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William

Why Aren’t Calvinists Pacifists?

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Why have so few Reformed Christians been pacifists? A plain reading of Jesus’s teachings would seem to commend a pacifist interpretation, at least at the individual Christian’s personal level. As he famously instructs us, “Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also” (Matt. 5:39). Yet Christian pacifism has gained much more traction among Anabaptists, and among liberal Catholics and Protestants, than among Reformed believers.

 

If the Word of God is our final authority for faith and practice, we should be willing to ask why Reformed Protestants have tended not to be pacifists. While I can only offer tentative answers to this enormous topic, I suspect there are two major explanations: one admirable, and the other problematic.

 

Approach to Scripture

 

The first reason is that Reformed Christians have traditionally been hesitant to prioritize any particular parts of Scripture, and have tended to read (however imperfectly) the Bible as a whole. Pacifist Christians are sometimes, by their own confession, “red-letter Christians” who give Jesus’s teachings on ethics top biblical billing. At times they imply, perhaps unwittingly, that other parts of Scripture—such as the accounts of the Israelites’ wars against the Canaanites—do not carry the same authority as the teachings of Jesus.

 

why-arent-calvinist-pacifics-_349_183_90.jpg

 

While Reformed Christians would never advise neglecting Jesus’s teachings, they balk at suggestions that some sections of Scripture take precedence over others, or that certain passages contradict. Therefore, as difficult as it may be to explain, Reformed Christians begin with the assumption that Jesus’s teachings on non-retaliation somehow mesh with the Israelites putting men, women, and children to the sword. Since we believe in the perfection and inspiration of Scripture, and its sufficiency as a guide to the ways of God, this correct assumption that should indeed undergird our interpretation. Reformed Christians have similarly tended to see certain continuity between the Old and New Testaments. Although Israel and the church are distinct entities, they contend, there are similarities between the way that God related to Israel and the way he relates to the church. Thus, if God at times commanded Israel to take on military assignments and conquer territory, it isn’t a stretch to think he might ask Christians to do the same things through the agency of the governments under which they live.

 

Checkered Past

 

Herein lies the more problematic factor in the relative absence of a Reformed pacifist tradition: Reformed Christians have often been too comfortable with state-sanctioned violence. Since the Reformation, many Protestants have seen an important role for nations, kings, and militaries in advancing the ends of the kingdom. If one believes in providence, then of course the acts of nations do somehow fulfill God’s plans for humanity. But Reformed Christians could borrow a dash of pessimism from Christians such as Anabaptists (Mennonites and others), and theologians such as Stanley Hauerwas, who are inherently skeptical about the agenda of any nation-state and its military pursuits.

 

To cite just one era’s attachment to the state, consider New Englanders after the Glorious Revolution (1688–1689). The removal of the Roman Catholic King James II from the English throne inaugurated decades of imperial war between Europe’s Roman Catholic and Protestant powers. Colonial New Englanders were often directly affected by these conflicts, especially in vicious wars with their Roman Catholic neighbors to the north in Canada.

 

Anglo-Americans in the first six decades of the 18th century attached enormous religious importance to the success of the British military, and the protection of the British monarchy, all in the name of the Protestant cause. To them, this meant the continued reign of the House of Hanover, the Protestant King Georges (including, initially, King George III). Benjamin Colman, the leading pastor in Boston at the time of the Great Awakening, once stated that New Englanders’ “adherence to the Protestant Succession in the House of Hanover is our fidelity to CHRIST and his holy Religion.” Supporting the king “is” our fidelity to Christ? If that sort of civil-religious statement doesn’t make you wince, you’re not thinking correctly about our priorities as Christians.

 

Of course, many Calvinists have deplored the effects of war and imperial aggression, but these figures were often marginal to state power. Baptists who were persecuted in late colonial America, or Native American evangelical converts during the Great Awakening, commonly took a dim view of the Patriot cause in the American Revolution. They had suffered bad treatment from some of the same men who now called on them to take up arms against the British. Leading Baptist pastors Isaac Backus and James Manning didn’t react with martial zeal when the first battles of the American Revolution began. Instead, they regretted that the war seemed to snuff out an ongoing revival that had recently begun in New England. “Oh horrid war!” they lamented. “How contrary to the spirit of Jesus!”

 

Celebrated Baptist Calvinist pastor Charles Spurgeon registered similar concerns about Britain’s imperial exploits of the 19th century. But pacifist-sounding quotes notwithstanding, Spurgeon does not seem to have embraced full-blown anti-imperialism. Reacting to an 1857 rebellion in India, Spurgeon made comments that, when taken out of context, could peg him as a pacifist. “Long have I held that war is an enormous crime,” he said, “long have I regarded all battles as only murder on a large scale.” Yet he cited Romans 13, noting that the ruling authorities did not bear the sword in vain. “This time,” he said, “I, as a peaceful man, a follower of the peaceful Savior, do propound war.” He saw the rebels as murderous criminals who must get their just due from the state.

 

Humble Skepticism and Regretful Support

 

I am a Reformed evangelical Christian, and I am not a pacifist. I do not see a consistent pacifist requirement in Scripture, especially for rulers and governments. But Reformed Christians could use more skepticism about the wisdom and value of war, and about the aims of the nation in which they live.

We should pray for leaders’ wisdom, and regretfully support wars when they meet standards of just conflicts (they should be limited, defensive, and so on). Instead, Reformed Christians, and American evangelicals generally, have sometimes seemed like zealous warmongers, believing their nation was seamlessly carrying forward the purposes of the kingdom of God.

 

Source: https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/a...ists-pacifists

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Counsels of perfection do not work in a fallen world.

 

Should the armed police have behaved like pacifists during the recent terrorist attack in London, so that the terrorists could have murdered a good few more people?

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There's a couple of problems with your claims. First is an assumption that there is only one kind of pacifism. There are at least 2 dozen Christian forms of pacifism, not counting non-Christian forms. When describing why they aren't pacifists most will only take a more extreme example of why they aren't pacifists.

 

The second problem is one of seeing the situation in binary terms: yes or no, black or white, just war or pacifist. Instead of seeing things in binary terms, it's often helpful to see things in terms of a sliding scale.

 

Personally, I'm far more on the side of Christian non-violence (which is a much more helpful term than pacifist - which Carries a lot of baggage with it), than I am toward just war theory.

 

However, just war theory is a valid expression of Christian ethics, assuming that Christians in the nations involved don't just blindly justify every war that comes down the pike, (which is what almost always happens).

 

On the other hand, non-violence as an overriding ethic in ones personal life is a true expression of biblical ethics.

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Until Augustine articulated the just war theory, you don't find Christians supporting war in any form. What you find is Christians attempting to live out the sermon on the mount.

What we find in scripture is God telling us that the government carries the sword. If a Christian is hired by the government as law enforcement then there is biblical precedence for carrying a weapon. If a Christian is not part of law enforcement then it is difficult to support carrying a weapon.

 

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Hi MennoSota, first off, WELCOME TO CF :RpS_smile:

 

That said, it seems to me that the Bible supports the idea of a "just war" (if I'm understanding the term correctly), mostly because its Author fully supports the idea and need for societal justice and peace (which is, sadly, a fleeting possession which must be fought for at times). Quite frankly, the only reason that pacifists are able to live in peace in this world is due to the fact that others aren't (pacifists). St. Paul says:

Romans 13

1 Every person is to be in subjection to the
governing authorities
. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God.

2 Therefore whoever resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God; and they who have opposed will receive condemnation upon themselves.

3 For rulers are not a cause of fear for good behavior, but for evil. Do you want to have no fear of authority? Do what is good and you will have praise from the same;

4 for
it is a minister of God to you for good
.
But if you do what is evil, be afraid; it does not
bear the sword
for nothing; for it is
a minister of God
,
an avenger who brings wrath on the one who practices evil
.

5 Therefore it is necessary to be in subjection, not only because of wrath, but also for conscience’ sake.

6 For because of this you also pay taxes, for rulers are servants of God, devoting themselves to this very thing.

7 Render to all what is due them: tax to whom tax is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honor to whom honor.

 

Yours and His,

David

Ecclesiastes 3

1 There is an appointed time for everything. And there is a time for every event under heaven.

2 A time to give birth, and a time to die;

A time to plant, and a time to uproot what is planted.

3 A time to kill, and a time to heal;

A time to tear down, and a time to build up.

4 A time to weep, and a time to laugh;

A time to mourn, and a time to dance.

5 A time to throw stones, and a time to gather stones;

A time to embrace, and a time to shun embracing.

6 A time to search, and a time to give up as lost;

A time to keep, and a time to throw away.

7 A time to tear apart, and a time to sew together;

A time to be silent, and a time to speak.

8 A time to love, and a time to hate;

A time for war
, and a time for peace.

 

 

 

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Romans 13 can be seen as a call to pacifism for the citizen in a country.

 

"Therefore whoever resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God; and they who have opposed will receive condemnation upon themselves."

 

Notice that Paul admonishes the believers not to resist (war) against the authorities.

 

For me, it has to do with whether we consider our citizenship to be on earth or whether we consider ourselves citizens of heaven and exiles in rebel land here on earth.

War happens between rebels. Are we supposed to fight for rebel armies?

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Romans 13 can be seen as a call to pacifism for the citizen in a country.

 

"Therefore whoever resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God; and they who have opposed will receive condemnation upon themselves."

 

Notice that Paul admonishes the believers not to resist (war) against the authorities.

 

For me, it has to do with whether we consider our citizenship to be on earth or whether we consider ourselves citizens of heaven and exiles in rebel land here on earth.

War happens between rebels. Are we supposed to fight for rebel armies?

 

Hello MennoSota. Welcome to Christforums!

 

I think you have some valid points. However, in the U.S. Constitution the power of the People has place and makes our Government rather unique. The power of the People have a right to challenge the governing authorities if it is deemed necessary by applying the 2nd amendment. I think one of our strongest deterrents is the armed citizen. So in some ways, the Peoples are authorized by the Government to wield the sword if it is deemed necessary. Nobody could take over this country without having to go door to door against armed citizens. But domestically, the 2nd amendment follows the 1st, which I think is no coincidence. From time to time it may be necessary for citizens to defend themselves against tyrant governments that suppress our worship and freedom to express our faith, and I'd just like to point out that 2/3rds of the soldiers that died on the battlefield in the Revolutionary War were Calvinist. Is it any wonder why the United States of America is modeled after the Presbyterian form of Government with all her checks and balances?

 

As for military we take the oath to defend the Constitution from all foreign and domestic threats. We do not disavow the oath even upon discharge.

 

I think a lot Pacifism is the result of isolating the New Testament from the Old. And taking certain Scriptures out of context. Calvinist tend to use the entire Bible and this results in such ideology as Just War Theory.

 

As you probably know, Israel is synonymous with the Church in Reformed Theology. The question I ask, is whether Israel has a right to defend itself? Nobody questions whether the nation of Israel does, but why not the Church or its citizens?

 

God bless,

William

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The question I ask, is whether Israel has a right to defend itself? Nobody questions whether the nation of Israel does, but why not the Church or its citizens?

 

I think both Israel and its citizens have the right to defend themselves, or Israel would not be, nor would it have ever been. Those in this world are, for now, under the rule of it's prince .. Ephesians 2:1-2. Socialist evildoers, like Hitler, Stalin, Lenin, Pol Pot, Jung-un, etc., are nothing but bad news as a result, and if the people and nations they oppose were all pacifists, where would we be now!!(?)

 

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I think both Israel and its citizens have the right to defend themselves, or Israel would not be, nor would it have ever been. Those in this world are, for now, under the rule of it's prince .. Ephesians 2:1-2. Socialist evildoers like Hitler, Stalin, Lenin, Pol Pot, Jung-un, etc., are nothing but bad news, and if the people and nations they oppose were all pacifists, where would we be now!!(?)

 

 

Well, as I edited the above post, historically speaking, imagine if 2/3rds of the soldiers (which were Calvinist) did not fight in the Revolutionary War. In front of who would our knees be bent and our tongues confessing?

 

God bless,

William

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Hello MennoSota. Welcome to Christforums!

 

I think you have some valid points. However, in the U.S. the power of the People has place, and they have a right to challenge the governing authorities if it is deemed necessary by applying the 2nd amendment. I think one of our strongest deterrents is the armed citizen. So in some ways, the Peoples are authorized by the Government to wield the sword if it is necessary. Nobody could take over this country without having to go door to door against armed citizens. But domestically, the 2nd amendment follows the 1st, which I think is no coincidence. From time to time it may be necessary for citizens to defend themselves against tyrant governments that suppress our worship and freedom to express it, and I'd just like to point out that 2/3rds of the soldiers that died on the battlefield in the Revolutionary War were Calvinist.

 

As for military we take the oath to defend the Constitution from all foreign and domestic threats. We do not disavow the oath even upon discharge.

 

I think a lot Pacifism is the result of isolating the New Testament from the Old. And taking certain Scriptures out of context. Calvinist tend to use the entire Bible and this results in such ideology as Just War Theory.

 

As you probably know, Israel is synonymous with the Church in Reformed Theology. The question I ask, is whether Israel has a right to defend itself? Nobody questions whether the nation of Israel does, but why not the Church or its citizens?

 

God bless,

William

Indeed, Israel is the chosen, covenant people of God. Where we mostly differ is in our understanding of citizenship. God's heavenly army is our armed forces. We live in rebel territory as exiles whom God has elected to have as His ambassadors to rebels. Our message is one of reconciliation ( 2 Corinthians 5).

I read Jesus command to his followers and see that we are not commissioned to fight. In fact, we are to turn our cheek and keep loving our enemies...even if we are killed in the process. This is a hard calling as we naturally desire to preserve our lives and keep our "stuff."

What I note is that God has done great things with believers who are sold out to obeying the beatitudes. Martin Luther King Jr was ordained by God to change our racist society by simply applying the beatitudes and choosing non-violent resistance. Jim Elliott refused to fight back and the result was an entire indigenous tribe turning toward God. His famous words were: "He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose."

I, like all Calvinists, see God's sovereign choice and grace running from the beginning of Genesis to Revelation. I am learning to "kiss the wave that tosses me onto the Rock of Ages (Spurgeon). I am learning to "hold things lightly" (Corrie TenBoom).

I accept that not everyone will see this issue like I do. That's okay. I just hope to give food for thought.

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This is a hard calling as we naturally desire to preserve our lives and keep our "stuff."

 

You mean like keeping my daughters from being raped and my brethren from being enslaved or murdered, that stuff? You mean like protecting widows and orphans from the same, that stuff?

 

Granted, some Christians in the world today hold to this view. Much pacifism can be seen today in the Assyrian churches which are being slaughtered by ISIS.

 

It was the pacifist nature that some ignore to learn from in the history lessons of the Church that led to hundreds of years of oppression, slavery, loss of citizenship and or death that finally led the Church on her first Crusades. It was the idea of whether it was better to cower or gird up our loins like men and defend our brethren. No doubt, go where your conscience leads you as long as it is led by God.

 

Again, our American Government is rather unique. The Peoples are an extension of the authority which is given to wield the sword. Which can, in my opinion be quite confusing to some people.

 

God bless,

William

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Well, as I edited the above post, historically speaking, imagine if 2/3rds of the soldiers (which were Calvinist) did not fight in the Revolutionary War. In front of who would our knees be bent and our tongues confessing?

 

God bless,

William

 

Was Jesus a pacifist?. Was he a pacifist when He scourged the money changers? For me the New Testament is a whole new ballgame. Faith and salvation is personal not national. Paul said " If it be possible live in peace with all men" Sometimes it is not possible. like with North Korea.

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I heard somewhere that a slap on the cheek is how a dual was initiatated and not an actual fight itself, I'm not sure just how valid that is, but could the point that Jesus is making is to overlook an offence and show humility when we a challenged to use violence.

Also I would think Jesus would have rebuked the centurion. Matt. 8:5-13.

 

Then in Luke 22:36 Jesus commands the disple to buy a sword if they did not have one. Now it could be said that Jesus comaned them to buy a sword because He knew one that sword would be used to cut off the high priest ear so He show that he loved even the people who were arresting Him by healing the high priest. But it wasn't nessacary to command the dissipels for that reason, they already had two swords.

 

​​​​​​​So in my opinion, violence should be a last resort in deffeneding yourself, your family, your brothers in Christ, the innocent, and children.

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You mean like keeping my daughters from being raped and my brethren from being enslaved or murdered, that stuff? You mean like protecting widows and orphans from the same, that stuff?

 

Granted, some Christians in the world today hold to this view. Much pacifism can be seen today in the Assyrian churches which are being slaughtered by ISIS.

 

It was the pacifist nature that some ignore to learn from in the history lessons of the Church that led to hundreds of years of oppression, slavery, loss of citizenship and or death that finally led the Church on her first Crusades. It was the idea of whether it was better to cower or gird up our loins like men and defend our brethren. No doubt, go where your conscience leads you as long as it is led by God.

 

Again, our American Government is rather unique. The Peoples are an extension of the authority which is given to wield the sword. Which can, in my opinion be quite confusing to some people.

 

God bless,

William

Is God Sovereign or not?

You go to all these worst case scenarios, yet ignore that God is Sovereign, even in what is so evil.

What citizenship is more important, the United States or the Kingdom of God.

Why do we live in fear when God says He will never leave us nor forsake us?

Not one bad thing can ever happen to us except by the Sovereign, ordained will of God.

No one is saying the government shouldn't have a police force. What I am saying is that we let God be in charge of the nation's police force and we don't live in fear of God's ordained will.

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Was Jesus a pacifist?. Was he a pacifist when He scourged the money changers? For me the New Testament is a whole new ballgame. Faith and salvation is personal not national. Paul said " If it be possible live in peace with all men" Sometimes it is not possible. like with North Korea.

God is just and therefore Jesus displayed his deity in justly removing the money changers from his Father's house. That action has nothing to do with pacifism or warfare.

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Well, as I edited the above post, historically speaking, imagine if 2/3rds of the soldiers (which were Calvinist) did not fight in the Revolutionary War. In front of who would our knees be bent and our tongues confessing?

 

God bless,

William

It is very difficult to justify the first civil war in the colonies (Revolutionary War) on a biblical ground.

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Curious to know whether anybody think these Christians are not justified in what they are doing?

 

God bless,

William

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You seem to struggle with God's ordained use of government police force and the Christians citizenship in the Kingdom of God.

If you feel God has called you to be a part of the government police force, then do what God calls you to do. However, will you obey God over government when a command is given that clearly breaks God's moral law? Will you be willing to face court marshall and military jail time to obey God over men?

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You seem to struggle with God's ordained use of government police force and the Christians citizenship in the Kingdom of God.

If you feel God has called you to be a part of the government police force, then do what God calls you to do. However, will you obey God over government when a command is given that clearly breaks God's moral law? Will you be willing to face court marshall and military jail time to obey God over men?

 

You didn't answer the question. Did you even view the video? But I'm curious as to whether you struggle with cowardice or fatalism? Whether you think self preservation is more important than defending the innocent?

 

Just how do you interpret the 6th commandment?

 

God bless,

William

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You didn't answer the question. But I'm curious as to whether you struggle with cowardice or fatalism?

 

God bless,

William

Will, I have brought much scripture to this thread, showing how pacifism fits with Calvinism and the absolute sovereignty of God. You have ignored nearly all of it.

I did address these soldiers and spoke to them being a part of God's ordained government police force. I then asked the pertinent question of whom you would serve when the government ordered you to break God's moral law.

I am waiting for your biblical response that tells Christians to pick up their weapons.

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Will, I have brought much scripture to this thread, showing how pacifism fits with Calvinism and the absolute sovereignty of God. You have ignored nearly all of it.

I did address these soldiers and spoke to them being a part of God's ordained government police force. I then asked the pertinent question of whom you would serve when the government ordered you to break God's moral law.

I am waiting for your biblical response that tells Christians to pick up their weapons.

 

Those are not military soldiers or police. They are a Christian militia group, which if you have been following are becoming quite the norm overseas.

 

If the Government has the right to wield the sword, and I was called back to active duty and ordered to shoot right I'd shoot right. That is, I trust that those in office above me are in place because God put them there. Soldiers don't have the luxury of hindsight. When they are ordered to shoot right they shoot right or the guy left of them dies.

 

I think pacifism is wrong. Pacifism fails to execute the requirements of God's Law when it should. It fails to love its neighbor. Cowardice, fatalism, and self-preservation is how I see it.

 

Are you so confident of your own theology pertaining to this matter that you have no problem telling others across seas in war at this time that they should not defend themselves and loved ones?

 

God bless,

William

 

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Those are not military soldiers or police. They are a Christian militia group, which if you have been following are becoming quite the norm overseas.

 

If the Government has the right to wield the sword, and I was called back to active duty and ordered to shoot right I'd shoot right. That is, I trust that those in office above me are in place because God put them there. Soldiers don't have the luxury of hindsight. When they are ordered to shoot right they shoot right or the guy left of them dies.

 

I think pacifism is wrong. Pacifism fails to execute the requirements of God's Law when it should. It fails to love it's neighbor. Cowardice, fatalism, and self-preservation is how I see it.

 

Are you so confident of your own theology pertaining to this matter that you have no problem telling others across seas in war at this time that they should not defend themselves and loved ones?

 

God bless,

William

 

Again, you have no biblical response to Jesus teachings and the actions of the early church. You never answer my question about whose command you will obey when men command you to break God's moral law.

I see no biblical justification for Christians forming brute squads to fight other brute squads. As I tell my children...two wrongs never make things right.

The blood of martys is where God does his greatest evangelism. I don't ever wish such sorrow upon anyone. But, I know that Jesus said "pick up your cross and follow me." I look at the length Jesus went to purchase my life and I realize that God call any and all Christians to follow that path. Are we willing to follow or will we pick up our sword and kill instead?

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I see no biblical justification for Christians forming brute squads to fight other brute squads. As I tell my children...two wrongs never make things right.

 

Finally, you answered directly!

 

That's all I wanted to know.

 

William

 

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Finally, you answered directly!

 

That's all I wanted to know.

 

William

How did you miss it in all my other posts?

What I want to know from you is where you get your biblical justification for forming a non-goverment militia of alleged Christians. Please lay out a biblical defense. This is not an emotional issue for me. This is one I have considered in scripture for a long time. It is not one you come to easily.

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