted never changes because God, whose truth it is, never changes. There should therefore be threads of continuity that bind real Christian believing in all ages. It is some of those threads, I believe, that are now being lost….I do not know what the evangelical future will be, but I am certain evangelicalism has no good future unless it finds this kind of direction again.”

Nowadays, you have everyone from the Oneness Pentecostals to Joel Osteen being called evangelical, yet Osteen is clear that he never wants to speak on anything negative, even if it is true, because it would offend people. Osteen is a Pelagian in his teaching of how people are saved, heresy condemned by an ecumenical early church council, The Council of Orange, in 529 A.D. And then T.D. Jakes does not believe in the Trinity, he’s a Modalist/Sabellian, two heresies, both of which were condemned in the third and fourth centuries. These teachers not only deny historic ecumenical, early church doctrines on the nature of Christ, God, sin (doctrines that even the Roman Catholic Church holds, whom we Protestants have crucial disagreements with over the nature of salvation), but these guys also specifically deny the roots of evangelicalism in not preaching orthodox, Gospel truth. Yet they are called and labeled evangelical! And then if you criticize what they are teaching, that they are in error, in any fashion, you get labeled a bigot, most specifically within the church! There is something seriously wrong with that.

This is a totally unqualified quote with no backing or proof anyone actually said it, but it honestly would not surprise me with the way things are shifting in evangelicalism. Someone told me that a lady had left a Roman Catholic church to go to one of the nearby “evangelical” mega-churches (remaining anonymous) because, “They didn’t teach the Trinity there and I just can’t believe in that.” If this is true (which again, not sure it is), volumes can be said about the methodologies employed at the church, the messages being communicated, the lack of clear truth that isn’t being taught, and most of all, the fact that there is no Gospel whatsoever (the root of evangelicalism), amongst a host of other things.

As those who hold to the historic truths of Christianity as particularly recovered in the Reformation, we must be willing to take abuse for the sake of Gospel-truth and not shift on those doctrines clearly shown to us in the Scriptures. That does not mean we have to stand up and be jerks toward those who differ. In fact, if this just makes you angry and you know you’ll just be mean, please keep quiet. Rather, we should lovingly confront error with the timeless truth of the Scriptures that has been passed down throughout the ages. This book is a proclamation and warning call to hold fast to what is true, even though our times dictate for us to shift our positions. David Wells says, “It takes no courage to sign up as a Protestant.” However, to be a theologically historic Protestant is increasingly taking more guts. Lord, help us to hold fast to what is true by Your Spirit.

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