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Three takes on Freedom of the Will

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  • Oruaseht
    As I was re-reading one of my favorite books from Seminary, I stumbled across this quotation on the Freedom of the Will: The views of Pelagius, of the eastern
    Message 1 of 6 , Jul 14, 2010
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      As I was re-reading one of my favorite books from Seminary, I stumbled across this quotation on the Freedom of the Will:

      "The views of Pelagius, of the eastern church in general, and of the redoubtable Augustine therefore represent the three possible ways in which human initiative–may or may not–operate. Pelagius held that we are born with a will absolutely free and totally untainted by Adam's sin; we therefore retain the possibility of saving ourselves. The easterners held that we are born with a will corrupted by Adam's sin, but not so corrupted that we cannot do at least a few good actions; in response to these actions God makes his grace available, and in cooperation with this grace, and only in cooperation with this grace, we can achieve salvation. Augustine held that we are born with a soul completely corrupted by Adam's sin and cannot do any good action at all; our salvation is therefore entirely in the hands of God, and if he does not make his grace available to us, there is absolutely nothing that we can do about it. Pelagian infants are born with 20-20 vision; Greek infants are born in need of spectacles; Augustinian infants are born blind." David N. Bell. A Cloud of Witnesses: An Introductory History of the Development of Christian Doctrine. Kalamazoo: Cisterian Publications, 1989. Page 149.

      Is this author's view of Orthodoxy correct? He seems to imply that "the few good actions" we can do "merits" God giving us His grace. Is that a correct statement of Orthodoxy on the Freedom of the Will? I have a different impression that it is God who is inviting all people into Salvation with Him in Synergy/Cooperation - God is the source vs. me as the source.
    • Christopher Orr
      I think it represents a view of Orthodoxy very much through a Lutheran lens. A perhaps relevant response a wrote to someone recently that gets at the power of
      Message 2 of 6 , Jul 14, 2010
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        I think it represents a view of Orthodoxy very much through a Lutheran
        lens.

        A perhaps relevant response a wrote to someone recently that gets at the
        power of the will:

        Overall, I think a major difference lies in understanding what grace is and
        > when it is given. Grace was given to all humanity progressively from the
        > Annunciation (Incarnation) through Good Friday to Pascha to Ascension and
        > Pentecost. So, yes, we live by grace alone, grace given us 2000 years ago.
        > In this sense, humanity has already moved into the 'sanctification' phase
        > where we are expected to cooperate with the Holy Spirit - to put it into
        > Lutheran terms.
        >
        > Secondly, grace is not simply a change in the way God accounts us; it is
        > not simply a change in His attitude toward us, which we do not deserve.
        > Grace is the activity and energy of God Himself, some Fathers speak of grace
        > as being the Holy Spirit Himself. That is, grace is miracle working, so
        > what was not possible before becomes possible.
        >
        > St. Silouan and other monastic saints will speak of the 'loss of grace' and
        > the 'acquisition of grace'. However, this is qualified by the fact that
        > without grace of some kind the whole world would lapse back into
        > nothingness. Grace is part of the activity of God that continually keeps
        > the world, well, the world, living, active. Again, grace is sometimes
        > explained as being the Holy Spirit Himself and one of the Trisagion prayers
        > (prayed multiple times every day) tells us He is "everywhere present filling
        > all things". Grace is a constant in all our lives, in the animal kingdom,
        > in rocks, in stars, in time and space itself (to get all quantum on you).
        >
        > So, by grace we can do nothing, but grace isn't something God decides to
        > add to us that we didn't have some part of already, we all already have the
        > grace requisite to cooperate and respond to that call. In fact, the call
        > itself is due to grace and proof you have the grace requisite to respond to
        > it - the call itself carries and transmits grace enough to respond to it, to
        > draw one to it. This call includes not only preaching or reading, but also
        > Orthodox iconography, architecture, music, actions, vestments, and most
        > especially the lives of simply and holy Orthodox Christians (as well as
        > monastics, deacons, priests, bishops, etc.)
        >
        > The grace St. Silouan refers to is at a level beyond the baseline every
        > person and baptized/chrismated Orthodox Christian begins at. The spiritual
        > life is often described as having three levels: purification, illumination,
        > theoria (vision, theosis). After experiencing the heights of union with
        > God, deification/divinization, any lessening of that grace (experience) is
        > felt as a loss of all grace, a fall into darkness. It's like going inside
        > after being outside on a snowy plain on a bright day at noon - inside feels
        > like darkness, until you notice the lights are on inside and your eyes
        > simply need to adjust to the lesser luminosity indoors. So, "grace" can
        > carry multiple meanings and perspectives - the same is true of other terms
        > in Lutheranism, which have narrow (proper) and broad definitions of terms (I
        > don't have my Lutheran dogmatics book at hand to give you the example I'm
        > thinking of, sorry).
        >
        > It is in this sense of perspective on grace that one can be expected to
        > prepare for and even 'call down' grace - it isn't the grace that upholds the
        > world, it isn't the grace coursing through us following the hypostatic union
        > of divine and human in Christ, it isn't the grace transmitted through the
        > Bible, the services, icons, relics, etc., it is the increased experience of
        > grace as one progresses in purification, illumination and finally theoria -
        > it is the increase experience of grace one is more and more capable of
        > receiving and perceiving and accepting. I think of it like radio waves.
        > Radio stations are playing around me, but I can't hear them without a radio.
        >
        > I remember struggling over much the same question, in a different form. I
        > read somewhere that the cure for every sin is its opposite virtue. I
        > struggled over how I could be expected to practice a virtue to kill a vice
        > when it was the vice keeping me from practicing the virtue. This is a
        > Lutheran conundrum, not an Orthodox one. This is why Lutheranism so often
        > falls short on its own teaching regarding sanctification - if I try to hard,
        > if I attempt to take the kingdom with violence (in the Bible) then that
        > means I think I am earning my salvation. This seems to come from a
        > misunderstanding regarding how we are able to come to faith - that somehow I
        > am given, at some point in my life the new and unexpected addition of an
        > ability that now allows me to believe the Gospel. The Orthodox position is
        > that that ability is already there and greater 'ability' is given via all
        > the things of the Church. We are not homo sapiens, we are homo adorans - we
        > are built for worship, and 'right worship' resonates with our deep heart.
        >


        Ben Harju responded to his author's points (on this list) and gave a
        slightly different perspective:

        In all practicality it is impossible for anyone to "see" what is
        > attributed directly to God's Grace and what is attributed to man's
        > un-coerced response in conversion (except for God Himself).
        >
        > Being dead in trespasses and sins used to mean for me in Lutheranism
        > total physical death, total incapacitation, total passivity, becoming
        > a spiritual corpse.
        >
        > In Orthodoxy being dead means being "stuck" like the Rich Man in
        > Christ's parable who was being tormented in Hades. He still can
        > think, complain, desire, and so forth, but he is stuck in the clutches
        > of a prison. For those who have not died physically yet, they are
        > still in a situation of being held, imprisoned, enslaved by death
        > (i.e. mortality, which corrupts like a rot or decay on men). Those
        > who do die are known to retain thought, feeling, choice, etc., whether
        > they return to the body or proceed to their particular judgment.
        >
        > So being dead in sins and trespasses was something that changed for me
        > in conversion. It was a change from total spiritual passivity to an
        > issue of enslavement. In the former I thought of myself as a corpse
        > (like Lazarus in the tomb) waiting in unconsciousness for someone to
        > command me to life, vis a vis conversion (and in Lutheranism it is
        > conversion unto justification). In Orthodoxy I began to see myself as
        > constantly "awake" in my inner man, able to exercise freedom within
        > the confines of my particular prison (corruption of death, plus the
        > further enslavement that my sins led me into). In Lutheranism I
        > passively waited for God to raise my corpse-like spiritual state. In
        > Orthodoxy I actively apply my will to the Grace God - who entered into
        > my prison with me in Christ - that He offers me. God offers,
        > illumines, and effects, but it is left to me to freely accept in faith
        > or reject in unbelief.
        >
        > That's something that changed for me.
        >

        Christopher



        On Wed, Jul 14, 2010 at 12:01 PM, Oruaseht <oruaseht@...> wrote:

        >
        >
        > As I was re-reading one of my favorite books from Seminary, I stumbled
        > across this quotation on the Freedom of the Will:
        >
        > "The views of Pelagius, of the eastern church in general, and of the
        > redoubtable Augustine therefore represent the three possible ways in which
        > human initiative�may or may not�operate. Pelagius held that we are born with
        > a will absolutely free and totally untainted by Adam's sin; we therefore
        > retain the possibility of saving ourselves. The easterners held that we are
        > born with a will corrupted by Adam's sin, but not so corrupted that we
        > cannot do at least a few good actions; in response to these actions God
        > makes his grace available, and in cooperation with this grace, and only in
        > cooperation with this grace, we can achieve salvation. Augustine held that
        > we are born with a soul completely corrupted by Adam's sin and cannot do any
        > good action at all; our salvation is therefore entirely in the hands of God,
        > and if he does not make his grace available to us, there is absolutely
        > nothing that we can do about it. Pelagian infants are born with 20-20
        > vision; Greek infants are born in need of spectacles; Augustinian infants
        > are born blind." David N. Bell. A Cloud of Witnesses: An Introductory
        > History of the Development of Christian Doctrine. Kalamazoo: Cisterian
        > Publications, 1989. Page 149.
        >
        > Is this author's view of Orthodoxy correct? He seems to imply that "the few
        > good actions" we can do "merits" God giving us His grace. Is that a correct
        > statement of Orthodoxy on the Freedom of the Will? I have a different
        > impression that it is God who is inviting all people into Salvation with Him
        > in Synergy/Cooperation - God is the source vs. me as the source.
        >
        >
        >


        [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
      • Benjamin Harju
        Oruaseht, Bell has not fairly nor competently related the Orthodox teaching on the ... Response: Yes, but what do you mean by will? ... Response: What do you
        Message 3 of 6 , Jul 14, 2010
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          Oruaseht,

          Bell has not fairly nor competently related the Orthodox teaching on the
          will here. Let's focus on this part:

          > The easterners held that we are born with a will corrupted by Adam's sin,

          Response: Yes, but what do you mean by will?

          > but not so corrupted that we cannot do at least a few good actions;

          Response: What do you mean by good actions?

          > in response to these actions God makes his grace available,

          Response: What do you mean by grace?

          > and in cooperation with this grace, and only in cooperation with this
          > grace, we can achieve salvation.

          Response: What do you mean by salvation?

          The above "responses" are important starting points, and veterans on this
          list will know that Lutherans and the Orthodox work with very different
          concepts of "good actions," grace/Grace, and salvation.

          The accusation implicit in Bell's paragraph is that the Orthodox are
          semi-Pelagians. The logic behind that accusation is that the Orthodox
          believe there is something in fallen man that is still able to meritoriously
          attract God's grace (and here grace means, in Lutheran terms, God's favor
          towards man). This logic is flawed, deeply flawed. The fear of Merit is
          behind all pre-conversion acts in Lutheran theology. Thus, prior to
          conversion, if you can do ANYTHING that pleases God, even observe God's
          commandments in an outward way or just desire (will) for God's salvation in
          Christ, this then factors into a system of Merit, which system applies
          directly to whether or not God *should* save you or *will* save you.
          Orthodoxy does not resonate on the harmonic of Merit - it sounds like a sour
          note to us.

          From the Scriptures, Orthodoxy believes that man has fallen out of communion
          with the Trinity, which has caused man to enter into a mortal, corrupt, and
          passionate state. The will is effected. In fallen man the will is divided:
          there is the natural will - which reflects the image of God in man, desiring
          what is good and in accord with God, serving as man's conscience; there is
          the animal or emotional will - which desires whatever is sinful. Fallen man
          also has a gnomic will - which deliberates between choices, and is obscured
          by the Fall, so that man does not automatically know what is the right way
          to go. After the Fall man is dominated by the animal will against the
          feeble struggles of the natural will, with the gnomic will too hurt to make
          the right choices.

          When this fallen man's deliberations lead him to act in accord with the
          natural will, this is God-pleasing, but does not create communion with God
          nor earn God's saving action. When fallen man's deliberations lead him to
          sin - against the pleadings of his natural will - he further bounds himself
          in mortality, corruption, and passions and further alienates himself from
          God. Even if fallen man were to always choose to do good in his outward
          actions, this could not be salvation, for he is still bound by mortality,
          corruption, and passions and unable to restore communion with God. So bald
          works achieve nothing for salvation.

          Regarding conversion and man's entry into "salvation" (communion with God),
          God approaches man with the Gospel - which itself enlightens man's will.
          God does not force man to enter into intimate communion with Him, but
          appeals to man's freedom to deliberate and choose. Man, in choosing, causes
          nothing to happen. Man can choose, but man cannot effect. God offers, God
          enlightens in the offering, and God effects. Man's choice is not a
          quantitative merit (i.e. a tally in the book of deservings), but the free
          desire to enter into the marriage with God that God is proposing. This is
          how faith works in conversion: it is both a free choice and a gift derived
          from God's Grace (here Grace is the Energies of God at work to enlighten
          man's darkened will).

          In Orthodoxy theology, if God must first convert man and only then does man
          have the ability to say "yes" or "no," then this is tantamount to a Shotgun
          Wedding. It would be coercion and would cross into the bounds of a
          determinism that agrees with Manicheanism. It would likewise contradict the
          Scriptures and reject Patristic theology ratified and promoted at the level
          of the Ecumenical Council.

          I can argue the necessity of personal freedom in Orthodoxy till I'm blue in
          the face, but that will not get around the mischaracterization of Orthodoxy
          as Semi-Pelagian, because the accusation is based on false theological
          grounds. The above quote from Bell confuses terms, introduces alien
          presuppositions, and jumbles up the proper orders and distinctions of
          actions in Orthodox soteriology.

          In Christ,
          Benjamin Harju



          On Wed, Jul 14, 2010 at 12:01 PM, Oruaseht <oruaseht@...> wrote:

          >
          >
          > As I was re-reading one of my favorite books from Seminary, I stumbled
          > across this quotation on the Freedom of the Will:
          >
          > "The views of Pelagius, of the eastern church in general, and of the
          > redoubtable Augustine therefore represent the three possible ways in which
          > human initiative�may or may not�operate. Pelagius held that we are born
          with
          > a will absolutely free and totally untainted by Adam's sin; we therefore
          > retain the possibility of saving ourselves. The easterners held that we
          are
          > born with a will corrupted by Adam's sin, but not so corrupted that we
          > cannot do at least a few good actions; in response to these actions God
          > makes his grace available, and in cooperation with this grace, and only in
          > cooperation with this grace, we can achieve salvation. Augustine held that
          > we are born with a soul completely corrupted by Adam's sin and cannot do
          any
          > good action at all; our salvation is therefore entirely in the hands of
          God,
          > and if he does not make his grace available to us, there is absolutely
          > nothing that we can do about it. Pelagian infants are born with 20-20
          > vision; Greek infants are born in need of spectacles; Augustinian infants
          > are born blind." David N. Bell. A Cloud of Witnesses: An Introductory
          > History of the Development of Christian Doctrine. Kalamazoo: Cisterian
          > Publications, 1989. Page 149.
          >
          > Is this author's view of Orthodoxy correct? He seems to imply that "the
          few
          > good actions" we can do "merits" God giving us His grace. Is that a
          correct
          > statement of Orthodoxy on the Freedom of the Will? I have a different
          > impression that it is God who is inviting all people into Salvation with
          Him
          > in Synergy/Cooperation - God is the source vs. me as the source.
          >
          >
          >


          [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
        • matt reader
          It s curious, because I read that in Bell just two days ago. While I really enjoy his books, this is an oversimplification of the Eastern position regarding
          Message 4 of 6 , Jul 14, 2010
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            It's curious, because I read that in Bell just two days ago. While I really enjoy his books, this is an oversimplification of the Eastern position regarding the 'merit' of God's grace or favor pertaining to salvation in the strict sense. Still a great read.

            --- On Wed, 7/14/10, Oruaseht <oruaseht@...> wrote:


            From: Oruaseht <oruaseht@...>
            Subject: [LutheransLookingEast] Three takes on Freedom of the Will
            To: LutheransLookingEast@yahoogroups.com
            Date: Wednesday, July 14, 2010, 9:01 AM


             



            As I was re-reading one of my favorite books from Seminary, I stumbled across this quotation on the Freedom of the Will:

            "The views of Pelagius, of the eastern church in general, and of the redoubtable Augustine therefore represent the three possible ways in which human initiative–may or may not–operate. Pelagius held that we are born with a will absolutely free and totally untainted by Adam's sin; we therefore retain the possibility of saving ourselves. The easterners held that we are born with a will corrupted by Adam's sin, but not so corrupted that we cannot do at least a few good actions; in response to these actions God makes his grace available, and in cooperation with this grace, and only in cooperation with this grace, we can achieve salvation. Augustine held that we are born with a soul completely corrupted by Adam's sin and cannot do any good action at all; our salvation is therefore entirely in the hands of God, and if he does not make his grace available to us, there is absolutely nothing that we can do about it. Pelagian infants are born with 20-20
            vision; Greek infants are born in need of spectacles; Augustinian infants are born blind." David N. Bell. A Cloud of Witnesses: An Introductory History of the Development of Christian Doctrine. Kalamazoo: Cisterian Publications, 1989. Page 149.

            Is this author's view of Orthodoxy correct? He seems to imply that "the few good actions" we can do "merits" God giving us His grace. Is that a correct statement of Orthodoxy on the Freedom of the Will? I have a different impression that it is God who is inviting all people into Salvation with Him in Synergy/Cooperation - God is the source vs. me as the source.











            [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
          • Oruaseht
            I agree with you all that Bell s position is at best a warped caricature of Orthodoxy. I do enjoy his take on church history, written in his
            Message 5 of 6 , Jul 14, 2010
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              I agree with you all that Bell's position is at best a warped caricature of Orthodoxy. I do enjoy his take on church history, written in his conversational/none-too-deep way. This book was the first place that I ever encountered the Orthodox Church, so it will always have a special place on my shelf and in my heart. (awwww! I mean, nous). ;)

              Thanks to Benjamin & Christopher for fleshing out a much better position than Bell gives.



              --- In LutheransLookingEast@yahoogroups.com, matt reader <mattyreader@...> wrote:
              >
              > It's curious, because I read that in Bell just two days ago. While I really enjoy his books, this is an oversimplification of the Eastern position regarding the 'merit' of God's grace or favor pertaining to salvation in the strict sense. Still a great read.
              >
              > --- On Wed, 7/14/10, Oruaseht <oruaseht@...> wrote:
              >
              >
              > From: Oruaseht <oruaseht@...>
              > Subject: [LutheransLookingEast] Three takes on Freedom of the Will
              > To: LutheransLookingEast@yahoogroups.com
              > Date: Wednesday, July 14, 2010, 9:01 AM
              >
              >
              >  
              >
              >
              >
              > As I was re-reading one of my favorite books from Seminary, I stumbled across this quotation on the Freedom of the Will:
              >
              > "The views of Pelagius, of the eastern church in general, and of the redoubtable Augustine therefore represent the three possible ways in which human initiativeâ€"may or may notâ€"operate. Pelagius held that we are born with a will absolutely free and totally untainted by Adam's sin; we therefore retain the possibility of saving ourselves. The easterners held that we are born with a will corrupted by Adam's sin, but not so corrupted that we cannot do at least a few good actions; in response to these actions God makes his grace available, and in cooperation with this grace, and only in cooperation with this grace, we can achieve salvation. Augustine held that we are born with a soul completely corrupted by Adam's sin and cannot do any good action at all; our salvation is therefore entirely in the hands of God, and if he does not make his grace available to us, there is absolutely nothing that we can do about it. Pelagian infants are born with 20-20
              > vision; Greek infants are born in need of spectacles; Augustinian infants are born blind." David N. Bell. A Cloud of Witnesses: An Introductory History of the Development of Christian Doctrine. Kalamazoo: Cisterian Publications, 1989. Page 149.
              >
              > Is this author's view of Orthodoxy correct? He seems to imply that "the few good actions" we can do "merits" God giving us His grace. Is that a correct statement of Orthodoxy on the Freedom of the Will? I have a different impression that it is God who is inviting all people into Salvation with Him in Synergy/Cooperation - God is the source vs. me as the source.
              >
              >
              >
              >
              >
              >
              >
              >
              >
              >
              >
              > [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
              >
            • Christopher Orr
              Nous is not usually translated as heart, though Abbot Meletios in CA does in his book. It is sometimes referred to as the top of the heart, but it more of a
              Message 6 of 6 , Jul 14, 2010
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                Nous is not usually translated as heart, though Abbot Meletios in CA does in
                his book. It is sometimes referred to as the 'top' of the heart, but it
                more of a mental, though not in a purely intellectual or rational sense. It
                is the sense organ, so to speak, that can perceive the spiritual directly.

                Heart is karthia, thus the idea that we must descend with the nous into the
                karthia and keep watch (nepsis).

                Christopher


                On Wed, Jul 14, 2010 at 6:48 PM, Oruaseht <oruaseht@...> wrote:

                >
                >
                > I agree with you all that Bell's position is at best a warped caricature of
                > Orthodoxy. I do enjoy his take on church history, written in his
                > conversational/none-too-deep way. This book was the first place that I ever
                > encountered the Orthodox Church, so it will always have a special place on
                > my shelf and in my heart. (awwww! I mean, nous). ;)
                >
                > Thanks to Benjamin & Christopher for fleshing out a much better position
                > than Bell gives.
                >
                >
                > --- In LutheransLookingEast@yahoogroups.com<LutheransLookingEast%40yahoogroups.com>,
                > matt reader <mattyreader@...> wrote:
                > >
                > > It's curious, because I read that in Bell just two days ago. While I
                > really enjoy his books, this is an oversimplification of the Eastern
                > position regarding the 'merit' of God's grace or favor pertaining to
                > salvation in the strict sense. Still a great read.
                > >
                > > --- On Wed, 7/14/10, Oruaseht <oruaseht@...> wrote:
                > >
                > >
                > > From: Oruaseht <oruaseht@...>
                >
                > > Subject: [LutheransLookingEast] Three takes on Freedom of the Will
                > > To: LutheransLookingEast@yahoogroups.com<LutheransLookingEast%40yahoogroups.com>
                > > Date: Wednesday, July 14, 2010, 9:01 AM
                > >
                > >
                > > �
                > >
                > >
                > >
                > > As I was re-reading one of my favorite books from Seminary, I stumbled
                > across this quotation on the Freedom of the Will:
                > >
                > > "The views of Pelagius, of the eastern church in general, and of the
                > redoubtable Augustine therefore represent the three possible ways in which
                > human initiative��"may or may not��"operate. Pelagius held that we are born
                > with a will absolutely free and totally untainted by Adam's sin; we
                > therefore retain the possibility of saving ourselves. The easterners held
                > that we are born with a will corrupted by Adam's sin, but not so corrupted
                > that we cannot do at least a few good actions; in response to these actions
                > God makes his grace available, and in cooperation with this grace, and only
                > in cooperation with this grace, we can achieve salvation. Augustine held
                > that we are born with a soul completely corrupted by Adam's sin and cannot
                > do any good action at all; our salvation is therefore entirely in the hands
                > of God, and if he does not make his grace available to us, there is
                > absolutely nothing that we can do about it. Pelagian infants are born with
                > 20-20
                >
                > > vision; Greek infants are born in need of spectacles; Augustinian infants
                > are born blind." David N. Bell. A Cloud of Witnesses: An Introductory
                > History of the Development of Christian Doctrine. Kalamazoo: Cisterian
                > Publications, 1989. Page 149.
                > >
                > > Is this author's view of Orthodoxy correct? He seems to imply that "the
                > few good actions" we can do "merits" God giving us His grace. Is that a
                > correct statement of Orthodoxy on the Freedom of the Will? I have a
                > different impression that it is God who is inviting all people into
                > Salvation with Him in Synergy/Cooperation - God is the source vs. me as the
                > source.
                > >
                > >
                > >
                > >
                > >
                > >
                > >
                > >
                > >
                > >
                > >
                > > [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
                > >
                >
                >
                >


                [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
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