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March is Trinity month!  So I thought for Thawed-out Thursday I'd link to some older Trinity posts...


God is not revealed in His Twin

The Father is perfectly revealed, not by His Twin, not by a Clone, but by Someone who is His Complement.  The Father is revealed in His Son, the Firstborn, His Image, His right-hand Man-Priest.  Self-differentiation is at the heart of God’s revelation.  Jesus is not the same as His Father and yet fully reveals Him. More than this – this difference is of the essence of the divine self-disclosure.  Self-differentiation in communion is the being of God – all of this is perfectly revealed in, by and through Jesus of Nazareth....


Nicene Trinitarianism

The Creed has no interest in defining an ousia (being) of God first and then assigning this essence to each of the Persons.  The Creed does not have a lengthy prologue before discussing the Father, Son and Spirit.  It simply unfolds the being of God as the interplay of these Persons in their roles and relations...

The vital phrase which calls Jesus "of one being with the Father" does not follow a prior discussion of "the being of God."  Nicea does not first consider a general essence of deity and then apply it to Jesus.  No the very first mention of "being" is in the relationship of Father and Son.

As TF Torrance says in Trinitarian Faith, "The Father/Son relationship falls within the one being of God."  This oneness upholds the distinction (as well as unity) of Father and Son...

There are genuine differences in Persons that in no way compromise their equality of divinity. There is never a time when the Son is not "one being" with the Father nor is there a time when the Son is not begotten of His Father. Therefore there is not a being of the Father that could ever be separately conceived and then assigned in equal measure to Father, Son and Spirit. Instead the being of God is a mutually constituting communion in which Father, Son and Spirit share.  The being of the Trinity consists in three Persons who are one with each other.  While Nicea does not say explicitly that the being is the communion of Persons, it points decidedly in this direction...

The divine nature is constituted by difference, distinction, mutuality, reciprocity – it is a divine life (a dance even!) not a divine stuff.


Nicea Comes Before Chalcedon

...Starkly put, who cares if the eternal Son is God if we can’t say the same of Jesus of Nazareth!  It’s Jesus of Nazareth who says ‘If you’ve seen me you’ve seen the Father.’ (John 14:9)  It’s Jesus of Nazareth who says ‘Son your sins are forgiven.’ (Mark 2:5)  It’s the Man Jesus who lives our life and dies our death.  If salvation is truly from the LORD then it has to be Jesus ‘born of the virgin Mary and suffered under Pontius Pilate’ who is declared fully God.  Nicea necessarily and clearly does this.

And what does this mean?  It means that before we’ve even gotten to Chalcedon we’ve affirmed that the Person of Jesus who is fully man and fully God exists entirely within the circle of divine fellowship which constitutes the being of God.  Jesus the Man is of one being with the Father.  If we could not affirm this then the revelation of Jesus would not be the revelation of God (contra John 14).  If we could not affirm this then the salvation of Jesus would not be the salvation of God (contra Mark 2).  But no, Jesus and the Father are one – not simply ‘the Son’ and the Father...

...Thus His full humanity in no way contradicts His full deity.  The Man Jesus exists fully and without remainder within the circle of divine life.  Chalcedon upholds the full integrity of Christ’s humanity, the complete perfection of His divinity, the absolute unity of His Person.  What Chalcedon does not say, and what it must never be made to say, is that there is a humanity to Jesus that is beyond or outside the divine homoousios.  Nicea has for all time assured us that the Man Jesus fully participates in the circle of triune fellowship which is the divine nature.


Arianism and Modalism: Falling Off Either Side of the Wrong Horse

...With Arianism and Modalism, Jesus gets either squashed down or squished in.  When the "One God" is defined without Jesus, He will always lose out.  Arius will allow Him to be Jesus and not God, Sabellius will allow Him to be God and not Jesus.  But fundamentally these errors are not so different because they both assume a pre-conceived ‘One God’ before they think of Christ.

This leaves us no option but to begin with a doctrine of God that expressly includes the mutual relations of Father and Son.  The "One God" must accommodate relationship from the outset.  Nothing else will allow Jesus to be Jesus and God.


Trinity is not a nuance.

When we unfold the trinitarian life of God in His gospel work, we’re not simply adding a level of detail to functionally unitarian ‘God’-speak.  Trinity is not just a nuancing of more basic truths.  To speak of trinity is to uncover a logic which alters the way we conceive of everything, from the ground up.


Trinity and unity?

Have you ever heard someone say:

“Ah yes you’re emphasising the trinity.  That’s well and good.  But let’s not forget the unity of God.”

And I say…. huh!?

The trinity is the unity of God!!  Trinity means tri-unity.  In that one word (that one doctrine) we have both the oneness and the threeness of God.  God is three Persons united.  That’s what trinity means.  Trinity gives us everything we need to articulate the One and the Three...


The Trinitarian Old Testament

Here are 24 OT Scriptures that must be understood multi-Personally or they are misunderstood...

My point is not that the OT betrays hints, shapes and shadows of triune structure,

My point is not that NT eyes can see trinitarian themes in the OT,

My point is not that we go back as Christians and now retrospectively read the trinity into the OT,

My point is not that the OT gives us partial suggestions of trinitarian life that are then developed by NT fulfillment,

My point is that these texts read on their own terms and in their own context (as the Jewish, Hebrew Scriptures that they are) demand to be understood as the revelation of a multi-Personal God.  The only proper way to understand these texts is as trinitarian revelation.  These texts are either to be understood triunely or they are mis-understood – on their own terms or any others...


Click the Trinity tag for over a hundred other posts.

And keep reading Dan's survey of Trinitarian theology in the 20th century.


A Repost

6 Christ Jesus, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, 7 but made Himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. 8 And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to death--even death on a cross! 9 Therefore God exalted Him to the highest place and gave Him the name that is above every name, 10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is LORD, to the glory of God the Father.  (Phil 2:6-11)

Divine humility.  Sounds contradictory?  You don't understand Christmas.

Jesus Christ, existing in the form of God, made a judgement.  That's right.  Before Christmas morning, Jesus took a decision.  (btw, v6 is proof that it's ok to call the pre-incarnate Son 'Jesus' - but that's for another time...)

Now you didn't decide to get born.  I'm guessing if you had been offered the chance to get born, you'd have taken it.  But Jesus had to choose to get born.  And I promise you, if you were in His shoes, you'd never have chosen what He chose.  If you were in very nature God, surrounded by the worship of heaven, able to do whatever you pleased, you would not have chosen what Jesus chose.  Because this is how Jesus considered things:  Being in very nature God, He chose not to grasp at His power or to exploit it.  Instead He chose total self-emptying.  He chose servanthood.  He chose to humble Himself.  He chose obedience.  He chose death.  He even chose the death of the cross - lifted up as an accursed thing.  That was Jesus' consideration - being the God that He was.

Question:  Would you have chosen that?

Answer:  No.  Every day I fail to give up even the smallest of comforts.  Let alone to give up my very life!  Let alone to suffer godforsaken hell - and that for enemies!  Would I have chosen this path?  No!

Question:  Well if Jesus did make this choice, did that stop Him from being in very nature God?

Answer:  By no means!  He is ongoingly, continually 'in very nature God'.

Question:  Well then, is Jesus' self-emptying a major detour from His glory in the form of God?

Answer:  No this is what equality with God actually looks like!  This is the very expression of the Father's glory - not exploiting but emptying.

Since He is in the form of God so He took to Himself the form of a slave!  And in this self-emptying He shows what true equality with God looks like.  It looks like the crib and the cross!

Christmas morning and Good Friday are not detours from the glory of God.  They show us that divine glory at full strength.  In eternity Jesus made this consideration.  He chose His history as the incarnate Servant to be that which truly expresses His equality with God.  And the Father affirms this choice - hyper-exalting He who hyper-humbled Himself.  And into all eternity we will gladly serve the Servant.  (And don't forget, He will serve us! Luke 12:37!)

Implication:  The baby in the manger, the victim on the cross - this is what it means to be in very nature God.

What is God's nature?  Don't simply look to the crown.  Look to the crib and to the cross.  God's nature is disclosed as one of utter self-giving.  Divine humility.



A sermon by Darrell Johnson on this passage (one of my favourite sermons ever!)


See other Christmas posts here.

And of course the ultimate Christmas sermon:



On Sunday I began our Gospel Alone series with this sermon on Christ Alone.

Audio here.  Excerpt beneath.  Full sermon at the end.

We do not know God except in Christ alone.  We are not saved by God except in Christ alone.

Does that sound narrow?

It’s only as narrow as Christ is.  So how narrow is Christ?

He is the Eternal Image of the otherwise Invisible God, the Creator and Redeemer of the Cosmos in Whom the fullness of deity dwells.  How narrow is He?  He is vast, He is beyond imagining.  He fills the universe and the fullness of God fills Him.

We don’t say “Christ alone” to be narrow.  We say 'Christ alone' because there’s no room for anyone else!  He is the eternal Son of the Father, our Maker and our Saviour, Who reconciles the cosmos back to His Father – there’s just no room for anyone or anything else.  That’s why we say 'Christ alone'.

It’s not about being narrow.  It’s just about naming the true Lord of this world.  The true Lord of this world is not Buddha or Allah or Krishna, He’s Jesus.  The true Lord of this world is not money, sex or power, He’s Jesus.  The true Lord of this world is not a big bang or a tiny particle or a long equation, He’s Jesus.

This is not narrow, this is simply naming the vast majesty of His Person and work.  It’s Christ alone, because when you understand who He is, there’s no room for anyone else.

And when you grasp the all-sufficiency of His Person and work - it transforms your view of Christ, of His Father, of the world, of salvation, of yourself.  To know Christ for Who He is means being drawn into His very life and work - to be caught up into the heart of all things.  Grasping 'Christ alone' changes everything...

Full sermon text below...

...continue reading "Christ Alone – sermon"

It's common to see a link between christology and our approach to the bible.  There are limits to this but also benefits.  Our approach to both Christ and the bible requires us to encounter something fully human which nonetheless is the Word of God.  Christology can therefore teach us a great deal about how the bible as fully human can, nonetheless, be a fully divine revelation.

In this post I discussed an important point in christology.  Namely, the chronological and methodological priority of Nicea over Chalcedon.  What this means is that we must linger long over Nicea's declaration that Jesus (born of a virgin, crucified under Pontius Pilate) is of one being with the Father (homoousios). The Man Jesus exists wholly within the triune relations which constitute God's being.  Whatever else Chalcedon protects - it does not protect Christ's humanity from that Nicene homoousios!  The fully human Jesus is a full participant in this divine nature.  In this way we protect against a Nestorianism which always threatens to divorce the humanity from the divinity.

What we can then say is this:

  1. Nestorianism is rejected: In Jesus' humanity (and not apart from it) God is revealed.  To put it another way: As the Man Jesus (and not in some other realm of locked-off deity) He brings divine revelation and salvation.
  2. Adoptionism is rejected: It is not the case that the humanity comes first and is then taken up into deity.  The Word became flesh, not the other way around!
  3. Docetism is rejected: It is not the case that the humanity is an unreal facade which we must push beyond to get to the real (divine) Jesus.

What would this mean when applied to biblical interpretation (i.e. hermeneutics)?  Given our OT focus here - what would it mean in particular for OT interpretation?

I suggest it means this:

  1. Nestorianism is rejected: In the humanity of the OT (it's immediate context, complete Jewish-ness, thorough Hebrew-ness) its divine Object (Christ) is revealed.  As the prophetic Israelite Scripture that it is (and not in some other locked-off realm of meaning) it is Christian, i.e. a proclamation of Christ.
  2. Adoptionism is rejected: It is not the case that a lower-level of Jewish meaning comes first and is then added to as it's adopted as Christian Scripture (by the NT).  From the beginning, at the very roots of its being, the OT is Christian/Messianic.  It is not first Hebrew Scripture and then Christian revelation rather it is Christian revelation that presupposes and brings about the Hebrew Scriptures.
  3. Docetism is rejected:  Having said all this I'm in no way denying the distinctly Israelite/Hebrew/pre-Gentile-inclusion/Mosaic-administration ways in which the Christ is proclaimed.  In its own context and on its own terms the OT will proclaim Christ to us.  We do not ignore contemporary details - rather we take them very seriously as the concrete context in which Christ is made known.

If the christological analogy holds and if this christology is right then I think we need to rule out certain brands of hermeneutics.  In particular we should be wary of any theory of interpretation that separates out Jewish-ness and Christian-ness in the OT.

On a similar note, here's a great short article on this hermeneutical issue by Nathan Pitchford.  His argument is that the reformers' notion of the literal meaning of the text was not something different to its christological meaning. It was the christological meaning.  You can also check out his excellent OT series here.


I just heard again that song: 'Shout to the North' (lyrics here).  Great tune huh?  What do we think about the lyrics?

Years ago I led the music in a church (a very small church you understand, but my knowledge of four guitar chords made me a relative virtuoso).

Well happily enough, Shout to the North has only four chords.  So it went straight onto the 'playlist'.  The only issue was my troubled conscience.  You see, while I only knew four chords of guitar, I knew a whole six doctrines of theology (neat diagrams to boot).  And something grated.  The lyrics say "Jesus is Saviour to all."  Now we can't be singing that can we?

I can't remember, but I think I used to hurry on through that line - Jesus is Saviour to those who call... or something.

Because here's my unexamined, gut-level assumption - Jesus is Lord of all and Saviour of some.  Isn't that what all right-thinking evangelicals believe?  Lord of all, Saviour of some.  Which is basically to say that Jesus is fundamentally Lord but secondarily and more narrowly Saviour.  He's Lord through and through, He's partially Saviour.

And this gut-level assumption is strengthened by the fear of universalism.  (Fear is a wonderful tool to prevent us examining our beliefs).  Surely if we sing "Jesus is Saviour to all" we're demolishing any distinction between saved and unsaved, aren't we?

Well no, that's not how the bible argues.  Jesus is constantly called Saviour of the world (e.g. John 3:17f; 4:42) and Paul says:

We have put our hope in the living God, who is the Saviour of all men, and especially of those who believe.  (1 Tim 4:10)

So actually Jesus is Lord of all (but especially those who believe) and Saviour of all (but especially those who believe).

There is a distinction.  It's there in the word 'especially.'  But it's not in the scope of Christ's Lordship versus His Saviour-ship.  He is equally both.

This has implications for many areas, but let's just think about evangelism.  If I go with my gut-level assumption, how do I offer Christ to the unbeliever?  Well I can't presume to offer Christ as Saviour can I?  After all Jesus might turn out not be Saviour to this individual.  So perhaps I conclude: it's safer to confront the unbeliever with His Lordship.  And, on this understanding, this is a 'Lordship' that's considered somewhat apart from His Saviour-ship.

So I speak more of His hands raised up against us than His hands stretched out towards us.  I define sin far more as rebellion against His rule than resistance against His grace.  I offer salvation as submission to His sovereignty much more than resting in His rescue.

Now I will certainly mention those latter aspects.  But they are deviations from the norm.  They are potential fringe-benefits - not the main story.

In all this, I understand that there's massive overlap between Lordship and Saviourship.  In fact that's really my point.  When you say 'Jesus is Lord' you are saying 'The Saviour is Lord' (for 'Jesus' means Saviour!)  His Lordship is expressed and established precisely in His cosmic salvation.  Therefore we must not divide these aspects up and we certainly should not favour one over the other.

But if this is so then it can't be true that a preacher is good on 'Jesus is Lord', but not as strong on 'Jesus is Saviour'.  If we're not holding out the Saviour-ship of Christ then we're not properly holding out the Lordship of Christ either.

So what if we took the song seriously?  What if we really believed that Jesus is the Saviour of the world?  Imagine that loved one who you pray for - you desperately want them to turn to Christ for you know that Jesus is their Lord.  Do you know equally powerfully that He is their Saviour too?

In my conservative evangelical constituency we bang the Jesus is Lord drum very loudly.  I'm just not sure we hold Him out as Saviour with equal passion.  And it flavours our evangelism in some unhelpful ways.



I'm always banging on about the trinity here.

One thing I particularly emphasize is the fact that the distinct Persons maintain their distinct-ness in the unity of the Godhead because this unity is the perichoresis (mutual indwelling) of the Persons.  In fact the distinct-ness is upheld in these relations.  The Father is truly Father because of His paternal relation to the Son in the Spirit etc, etc. God's One-ness does not steamroller the distinctions, it's a One-ness that includes (and is even constituted by) this mutual, interlocking one-ness.  (Just click the Trinity tag on my sidebar and you'll soon come across many such posts).

One implication is this: We can all just breathe a sigh of relief and let Jesus be Jesus.

What do I mean by that?  Well let me ask a few questions.  When you read the Gospels, do you ever wonder:

  • Why doesn't Jesus just say 'I am God'?  Why all this 'I am sent...' stuff?
  • Why does Jesus keep saying things like: 'I can do nothing by myself'? (e.g John 5:19,30)
  • How come Jesus sleeps?
  • How come Jesus doesn't know when He's returning?

He seems to walk around doing divine things (like forgiving sins), but at the same time He seems to go out of His way to show how dependent He is.  Think about the paralytic in Matthew 9. He forgives his sins - which only God can do (v3) - but He does so as the Son of Man (v6) and the overwhelming reaction of the people is to glorify God for giving such authority to men. (v8)  Even the most blatantly divine action is done in a distinctly human and dependent way.

Do we get worried about Jesus' weakness which comes out of every page of the Gospels?  Are we concerned that Jesus doesn't say "I am God"?  Instead He seems most often to claim a dependence on God and He walks around unashamedly humanly, showing Himself to be a complement (not a clone) of the One He calls Father.

Does this infuritate us as we seek to prove from the Scriptures the divinity of Jesus??  It shouldn't do.

It is a revelation of His divine nature (and not a concealment) that we see in Jesus such dependence on the Father.  When He says 'I am sent' it reveals His divine nature as the eternal Son of the Father.  When He says 'I can do nothing' it reveals His divine nature as the eternal Servant of the LORD.  When He sleeps it reveals His divine nature as One dependent upon the ever-wakeful Father.  When He says He doesn't know when He's returning He reveals His divine nature as One sent from God.  He waits on the Father's command and does not initiate His first or second coming.

He really can't do anything by Himself.  He really does sleep.  He really doesn't know when He's returning.  But for all that He is no less divine.   For He belongs to the other Members and as the dependant Son, filled without measure with the omnipotent Spirit, He is a full participant in the communion that is God.

We don't need to assign these differences in Jesus to some 'human nature' locked off from a special sphere of uncorrupted, independent deity.  Jesus' deity is not insulated from these differences, it includes them.  It is the human Jesus who says 'If you've seen me you've seen the Father.'  It is the human Jesus who says 'Son, your sins are forgiven.'  In His differences, even in His complete humanity, He is the living God.

His divinity is on show on every page of the Scriptures because His divinity is His anointing with the Spirit and consecration to the Father.  That's why the key title for Jesus is not "God" but "the Christ, the Son of God."  This title is the most clear expression of His divinity.

So let's let Him be who He is in the Gospels.  Let's not fit Him into some pre-conceived notions of divinity.  Let's let Jesus be Jesus.


From this sermon on Matthew 1:1-17 preached yesterday.

Jesus was the One Person who could choose both His friends and His family.

And He chose a family full of liars, prostitutes, murderers, adulterers and idolaters.   All of us would want to cover up the skeleton's in this genealogical closet.  But on the contrary the bible goes out of its way to emphasize the scandalous origins of Jesus of Nazareth.

He is not ashamed to call them brothers (Heb 2:11).

Not only is Jesus the 'friend of sinners' (Matthew 11:19).  That would be wonderful enough.  But He goes further.  He's not simply our friend.  He chooses to be family.  He is not just a divine visitor condescending to sit at table with us.  Not just the Angel of the LORD granting us favours.  No, God the Son becomes God our Brother.  Born into our race, grafted into our family tree, forever sharing in our humanity.  He draws very near.  Bone of our bones and flesh of our flesh - now and forever more.  Truly He is Immanuel, God with us (Matthew 1:23).

And He does all this to end our exile.  Matthew 1:17 is clear that Jesus ends the exile.  Not Zerubabbel or Nehemiah or Ezra - Jesus.  Estrangement from God is over in the presence of Jesus.  He says plainly "The time has come, the kingdom of God has drawn near.  Repent and believe the gospel."  (Mark 1:15)  Fellowship with the Most High is simply given to us in Jesus.

And this is why the 3 fourteens are stressed by Matthew (1:17).  42 generations from the foundation of Israel until her Messiah comes.  In months, the number 42 represents a time of suffering.  It is three and a half years - perfection (7) split in two.  (Rev 11:2ff; 13:5).  But considered as multiples of 7, we have six sevens.  And any time you have a six in the bible - you're just waiting for the seventh.  Jesus is the seventh seven.  The Sabbath of sabbaths.  The complete rest.  And His reign will usher in the true Jubilee.  (Deut 25:8ff)  At the end of His seven, the trumpet will sound and Jubilee begins.  (Jubilee means ram's horn!)  And it's Jesus who ends the exile.

The Son has become our Brother to bring us to the Father. And in this reconciliation the whole creation is freed.



Preached on John 1:1-2 this morning (audio here).

My last two points were this:

Jesus is God-sized


God is Jesus-shaped


I wonder whether much of our evangelism is aimed at persuading people of point number one.  And I wonder whether that emphasis, if divorced from the second point, is quite dangerous.

Here's what I mean - when we tell an unbeliever that Jesus is God, this is what they hear:  "You know the god of the pub discussion - the distant, arm-chair deity, uninvolved and uncaring?  That god is who Jesus is!"

"Oh" says the unbeliever.  "Because Jesus looks quite different to that."

"Yeah, I know" we say.  "But you need to look past all that stuff.  Whatever you see in Jesus that doesn't look like 'the god you've always believed in' - that's just Jesus' human nature.  No, that's dispensible.  What you really need to know is that Jesus is God."

And what's the result?  Well how many Christian testimonies run something like this...

"I have always believed in some kind of god.  And then I met Jesus.  And the preacher told me that Jesus is the god-I-always-believed-in."

Do you see what's happened here?  Some supposed natural knowledge of God is determining a person's view of Christ and determining it from the outset.

It should be the other way around.  Knowledge of Jesus should revolutionize our view of God. We should tell people not only that Jesus is God-sized, we should tell them that God is entirely Jesus-shaped.

As Archbishop Michael Ramsey once said (riffing on 1 John 1:5): "God is Christlike, and in Him there is no unchristlikeness at all."



“We see that our whole salvation and all its parts are comprehended in Christ (Acts 4:12). We should therefore take care not to derive the least portion of it from anywhere else. If we seek salvation, we are taught by the very name of Jesus that it is of him (1 Corinthians 1:30). If we seek any other gifts of the Spirit, they will be found in his anointing. If we seek strength, it lies in his dominion; if purity, in his conception; if gentleness, it appears in his birth. For by his birth he was made like us in all respects (Hebrews 2:17) that he might learn to feel our pain (Hebrews 5:2). If we seek redemption, it lies in his passion; if acquittal, in his condemnation; if remission of the curse, in his cross (Galatians 3:13); if satisfaction, in his sacrifice; if purification, in his blood; if reconciliation, in his descent into hell; if mortification of the flesh, in his tomb; if newness of life, in his resurrection; if immortality, in the same; if inheritance of the Heavenly Kingdom, in his entrance into heaven; if protection, if security, if abundant supply of all blessings, in his Kingdom; if untroubled expectation of judgment, in the power given to him to judge. In short, since rich store of every kind of good abounds in him, let us drink our fill from this fountain, and from no other”.

Calvin's Institutes, II.xvi.19



From Stand Firm in Faith

Any number of things madden me about this:

1. If Jesus is a 'mechanism' for Schori - she ain't a sister.  She's just not.  If Jesus is incidental to the identity of 'God' she's got the wrong god.

2. Apparently Schori looks to fruits of the Spirit in religious teachers to demonstrate their closeness to God.  But then for 'conservatives' to insist on the confession of Christ as Lord amounts to works.

3. Her arguments are about the Abrahamic faiths - but just how does the Dali Lama fit into this?  Is he an anonymous Abrahamite?  Just who is the 'God' who's in charge of this 'salvation'?  Apparently he's not even as specific as the God of Abraham.  Apparently His identity just isn't important.

But one other thought:

4.  I believe we Evangelicals are a bit hamstrung when it comes to answering Schori whileever we remain unclear that Jesus just is the God of Abraham.  When our own reasoning also runs along the lines of "Jesus is essential for us, but not for them" our opposition to this teaching will not be as strong as it should be.

Just a thought.


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