Hip and Thigh: Smiting Theological Philistines with a Great Slaughter. Judges 15:8

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Pinatas, Super Jumpers and The Descent of Society

My kids were invited to a birthday party of a little boy who lives on the corner of our condo block this past Saturday. He was turning the big 5 - half a decade old. For the past three years that he and his family have lived in our condo complex, his parties have become legendary, each one more elaborate than the previous year's. There is lots of rich food, fabulous desserts and activities galore. This was the first time my family was invited to attend. Knowing the reputation of these parties being banqueting feasts, we gave our RSVP.

However, we were not prepared for the scene of ugliness that would conclude the celebration.

First, it began with the Super Party Jumper. I don't know how you all may celebrate your children's birthdays outside of Southern California, but here the trendy thing to do is to rent a party jumper, a large inflatable enclosure where kids can jump around. It is similar to what I remember at our county fair as being called a "moonbounce" house. We rented one for my second oldest boy's first birthday party. Of course with us and our friends, there were probably three parents watching for every one kid bouncing. So, with the proper amount of parental supervision, a party jumper can be a ton of great fun for a party. However, without parental supervision, they can quickly become a severe head trauma or some other crippling injury just waiting to happen.

My two boys wanted to do nothing but jump in this thing, so my wife took their shoes off and as she went to put them in, the thing was filled with dozens of kids, but no parents paying attention. They were all aloofly sitting in the garage or talking to one another. My wife had to protect my boys from this pre-teen mosh pit all by herself. One little girl was karate chopping at any boy who came near her, while some boys were slamming themselves into everyone else. My second oldest didn't even really bother to get into the jumper all the way. The oldest one did, but got a tad discouraged by the violence. Thankfully they survived.

Then, the pinata came out...

After we ate some excellent chicken and tortillas, the dad hosting the party breaks out a massive clown shaped pinata the size of a 10 year old. As soon as he walked out with it in his arms, all the kids swarmed to the guy like Palestinian protesters on a burning car. It was one of the largest pinatas I had ever seen, and he was struggling just to hoist the thing over his head and out of their reach so it wouldn't be destroyed before anyone had a opportunity to take a swing. A couple of men strung it up with a rope and the birthday boy takes his swing with a wooden broomstick, but misses.

Just before they could get the blindfold on the chubby girl who was to go next, she whipped the broomstick through the air and came down on that pinata with all the force an 80 pound 7 year old could muster. She disemboweled it from chest to tummy and candy gushed out all over the ground. All of the kids reacted at once. It was as if someone threw a live squirrel in among a hundred German Shepherds. Squealing, screaming, punching, grabbing, and worse of all, mom's and dad's yelling at their kid to "get it, get it, get it before he or she does!" Then two other girls grab the pinata, one on each leg, and start tug-o-warring as if it were a giant wishbone pinata. The legs came off, slinging even more candy into this brawl, and left the torso of the clown pinata dangling from a tree limb like a scene reminiscent from "Scarface" (those who saw the movie know exactly what I mean). Little girls were sobbing, boys were squishing Reese's Cups as they wrestled with each other to get them for themselves, and my two boys stood there with their paper bags open and empty, blankly starring at the melee. That was our cue to say good-bye.

All of my neighbors are tremendous folks. They are sweet, kind, and ready to help each other if need be. But I have to confess that I was stunned with how quick this dog eat dog, survival of the fittest mentality just appeared out of no where among their children. Hollering at your kid to grab up as much candy as he or she can gather? What are we teaching them with such a response? Has our American materialism driven us to a base level of civility? We live in a society for goodness sake! We have to teach our kids the foundational principles of sharing and cooperation. Surely Sesame Street is still running on PBS, right?

Thankfully, there was one bright spot: A little girl who was playing with one of my sons earlier shared her candy with them before we left. Perhaps we are not doomed to re-live another Superdome like incident at next years party.

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Friday, February 24, 2006

STR and Abraham Lincoln Apologetics

I was making my blog rounds earlier this week, when I came across the following entry on the Stand to Reason blog:

Nice hymn ("Were you there when they crucified my Lord?"), but bad theology and science. The L.A. Times published a front-page story on Ken Ham of Answers in Genesis last week. Ham does a lot of training on creation and against evolution. One of the key tactics he teaches is described in the story:

"Boys and girls," Ham said. If a teacher so much as mentions evolution, or the Big Bang, or an era when dinosaurs ruled the Earth, "you put your hand up and you say, 'Excuse me, were you there?' Can you remember that?"

The problem is that this question, Were you there?, amounts to empiricism and actually undermines the authority of the Bible. Ham's question rests on the premise that the only evidence that is reliable is the evidence that we witness directly. That is empiricistic and undermines a majority of what we think we know in science and history and the Bible. Ham's empiricism ends up undermining his response to evolutionists. Were you there? No. Well, "I know someone who was, and I have his book about the history of the world." How do we know the revelation of Scripture is authoritative if I can't trust what I didn't witness? Were you there when God revealed His message to Moses or Jeremiah or Matthew or Paul? Of course you weren't. So how do you know God inspired these authors?

This empirical tactic contradicts the Bible in a second way. The Bible tells us about the general revelation God has given us in nature. But Ham's question makes general revelation useless as a source of knowledge because we weren't there. Yet that's what the Psalmist and Romans tells us. (See blog entry January 25 "Revelation Leading to Knowledge.")

Now there a principle behind Ham's question that is valuable: Observations of science and experience are tenuous to some degree because we are fallible and ultimately the truth rests with God. But we cannot take that principle to an extreme that sets up Christianity against science and ultimately undermines any information we have unless we were there. It turns out that the majority of what we know is based on sources other than direct witness of events and that's perfectly legitimate

Generally, I really like STR; I am a regular listener to Greg Koukl's Sunday afternoon radio talk show. I also believe Greg provides some excellent resources for defending the Christian faith and engaging non-Christian belief. However, that is in spite of their promotion of classic evidentialism, the one area where STR is theologically deficient. Evidentialists believe man's ability to properly reason transcends the noetic effects of sin upon his nature. Additionally, they claim God's revelation in scripture must be established as authoritative by external criteria before the Christian can ask an unbeliever to believe it. This post and several of the ensuing comments demonstrates the evidentialist deficiency.

The post is commenting upon a LA Times article that was on the front page of the paper. I read the entire thing and it was clear from the first words the reporter was not reporting news, but was offering biased opinion against what Ken Ham and Answers in Genesis teach. This was something deserving of an editorial page, not page A. Thankfully, when Koukl addressed this article during the second hour of his Feb. 19th program, he mentioned this bias. Sadly, it doesn't seem as though Melinda, the gal who posted this entry, is aware of this.

Melinda writes:

The problem is that this question, Were you there?, amounts to empiricism and actually undermines the authority of the Bible. Ham's question rests on the premise that the only evidence that is reliable is the evidence that we witness directly.

This is not what Ham is arguing at all. Anyone, like myself, who has heard Ken Ham lecture and discuss this argument, realizes the context in which he asks this question. Ham is talking about our ultimate authorities. Melinda is mis-stating the facts she is reading from an already biased news article by a reporter who is also probably mis-stating facts. Ham's point is that the only witness at the start of creation was God Himself. Men where not present, so any pontification by alleged scientists about origins is purely speculative on their part, and I would add, driven by a person's anti-supernatural bias.

Melinda continues:

How do we know the revelation of Scripture is authoritative if I can't trust what I didn't witness? Were you there when God revealed His message to Moses or Jeremiah or Matthew or Paul? Of course you weren't. So how do you know God inspired these authors?

Again, Melinda is already mis-stating what Ham is arguing, so her "gotcha" responses are muted. But let us think a moment. Is Melinda suggesting that scripture must first be established as authoritative before I can use it in an apologetic encounter? Moreover, God doesn't inspire authors, He inspires the text; the scripture (2 Timothy 3:16). The scriptures are considered God breathed (inspired) because they are tied to the character of God; a God who has proven His presence in the world (IOW, provided evidence) by the mighty works He has done.

Melinda continues:

This empirical tactic contradicts the Bible in a second way. The Bible tells us about the general revelation God has given us in nature. But Ham's question makes general revelation useless as a source of knowledge because we weren't there

Here we witness another evidentialist short coming: the dependence upon general revelation as being self defining and authoritative on its own without an interpreter. Though it is true the Bible tells us about the general revelation given by God in nature, it is not true the Bible separates general revelation and sets it apart as an independent source of authoritative knowledge. General revelation is only dependable as knowledge as long as God's special revelation of scripture is used as a framework in which to interpret it. I know for certain Melinda and the other fine folks at STR think the conclusions of secular scientists in the fields of astronomy, geology, and anthropology are dealing with an infallible source of knowledge, because these disciplines are considered to be dealing with general revelation which is believed by the evidentialists as being God's truth given to us in nature.

When we come to Melinda's last paragraph, she seems to hit into the ball park of what Ham is saying, however, she makes this strange, concluding remark:

It turns out that the majority of what we know is based on sources other than direct witness of events and that's perfectly legitimate

Well, then... What sources are you talking about exactly? Sources from anti-supernatural cosmologists who theorize about the big bang with fantasy science direct from Star Trek? The atheistic geologist's interpretation of the so-called geological column that denies the biblical discussion of a global flood? They are only perfectly legitimate, just as long as they are perfectly interpreted. In my book, sinful men do not interpret the evidence in the right way.

Now, where does Abraham Lincoln come into all this? A poster named Kay left this comment:

Thank you Melinda for highlighting a flaw in one particular YEC approach. While it is true that any empirical methodology must, ultimately, rest on a faith that accepts the veracity of data, such a truth does not, in and of itself, negate the validity of the data. Thus, what is really gained when one asks, "were you there"? I've attemtpted to illustrate this to YEC proponents by asking them if they believe that Lincoln was shot at Ford's Theater (even though they weren't there).

Operating from an already flawed assumption that Ham is talking about eyewitnesses personally witnessing an event, Kay suggests that no one in our world today in the year 2006 can be assured of Lincoln's assassination if we use Ham's argumentation. But, is that true?

One other commenter named Rusty helped to clarify Kay's comments, but even his thoughts don't flesh out when you think through them. We know Lincoln was shot because there were credible eyewitnesses (hundreds of them to be exact) to the event who wrote about it, took photographs, and even preserved Lincoln's bloody clothes in the Smithsonian. In other words, when we ask the question, "where you there?" we will obviously say no, but, we do know someone, in the form of hundreds and thousands of witnesses, who was. Thus, the same can be asked of our modern secular materialists arguing their various theories about the origin of the universe, "where you there?" No, you were not, so everything you offer to explain that origin is human speculation. I, on the other hand, do know someone who was there who has testified as to all the ins and outs of the world's creation, and that testimony is found in God's Word.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

The Textual Argument: The Preservation of the New Testament

Examining the Arguments of King James Onlyism [pt. 6]

I come again to my on going series examining the claims of King James Onlyism (KJVO). Just as a reminder, advocates for KJVO teach that the English translation commissioned by King James I in 1604 and first published in 1611 is God's Word in English. All other English translations, especially those translated from 1880 onwards, are inferior and merely contain the Word of God. King James apologist, D.A. Waite, for example claims the King James translation is superior to all other Bible translations in four key areas: the texts, the translators, the technique and its theology.

My endeavor has been to examine the key arguments KJV advocates use to defend their belief system. I have boiled their arguments down to 6 key presuppositions. We are currently looking over the third argument; what I call the textual argument. That is, the King James is translated from the best original language manuscripts both in the Old and New Testaments. King James advocates believe these original language manuscripts are the best because they represent the majority of all the manuscript evidence available to us, God's people used them consistently and they were never laid aside, as it were, so as to fall out of use.

The last article undertook a brief summary of OT textual preservation and how the OT texts were preserved for our use today. With this article, I would like to review NT textual preservation. Hopefully, I can compare and contrast how KJV advocates claim the NT was preserved with the genuine historical facts of how God did preserve the NT.

As I mentioned in my post on OT preservation, KJV advocates generally present their view of preservation in light of the NT manuscripts. Rarely do they present a detailed discussion of OT preservation. This is primarily due in part to the fact Hebrew is a much more difficult language to grasp and there are better manuscripts with fewer variant readings than what is available with the NT. Thus, when a person picks up a KJV publication, or hears one of their lectures, the discussion of preservation and manuscripts has the NT in mind rather than the OT. This is important to remember; because unless the reader is alert to this fact, he will get the mistaken notion that the term "majority of manuscripts" applies to the entire Bible and not just the NT.

In their discussion of preservation, particularly the NT, KJV advocates will talk about the Majority Text (MT) and the Received Text, also know as the Textus Receptus (TR), and the Alexandrian Text. They have the tendency to confuse the MT with the TR making them appear to be one and the same, which is not true, as we shall see.

I stated above that KJV advocates argue the King James is the best translation because it is the only English translation translated from what is considered the majority of manuscripts (MT). The New Testament of modern versions like the NASB or the NIV is translated from the minority of the manuscript evidence available to us. They are called the minority because the NT witnesses in the Greek are far less in number than what is found in the MT. KJV onlyists further argue that these minority manuscripts have their source in and around Alexandria, Egypt (why they are called the "Alexandrian texts"). This marks them with suspicion, because Alexandria was allegedly a hotbed for theological heresy. Additionally, KJV advocates will point out how these manuscripts are in excellent condition, indicating that God's people never used them, or they would have been worn out with use. Then lastly, it is believed these manuscripts give the appearance of being altered by heretics, which makes them even more problematic. I will consider this last claim of being altered by heretics in my next post, but for now I wish to explore the KJVO claim that the MT represents the best manuscripts, where as the minority are inferior, by providing a brief summary of the New Testaments transmission.

I have already noted in previous articles that all ancient documents, like the Bible, were hand copied. Copying by hand produced some slight problems. The most notable is the presence of variants, copying errors, alternate readings, or spelling of words when two or more copies of the same document are compared. Variants are inescapable with hand written documents, however, it is important to point out the variants rarely alter the meaning of the text, especially when we have such a massive store house of copies with the OT and NT documents to compare and contrast. Instead of God preserving His word in just one divinely guided stream of texts, He chose to preserve it with a host of copies - all containing variants and copying errors - yet all of them still have the same content and message when examined. I believe this is exactly what we find when we consider the preservation of the NT.

So how did the NT come to us? All the Gospels and epistles were written in Greek by God's chosen apostles and or apostolic associates. Even during the time of the Apostles, the Christian Churches were gathering up their writings and maintaining them as being the inspired Word of God. These writings would be copied by other Christians and passed along to other Churches. The key difference between the maintenance of the NT documents and that of the OT is there was no officially trained scribal class controlling their transmission. New Testament Christians felt at liberty to allow other Christians, or anyone for that matter, to copy the NT documents. It could be a Roman soldier, a businessman, or a farmer. Because of this attitude, three factors occurred:

First, there was a quick proliferation of the NT documents with the copies.

Second, the NT documents did not stay isolated in one or two areas, but essentially began to spread out to the entire known world where the Roman Empire dominated.

Then third, many, many copies were made which in turned produced many, many variant readings. From all those copies rose a variety of families, manuscripts that carried similar characteristics.

There were also societal factors that influenced the transmission of the NT. Within a hundred years or so after the closing of the apostolic age came the emergence of Latin as the dominant language. Christian communities sprung up and flourished across North Africa and the believers would translate the Greek NT into Latin. Jerome, for instance, was the first Christian to make a Latin translation of both the OT and the NT. His translation became the Latin Vulgate and remained the dominant Bible translation for nearly 1000 years after.

Then a major society-shaking event happened: the rise of Islam. In the 7th century, Muslim armies swept across North Africa killing Christians or placing them into subjection as slaves or lesser citizens. After the Islamic invasion, the production of the NT all but ceased in Northern Africa, particular Alexandria, which at one time was an influential theological school. Islam is one of the primary reasons why the Alexandrian manuscripts, so despised by KJV advocates, are the minority of witnesses. It had nothing to do with Bible believing Christians recognizing heretical corruption with these manuscripts and laying them aside. Christians in North Africa were prevented from keeping them in circulation.

Meanwhile, the one area in the world producing NT manuscripts in Greek was Byzantium (modern day Turkey) where Constantinople was. This was the seat of the Eastern Orthodox Church and the scribes of the Church copied in Greek. For over a 1,000 years are so, the Byzantine Empire resisted the Muslim attacks and all the while the scribes were copying Greek texts. In fact, 80% or so of all our Greek NT textual evidence has a Byzantine quality compared to other manuscript families. Hence this is the reason why the Byzantine text is called the Majority Text. Again, the large number of the Byzantine texts has more to do with societal factors, i.e., the ability to resist Muslim domination, rather than God favoring one textual family over another.

The predominance of the Byzantine text also produced some distinguishing characteristics. For example, the Byzantine family contains more of what are called fuller readings, or longer readings, than all the other texts. For example, a passage may read Jesus in the Alexandrian family, where as the MT has The Lord Jesus Christ. Why is that? Well, as a particular textual family is being copied over and over again by hand, all the variants that are produced over time will stay in the text. The scribes would not drop them for fear of losing God's Word. In addition, a God honoring scribe would write out the full, divine title of Jesus out of respect, not necessarily to maintain textual purity. Moreover, the MT contains many harmonizations, where a scribe would see a story about Jesus in Matthew's gospel for example, and where Mark or Luke's gospels contain a similar telling of the same story, the scribe will harmonize them to make them all look the same. There is nothing necessarily sinful about this. It was a scribe's way of attempting to protect the integrity of the biblical record, but in doing this, the scribe only created more variants compared to other biblical manuscripts outside the Byzantine area.

Now, where exactly does the Received Text come into the picture? I mentioned in my post on textual criticism how printing was a major development for the Renaissance. Printing particularly helped along the desire to return to the study of the classics, especially a return to the original biblical languages. One of the first original language texts to be published was obviously the NT.

In 1502, a Cardinal named Xemenes was the head of a group of Spanish scholars who had compiled a Greek NT. At the time, they had yet to publish it because they needed to receive Papal approval. At the same time, one of the premier Greek scholars of his day was a Roman Catholic priest by the name of Desiderus Erasmus. King James advocates venerate him as some sort of proto-fundamental Baptist, but he remained a staunch Roman Catholic all his life. He taught in England, and while on a visit to his main publisher, John Froben, he learned of Xemenes Greek text. His publisher encouraged him to put together a Greek text and get it in print before Xemenes and his Spanish scholars did.

With that exhortation, Erasmus began compiling his own NT. He used little more than maybe 5 to 7 manuscripts (some say as many as 10). None of them contained the entire NT and all of them were from around the 10th century. Where he was lacking any original readings, specifically in the book of Revelation, Erasmus translated from Latin into Greek. In fact, Erasmus's text to this day contains readings not found in any Greek text any where on the planet. Eventually, in 1516, he got his NT in print before Xemenes and his colleagues and in spite of recourse from an angry pope who had not provided his permission to have it done. It became widely received after Martin Luther used it to translate the NT into German.

After its publication, there were many updated editions with all of them still containing the problematic readings. Erasmus text was first called the Received Text or the Latin, Textus Receptus in 1633, 22 years after the publication of the King James Bible. The TR has gone through as many as 25 revisions. KJV advocates will often mockingly point out how the modern Greek texts like the Nestles-Aland and the UBS have gone through multiple revisions implying they are constantly changing God's Word. Again, citing KJV apologist D.A. Waite who writes,

The text which is used today in most colleges, universities, and seminaries (even conservative and fundamental ones) is the Nestles-Aland Greek New Testament, 26th edition (at the writing of Waite's book, FB) It has gone through 26 editions thus far ... From 1898 to 1979 is about eighty-one years. If you divide 81 by 26, you can see that they have come out, on the average, with one new, updated, changed, different edition of the Greek New Testament every 3.1 years! What does that tell you as to the certainty these editors have in God’s preservation of His New Testament Words? It tells you that these men really don't know what the Greek New Testament is. [Defending the King James Bible, p. 38]

Mr. Waite's comment is conspiratorial nonsense. Is he clueless as to the 25 revisions of the TR? Or is he conveniently ignoring them? As to date, the NA is in its 28th edition. That is just 3 more than what the TR has gone through.

Now, when exactly did the Alexandrian texts come onto the scene? Interest in the NT text continued to grow even after the translation of the King James. Textual critics, both theologically liberal, as well as conservative, spent a lot of time and money combing the ancient biblical lands for Old and New Testament documents (I will go into more detail about this text hunting in the next post).

In the 1840's, a young German protestant named Constantine Von Tischendorf spent a good bit of travel in Northern Africa looking for ancient Christian texts. KJV advocates slanderously call him a heretic and apostate, but in truth, he was passionately determined to refute the theological liberals of his day who were destroying the faith. His search for ancient documents was a journey taken to prove the early authenticity of the Gospels. He visited countless libraries and monasteries in Europe, Africa and the Middle East. In 1844 he visited an old monastery on Mt. Sinai and found monks using leaves out of some books to fuel fires. He got permission to look at them and discovered they were biblical texts. He wasn't allowed to take them, but he tried to memorize them as best he could. Later, in the 1850's, he was able to return to the monastery on a couple of occasions. During one of his visits there, he met a monk who showed him an ancient codex (manuscript in book form) he had hidden away and wrapped in red velvet. It was nearly a complete copy of the NT. Tischendorf was able to secure the codex and he gave it the designation of "aleph," after the first Hebrew letter.

The importance of his find was the fact that this manuscript represented a copy of the NT that was older in its readings than anything previous seen by textual critics. It also helped to further Christian textual scholarship with classifying textual readings by weight. The readings of the Alexandrian text type, for example, tend to be shorter and more difficult thus accounting for the variants found in later textual families like the MT. Hence, textual critics judge it to be closer to the original writings of the Apostles. Furthermore, the bulk of the Byzantine manuscripts go back to 900 years after Christ, where as the Alexandrian texts go back to just 200 or so years after Christ. Rather than taking a numerical count (the majority of readings that are all the same), the textual critic will consider the age (a reading that is older) and other internal factors in order to compile a NT text from which to translate.

KJV advocates weave together many fantastic stories about the origins of the Alexandrian texts and the reason why we must reject their use in light of the TR. However, there is no credible historical evidence remotely hinting at the claim these texts were doctored by unorthodox apostates to secretly introduce theological heresy into the Christian faith. On the contrary, what they do demonstrate is how our sovereign God preserves His Word through the means of human instruments. A family of manuscripts discovered in the 1800s dating to just 200 years after Christ, apart from the typical variants, reads almost the same as all the other NT documents copied over a period of nearly 1600 years. Instead of denying God's preservation, they establish it.


Monday, February 20, 2006

Twenty Ways to Answer a Fool [pt. 3]

Is Christiantity based upon dishonesty?

(Just a note. I had to republish this from the 14th. One of the pictures was causing a problem with the blog's downloading time. I apologize to my four commenters, but your comments were deleted)

I continue my review of Chaz Bufe's 20 Reasons to Abandon Christianity. I have finally added the previous entries on the right side column. Scroll down to find them.This time around, we look at Chaz's third reason to abandon Christianity, the charge that Christianity is dishonest. I won't quote the entire argument, because the first paragraph is just a mindless rant rehashing his first two reasons and then he moves into why he thinks Christianity is dishonest:
3. Christianity is based upon dishonesty ... How deep dishonesty runs in Christianity can be gauged by one of the most popular Christian arguments for belief in God: Pascal's wager. This "wager" holds that it's safer to "believe" in God (as if belief were volitional!) than not to believe, because God might exist, and if it does, it will save "believers" and condemn nonbelievers to hell after death. This is an appeal to pure cowardice. It has absolutely nothing to do with the search for truth. Instead, it's an appeal to abandon honesty and intellectual integrity, and to pretend that lip service is the same thing as actual belief. If the patriarchal God of Christianity really exists, one wonders how it would judge the cowards and hypocrites who advance and bow to this particularly craven "wager."
In my opinion, his point should be re-titled "Christianity is based upon cowardice." Chaz doesn't honestly deal with anything dishonest with Christianity at all. I am guessing he means "intellectual dishonesty?"
Any how, I find his comment that Pascal's wager is one of the most popular arguments for belief in God rather amusing. Pascal's wager? Is he kidding? Who has he heard using this argument? I have never used this argument in any evangelistic apologetic encounter in my life, even when I was a young skull full of college age mush hassling sinners in a laundry mat with my Evangelism Explosion presentation. Nor, have I ever heard anyone use this argument in any fashion whatsoever either on the radio or from the pulpit - at least as a serious argument for why a person should believe in God. I haven't even heard any of the most diehard evidentialists use this argument. I find it amazing that Chaz has actually spoken with Christians (if he is telling us the truth) who use Pascal's wager as an apologetic argument.
Chaz's ridicule of Christians invoking Pascal's wager as the most popular arguments for belief again demonstrates his self-imposed ignorance about what he is criticizing. Obviously he must not be too well read on Christian apologetics. Has he even read Greg Bahnsen? Listened to his debates with well known atheists? How about James White of Alpha and Omega Ministries? He has a lot of apologetic material on a variety of topics and I know with certainty he never has raised Pascal's wager in a debate before. What about Greg Koukl of Stand to Reason ministries? He has a weekly radio program and an excellent website. I take issue with his evidentialist approach to apologetics, but by and large, his ministry is outstanding and he has never spoken of Pascal's wager. At least to my knowledge.
Now interestingly, in his haste to make Christians look as though they are slackjawed, glassy-eyed dullards, who give the appearance of being infested by brain slugs from outer space, Chaz makes some interesting comments in his paragraph above. He writes,
This "wager" holds that it's safer to "believe" in God (as if belief were volitional!) than not to believe, because God might exist ..."
As if belief were "volitional." Let us pause and ponder this statement, because I am not certain Chaz realizes the utter inconsistency of this phrase. As I check my American Heritage Dictionary, the words belief and believe are defined as follows:
Belief, n. 1. Trust or confidence. 2. A conviction or opinion. 3. A tenet or a body of tenets.
Believe, v. 1. To accept as true or real. 2. To credit with veracity; have confidence in; trust. 3. To expect or suppose; think.
The word volition is defined as follows:
Volition, n. 1. An act of willing, choosing, or deciding. 2. The power or capability of choosing; will. 3. A conscious choice; decision.
I guess Chaz is of the "belief" that belief, particularly religious belief, and the the act of deciding to believe something is true are direct opposite. He isn't quite clear as to what he "believes" with the distinction he makes between the two concepts, but he goes on to argue there is actual belief that pursues truth which will not abandon intellectual integrity.
In Chaz's worldview, I am sure Christ hating anarchy involves genuine belief that pursues truth with intellectual integrity.If Chaz truly believes that, however, he needs to be reminded of some comments from fellow religious hating atheists. Thoughtful, truly intellectual atheists, are rather forthright to admit their adherence to a "faith," or what Chaz would consider "belief."
Harvard biologist Richard Lewontin acknowledges:
Our willingness to accept scientific claims that are against common sense is the key to the understanding of the real struggle between science and the supernatural. We take the side of science [materialistic interpretations of science - f.b.] - in spite of the patent absurdity of some of its constructs, in spite of its failurefulfilllfil many of its extravagant promises of health and life, in spite of the tolerance of the scientific community for unsubstantiated just so stories, because we have a prior commitment to materialism. [Cited in The Divine Challenge by John Byl, pg. 287]
and naturalistic philosopher, Thomas Nagel like wise responds,
I want atheism to be true and am made uneasy by the fact that some of the most intelligent and well-informed people I know are religious believers. It isn't that I don't believe in God and, naturally, hope that I'm right in my belief. It's that I hope there is no God! I don't want there to be a God. [Cited in The Divine Challenge, pg. 288]
So, in Chaz's understanding are these guys who are quite candid as to the irrationality of their convictions dishonest cowards? When we really consider the facts, who is being dishonest? Bible believing Christians or materialistic, anarchist atheists?
And, before we wrap up the discussion of dishonesty and poor intellectual argumentation...Some may recall the crackpot atheist in Italy who was suing a Roman Catholic priest over the historicity of the person of Jesus Christ. His case was thrown out of court this past week. I imagine the judge considered it to be dishonest.
Next up, Is Christianity egocentric?

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Friday, February 17, 2006

A Walk in the Clouds

David Cloud's "rain" of error

(I'm sorry. With a last name that is such an easy target, I couldn't resist)

I will say this up front so as to get it out of the way: I believe fundamentalist Baptist preacher, David Cloud, is an embarrassment for Christ and His church. Scott McClare rightly calls him a psycho-fundamentalist because it is a name that aptly describes Mr. Cloud's deranged views as a fundamentalist Christian. Anyone who believes I am employing throw away hyperbole needs to merely read his Daily Article listings on a regular basis. In these articles (sort of the equivalent of his blog), Mr. Cloud, in the name of Christian truth and defending the faith, accuses any person, organization, congregation, school, or seminary, of end-times apostasy if he or she or they do not fall into line under his particular views of how the faith should be believed and practiced.

His screeds are bad enough, but it is the factual errors and out of context citations which riddle his articles that earn him the title from me as an embarrassment. For example, Contemporary Christian Music is one recurring target of Mr. Cloud's wrath. Now, I not a big fan of CCM myself, however, I am not going to appeal to a suspicious sounding venue where White Heart allegedly gave a concert in 1988 as proof of CCM's theological bankruptcy. Moreover, Mr. Cloud is utterly unteachable and spurns any correction from anyone of what he may write. See my comments about an email exchange I had with him about Steve Camp's church membership.

Well, once again, Mr. Cloud demonstrates his ignorance of Calvinism. I reckon he is doing a series of articles on the subject because he has posted four new articles detailing his dislike of Calvinism. One of them is basically a republish, but 3 others are new:

Calvin's Camels
Calvin's Proof Texts Examined
The Calvinism Debate
The Book of Hebrews Refutes Calvinism

I will address some of his refutation of Calvinistic proof texts maybe next week. Today, I want to demonstrate my claim of his factual mis-statements by citing two examples:

First, in the article, The Calvinism Debate, Cloud provides 11 problems he sees with Calvinism. All of them are the typical straw men erected against what Calvinism actually teaches, but in point 11, Cloud writes that Calvinism cannot explain prayer. In Cloud's mind, God cannot have decreed fixed events if we can pray and change His mind so as to change the circumstances and thus the events cannot be fixed, or decreed. In order to support his open theistic tendencies (unwitting, I might add), he takes a quote from A.W. Pink's The Sovereignty of God:

Arthur Pink says, "God'’s will is immutable, and cannot be altered by our cryings" (The Sovereignty of God, p. 173).

Mr. Cloud likes to quote from Pink a lot, as if Pink represents all Calvinist without question. At any rate, with this quote, if we were to take it by itself, implies that Pink is suggesting that our prayers are worthless because God's will is immutable and will never change regardless of how hard we may pray. Mr. Cloud suggests Pink is telling us not to even bother praying. The problem is that this citation is taken out of context of what Pink was arguing. This is one of Mr. Cloud's prime examples of his shoddy research he uses in his articles.

In context, Pink was arguing against those people who think they can force God to change His immutable will. Here is the citation with some surrounding context:

Finally; it should be said that God's will is immutable, and cannot be altered by our crying. When the mind of God is not toward a people to do them good, it cannot be turned to them by the most fervent and importunate prayers of those who have the greatest interest in Him—"Then said the Lord unto me, Though Moses and Samuel stood before Me, yet My mind could not be toward this people: cast them out of My sight, and let them go forth" (Jer. 15:1). The prayers of Moses to enter the promised land is a parallel case.

Our views respecting prayer need to be revised and brought into harmony with the teaching of Scripture on the subject. The prevailing idea seems to be, that I come to God and ask Him for something that I want, and that I expect Him to give me that which I have asked. But this is a most dishonoring and degrading conception. The popular belief reduces God to a servant, our servant: doing our bidding, performing our pleasure, granting our desires. No; prayer is a coming to God, telling Him my need, committing my way unto the Lord, and leaving Him to deal with it as seemeth Him best. This makes my will subject to His, instead of, as in the former case, seeking to bring His will into subjection to mine.

Mr. Cloud says nothing about what Pink was arguing. He doesn't interact with the passage he cites from Jeremiah 15:1. He just throws out a small comment from Pink to make him say something he is not even saying. This is sloppy, hack research.

Then, in the same article, under point two, Baptists Must Face the Issue of Calvinism, Mr. Cloud lists 6 issues I guess he thinks Baptists (read the pyscho-fundamentalist version here) will need to confront when it comes to Calvinism. Number 5 is a hoot. It must be understood, writes Mr. Cloud, that John Calvin himself was an unsound theologian. In other words, he wasn't a pyscho-fundamentalist hand in hand with Mr. Cloud's preferences.

He writes of how Calvin taught infant baptism instead of the immersion, fundamentalist kind, and of course he murdered in cold blood all kinds of people who crossed him as the ruler of Geneva. The problem with Mr. Cloud is his historical ignorance. He doesn't quote one source as to the "Calvin was a monster" charge. I am guessing he us pulling that from Dave Hunt's wormy book?

Mr. Cloud also tends to forget, he of course being a KJV Only supporter, of the King James translators holding to the same views of infant baptism as Calvin (no Baptists were involved in giving us "God's Word Kept Intact In English" as D.A. Waite would say), and Lancelot Andrewes and George Abbott, two of the key KJV translators, were involved with the burning of Anglican dissenters. Why doesn't that alone cause us to reject the KJV translation as heretical?

Anyhow, these are just two small examples of how terrible Mr. Cloud's research is. It is not isolated to just these handful of articles, either. These sorts of errors abound in all of his printed materials.

I won't over tax folks with a point by point rebuttal, but next week, I will try to revisit his articles and highlight some of the more outlandish comments made against Calvinism, particularly Mr. Cloud's "refutation" of the Calvinist proof-texts.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Calling All Shepherd's Conference Attendees

If there are any Hip and Thigh readers, commenters and bloggers attending the Shepherd's Conference at Grace Community Church the first week in March, I would thoroughly enjoy making the attempt to make your acquaintance, even if it is briefly to shake hands. I personally won't be attending the conference during the day due to work constraints, but I do plan to attend some of the evening sessions that are opened to the Grace Church congregation.

If that applies to YOU, please drop me a note via email through my profile page. I would love to hear from you.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Causation, Death, Foreknowledge and Hank

I was driving to work this past Friday morning listening to the Thursday afternoon replay of the Bible Answer Man when this fellow calls in and asks Hank a question summarized as follows:

There are Christians who believe God has determined when people will die. They base it upon Psalm 139:16 and Luke 12:20. Is that true? Has God ordained the exact time when a person will die?

Well, instead of answering "Yes, because that is what the Bible teaches" and then ask the caller why he had a problem with this teaching and cite further textual proof with Hebrews 9:27, James 4:13-17 and 1 Samuel 2:6, Hank replied "Yes," but then took opportunity to pile confusion upon this caller and the rest of his radio audience by misinforming them as to the biblical doctrine of God's sovereignty.

Hank's main argument went along these lines:

Just because God knows about something doesn't mean He is the cause of it; He just knows about it.


Then Hank provided an illustration by employing one of his famous "Hankisms:" Just because you many know about two friends getting married doesn't mean you caused them to get married. This is something of a variant on his "Sonny and Cher" theology, in which Hank tries to link a comparison between the absolute sovereign knowledge of all future events by our Creator God, to us mere creatures and our knowledge of the demise of a relationship between two has-been celebrities that took place 30 years ago.

My immediate question upon hearing his "you just know about the marriage, you didn't cause it" argument was, "But, what if you introduced the couple to each other?"

At any rate, I find Hank's overt denial of God's sovereignty as to when a person is appointed to die mystifying in light of how I hear him often castigate people for handling God's Word in various cavalier ways. I guess in this particular instance it is "OK" to read our traditions onto the text?

Let's see. If God just knows about when a person dies, but doesn't cause it, then I guess all the events in human history have all ready played out apart from God and He, being eternal and with the ability to see into future time, only just knows about when people will die? God never causes their death, He just sees it and knows about it and just make accurate predictions? Am I hearing Hank correctly?

I reckon then, that in turn means there was at one time knowledge outside of God's immediate knowledge? Which would mean God had to learn about that knowledge? If that is the case, theoretically, there is still some knowledge God doesn't know about, but I would imagine Hank would argue no and that God has all knowledge, which means he learned everything He needed to know to make our world, and all that is contained there in both physical and metaphysical, go around sometime back in our far away past. And he is suppose to be the Bible Answer Man?

The Calvinist Gadfly has the Calvinist Gadfly Awards, but I suggest a more specific category in honor of Hank:

The Hank Hanegraff Award of Achievement in the Field of Reading Your Tradition onto the Biblical Text and Still Claim You are Doing Proper Bible Study

We can call it a "Hankey"

The Bible Un-Answer Man Strikes Again

From the Calvinism Hater Files


Friday, February 10, 2006

World's Smartest Fish
Here is something for you really serious Ichthyophiles. Train your goldfish to jump through hoops! Play soccer and other sports!

Thursday, February 09, 2006

This is so, like, last fall

Some time early last December, my friend Gregg Hanke tagged me with what is called the seven sevens meme. I originally read it over at Frank Turk's site a month or more before that and threatened to steal his idea, but other issues occupied my time and restrained my theivery. As I catch up with work and get back on track with my two blogging series, I thought it would be a fine filler post.

Just as a note: Let us be reminded as to what the word "meme" actually means.

1. Seven things to do before I die

- Travel to Italy with my wife
- Travel to Hawaii with my wife
- Visit the British Museum
- Visit the Smithsonian
- Return to Carmel California for a second honeymoon

- Fly around the world on an SR-71 at Mach 3 at 90,000 ft.
- Take a dive to the Titanic wreckage
(I realize these last two are pure fantasy, but hey, the question is asking me what I would love to do it before I die)

2. Seven things I cannot do

- Play golf (hard to imagine for a pastor wanna be)
- Hold my breath for a sustained length of time
- Multiply and divide fractions (embarrassingly true)
- Appreciate Rap

- Enjoy singing sappy praise music
- Suffer slow, pokey drivers in the fast lane/car pool lane

- Understand why black folks won't free themselves from the shackles of the Democrat party

3. Seven things that attract me to [my spouse or significant other or best friend]

- Cute smile
- Deep blue eyes
- Blunt honesty
- Strong Calvinist
- Theological intellect
- Passionate fervor for biblical truth
- Appreciates my humor

4. Seven things I say most often
- What did daddy say?
- What did mama say?
- Why is your brother crying?
- Give it to daddy
- Get down
- Ooo...look, it has chocolate chips
- Why did you put in raisins?

5. Seven books (or series) I love

- New Systematic Theology (Robert Reymond)
- No Place for Sovereignty: What is wrong with freewill theism (R.K. McGregor-Wright)
- D-Day, the 6th of June (Stephen Ambrose)
- Refuting Evolution 1 and 2 (Jonathan Sarfati)
- The Doctrine of God (John Frame)
- The Hobbit (JRR Tolkien)
- The Birth of the Modern (Paul Johnson)

6. Seven movies I watch over and over again (or would if I had the time)

- Jaws (The Indianapolis speech is phenomenal)
- The Extended Edition of the Lord of the Rings trilogy (The extra features are worth the price)
- Gladiator
- Raiders of the Lost Ark
- Back to the Future
- Toy Story 2
- What about Bob?

7. Seven people I want to join in, too

Frank Turk (I want him to teach me to build a sweet looking blog)
Kerry Gilliard (He was the first person to link me on his blog)
LaShawn Barber (I met her briefly and she struck me as a classy lady I would love to chat with)
The boys of Fide-O (Any person who hunts wild pigs has got to have something interesting to say)
Scott Clare (He shares my sense of humor)
Daniel [don't know the last name] (Because I don't know any shaved headed Calvinists from Canada)

Peter Nelson (Because he left the very first comment on my blog)
They are still pretty good for a geezer band

This morning as I was picking up dough-nuts for my volunteers, I noticed U2 on the front page of the paper with a headline proclaiming how they won 5 grammys last night. U2? These guys were just as big 20 years ago when I was in high school. And they're still around winning Grammys?

Think what you will about them: From Bono's insufferable third world activism and their phony Christian convictions and the fact they are considered gods to the emergent church crowd, you have to admit that they are still pretty good for a secular geezer band. There are not too many committed long term bands like U2. Maybe Rush. And what 80's band is still consistently putting out decent music some 25 years or so after they started so that they are sweeping the Grammy awards? Something tells me we won't be seeing Duran Duran or REO Speedwagon at the Grammys any time soon.

Monday, February 06, 2006

I thought Mohamet was just a man?

It is pretty amazing to be watching European society begin the death throws of their culture as Muslims run riot burning buildings, destroying personal property and threatening death. Earlier, a few months ago, it was Paris burning, now it is wide spread through out much of Europe and places in the Middle East and Asia. And all over the publication of some cartoons supposedly dishonoring the false prophet Mohamet.

First of all, when I encountered Muslims way back in my college days, I remember the ones I worked with were quite adamant that I understand Mohamet was just a man. He was a prophet of course, but just a man. In no way was I suppose to conclude the Muslims believed he was divine. Such a notion would be dishonoring to Mohamet. I still hear this mantra on occasion even today. Mohamet was just a man, Muslims would never, in a million years, think of worshipping Mohamet.

However, how can I believe that any longer? I have been watching the last week or so as psychotic idiots burn the world down around them over the publication of some stupid cartoons. It appears clear to me Muslims believe Mohamet was more than just a man if they are going to react against anyone who would dare insult his image. I thought the second commandment of never making any graven images was exclusive of God alone. Assuming, as most muddle minded religious folks do, that the God of the Bible is the same as the god Allah of Islam, then that second commandment would also apply to him as well. Why does Mohamet, then, have the honor of sharing the second commandment with Allah? By reacting in they way that you have, dear Muslim, are you not deifying your prophet to equality with Allah? It would seem so from my vantage point.

Also, Muslims claim Mohamet is the last great prophet in the line of prophets like David and Jesus. I would think then that any images dishonoring David or Jesus would be reacted to in the same way as these cartoons. Why then hasn't that statue of a naked David not been destroyed? Where was the Muslim outrage when The Last Temptation of Christ was released? Christians protested, but the only burning I remember seeing was a Christian singer burning his contract with Universal.

Moreover, what is the Islamic definition of the word "peace?" Seriously? Islam claims to be a religion of peace, but I have yet to see any example of peace on Islam's part. Do Muslims live in some sort of Orwellian new speak society where words are given definitions opposite from what they normally mean? As I look at my Webster's Pocket Dictionary, peace is defined as "a state of calm or quiet" or "the absence of war or strife." My dictionary definition seems to be excluding threats of death against anti-Islamic detractors, burning building down and hassling Danish citizens as possible examples of "peace." So how are all you Muslims defining the word? It would be helpful, you know, for future reference so that were all on the same page.

These are just some random thoughts as I contemplate all the news about rioting.


An Open Letter to Adam Gadahn

Refuting Secular Myths about Islam and Terrorism

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Praise Report

My wife and I met with my doctor and he was pleased to report to us that he successfully removed all of the carcinoma from my neck. Even more, the suspicious lymph nodes we thought may have been cancerous came back negative. In fact, the tumor had completely surrounded some lymph nodes and even they were negative.

My wife and I are both praising the Lord for His great providence, not only sparing me from a serious bout with cancer, but also for bringing us to a doctor who is an artist when it comes to surgery on the face. Apart from post surgery numbness, I never lost any mobility in my face or mouth which was a concern for me. All of the feeling should come back in time. The only place where I will experience permanent numbness according to my doctor is on the tip of my ear lobe. I can live with that. Maybe I will get an ear ring?

I am not an animal...

One humorous note. I thought before I was released from the hospital a nurse would wrap my neck in some gauze, but nope. My doctor let me go home with my foot long stitched neck exposed and grinning wide for the world to see.

What I found to be a lot of fun was watching people in public attempt to stare at my neck without appearing as though they are staring. As I walked about in public, I would look up at folks to see them quickly averting their eyes away from my neck. They would give me a head nod and a hello and moved on feeling guilty they were caught staring.

On the day after my release, my wife and I went to lunch at one of our favorite restaurants. Being sensitive to the fact many patrons could possibly be repulsed by my neck as they ate, I did my best to keep it covered. Still, I was amused by how anyone who saw me would become transfixed upon my neck. While my wife and I were eating, we saw some acquaintances we hadn't seen for a few years. We went over to their table to say "hi" and of course, my neck was like a giant elephant in the room everyone is pretending not to notice. I finally had to break the awkward tension by explaining how I had just had an operation. The conversation picked up after that. If I had been thinking a head, I would have made up a t-shirt that said something like, "Please feel free to stare at my neck," or something along those lines.

I just would like to thank everyone who called us, or sent cards, or stopped us at church, or made us a meal, and even posted comments on my blog, who wished me well and sent their blessings. Words are difficult to express the gratitude I have felt ever since going into the hospital until this day. It is truly humbling to discover all the folks who genuinely care for me and my family. In a way, such outpouring of love is a purifying experience, because it shows me how many people my life touches. God is truly gracious by placing us the Body of Christ.

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Thursday, February 02, 2006

Twenty Ways to Answer a Fool [pt. 2]

Does Christianity Prey on the Innocent?

I come again to my review and critique of Chaz Bufe's 20 Reasons to Abandon Christianity. I consider the first one here. Also, if you excuse his self proclaimed evidentialism, Pedantic Protestant did a much briefer review than what I am offering that is fairly well done.

Anyhow, moving along.

Chaz second reason Christianity must be abandoned is because Christians prey on children. I will let him explain himself:

2. Christianity preys on the innocent. If Christian fear-mongering were directed solely at adults, it would be bad enough, but Christians routinely terrorize helpless children through grisly depictions of the endless horrors and suffering they'’ll be subjected to if they don't live good Christian lives. Christianity has darkened the early years of generation after generation of children, who have lived in terror of dying while in mortal sin and going to endless torment as a result. All of these children were trusting of adults, and they did not have the ability to analyze what they were being told; they were simply helpless victims, who, ironically, victimized following generations in the same manner that they themselves had been victimized. The nearly 2000 years of Christian terrorizing of children ranks as one of its greatest crimes. And it's one that continues to this day.

In order to back up his claim of fear mongering Christians terrorizing children for the last 2000 years, Chaz proceeds to quote from some obscure, 19th century Catholic children's book that no one has even heard of, let alone read from. The children's book highlights sermon instruction from a Rev. J. Furniss who provides some picturesque descriptions of sinners boiling alive in the flames of hell. And then, if that were not enough, Chaz digs up some old Irish Vicar-General who recommends the book as being beneficial for children.

Wow. Is this the best argument Chaz the anarchist Christ hater can provide for slandering Christianity as practically skinning babies alive? I mean, come on, at least throw in a mention of the Children crusades of the Middle Ages when muddle brained, superstitious Catholics believed God would use innocent children to destroy the Muslim hordes in Jerusalem and sent their youth to their certain doom in a hair brained scheme to fight Turks. You disappoint me Chaz.

But what does Chaz, the Christ hating anarchist, offer to replace the Christian terrorizing of children? How would he remedy this victimization of poor, innocent babies? Kill all Christians in a wild anarchist frenzy? It is one thing to criticize, it is quite another to criticize and offer solutions. Chaz just criticizes - and a pathetic criticism as well.

I imagine, however, from what we learn from the rest of Chaz's website, he would probably suggest an anarchist philosophy, mixed with atheistic communism, to replace Christianity. If that is the case, as I am sure Chaz may well gladly attest, am I to believe atheistic anarchist communist would never, ever terrorize innocent children who trust the adults to look after them and have no ability to analyze what they are taught?


You see, Chaz, like all egocentric atheists who dish out the religious criticism, but hardly offer any real world, workable solutions to correct those criticisms, suffer from what I like to call historical myopia. Chaz carries on about how Christians terrorize the young minds of trusting children by quoting some long forgotten children's religious book from over a century ago, but forgets how true and living atheistic communism with in recent decades turned the youth culture into an organized mass of murdering thugs. When Pol Pot took over Cambodia after he graduated from the schools of Paris where he studied such atheistic heroes like Karl Marx and Jean-Jacques Rousseau, he quickly mobilized the youth of that country to implement his atheistic anarchy with horrific results. Now, would not Chaz agree that turning trusting and innocent Cambodian youth into roving gangs of tyrannical, murdering thugs is a clear example of preying on the innocent? Who can forget the scene in the movie The Killing Fields, where Haing S. Ngor's character has his little tomato plant pulled up and stomped to pieces by a 13 year old girl? And what about the images of village folk being smothered to death with plastic bags tied around their heads by bunches of teenage soldiers?

We could also mention Stalin's Russian and the current state of North Korea, states who promoted atheistic philosophy to national levels, but I won't bore people.

I will grant that people in the name of Christianity have said and done stupid things. Maybe they could be guilty of preying on innocent minds, but biblical Christianity does not teach such brainwashing as Chaz would say. Again, this is a fine example where Chaz needs to deal with real Christianity, not cartoon pictures of it.

And as for that preying on innocence charge ... well, Chaz may want to get the log out of his own atheistic eye.

Next up, Christianity is based on dishonesty.

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