The Protestant theological system of John Calvin and his successors, which develops Luther's doctrine of justification by faith alone and emphasizes the grace of God and the doctrine of predestination.

Can one be dispensation and a Calvinist?

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    Can one be dispensation and a Calvinist?

    The Synod of Dort met between 1618-1619 and its task was to respond to certain statements made by the remonstrants that departed from reformed soteriology. It is from that response that the modern acrostic TULIP was derived. Sadly, in the modern church that acrostic has become synonymous with Calvinism – if you hold to the 5 points you’re a Calvinist. Even more sadly today we have people who claim to be 4 pointers, or 3 pointers etc. To my mind using the TULIP acrostic to identify a person as a Calvinist is both simplistic and erroneous.

    Maybe the origins of this problem are the good intentions of Christians in expressing their desire to demonstrate unity. The reformed have, historically, been open to fellowship with other evangelical groups. However, returning to the acrostic TULIP which is, as already stated, a fairly recent construction (a little over 100 years old). TULIP is a modern summary of the statements made in response to this historical soteriological disagreement within the protestant reformed movement. Therefore properly understood TULIP is not a positive assertion of Calvinism, rather it is a negative polemical tool designed as a response, and correction of specific errors in the soteriology of the Remonstrants. Hence TULIP is only useful in that specific arena of discussion within the reformed movement. It is not a positive a statement of 'Calvinism' or Biblical soteriology, and it should never be used outside of this specific area of debate in which it has, historically, been applied. If we merely teach our people the five points, we are not doing them any favours, we need to build from the ground up, establishing the sovereignty of God, as understood in the reformed faith.

    Properly understood and positively stated Calvinism is the doctrine of God's absolute sovereignty over his creation to order it as he sees fit for his own Glory (it is not limited to the soteriological discussion) – and it is a position established through a reformed (covenant) hermeneutic of scripture. All this is to say that simple agreement with the five points is not enough to make a person a Calvinist (it simply means they are a monergist).

    Whilst the larger debate regarding synergism/ monergism has raged since the days of Pelagius the soteriological debate between ‘Armenians’ and ‘Calvinists’ was (until recently) an ‘in house’ discussion within the protestant reformation movement. It is my contention that it should remain inhouse, and that those outside of the reformed faith should be understood to stand with the broader and more general categories.
    When it comes to dispensationalism, we trace its roots back through the Brethren movement, to the Anabaptists and the radical reformation. In 1525 Felix Manz, Conrad Grebel, George Blaurock (and others) separated from Ulrich Zwingli and formed their own groups (the believed the reformation was not going fast enough, or in the right direction). The radical reformation became a separate stream of Christianity that the reformers separated themselves from. They were never part of the reformed movement after that, and they were not part of the inhouse discussion between ‘Calvinists’ and ‘Arminians.’

    All of this is to say that to embrace dispensationalism is to step outside of the historic reformed faith and to embrace the radical reformation. In doing that one steps outside of the Calvinist/ Arminian discussion, into the broader and more general monergism/ synergism discussion.

    Just as it is impossible to consistently hold to Presbyterian and Dispensational beliefs (one stressing the unity between the old and New covenant, whilst the other demands a separation of these covenants). So also, whilst a dispensational believer might have much in common with a Baptist and Congregationalist (for example some areas of ecclesiology) they cannot be Baptist or congregationalist, and they are not part of the in house debate between Arminianism and Calvinism. I suppose one might be considered a dispensational and ‘baptistic’ or ‘Calvinistic’ as that does emphasize the similarities – but it is to be straddling two camps.

    None of this is to suggest that my dispensational brethren are not dear and valuable brothers and sisters in Christ – they are! I don’t know John MacArthur personally, but I have benefited from his writings on several occasions. I do know Phil Johnson a little. He used to come and guest lecture at my seminary when I was training and I always enjoyed his lectures and fellowship however on this point I do think they are both misguided. This idea that one can separate eschatology and soteriology, or ecclesiology and soteriology is alien in reformed thought – they hang or fall together – and they are born out of our hermeneutic. What I perceive within MacArthur’s theology is what has been called a ‘blessed inconsistency’ that puts himself outside of mainstream dispensationalism (a ‘leaky dispensationalist’ as he calls himself) but it is not enough to put within the reformed camp doctrinally speaking. That being said I will continue to listen to his sermons and read his books and benefit greatly from them – and I very much look forward to sharing glory with him. MacArthur is a gospel dominated man, and he has been used greatly by God – his ministry is far more blessed then mine, and his gifts are far greater than mine – so this is not an attack, more an expression of what I understand it takes to own the labels of ‘reformed’ and ‘Calvinist’

    #2
    Originally posted by reformed baptist View Post
    That being said I will continue to listen to his sermons and read his books and benefit greatly from them – and I very much look forward to sharing glory with him. MacArthur is a gospel dominated man, and he has been used greatly by God – his ministry is far more blessed then mine, and his gifts are far greater than mine – so this is not an attack, more an expression of what I understand it takes to own the labels of ‘reformed’ and ‘Calvinist’
    As far as I am aware MacArthur does not self identify as Reformed but rather Non-denominational.

    DavidM if you're still around and if I remember accurately your brother graduated from MacArthur's seminary. Anything to add?

    God bless,
    William

    Comment


    • reformed baptist
      reformed baptist commented
      Editing a comment
      That is part of the point, to identity as a 'Calvinist' is to identify as 'reformed' as it gives you a place at the reformed table for the in house discussion. Now, I don't know MacArthurs writings well enough to point you to a statement in which he clearly identifies himself as reformed but I get the impression he sees himself with at least one foot in the reformed camp :D

    • William
      William commented
      Editing a comment
      Well, I can clearly see why MacArthur is not Reformed. In soteriology he is a 5 point Calvinist, but one can be a Calvinist and not Reformed. My only point is that I do not know of a time where MacArthur claims to be Reformed, but Non-Denominational. I think you nailed it in your earlier post when you emphasized Reformed umbrellas Calvinism and Covenant theology but does not harmonize with dispensationalism. Likewise, John Piper is a 5 Point Calvinist, but he is definitely not Reformed either. He is an anomaly, a Charismatic and quite Baptist. Grace Community Church (California - Wikipedia)

      As for me, my definition of Reformed has been: Systematic, catholic, 5 Solae, Calvinism, Covenant, Amillennialism, Cessationism. I probably forgot some, but I just basically broke down the doctrines of Presbyterians.

    • reformed baptist
      reformed baptist commented
      Editing a comment
      I think that definition of 'reformed' is over narrow, and conflates 'reformed' and 'Presbyterian'. To be part of the reformed movement is to stand in historic succession of the reformers, through the puritans, to the modern day believers. In modern parlance 'reformed' and 'Calvinist' have become virtually synonymous, but again I find that a false conflation of terms - in my book Piper isn't a baptist (he is baptistic) and I would probably put many of my american friends who attend baptist churches into a similar category - in that we share much in common (especially in regards to orthopraxy) but we have distinct differences in regards to orthodoxy - however I would label his charismatic - that is unfair, he isn't a cessationist (that's for sure) but he isn't a charismatic (his doctrine of the Spirit is to orthodox for that) - i'm an old fashioned guy and I like words to mean what they mean :D

    #3
    William. Are you saying a 5 point Calvinists is also a Amillennialists? Pardon my ignorance, but this gets more confusing every time I think I have it fairly understood, and then more information smacks up side the head. Ouch!

    Comment


    • William
      William commented
      Editing a comment
      No, but Calvinism and Amillennialism harmonize. They both emphasize the Sovereignty of God (Now), it is no wonder to me why most Calvinist are Amillennialist.

    • reformed baptist
      reformed baptist commented
      Editing a comment
      Or Post mill

    #4
    Originally posted by reformed baptist View Post
    Properly understood and positively stated Calvinism is the doctrine of God's absolute sovereignty over his creation to order it as he sees fit for his own Glory (it is not limited to the soteriological discussion) – and it is a position established through a reformed (covenant) hermeneutic of scripture.
    Isn't it feasible to say Calvinism is the doctrine of God's absolute sovereignty as derived from a historical, grammatical hermeneutic and 'reformed' refers to the more specific covenant hermeneutic?

    Also, is there a problem with defining Calvinism on the basis of the TULIP doctrines? Didn't the term derive after Dort? And haven't Calvinists classically referred to Calvinism on the basis of those doctrines rather than Covenant theology?

    What would be the best term to describe someone who holds those doctrines on the basis of a historical, grammatical hermeneutic rather than the specific covenant hermeneutic?

    Originally posted by reformed baptist View Post
    When it comes to dispensationalism, we trace its roots back through the Brethren movement, to the Anabaptists and the radical reformation.
    Isn't it rather Baptist tenets that derive specifically from Anabaptists? To my understanding, Dispensational tenets exist interspersed throughout Church history. Regardless, if its adherents say it's just derived from the Bible, does it make sense to trace the roots rather than just dealing with the Bible references they make?

    Comment


      #5
      Originally posted by DavidM View Post
      Isn't it feasible to say Calvinism is the doctrine of God's absolute sovereignty as derived from a historical, grammatical hermeneutic and 'reformed' refers to the more specific covenant hermeneutic?
      I don't know, because I don't know what you mean by a "historical, grammatical hermeneutic" the reformed and the dispensational use that term to mean different things

      Also, is there a problem with defining Calvinism on the basis of the TULIP doctrines? Didn't the term derive after Dort? And haven't Calvinists classically referred to Calvinism on the basis of those doctrines rather than Covenant theology?
      I don't understand the questions I'm afraid.

      As I said in the OP TULIP is a recent invention and not a historic one

      As for the term calvinism(?) originating in Dort - that is not the case, it was around before that, but meant something different.

      What would be the best term to describe someone who holds those doctrines on the basis of a historical, grammatical hermeneutic rather than the specific covenant hermeneutic?
      I answered that in the OP - monergist

      Isn't it rather Baptist tenets that derive specifically from Anabaptists? To my understanding, Dispensational tenets exist interspersed throughout Church history. Regardless, if its adherents say it's just derived from the Bible, does it make sense to trace the roots rather than just dealing with the Bible references they make?
      Not at all, baptists (especially particular baptists) whilst influenced by some of the Anabaptist idea trace their roots through the puritans to the magisterial reformers.

      Dispensationalism cannot be found in any writings prior to 1830 and J N Darby - it's roots are anabaptist - you might want to have a quick look over here....

      The prophecy of the falling away from the faith - Christforums

      Comment


        #6
        Originally posted by reformed baptist View Post
        I don't know, because I don't know what you mean by a "historical, grammatical hermeneutic" the reformed and the dispensational use that term to mean different things
        Wait, what? Could you cite sources where the 'historical, grammatical hermeneutic' specifically is defined differently?

        I've never heard that stated, not from any of the many reformed people I know.

        Originally posted by reformed baptist View Post
        I don't understand the questions I'm afraid.
        I actually should have asked instead, what are your sources for use of the term prior to Dort, or rather prior to the TULIP acronym? Or shortly, how have Calvinists typically defined the term? What sources are you relying on for the usage and definition? Could you cite some?

        Originally posted by reformed baptist View Post
        I answered that in the OP - monergist
        I use the label of monergist myself because I'm not sufficiently informed on everything Calvin held. But it makes no statement about Limited Atonement, that's why I asked. In modern parlance, Calvinism clarifies a person's position on all the TULIP doctrines.

        Originally posted by reformed baptist View Post
        Not at all, baptists (especially particular baptists) whilst influenced by some of the Anabaptist idea trace their roots through the puritans to the magisterial reformers.
        But you're saying "not at all". Didn't the Puritans and magisterial reformers all maintain infant baptism?

        Originally posted by reformed baptist View Post
        Dispensationalism cannot be found in any writings prior to 1830 and J N Darby - it's roots are anabaptist ...
        Why did you ignore my emphasis? If its adherents say it's just derived from the Bible, does it make sense to try and trace the roots rather than just dealing with the Bible references they make?

        Dispensational tenets are interspersed throughout history as noted in this 2015 work: Dispensationalism before Darby: Seventeenth-Century and Eighteenth-Century English Apocalypticism - Kindle edition by William C. Watson. Religion & Spirituality Kindle eBooks @ Amazon.com.

        As a quick example, the book mentions The History of Brother Dolcino which is also noted here: Pre-Trib Research Center -

        That is a very clear depiction of a pre-trib rapture in the 1300s.

        I only know of that 2015 book because of a recent run in with the author (who is a historian) in a Dispensational group I belong to on Facebook. To be clear, I can't call myself a Dispensationalist. I just tend to lean in that direction because of the many fallacies I see used against them such as the commonplace attempt to cast them in a sour, historical light rather than dealing squarely with their biblical arguments. That's why it was a big deal to me that you addressed the supposed roots rather than their arguments and proceeded to ignore my question to that effect.

        Comment


          #7
          Let me begin by saying 'Hi DavidM' I think this is the first time we have chatted on this forum, I'm pleased to make you acquaintance

          Historical, grammatical hermeneutic

          Originally posted by DavidM View Post

          Originally posted by reformed baptist View Post
          I don't know, because I don't know what you mean by a "historical, grammatical hermeneutic" the reformed and the dispensational use that term to mean different things
          Wait, what? Could you cite sources where the 'historical, grammatical hermeneutic' specifically is defined differently?
          Differently to what? You haven't stated how you are using it (which was the question I asked for clarity on so that I could your answer you) - without that answer I am stabbing in the dark I'm afraid.

          I've never heard that stated, not from any of the many reformed people I know.
          I am sure, however, that you are aware that within theological discussion people use the same words to mean different things, for example, the Roman Catholic and the protestant mean something different by using the word 'justification' - the dispenstaionalist and the reformed mean something different when they use the word 'literal' - is it surprisining that one group would co-opt a term used by another and apply a different meaning.

          Generally speaking the term "historical, grammatical hermeneutic" is used in opposition to (liberal) historical-critical method - it has at it's root the desire of the reader to discover the authors' original intent and then seeks to apply that intent to us - through the pursuit of setting the text in to it's historical and grammatical context (source: Historical-grammatical method - Wikipedia)

          Now, compare that to Mike Vlach (a dispensational writer) who co-opt the term as something used consistently by the dispensational exegete (and only inconsistently used by the covenantal exegete)
          " Hermeneutics deals with principles for Bible interpretation. Dispensationalists affirm a consistent historical-grammatical or literal hermeneutic applied to all areas of Scripture, including eschatology (end times) and Old Testament passages related to national Israel. This approach includes a literal understanding of passages concerning Israel’s land, the temple, Jerusalem, etc. Dispensationalism affirms that all details of the Old Testament prophecies, promises, and covenants must be fulfilled in the way the original inspired Bible authors intended. There are no non-literal or spiritual fulfillments of physical and national promises in the Bible. Nor does the New Testament reinterpret, transcend, transform, or spiritualize promises and prophecies in the Old Testament. With Dispensationalism, what you see is what you get in the Bible. There is no underlying typological trajectory or canonical progression that erases or transcends the Bible’s storyline or the significance of the details of the covenants and promises in the Bible. Historical-grammatical hermeneutics will discover types in the Bible, but the concept of typological interpretation that overrides the plain meaning of Bible texts is not accepted in Dispensationalism."


          Notice:

          1) The "historical, grammatical hermeneutic" is no longer seeking to understand the original authors' intent, it is now the 'literal hermeneutic'

          2) As Vlach continues he rules out certain possibilities of intent, for example he rules out that the author might have intended a "non-literal or spiritual fulfillments" of what he understands to be "physical and national promises in the Bible"

          Vlach (a dispnesationalist) has taken the term "historical, grammatical hermeneutic" which properly understood relates to all conservative evangelical hermeneutics and co-opted it to mean specifically the dispenstaional hermeneutic.

          Calvinism

          I see this one as a bit of a read hearing in the larger discussion - but here we go.

          I said:

          Originally posted by reformed baptist View Post
          As I said in the OP TULIP is a recent invention and not a historic one

          As for the term calvinism(?) originating in Dort - that is not the case, it was around before that, but meant something different.
          To which you have replied:

          I actually should have asked instead, what are your sources for use of the term prior to Dort, or rather prior to the TULIP acronym? Or shortly, how have Calvinists typically defined the term? What sources are you relying on for the usage and definition? Could you cite some?
          I believe there are few things to point out here:

          The TULIP acrostic

          TULIP is, as I have already explained a recent creation. There is no definite/ clear origin that can be traced (several stories exist). However the thing they all have in common is that the acrostic itself is only around 100 years old. For example Ed Sanders attributes the first use of the acrostic to Dr F L Patton of Princeton Seminary in 1905 (source: Link) however I have also heard ancedotal stories that Kuyper was the first to sue the term. According to K J Stewart it was the 1963 booklet by Steele and Thomas that really popularized the acrostic within reformed circles. He notes that B B Warfield never used the acrostic in his works, including his 1915 work 'the plan of salvation' and the acrostic is not found in any of his posthumously published writing on the subject of 'calvin and calvinism' (published in 1929). J I packer in his 1959 essay that introduces Owen's work, " The Death of Death in the Death of Christ" rejects the acrostic as a positive definition of Calvinism - on of the few places we find the acrostic employed by serious theologians in this period is Boettner's 'The Reformed Doctrine of Predestination' (Eerdmans: Grand Rapids, 1932), 59, 60)

          That the TULIP acrostic accurately summerises the canons of Dort is a fact (though a disputed one) but no actual historical link has ever been properly established. That the acrostic was not created at Dort is also a fact - for a start the canons were not written in English and the acrostic does not work in the original language of the canons

          So, my friend, I stand in the mainstream of historical Calvinistic thought and expression when I say Calvinism is not the TULIP acrostic. We have been defending the doctrine since 1619 right up until the mid 20th century without have to rely on it - and we have defined our soteriology since long before then without having to rely on TULIP either.

          'Calvinism 'prior to dort

          I'm not sure I should have raised this point - but i did, so here is my clarification. Originally the term 'calvinism' referred to a specific view on the Lord's Table that differed that that of Luther and Zwingli (sitting somewhere in the middle between the two) - historically the term 'calvinism' has also been employed to refer to those strands of reformed thought that follow in the theology of Calvin (not just his soteriology) - over time his rather looser rhetorical style of writing was replaced by a more scholastic style, for example the major work of the full orbit of calvinist though in the 17th century was 1688 work by Turretin, "Institutio Theologiae Elencticae." - to be a Calvinist in his day was to sign up to that theology expressed within his work.

          Again, all this is to say what I have already said - it is anachronistic and incorrect to associate the historical term 'Calvinist' with the TULIP acrostic - but never the less, today that is the case and we reformed folk have been fair too lazy in defending our heritage and fencing our labels from misappropriation.

          Limited atonement

          I use the label of monergist myself because I'm not sufficiently informed on everything Calvin held. But it makes no statement about Limited Atonement, that's why I asked. In modern parlance, Calvinism clarifies a person's position on all the TULIP doctrines.
          I'm not following you here in regards to the relevance of the discussion at hand. Yes, the TULIP acrostic summarizes a Calvinistic view of the atonement (it is limited in intent) - that however, is what it designed to do. It is a modern summary of the Canons of Dort that responding to five statemaents amde by the remonstrants, one of which was in regards to the extant of the atonement - that isn't up for debate in this discussion. What is up for debate is weather an agreement in conclusion (when that conclusion is arrived at through different methodology) is enough to place someone within the camp of 'calvinist' - I think not, as the camp is an historic one, not merely one based on an agreement on one point of doctrine.

          Puritan heritage

          You have been questioning my statements that genuine baptists trace their history through the puritans to the magisterial reformation. I said:

          Originally posted by reformed baptist View Post
          Not at all, baptists (especially particular baptists) whilst influenced by some of the Anabaptist idea trace their roots through the puritans to the magisterial reformers.
          To which you have replied:

          But you're saying "not at all". Didn't the Puritans and magisterial reformers all maintain infant baptism?
          In regards to the magisterial reformers yes, they all maintained forms of infant baptism (they didn't all agree exactly) but when we come to the puritans we see further development of thought - one of them becoming distinctly baptist in nature - we have men like Benjamin Keach, William Kiffin, Hanserd Knollys, Nehemiah Coxe, and of course not to forget the most famous of all, John Bunyan. Following the apssing of the act of toleration in 1689 the baptist produced the London Baptist Confession of faith of 1689 - what is startling to note about this document is the strong desire of it writers to associate with the Presbyterian theology of the earlier Westminster confession of faith (1646) which was originally drawn up as an Anglican statement of faith.

          You have also stated in a previous post:

          Originally posted by DavidM View Post
          To my understanding, Dispensational tenets exist interspersed throughout Church history. Regardless, if its adherents say it's just derived from the Bible, does it make sense to trace the roots rather than just dealing with the Bible references they make?
          I don't believe that to be the case - there are numerous people who try to establish that earlier writers expressed dispensdtaional thought - but usually all it takes is a little research to disprove their assertions - men like Thomas Ice are only preaching to the choir - they are not convincing anyone who doesn't wish to be convinced

          Missing your main point.

          Why did you ignore my emphasis? If its adherents say it's just derived from the Bible, does it make sense to try and trace the roots rather than just dealing with the Bible references they make?
          I am sorry that i missed you main point (it irritates me when that happens too). However this is not a discussion of which view (dispensational/ reformed) is correct and the most biblical, nor is it a discussion of which hermeneutic should be employed - if you wish to discuss either of those points I will be more then happy to engage with you in that discussion. This thread is an explanation of why I don't believe a person can own the lables dispenstaional and reformed, or dispenstaional and Calvinist - that makes it a historical discusion (not a biblical one) - I ignored your point because I don't see it as relevant to the discussion on this thread (that is not to say it isn't an important topic - indeed it is far more important then the subject of this thread in my opinion)

          Dispenstaional thought in history

          I've not read the book so i can't comment - but I will comment briefly on what you have posted from Thomas Ice (very briefly)

          As a quick example, the book mentions The History of Brother Dolcino which is also noted here: Pre-Trib Research Center -

          That is a very clear depiction of a pre-trib rapture in the 1300s.
          Ice doesn't seem to quote the document - he just tells us that it Gumerlock believes this work to support a pre-trib rapture - give me the source material and I will deal with it, as I did here (the last time someone made similar claims) .....

          The prophecy of the falling away from the faith - Christforums

          A sour historical light

          I only know of that 2015 book because of a recent run in with the author (who is a historian) in a Dispensational group I belong to on Facebook. To be clear, I can't call myself a Dispensationalist. I just tend to lean in that direction because of the many fallacies I see used against them such as the commonplace attempt to cast them in a sour, historical light rather than dealing squarely with their biblical arguments. That's why it was a big deal to me that you addressed the supposed roots rather than their arguments and proceeded to ignore my question to that effect.
          Here I have to ask if you have read my OP in my detail, or if you are responding to in the light of you more general encounters with those who are opposed to the dispensational view - I am sorry if my opinion came across as 'sour' however in my defense I wrote things like the following:

          Originally posted by reformed baptist View Post
          None of this is to suggest that my dispensational brethren are not dear and valuable brothers and sisters in Christ – they are! I don’t know John MacArthur personally, but I have benefited from his writings on several occasions. I do know Phil Johnson a little. He used to come and guest lecture at my seminary when I was training and I always enjoyed his lectures and fellowship however on this point I do think they are both misguided.
          and

          Originally posted by reformed baptist View Post
          That being said I will continue to listen to his sermons and read his books and benefit greatly from them – and I very much look forward to sharing glory with him. MacArthur is a gospel dominated man, and he has been used greatly by God – his ministry is far more blessed then mine, and his gifts are far greater than mine – so this is not an attack, more an expression of what I understand it takes to own the labels of ‘reformed’ and ‘Calvinist’
          I'm sorry brother, but those are not 'sour' comments - those are statements of genuine love and appreciation!

          as for:

          Originally posted by DavidM View Post
          rather than dealing squarely with their biblical arguments.
          You will find I have done that as well on this board - and I am more then willing to do so with you my friend - this thread traces it's history back to need I felt to back up and explain a comment I had made in another thread - it is not about attempting to cast anybody in a sour historical light and it isn't focused on which position is biblically correct. With all due respect my friend, you have suggested I missed your point of emphasis - might I suggest in return you have missed my whole point - namely that a dispensationalist believer is just that, and a reformed believer is just that - both bothers in Christ, but with distinct views on secondary matters that are in my opinion important enough to maintain the historical distinction between the two positions (and I think many dispensation believers would agree with me on this point - though some of them would probably put men like macArthur outside of the dispensational camp)

          Anyway - I hope that all answers your questions, and I also hope it clarifies my intent in starting this thread in the first place - it is about who has the biblical high ground - it is about why I think the distinction between the two camps matters from a historical perspective - and I would be happy to discuss the scriptures in regards to dispensational thought on another thread.

          Comment

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