The Gift Of You: Duane W.H. Arnold, PhD

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153 Responses

  1. Babylon's Dread says:

    The smell of the old book shops remains one of the deep pleasures of life. The shelves of my own walls stand filled with books of my youth, middle age and now senior season. They represent seasons of pursuit, seasons of hope, seasons of longing for this or that. Now they mostly remind me of unfinished tasks. These walls are lined with silent witnesses to all my dreams. They also stand as friends who walked with me sometimes shouting and other times whispering needed instructions.

    So I read your post with interest and remembered yesterday; the sounds, smells, tastes and touches.


  2. Duane Arnold says:


    Many thanks… you got it… exactly!

  3. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    Duane, good article, two years ago I was forced to put my book idolatry to the test. We moved to a new state and were downsizing in every way. Our new home was half the size of the old.
    What to do with my library that had grown over the years to over 1,700 volumes. I had no problem taking my wife’s stuff to the dump but my books were treasures.
    I could give away only 100 or so books as Al my friends had libraries like mine… excessive.
    So, I packed up 900 of my idols and took them to the dump and kept less than 700.
    Then I found myself buying new books – wow, talk about addiction. So I have vowed not to buy any new – what new could be written about another “new” opinion? I have survived 18 months with no new purchases — and I have zero books on electronics devises.

    One other point, I too gave up reading along as the liturgist reads the texts – I found myself noting the reading errors and mispronounciations – that was very distracting.

  4. Em says:

    Why did the books go to the dump? Goodwill or Salvation Army didn’t want them? Used bookstore?
    None of my business, i know,but… ?

  5. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    Em, I didn’t want to take the time to see who would take what.

  6. filbertz says:

    well-said & thoughtful. I recall from my homiletics classes the saying that a sermon born from the head reaches the head–one born from the heart reaches the heart. I suppose your post would add a third type–the best sermon is the one we live.

  7. Duane Arnold says:


    Very nicely said… Many thanks!

  8. CM says:


    In regards to the notion that the Christian faith is more than mere intellectual assent, I seem to recall the Reformers stating that a saving faith involves notitia (knowledge), assensus (assent), and fiducia (trust). Assent is necessary, but not sufficient.

  9. Duane Arnold says:


    Yes… It seems to me that currently many have reduced that saving faith to mere intellectual assent. It has been “divorced”, in many cases, from a community of faith (where we gain knowledge and worship together) and from trust (shown in one’s manner of life). Assent may be the starting point, but if it is only assent I think we’ve missed the point…

  10. Jean says:

    It is difficult, if not impossible, to hold a well rounded definition of “faith,” if one also holds to decision theology.

  11. Duane Arnold says:


    Agreed. I’m wondering, however, if intellectual assent has become the decision theology of our time… We lay out a set of propositions to which someone agrees, but there are few, if any, follow-up requirements like being in a community of faith, practical discipleship, etc.

  12. I don’t remember reading about “decision theology” in any of my systematic theologies. I’m betting it’s just another weapon to use against those nasty evangelicals.

  13. Duane Arnold says:


    I don’t think it has to do with evangelicals, per se, but with what grew out of the more evangelistic “crusade” approach. I think the point is that Christian faith rests on more than a single moment or act of assent…

  14. Jean says:


    There are a few phrases that are common in my part of the country: Has so and so accepted Christ? Has so and so received Christ? Has so and so surrendered to Christ?

    The objective of the evangelist is to persuade the individual to make a decision. The promise conveyed by the evangelist to the individual is that in return for his or her decision, Christ will seal the individual with eternal life. This is more than common, but probably the prevailing view of evangelicals around here. But they are not nasty at all.

    What do your systematics teach?

  15. “What do your systematics teach?”

    Systematics are generally pretty large. How much time do you have?

  16. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    Josh, the “decision’ is central to most evangelical / evangelistic ventures. The altar call is calling for a decision. Billy Graham’s radio / TV outreach was even called The Hour of Decision.
    Billy Graham would exhort the people to decide for Jesus and would tell the crusade attendees that “the busses will not leave while you come down.”
    People are told to have every head bowed and every eye closed as people make The Decision.

    It’s the reason that so many churches are set up like lecture halls and information is downloaded via lecture, the homily almost non existent, as the power point presentation is at center stage.

    If people want that it is fine with me, but I don’t think it is fair to deny it’s existence and grand influence.

  17. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    That’s not to leave out Crystal Lewis sing the chorus of Come Just as You Are 25 times at the end of each Harvest Crusade to prod people along.

  18. I don’t deny it’s existence. Of course, “decision theology” is a term without a definition, and that’s not helpful. And whoever those decision theologians may be, according to Jean, they can’t have a well-rounded definition of faith.

    I was just curious what was behind the comment, and it seems pretty much nothing. That’s fine. Vague boogeymen are a favorite enemy in these parts.

  19. Em says:

    Whether it comes in an aha moment or over a period of years of learning what the Faith is, we do receive redemption in response to what God the Holy Spirit reveals to us.
    Response should not be discounted. We are not playing Lotto here. God does work in us both to will and to do, but salvation is received, it isn’t an accident. When Saul got knocked off his (high) horse, he responded. God did it because He already knew this was the man for the job. … But…
    Saul responded who? and he accepted the answer he got
    If that is defined as decision theology? Okay…
    some seed doesn’t develop well. The roots aren’t in good soil and, as they did after hearing our Lord, folks walk away. But…
    Always decisions are made. ? For or against….

  20. Duane Arnold says:

    I made a “decision” for Christ when I was 16. In the last 50 years I have learned that it was only the first decision of many that I would have to make, day by day, week by week, year by year…

  21. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    I will give this nod towards “decision” theology. Jesus made a decision for me.
    I remember clearly reading the Bible for about 2 weeks and one night at the end of Feb 1981 going to bed a rank unbeliever and waking the next morning as a Christian. Heck, I didn’t even have Jacob’s dream oh Jesus descending on the ladder. 🙂

  22. Though that is now your belief, I’m willing to bet 1 million american quid that at the time. It felt like you made a decision. I’m also willing to bet that it has felt like you have made thousands and thousands of decisions since.

  23. Michael says:

    Decisional regeneration has been a Reformed and Lutheran bogeyman for ages…lots of stuff written against it by those traditions.

  24. Michael says:

    I’ve never had a conversion experience…nothing even close.
    I’ve known the presence of God since I was a small child.

  25. If so, you are the only person on the planet who has never had to make a conscious decision to follow Jesus. Good for you. I wish that were my case. I’m sure it would be easier than having to struggle with faith.

  26. But that was basically my question to Jean – Was he saying that only a monergist could have a well-rounded definition of “Faith”?

  27. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    Josh – this is the point. No one told me there was a decision to make. I had gone to church twice because my wife insisted the kids be taken to church. I bought a Bible because I was intrigued that everyone had a Bible, and the wisp of 1,000 people turning pages simultaneously was amazingDecision theology is manipulative.
    I took the Bible hone and told my wife I would read it until I thought it unbelievable – and then it happened – proof, just like the word of God says, the Bible converts.

    I am glad that I escaped the manipulation of decision theology – which in America began with the circuit riders who had to get people to “settle up with God” before the preacher left town.

  28. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    Josh, my wife never made a decision for Jesus. She was a cradle Lutheran, baptized in her first week of life – went through catechism and for confirmation confessed what Jesus did for her in the waters of baptism.

    Are there instances in the NT of people being asked to “make a decision” for Jesus? I can’t recall any off the top of my head.

  29. So you are saying “decision theology” is an altar call?

    I’d just like the term defined, that’s all. I don’t believe that you weren’t making conscious decisions to follow Jesus, but that’s beside the point. You now believe that God made those decisions for you, and I’m fine with that.

    So is “decison theology” simply giving an altar call? Is it evangelicalism? Is it synergism? Is it arminianism? Apparently, one of these groups has a deficient faith. Just trying to figure out who it is.

  30. MLD- you believe that if you stop going to church you can kill your own salvation – Has your wife ever made a decision to go to church, or does she just wake up there on Sunday mornings, often enough to keep the faith?

  31. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    Josh, it has many forms, even to the point where it is presented, “Jesus has cast his vote for you and the devil has cast his vote against you. You hold the deciding vote.”

  32. “Jesus has cast his vote for you and the devil has cast his vote against you. You hold the deciding vote.”

    So by “decision theology”, Jean meant anyone who says that has deficient faith?

  33. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    You need to wait and see if Jean answers – I am just describing what you said you have no category for in your systematics.
    If I remember right, the 4 spiritual laws witnessing tract had a last page where you write down the details of you decision for Christ.

  34. I think “Vague Boogeyman Theology” is a plague on the church.

    Anywho, as long as there is SOMEONE out there you can feel superior to, go for it!

  35. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    Josh, as to my wife going to church, Luther said when you wash you face in the morning, remember your baptism. He meant by this, a reminder that all of God’s work was done in you through your baptism.
    A a baptized believer, you go to church not to renew YOUR decision, be as a place to once again receive the good gifts God hands out through his word and sacrament.

    Now the difference with those who believe they were the acting force in their decision, they are the ones who answer the altar call several times in their life and get rebaptized as they may not have done so previously with enough sincerity.

  36. But do you have to decide to go to church? Not about renewing a decision. Getting out of bed, getting dressed, cranking the car…any decision in that, or all God?

  37. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    It’s not vague to me.
    Besides, the altar call for a Lutheran is the time and place we receive the body and blood of Jesus. 🙂

  38. It may not be vague to you, but you can’t describe it to someone else.

  39. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    We decide many things in regular life and even post salvation. Take this morning for example, I had to decide – tightly whities or boxers?
    However, this whole conversation, and the meaning of Decision Theology surrounds before salvation, can you choose to be saved?

    I say no and you say yes.

  40. Em says:

    Decision and choice are synonomous terms? Hmmm
    I have no problem with an altar call as long as it is understood that it isn’t a magic ticket to Paradise… I cannot say amen to my preachers who say, “if you came forward to accept Christ, you are now in and settled for Eternity.” You may or may not be. .. for obvious reasons.
    Don’t the parables of the seeds make it abundantly clear? They do for me. You may be a Thomas or you may be that rich young ruler, but you still can receive God’s Truth and choose life. IMHO? perhaps… .?
    But, at any rate, this topic is worth the examination given to it here today…

  41. Jean says:


    I got busy at work today and couldn’t respond. I hope you’ll be around later this afternoon, because I intend to respond.

  42. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    Em, since you brought it up a couple of times, I hope you do not mind me asking. In the parable – “As for what was sown on rocky ground, this is the one who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy, yet he has no root in himself, but endures for a while, and when tribulation or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately he falls away.”

    This sounds like a believer to me – he hears the word (and we know the word is effective) and he receives it (accepting Jesus 🙂 ) and does so joyfully (not under pressure from others to become a Christian) – and then in my opinion, he does not maintain his faith (we can discuss the ways that is done) and eventually falls away.

    So if this is not a believer (but he thinks he is for the time) how can anyone “know” they are saved and not just one like this one, who has not yet run into that trouble or tribulation yet that will uproot him / her?

    Serious question we all must ask if we don’t think Christians can fall from grace – how do you know this isn’t you – yet. How can you have any comfort?

  43. bob1 says:

    I think decision theology is a pejorative term. Looks like the Lutherans here are trying to
    create chaos and one-upsmanship. Nothing new.

  44. bob1 says:

    Reminds me of something Dwight Moody once said when he was being dissed for
    his evangelism methods: “I like my way of doing it better than your way of not doing it.”

    Some things never change, I guess.

  45. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    bob1 – I think your comment is a pejorative. So, see how little our opinions mean?

    Look, Duane agreed with Jean and I was trying to clear up where Josh said there was no category. But a question to you – what do you call what Charles Finney – Billy Sunday – Billy Graham – Greg Laurie and anyone who has continual altar calls (unknown in the Bible), sinners prayers (unknown in the Bible) and “making a decision for Christ” (unknown in the Bible)?

    It’s a systematic formula developed and practiced in many groups – prove me wrong. If your group doesn’t use it, good for you.

  46. Duane Arnold says:

    I agreed with Jean’s sentiment… not a definition of “decision theology”…

    “Agreed. I’m wondering, however, if intellectual assent has become the decision theology of our time… We lay out a set of propositions to which someone agrees, but there are few, if any, follow-up requirements like being in a community of faith, practical discipleship, etc.”

  47. bob1 says:

    “Unknown in the Bible”? That’s a serious argument?

    Let’s see…the word Trinity isn’t there, but that’s commonly used. There are no organs (musical) in the Bible, but many liturgical churches use them. And, hmm. I’m looking in vain for any references to “handbells.”

    What a stupid way to “reason.”

  48. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    the point was you didn’t slam him like bob1 did.
    Nor did you invoke Dwight Moody 🙂

  49. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    Come on bob1, you are talking foolishness. The trinity is all over the Bible OT & NT – making a decision for Jesus is nowhere to be found.

  50. Duane Arnold says:


    Generally, I found that “slamming” people is less than wise, especially in matters of faith and, while I might not agree fully with the theologies of Whitfield, Moody, Spurgeon or Graham, I would be the last to deny that God used them for good…

  51. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    Duane, I would need to go back to all my posts but I don’t think I said the people / preachers were good or bad – I tried to point out to Josh, a theology having people make a decision for Christ is used by many groups and often – not unknown as he claimed.
    Look, I even gave reason why the circuit rider preacher developed getting the decision before they left town.

  52. Jean says:

    Up at 8:11 am, I gave 3 common examples of phrases associated with decision theology. This issue is not, for me academic, but deeply personal. I have been in a men’s group of about 25 men for over 15 years who meet for fellowship and Bible Study once a week in the early morning; I am the only Lutheran. All the others are non-denomination conservative evangelicals (except my son). I believe they are generally representative of conservative evangelicalism.

    At the beginning of each meeting, there is an opportunity to share joys and concerns for prayer. Being that we are a mostly older demographic, often we are asked to pray for close friends or relatives who are suffering from life threatening illnesses, diseases or are in hospice.

    Often the individuals with the prayer needs are folks who have not been regular in church, or haven’t been in church for a period of time. Some of them may have gone to church regularly, but did not engage in the weekday activities of the church. Some may have been through a divorce or have been involved with drugs or alcohol.

    Therefore, inevitably and almost immediately the question will be raised by someone: “Has Joe or Mary accepted Christ?” “When did Joe or Mary accept Christ?” Then a discussion ensues to determine the probable state of the individual and what might be done for them now. I anticipate that many here are familiar with this situation.

    I don’t question the well meaning of the questioner; this is how they’ve been raised in the church. If the individual dies from his or her illness, their family and friends naturally desire that they would be saved.

    But these interrogatories break my heart. Think about the person suffering a life threatening or life ending illness or disease. They are already under great stress and anxiety about their health, the status of the family (if they should die someday soon), the fear of death and more than likely anxiety about their eternal state. Is what they need at this particular time someone to come along side them to question their faith or lead them in a re-commitment to Christ? Who does that serve the individual or their friends who want to their questions answered?

    When I deal with someone who is suffering, I want to lift their burdens and release their anxieties in the name of the risen Lord Jesus. I want to reassure them that Christ baptized them and has placed the name of the Triune God on them, that Christ died for their sins and has sprinkled them entirely pure in the sight of God; that their heavenly Father does not remember their sins and sees only Christ in them. That He will raise them from the dead, just as Jesus lives and intercedes for them before their heavenly Father.

    Someone is going to say: “But, how do you know, Jean?”

    I don’t need to know. That isn’t my job to know. Look how Paul ended one of his letters: “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Ghost, be with you all. Amen.”

    Did Paul address everyone? Yes. (Did he know about everyone?) Did he place any conditions on His benediction? No. Christians, and especially pastors, should be bestowing the grace of God to people in need, proclaiming God’s love for people in need, giving peace and reconciliation with God to people in need…not in return for or conditioned on someone’s work of a decision, but for the sake of Jesus Christ who atoned for the sins of the whole world and gave the keys the kingdom of heaven to the Church.

    Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of Christ. If you want to help someone spiritually, give them Christ and let His Word work! It is the power for salvation to everyone who believes.

  53. I don’t see a big difference (and as someone who has been in those situations far too often now).

    I haven’t argued for decision theology, only asked that it be explained. I haven’t said that I decide to be saved, though MLD claimed I did. I just wanted to know what we were talking about. Now that I know, there is not much of a difference. Asking someone if they believe in Jesus is not outlawed or even slightly frowned upon in Scripture. I know that many are manipulative in their tactics, and this should not be. But if decision theology means simply that we inquire about the salvation of someone else…well, might as well shut down all mission efforts.

    My best guess is that Jean is concerned about manipulative evangelism practices. On that we agree.

  54. Jean says:


    I don’t consider what my friends are doing as manipulative, because that implies an intent to deceive. I trust that they are sincere and act with the best of intentions.

    But I think they are dead wrong. Even though most people won’t admit it in public, most people don’t entirely trust their own commitments. No sooner do they make them than the doubts creep in. Because they realize that God sees into the heart, and that is a place that we don’t want anyone, much less God, looking in!

    That leads people into the devil’s wheel house. He is a master at sowing doubt, lying and accusing. A man against the devil is a losing match. Only God’s Word is a match (an overwhelming winning match) for the devil! So, in the time of need (including the last hour), we need a prevailing word, a champion, a kinsmen-redeemer, the horn of David, the Christ, to stretch out His arm and win the battle for us.

  55. Em says:

    MLD @ 2:15../ been outside doing chores … I believe (?) it is quite possible to hear the gospel, think “gee, that sounds good..” But the belief is not rooted in good SOIL ( we are dirt) so that there is not a capacity to appreciate or persevere when the ” real” world closes in… There is a whole lot more to unpack on this ponder, but i am wiped out and this little tablet makes it difficult to go back and forth between reading and responding…
    How can we have any sense of security? Well, our Lord says He knows His sheep and doesn’t lose a single one… I suspect that is why so many sheep hang out here on the PhxP… bleeting…?

  56. Are you telling me that your friends don’t use God’s Word at all in their evangelism efforts? If not, they certainly should. If they are using The Word, then the only difference is asking for a response.
    There are certainly scriptural accounts of preaching the gospel, and then expecting a response.

  57. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    Josh – “There are certainly scriptural accounts of preaching the gospel, and then expecting a response.”

    You may be correct but I can’t recall where you are seeing that. Did it happen at Pentecost? There I see the word preached, the holy spirit went out with the word and the people were added to the church. Did they make a decision or were they just converted by the word and spirit?

  58. Jean says:


    I think the difference between an evangelical use of the Word and a classical Lutheran, is that whereas, an evangelical reads the word and asks, what does it mean, what does it mean to me, and what is the application for me.

    The classical Lutheran asks: What does the Word in its context accomplish?

    So within the context of evangelism, the difference is between (i) explaining Christ’s work and how it can be beneficial to the listener, and (ii) applying Christ’s work to the listener for his benefit.


    (i) Jesus, the Son of God, gave His life for your sins and was raised from the dead for your salvation. If you repent of your sins and believe in Jesus, God will forgive you and grant you eternal life. This is doctrinally correct. But it is not, IMO, proclamation.

    (ii) Jesus, the Son of God, gave His life for your sins and was raised from the dead for your salvation. For His sake and by His authority, I as member of Christ’s Church announce the grace of God for you. Josh, God forgives you all your sins, in the name of the Father, and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

  59. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    “If they are using The Word, then the only difference is asking for a response.”
    This may explain it the best;
    We would see the gospel as fully capable of converting the unbelieving soul on it’s own.
    It sounds like you are calling the response / the decision as the active ingredient.
    or you may not mean that. If you don’t, what is the purpose of the response?

  60. “Did it happen at Pentecost? ”

    Absolutely! Acts 2:37 and 38. The people here that word and how how to be saved. Peter tells them to repent and be baptized. No question that there was a response to that message.

  61. Jean – so as I suspected, when you say “decision theology”, you realyy just mean evangelicals. Got ya.

  62. “If you don’t, what is the purpose of the response?”

    Romans 10:9

    If you confess with your mouth…and believe in your heart.

  63. Duane Arnold says:


    I read Luther’s commentary on Romans 10:9… it leaves much to be desired, at least in my opinion.

  64. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    Josh – Paul is speaking to believers in the Roman Church. This is a confession I myself make every day – and I will be saved.
    Are you suggesting that an unbeliever can make this confession?

  65. How can an unbeliever believe in his heart??

  66. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    In other words, these people were already saved by the gospel and their confession, response, whatever you call it is after the fact.

    This also applies to Pentecost – only a believer can repent. Only a believer can follow the holy spirit. As I said, you have the decision as the active ingredient. No Romans 10 confession by the unbeliever and he cannot become a Christian vs my view that once the word and holy spirit convert the unbeliever, then he can make the Romans 10 confession.

  67. Interesting, because you are clearly – CLEARLY – contradicting scripture.

    In Acts, read it again – the people ask “What must we do to be saved”. Does Peter answer, “You are already saved?” No, he doesn’t. He tells them to repent and be baptized.

    In Romans – It is an “if/then” statement. Clearly. If you confess and believe, then you will be saved.

    MLD – You are adapting scripture to your preconceived doctrinal boxes. It is ok to say you don’t understand, but you can’t re-write the bible to your liking.

  68. And regardless of that, you are trying to bore down to the minute details of soteriology to move the goalposts. I said a response was required.

    You said “that once the word and holy spirit convert the unbeliever, then he can make the Romans 10 confession.”

    So you agree that the reponse is required, but assume that the person is already saved. Still you agree that the response is required.

  69. Jean says:


    Unlike MLD, you assume that if the Bible gives an “if” that it can be accomplished an unbeliever. MLD is saying that only a believer will accomplish the “if”.

    When Peter says “repent and be baptized…”, it’s a true statement, but no where does Peter say that a listener can repent of his own volition. The Bible says faith is a gift received by hearing.

    Do you see the difference?

  70. “can repent of his own volition. ”

    Nor did I say that.

    But Peter did tell the crowd to repent and be baptized. I think you agree that they should do that. That is a response. Now, trying to track the exact moment that God grants them eternal life is beond my understanding, but the scripture clearly calls for a response. And you agree.

  71. Mud Man says:

    Years ago some people and I were involved in bring food to street people, you know druggies, bums, mental issues, and such (their called homeless these days). On one occasion another group came to help and set up a preaching station with the basic message being “repent and be saved.”

    When it was done the preachers seemed so excited. It was a good day, and the soul saving count was pretty good. A lot of the regulars had committed them selves to Jesus, been prayed for (praying for individuals was a normal part of our day by the way) and were now going to heaven. With all their success the preaching group left assured they had seen God’s Spirit at work and they shone.

    Like the preachers, I and my group eventually stopped gong with food and clothing to the places our street people hung out at and went about our normal lives of prosperity.

    I often think about all of them, the various men and women, whose names have long slipped away from my consciousness, are doing. Did those who lived on the street die there and what about those preachers, how about them? They were sure excited by their success that day.

    Bless Him because He knows.

    “If you love me you will …”

  72. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    Duane, I was very pleased to see that Luther is your ‘go to’ guy when you need clarification for Bible passages. I don’t use Luther much as I use more moderns who distill Luther for me.

    Without looking at the passage you bring up, I do admit that I find commentaries are notorious for falling short – like all reference books in most fields they tell you what you already know but blow right past your question.
    Did you find the answer you were looking for in other commentators or do you stick with Luther?

    The reason I ask is I don’t think that even an Anglican has expectations that an unbeliever could make the confession Paul calls for in Romans 10 – that Paul is writing to a church of believers and telling them to confess with their mouth this common confession and they will be saved – a continuous action – much like we confess the creed as a group each Sunday.

    So what did Luther say that bugged you?

  73. Jean says:

    One of the points of contention between Erasmus and Luther is whether an individual, unconverted by God’s grace, can perform God’s commands. Luther argued “no,” the will of an unconverted man is bound to sin. (I believe Calvin and Luther agreed on this point.)

    People today have a real problem with this. The modern argument, following in some measure from Erasmus is that God would not command something from man without giving him the ability to carry it out. So, the argument goes, when Moses said “let my people go,” Pharaoh had the freedom of will to say “yes” or “no.” Thus, placing the blame squarely on Pharaoh for saying “no.” However, we know from the story that God predestined Pharaoh to say “no.” He never had the freedom to say “yes.” God didn’t compel Pharaoh to say “no.” He didn’t have to, because the depraved unconverted will of man, including that of Pharaoh, is bent towards evil on its own. The paradox with all bound wills who hear the Word of God is that God doesn’t convert all.

  74. “has expectations that an unbeliever could make the confession ”

    Which was never the question, but makes it an easier argument to win.

  75. Jean says:

    I think a lot of our debates are over human anthropology and the consequences of original sin. Erasmus was a humanist. Humanists, especially post Enlightenment, typically hold to an evolved human anthropology, which doesn’t mesh with original sin, concupiscence, and a bound will. Unfortunately, that goes against IMO biblical post-fall human anthropology.

    The other nagging issue is the modern problem with God’s justice. Many modern theologians want a fair and just God and want to define what fairness and justice are. The alternative is to confess that God is holy, just and loving, according to everything He does. And that requires faith, because we don’t see nor understand the hidden workings of God.

  76. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    Josh, then you have never watched / listened to an altar call by the pros.
    I can almost quote a Greg Laurie who will challenge someone ‘if you would like to know this Jesus come down front here and we will pray with you.’ After the come down, he leads them in the sinners prayer (the unbelievers prayer) and at the conclusion he will say ‘ if you prayed this prayer, and you were fully sincere, then I say welcome to the family.’

    Do you see the cause and effect of Decision Theology / preaching – proper response qualifies you.

    What Jean and I are saying is that person was saved by the gospel before he got out of his seat – in fact that person was saved by the gospel even if he didn’t go forward, instead lit up a smoke and drove home.

  77. Do you think that Pharaoh felt like he was making a decision?

  78. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    Let me just say, this place is a Heck of a lot more fun with Josh here and participating. 🙂

  79. Jean says:

    Josh, yes, I’m sure he did.

  80. Thanks MLD. Had a rough few days and needed some distraction.

  81. “Josh, yes, I’m sure he did”

    So the argument goes that not only does God predestine the decision, he also predestines the actor to feel just like he is making a real decision.

    So the fatalism of breaking down what was real, what was robotic, and who was responsible is really useless.

    Your argument is that God has created a false reality for us, and that it is somehow advantageous to escape that reality. If God predestined me to feel like I really made a decision, the only thing that will convince me otherwise is if he then predetermines that I change my mind.

    It is fatalism, and not worthy of conversation. I propose that we just deal with reality, even if we somehow suspect that it may be a false reality put in place by God.

  82. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    Josh, I think you are not looking at the decision theology stuff from the same angle we are. You are looking at it from the recipient’s side and what it seems to be.
    We, at least me, are looking at it from the preaching strategy side of telling people the result of their preaching is that the individual must weigh it and decide (as opposed to just preaching and letting the word do it’s work.)
    Also as Jean pointed out, the emphasis on asking – “when did you accept Jesus?”

    This is why in our type church (not just Lutheran) you will never see the altar call, you will not hear individual testimonies on ‘how I came to Christ’ and in most cases not hear the song that says “I have decided to follow Jesus…’
    The work of Jesus is proclaimed and allowed to work.

  83. Duane Arnold says:

    As to Luther’s comments – no, I did not find them helpful. As he often did, he simply used the reference to jump off in another direction.

    So, if it is “all on God”, without anything on our part, what is the purpose of evangelism? Beyond that, do we make choices in any meaningful manner? I’ve often heard MLD rail against apostates who have made a choice to leave the faith. How does that work in the world of strict monergism?

  84. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    Duane – huh? did you miss your morning coffee? I addressed this yesterday in a reply to Josh;
    “We decide many things in regular life and even post salvation. Take this morning for example, I had to decide – tightly whities or boxers?
    However, this whole conversation, and the meaning of Decision Theology surrounds before salvation, can you choose to be saved?
    I say no and you say yes.”

    To your question, in strict monergism we do play a role – in my salvation experience, I provided the sin and rebellion and God provided the solution – salvation.
    Post salvation, how we interact with God is a separate matter.

  85. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    one other point – the purpose of evangelism is to make disciples by baptism and teaching (Matt 28) – not to compel a decision.

  86. Jean says:


    “So, if it is “all on God”, without anything on our part, what is the purpose of evangelism?”

    In Romans Paul asks “How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent?”

    Evangelism in incredibly important because, astonishingly, God works salvation through means – human and physical. God delivers His grace through means! Through the ministries of Word and Sacrament. Isn’t that incredible?

  87. “can you choose to be saved?
    I say no and you say yes.”

    No I don’t, by the way.

    Let me ask it this way: You don’t make a decision to be saved, but do you have to make decisions to keep you saved?

  88. ” God works salvation through means – human and physical.”

    But not through a human decision, right?

  89. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    I have so much real life experience (25 yrs) of being involved with decision theology, it makes me question if I was even a Christian during those years.
    I remember Raul Ries used to have what today I consider an odd way of “evangelizing”
    During communion he would tell people that communion was for Christians only (good point!) but if you were an unbeliever you did not need to fret about missing out on the Supper – that if you wanted to participate in the Supper you could become a Christian right then and there – and he would lead people in the sinners prayer, pronounce them a member of God’s family – and proceed with the remainder of the institution.

    I find it odd, but I am probably in the minority.

  90. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    Josh – you confuse me. First you say that you don’t think you can choose to be saved (6:58) and then at 7:00 you ask “But not through a human decision, right?” – which is it?

  91. Jean says:


    “It is fatalism, and not worthy of conversation. I propose that we just deal with reality, even if we somehow suspect that it may be a false reality put in place by God.”

    I promise not to caricature your position, and I would ask that you grant me the same consideration.

    It is not fatalism. It is not a false reality. The reality is that no one is good, no not one. All have fallen short of the glory of God.

    Take another example, what was different about Jacob and Esau in Rebekah’s womb? And what choices did they have. Yet, God blessed only one of them: “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.” “The older shall serve the younger.” God elected Jacob, but not Esau.

    Where is there room for the decision of either one? God converted one, but not the other. Esau made his free choices, but his will because of sin was bound to carry out sin. Jacob’s will was not freed of sin, but converted to God’s will, so that although imperfectly, because of the remnants of sin, he was renamed Israel and became the Patriarch.

  92. I find the whole idea odd.

    According to you, if the gospel its delivered, it does it’s job and people are saved. I don’t know Raul Ries, but you must be claiming that he had not delivered the gospel, because you then imply that those people couldn’t be saved right there in the seat.

    You also question if you were even a Christian, but I bet you heard the Gospel at some point.

    So you seem to be saying that a decision will not save you, but unless you believe that there is no decision, you can’t be saved.

    That’s weird.

  93. Jean – I have no argument with your last post. Your argument will break down if you take the next step, but that’s OK.

    I agree completely with the doctrine of Total Depravity – and believe that no one can come to the Son unless the Father call him first.

    Are you saying that “decision theology” means a rejection of total depravity? Because if so, I reject that kind of decision theology.

    I just wanted to understand what you meant.

  94. Duane Arnold says:

    A good professor friend of mine used to say, “heresy is the result of orthodoxy being taken to an extreme.” I think that monergism, taken to an extreme, runs that risk. Now, you may accuse me of synergism. Synergism, however, taken to an extreme runs the same risk. I’ll take the advice of St. Augustine, “Pray as though everything depends upon God, labor as though everything depends upon you”. In the dispute between Erasmus and Luther, I always have thought that Erasmus had the better argument… also, Erasmus was a much better writer ?.

  95. “But not through a human decision, right?”

    Why is that confusing? Did you read that as a proclamation of some sort, rather than a question? And assuming it was a proclamation, it still declares the negative “NOT through a human decision”.

    I’m assuming you just misread that.

  96. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    Duane – you still make no distinction between our relationship and how we interact with God in our lost condition and how we relate and interact with God post salvation.

    This should be a big spotlight on the conversation. If you are saying there is no difference, then I am at a loss.

  97. Jean says:


    That’s a good question. Just off the top of my head, decision theology could encompass one or both of the following:

    (1) a rejection of total depravity; and or
    (2) a rejection of the means of grace, so that without those means (and apart from God’s Word) God delivers grace to mankind, freeing them of total depravity, so that they can make a decision for God.

    From a strictly pastoral perspective, if I were speaking with a doubting individual or someone afflicted with guilt or shame on account of sin (done either by them or to them), I would point them to God’s decision for them, rather than look inward for the sincerity or truthfulness of their decision for God. In the entire universe, there is only One who doesn’t lie; there is only One who’s will cannot be thwarted; there is only One who is almighty to make good on His decisions; and there is only One who is always faithful. That is where IMO one should look for grace and mercy.

  98. Jean – what do you mean by “means of grace”?

  99. Duane Arnold says:


    Of course there is a difference – especially if we believe in the work of the Holy Spirit. Post salvation there are decisions of obedience, disobedience, etc. In our lost condition I still believe there are choices to be made. If it is strict monergism I have to sign on to absolute pre-determinism and, ultimately, absolute predestination. The choices are, in my view, initiated by the work of God through the Holy Spirit, yet they are choices nonetheless.

  100. Jean says:

    What I mean by “means of grace” is twofold:

    (1) that God delivers the gifts of forgiveness, life and salvation, won for us by Christ’s atoning death, through concrete means. Those means include the Word of God and the Sacraments of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper, which Jesus instituted for the New Covenant. The Word and Sacraments contain the promises of God, fulfilled in Christ, which are delivered as gifts through those means.

    (2) The Holy Spirit is sent forth through the Word of God. That Word, in proclamation and in the Sacraments, delivers the Holy Spirit.

    Does that help?

  101. Jean, yes, that is straightforward. In that case, I am a decision theologian. I don’t believe in sacraments.

    I would be willing to bet that most don’t, when really weighed against your standards, but that’s all good.

    Is a particular view of the sacraments necessary, or just be sacramental and God will overlook the inaccuracies?

  102. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    Duane – when you add the modifier “strict” I think you confuse the issue. Monergism is monergism. There is no “strict” or “loose” – it is what it is.

    I try not to do this often but I will state in a general way the Lutheran position. God’s word – preached and written converts people all by itself. God has his ways and purposes and we do not understand them.

    Two guys sitting next to each other in church week after week listening to the same gospel message. One is converted and one is not. Why the one and not the other? – this is called the cross of the theologian – we do not know.
    But if one says it is by “making a decision” (and all that it may entail) then salvation comes by decision making – the one is guy saved because he chose wisely and the other guy remains lost because he did not.

    But that is the Lutheran position and I guess there are reasons the whole world is not Lutheran. 🙂

  103. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    Josh – here is the question. Do you believe that Jesus uses physical means to save people? That should be simple. I know in my 25 years with Calvary Chapel and the SBC I was taught the answer was no.

    What say you?

  104. Is preaching a “physical means”? What about the bible?

    If so, then yes.

  105. Duane Arnold says:


    As you know… I know the Lutheran position very well, I just don’t agree with it.

  106. “Two guys sitting next to each other in church week after week listening to the same gospel message. One is converted and one is not. ”

    Did that not also happen at Raul Ries’ church?

  107. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    You are in big company – most in America today do not believe that God’s word going out converts souls all on it’s own.

  108. “God’s word going out converts souls all on it’s own.”

    With no need of sacraments, church attendance, or anything else?

  109. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    Josh the D – “Did that not also happen at Raul Ries’ church?”
    Yes, I believe it happens in all Christian churches.
    The problem is neither you nor Raul believes it happened all on its own by the preaching of the gospel.

  110. Jean says:


    “Is a particular view of the sacraments necessary, or just be sacramental and God will overlook the inaccuracies?”

    The answer to that question is above my pay grade. I would only feel comfortable saying that to deny the grace promised in Baptism and the Lord’s Supper is to miss out on the means by which Jesus wants to bless you.

  111. “The problem is neither you nor Raul believes it happened all on its own by the preaching of the gospel.”

    But you just said that God saved the people, regardless of Raul’s flawed methods. The result is the same. My deficient beliefs don’t end up hurting God’s mission. So you may feel superior, but in practice, we are on equal ground.

  112. Duane Arnold says:


    I also have some problems with how soteriological monergism affects our view of the two natures of Christ as defined in the Sixth Ecumenical Council… but that is a discussion for another time…

  113. Jean says:


    Just to clarify: The Gospel is preached in the Sacraments. The Word is what makes the elements of water, bread and wine efficacious.

  114. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    Josh – yep
    Remember – the word of God, preached and written are means of God’s grace being delivered / sacraments.
    But is general – yes.

  115. Michael says:


    To respond to your earlier comment…anyone who has read here for five minutes knows I struggle terribly with some aspects of the faith.
    What I’ve never struggled a minute with is the existence of God…because I experienced His presence at a very young age in a time of great crisis.
    This discussion as a whole has been removed from it’s historical context.
    The Finney soteriology stated that “faith” was intellectual assent to a set of doctrines and the need wasn’t for supernatural conversion, but persuasion of the “sinner”. Thus, we received the “anxious bench” which was the intermediate state between saint and sinner that was later superseded by the altar call to close the deal.
    God in His mercy uses all these innovations to accomplish His purposes.
    I was baptized as a baby by clergy who didn’t believe in infant baptism according to the wishes of a family that didn’t believe in it either.
    Beats hell out of me…but it seems to have worked…

  116. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    Josh – “The result is the same. My deficient beliefs don’t end up hurting God’s mission.”

    Not entirely true. You do damage and get people to question their faith each time you ask “did you make a decision for Christ?” They may, and many do think to themselves – “perhaps I did not do it right. Perhaps I wasn’t sincere enough. What were my real motives? So, there is damaged done by decision theology proponents – even though God’s word was sufficient. The stealing of comfort is a big deal.

  117. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    Josh, if you ever want to see how decision theology sucks all comfort out of a Christian – the next time you are out and someone asks you about “how and when you came to Christ” or they ask you to give your testimony – tell them you were saved when you were one week old when your parents took you to church to have the word of God preached over you at your baptism.

  118. So God only controls that one instant of salvation, but doesn’t protect the faith or grow the faith?

    Because you are claiming that God saved someone in Raul’s service who was then seconds later damaged by Raul’s invitation. That’s a REALLY fragile salvation.

  119. “you were saved when you were one week old when your parents took you to church to have the word of God preached over you at your baptism.”

    Why isn’t that more effective? Most of those babies apparently don’t “stay saved”.

  120. “The Word is what makes the elements of water, bread and wine efficacious.”

    But the Word cannot make an invitation effective?

  121. Michael says:

    “Why isn’t that more effective?’

    We could ask the same question about virtually any Christian ritual or system…

  122. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    I didn’t say he lost his salvation. But you missed the point I tried to clear up much earlier – you are looking at the effect on the decision maker – I am saying the fault is on the preacher and the theology he speaks that says the word is not sufficient – a decision is required.

    But we have probably beat this to death – it started when you said there was no category. Hey, if your church body does altar calls you preach decision with a purpose, you live the category.

    But believe me, that is OK – as we have learned here over the years, all things we say are just our opinion. As I said to Duane, there are reasons not everyone is a Lutheran – although they should be. 🙂

  123. Jean says:


    Thank you for bringing Finney into the conversation. That is a spot on historical reference point.

  124. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    Most of those babies apparently don’t “stay saved”.

    how do you even know that? what indication do you have?

    I could say that most “decisioned” adults don’t or they try the “do over” method. Check out the old Gallop and Barna info on the 5% who remain Christians within 5 yrs of the crusade.

    My theology allows that people walk away from the God given gift they have been freely given.

  125. “We could ask the same question about virtually any Christian ritual or system…”


    But we never really know if that baby’s salvation took until the baby either follows Christ or doesn’t. We could dunk every baby in the world and it would not change the number of people saved at all.

  126. Jean says:


    “The Word is what makes the elements of water, bread and wine efficacious.”

    But the Word cannot make an invitation effective?”

    That is another great question. The Word doesn’t do our bidding. In other words, we don’t institute the means of grace; Christ did. Our means do not carry with them God’s promises.

    God’s Word is effective when it is properly employed. One can worship the wrong god, or they can worship the right God in the wrong way. An invitation to make a decision to enter God’s kingdom is an example of worshiping the right God in the wrong way.

    Now, I am not condemning everyone ever born who made a decision for Christ based on an invitation. But echoing MLD earlier, in my opinion, for those who are Christians I would say that their decision followed their conversion, but perhaps they don’t recognize it that way.

    Does that help?

  127. “you said there was no category”

    Wanna quote me? I simply asked Jean what he meant by that statement. It is not listed in systematic theologies.

  128. Jean says:

    I caution against pitting the promises of God in His Word against rationalism or experience. We walk by faith, not by sight.

  129. OK, so “repent and be baptized” is God’s Word, correct? So if that were the invitation, would that be valid?

  130. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    Jean – I don’t condemn anyone who “makes” a decision – I do condemn the preachers who preach it as required.
    As I said much earlier on, the likes of Finney, Sunday, Graham and Laurie all pronounce making the decision as necessary. In reality, it is our old Adam sticking his nose in our salvation saying – this is the part I do.

    Heck, I wouldn’t want to disrupt the 6th Ecumenical Council 🙂

  131. Michael says:

    These arguments bore me…Jesus saves and He uses lots of different means to do so.

    The question that Duane’s articles raises is much more important to me…have I given all of myself to the Jesus that saved me?

    What I see is that Jesus gets the “religious ” parts and the rest…my political opinions, my financial decisions, a hundred other things…all belong to me.

    This…often makes religion worthless.

  132. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    It’s not an invitation to the unbeliever – that is a command to believers.

    How can an unbeliever repent? He is an unbeliever.

  133. Josh says:

    “their decision followed their conversion, but perhaps they don’t recognize it that way.”

    Exactly. And I’ve heard a Calvary Chapel pastor make that point on these pages over and over. He says he tells people who respond to the invitation that they were saved before they ever started the walk.

    I don’t know. all of that is very much in the weeds. When is the exact moment that eternity starts? That’s above me.

    The distinction of whether a decision was made is very small in the scope of it all, and as we agree, does not negate salvation anyway.

    Any manipulative tactics should be condemned and abandoned, and “decisionists” would be the most guilty on that front.

  134. Michael says:

    “I caution against pitting the promises of God in His Word against rationalism or experience. We walk by faith, not by sight.”

    I caution against those who think experience isn’t an important aspect of how we inform our faith.
    Reminds me of the old joke about the Christian Scientist who went to hell…he kept repeating “it’s not hot and I’m not here”…

  135. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    Michael – “have I given all of myself to the Jesus that saved me?”

    My answer to the question is “no I have not and I never will this side of glory.” (but Jesus sees me as if I have.)

    How would others reply?

  136. Duane Arnold says:

    My reply would be that I try, but I often fail…

  137. Michael says:


    I find that answer to be my main issue with Lutheranism.
    No, we will not walk in complete righteousness in this life and yes , we are accounted righteous despite that.
    However, this does not mean we are not to strive to be better Christians and better representatives of Christ.

  138. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    See Michael, this is where you always go off the rails. Nowhere did I speak of my effort or striving to accomplish God’s will. That was not your question – so let me restate it and then you give your reply to that one question;

    ““have I given all of myself to the Jesus that saved me?” – this should be a yes or no – anything else is religious spin.

  139. Michael says:


    The question itself is spin.
    We all fall short…but are we attempting to grow in grace through the Spirit?
    I do believe in the process of sanctification.

  140. Josh says:

    Hmm, now that’s another interesting question to consider.

    My first answer, without trying to sound dismissive, would be that I want to rest in the finished work of Christ.

    My striving hasn’t accomplished much.

  141. Jean says:

    When we speak of sanctification, there are two senses in which I understand it is used:

    In the first sense, Christ is our sanctification. We are perfectly sanctified by Christ’s blood given through the means of grace. In this first sense, sanctification is given to us all at once.

    In the second sense, there is an ongoing sanctification of the Christian accomplished through the means of grace. However, this too is God’s work, not ours.

    How could a human being make himself, or contribute to his own, holiness? Holiness is an attribute of God without an analogy in creation. In other words, creation is the realm of common things.

    Thus, only God can transform a common thing into a holy thing (that is what sanctification is) by sharing His holiness with us. Therefore, no human striving sanctifies a person.

    Any moral conduct that a Christian might strive for could be matched by a non-Christian, but the non-Christian remains common and unclean and one would never call him or her sanctified.

  142. Michael says:

    “Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord.”
    (Hebrews 12:14 ESV)

  143. Josh says:

    Yeah, Hebrews can be scary at times 🙂

  144. Em says:

    Reading all this morning i find myself wondering if our Lord is chuckling at this thread or frowning….
    Talk about a forest and trees issue….
    Time, perhaps, to stop and ask am i pursuing God (absolute, holy and beyond my ken – ? ) or am i pursuing religion?
    As i read everyone here, i think i see personalities of the Redeemed… God created and God treasured… As some here prove – IMO – salvation is real and in some ways a mystery in its depths…
    More experienced than understood? Perhaps… Dunno, truly don’t know…

  145. Jean says:

    “Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord.”
    (Hebrews 12:14 ESV)

    If one were to use the term cooperation, or participation, this verse would offer a good example. How does one strive? By continuing in the church, by continuing to meet together, by continuing to receive the blood of sprinkling that speaks a better word than that of Abel.

    This verse does not say that our striving sanctifies us.

  146. Duane Arnold says:


    A question… (or two) How does one make the decision to continue in the Church?
    How does one make the decision to continue to meet together? Do those decisions, even if prompted by the Holy Spirit indicate something that we are doing on our part?

  147. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    It is funny how when a verse like this is ripped from it’s context that it gives a whole new meaning – and turns gospel to law.
    This isn’t a passage commanding us to strive for holiness for the sake of striving for holiness. This is a message of grace in how we are to help ourselves and help our neighbor strengthen each other, heal each other (v.12&13 – then v. 15 calls us to see that no one misses out on the grace of God – not by beating sanctification into them but by coming alongside each other – and in doing so, we will rid each other from bitterness and hopefully help those who become defiled along the way.

    When this verse is ripped from it’s context, it stands alone from the whole message of Hebrews.

    I am amazed – when we spoke earlier about conversion it turned into, yes but I have my part – my decision. Here we see in challenging people to be sanctified it is now, OK, he is my part – this is how I ‘strive’ for holiness. And then it filters down into the sermon – don’t leave without you sanctification to do list for the day.

  148. Jean says:

    “How does one make the decision to continue to meet together? Do those decisions, even if prompted by the Holy Spirit indicate something that we are doing on our part?”

    Yes, of course, Duane. That is what I meant by cooperation or participation. Even the Divine Service is a liturgy (i.e., work of or on behalf of the people). God gathers His people in order to serve them with His gifts, including sanctification.

  149. Jean says:

    If anyone is interested in diving into the deep end of the pool on the topic of sanctification, take some time to unpack the following verse:

    “Consecrate yourselves, therefore, and be holy, for I am the Lord your God. Keep my statutes and do them; I am the Lord who sanctifies you.” (Lev. 20:7).

    There is enough in this verse to write a whole article. And it still applies in principle today for Christians, though the ritual statutes are different in the New Covenant.

  150. Duane Arnold says:

    Jean (at 12:31)

    Ah, you see, I consider that “cooperation” part of the process of sanctification, i.e. our part.

  151. Jean says:

    Glad we’re in agreement on that point, Duane.

    It is also a point of contact with your article that am in agreement with:

    “Nevertheless, they lived their theology, day by day and week by week. They lived it by gathering, caring for one another, listening to what was said and asking questions.”

  152. Good convo today friends. Appreciate it.

    Thanks Michael for the space.

  153. Jean says:


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