White Horse Inn Blog

Know what you believe and why you believe it

Ryan Glomsrud on Office Hours

Dr. Ryan Glomsrud, the Executive Editor of Modern Reformation and Associate Professor of Historical Theology at Westminster Seminary California was recently interview on Office Hours to discuss what books he would want to have with him on a desert island.

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That Word Above All Earthly Pow’rs: The Kingdom of the Cross Under the Sword of the Crescent

Newsweek‘s current cover-story is “The Global War on Christians in the Muslim World,” by Ayann Hirsi Ali, who fled her native Somalia and served in the Dutch Parliament before taking a position at the American Enterprise Institute. As the article points out, widespread anti-Christian violence is exploding even in countries with Muslim minorities. How do we respond wisely as Christians to this growing threat?

1. Prayer

First, the crisis calls for concerted prayer on behalf of our brothers and sisters under the cross. More Christians have been martyred in the last several decades than in all of the centuries combined—including the early Roman persecutions. We are directed by Christ to pray first and foremost for the coming of his kingdom, come what may. But we also are called to pray for the “daily bread” and protection from temptation that become especially critical needs under persecution. Corporate and private prayers for all the saints, especially those under the cross, should be high on our list.

2. Faithful Witness

Second, instead of watering down the faith, Christians in the West should stand with fellow saints who are witnessing to Christ even to the point of death. It’s striking that when Paul, writing from prison, asks for prayers on his behalf, he does not even mention better conditions. The gospel is his overriding passion. The “prisoner of Christ” asks for prayer “that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains, that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak” (Eph 6:19-20).

The temptation is great to tone down the radical message of the gospel. A growing trend in evangelical missiology, known as the “Insider Movement,” encourages people to become “Jesus followers” while remaining Muslims. They need not profess faith in Christ publicly, be baptized, or become part of the church; they may continue to be Muslims outwardly. In the church’s first centuries, a similar challenge arose. Many, including some bishops, claimed that they could remain Christians inwardly while outwardly surrendering their Bibles and any public identity as believers. Excommunicated, they were known as the “lapsed,” and this gave rise to the well-known statement by the third-century bishop and martyr Cyprian, “Outside the church there is no salvation.”

In the West, including the US, there is a growing detachment from public identification with Christ, including baptism and membership in the church. Emergent church leaders encourage people to become “followers of Jesus” while remaining Hindus, Buddhists, Jews, or Muslims. After all, it’s “deeds, not creeds.” There is growing reluctance to witness openly to Christ for fear of being perceived as narrow-minded and intolerant. While we eschew all appeals to temporal power, much less violence, for the spread of Christ’s kingdom, we must pause to consider the seriousness of Christ’s claims not only in the face of martyrdom but in the face of the more subtle forms of compromise that are weakening our witness at home and abroad. While brothers and sisters sit in prisons for their testimony to Christ, their greatest disappointment is to learn that some Western missionaries are encouraging what amounts to apostasy. It’s a policy that doesn’t even make sense pragmatically, since the duplicity of “Muslim followers of Jesus” outrages the Muslim community even where Christians and Muslims live in relative co-existence.

Controversy over Wycliffe Bible Translators for apparently softening the references to Jesus Christ divinity as the eternal Son of the Father raises further suspicions that we in the West may be losing our nerve just at the moment when Christ is calling his sheep to martyrdom around the world. I had the privilege of participating in a film directed by Bill Nikides. Soon to be released, “Half Devil, Half Child,” includes interviews with Christians in the Muslim world, as well as Muslim leaders. A trailer can be seen here (www.halfdevilhalfchild.com).

3. Human Rights, Not Just Christian Rights

Third, Christians in the West should advocate publicly for human rights, including religious freedom, as part of the universal mandate of neighbor-love. Ramez Atallah, an evangelical leader and general secretary of the Bible Society of Egypt, reportedly counseled, “It’s not to our benefit to have loud voices overseas talking about Christians. It’s a great benefit to us to have loud voices abroad talking about a more universal bill of rights for all Egyptians.” (See that article here).

WHI-1087 | The Sermon on the Mount

The Sermon on the Mount is one of the most beloved and yet often misunderstood passages of the entire Bible. Many think of it as a blueprint for the gradual improvement of the human race through pacifism, love and generosity. But is Jesus talking to the world in general, or to his disciples in particular? Is this sermon exclusively about ethics, or does it also include the gospel? How should we interpret the Sermon on the Mount? That’s what’s on tap for this edition of the White Horse Inn.

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God’s New Society
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God’s New Society: An Introduction to the Sermon on the Mount

The Sermon on the Mount is one of the most beloved—and often misunderstood—passages of the whole Bible. Some come to Jesus’ famous speech as if it were a blueprint for the gradual improvement of the human race through love rather than law. At the other extreme are those who say that it has no place in the church today, but is entirely relegated to a future “kingdom age.” In between there are various interpretations that we’ll encounter along the way.

The first thing to do is set up the context. Who is Jesus addressing? According to Matthew’s Gospel, “Seeing the crowds, Jesus went up on the mountain.” This was not in order to broadcast his voice to the thousands, but rather to escape the crowds: see also Mark 1:32-37, John 6:1-3; 6:15, for similar actions. Proof of this is the fact that he sits down and looks up at his disciples. In other words, the sermon is given to a more intimate crowd of his followers (i.e., those who followed him up the mountain).

Looking at the structure of the synoptic gospels, this address could be seen as an ordination sermon given to his disciples at the time of the selection of the twelve apostles (Matt 5:1-2, Lk 6:13, Mk 3:13).

Matt 4:1-11 – Temptation of Jesus
Matt 4:12-17 – Ministry in Galilee
Matt 4:18-22 – Calling of individual disciples
Matt 4:23-25 – Teaching / Healing ministry in Galilee, resulting in great crowds
Matt 5:1 – Jesus ascends a mountain and sits down. Many of his disciples come to him
Matt 5:1-2 – Sermon given to his disciples: “when he sat down, his disciples came to him. And he opened his mouth and taught them…” He is not standing on top of a mountain addressing the crowds below.

Luke 4:1-13 – Temptation of Jesus
Luke 4:14-43 – Ministry in Galilee
Luke 5:1-39 – Calling of individual disciples
Luke 5:23-25 – Teaching / Healing ministry in Galilee, resulting in great crowds
Luke 6:12-16 – Jesus ascends a mountain, and appoints apostles from a large group of disciples
Luke 6:20 – Sermon given to his disciples: And he lifted up his eyes on his disciples (looking up assumes a sitting position).

Mark 1:13 – Temptation of Jesus
Mark 1:14-15 – Ministry in Galilee
Mark 1:16-20 – Calling of individual disciples
Mark 1:21 – 3:12 – Teaching / Healing ministry in Galilee, resulting in great crowds
Mark 3:13-19 – Jesus ascends a mountain, and appoints apostles from a large group of disciples. The exact same structure is present here, but Mark does not include the sermon…

Where is this Sermon in the history of God’s unfolding drama? Its focus is the kingdom of God, also called the kingdom of heaven, which Jesus is bringing into the world. This kingdom is not something that human beings are building, but a gift that God is giving. That’s why it’s called “the good news of the kingdom,” not “the good program of the kingdom.”

God commissioned Adam and Eve to rule and subdue, to be fruitful and multiply, and to fill the earth. From its capitol in Eden, God’s reign was to be spread to the ends of the earth. Israel, too, was called to guard and keep God’s sanctuary, driving the serpent from his garden, living in love and peace together, spreading the kingdom from its capitol in Jerusalem. As we read in Hosea 6:7, “Like Adam, Israel broke my covenant.” And, like Adam, Israel was sent into exile “east of Eden.”

Yet through the prophets God directed Israel’s hopes to the coming Messiah and a deliverance that was based solely on his mercy. It was based on the Abrahamic promise rather than the Mosaic law; the oath that God swore to Abraham, not the oath that Israel swore at Mount Sinai.

The promise God made to Abraham was of a temporal land, the land of Canaan, that would be typological of a greater promise—namely, the whole world, everlasting life in God’s holy presence. He also promised him a seed—numerous physical descendants, but that was typological of something even greater: a redeemer-seed in whom all the families of the earth will be blessed.

So it’s this Abrahamic promise that the prophets appeal to as Israel lies in exile, poor in spirit, persecuted, meek, and hopeless. The prophets proclaim a coming day when God’s glorious presence will overflow the Jerusalem sanctuary. It will cover the whole land of Israel (Ezek 37:25-28) and then the whole earth (Isa 54:2-3; Dan 2:34-45). The nations will come to Zion (Amos 9:11-12; Is 2:3-4; 11:10—12). Isa 26:16-19: “You have increased the nation, O LORD, you have increased the nation, your are glorified; you have extended all the borders of the land.” God tantalizes his people with the vision of a highway running between Israel and its erstwhile enemies, including Egypt and Assyria, as together they are all called the people of God and worship as one body. Is 26:18-19 prophesies “deliverance for the earth” and “the earth will give birth to the departed spirits.” In chapter 27, it’s like a new Garden of Eden and Israel will at last “fill the earth.” All of this is rooted in the promise to Abraham: “In you and your seed all the families of the earth will be blessed” (Gen 12:1-3).

So clearly already in that promise to Abraham, the expanding of Israel, both geographically and numerically, is not limited to ethnic Jews. The Messiah, David’s own Lord as well as descendant, will “rule from sea to sea, and from the river to the ends of the earth” (Ps 72:8). In Ps 2 Yahweh promises the Messiah, his Son, “I will give the nations as your inheritance and the ends of the earth as your possession” (Ps 2:8). Ps 37:11 promises, “But the humble will inherit the land” (the phrase “inherit the land” is repeated in vv 3, 9, 18, 22, 29, 34). Furthermore, this is no longer in the conditional form: they will inherit it “forever” (v 29) and the wicked will but cut off forever, without inheritance (vv 9-11, 28). The earth (v. 5) is the kingdom of heaven (v 3). This is the “age to come,” referred to in inter-testamental Jewish sources, with roots in the prophets (Is 60:21: “Then all your people will be righteous; they will possess the land forever, the branch of my planting, the work of my hands, that I may be glorified”).

This is the stock of prophetic hope from which the New Testament draws when it speaks of Christ as Abraham’s promised seed and the kingdom that he brings as a gift of grace. As Paul tells us in Romans 4:13, “For the promise to Abraham and to his descendants that he would be heir of the world was not through the Law, but through the righteousness of faith.” In fact, the word for “world” here is not just the earth (ge), but the whole cosmos. Romans 8 teaches that the whole creation is longing to join in the cosmic liberation that will arrive when the saints are raised in everlasting glory. Hebrews 11 teaches that Abraham was justified through faith, longing for a greater (heavenly) land. And in Revelation 21 and 22 we finally see the new heavens and earth, risen afresh in a glory never seen before, cleansed of all unrighteousness, violence, suffering, and death.

This kingdom is a gift, an inheritance. Like the inheritances we are familiar with, it’s not something we attain, build, or earn. It’s something we hear about. We are made beneficiaries of it. But how? And what kind of new family, what kind of new society, does this inheritance create? All of these questions are addressed in Jesus’ famous sermon.

It is significant that Jesus does not begin with commands, but with blessing. In the old covenant, national blessing was held out as the condition for national obedience: “If you do this, you will live long in the land that I am giving you; if you don’t, you’ll be cut off and exiled from the land.” Yet Jesus, the Mediator of the New Covenant, reverses the order here. The blessing is greater than that of the old covenant, just as the reality is greater than its shadows. And the blessing is surer than that of Sinai, because it is grounded in God’s promise to give an everlasting inheritance gratis, as a free gift. The law still has its place. It still commands good works, but these are not conditions for remaining tenants in God’s land, but an inheritance for children whom he adopts in the Son of his love. Because our elder brother has fulfilled the whole law, the commands are not conditions for us to fulfill, but the appropriate response of thanksgiving in view of the mercies of God.

WHI-1086 | Faith & Experience

Which is more important, Christ’s objective work on the cross 2,000 years ago, or my subjective experience of God today? The good news that the Apostles announced concerned Christ’s death, burial and resurrection, and the announcement of that objective fact creates faith and a rich experience of thankfulness and gratitude. But what happens if we preach experience itself, rather than the objective work of Christ? On this special edition of the program recorded live at Grace Lutheran Church in San Diego, Michael Horton and Rod Rosenbladt unpack the relationship between faith and experience.

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Christ Alone
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You Win!

Thanks to the 358 commenters on our 20th Anniversary post. Using a random number generator, our staff chose 11 winners.

The grand prize winner is David Crabb who will receive a signed Horton library, a one-year subscription to MR, and five one-year subscriptions to give to his friends. Our ten other one-year subscription winners are:

  • Scott
  • Dan
  • Vince Canilla
  • Brian Thornton
  • Ashwin Ramji
  • Prayson Daniel
  • Daniel
  • Robert Caron
  • Mark Stumpff
  • Phillip

Congratulations, too, to the winners of Justin Taylor’s contest. His post generated 460 entries/comments!

One of the best things about this contest was reading your many, many comments about White Horse Inn, Modern Reformation, our hosts, and your memories. We passed along many of your comments to the staff and hosts. It really encourages us to hear how our work is making a difference for you.

If you didn’t win, you can still take advantage of our 20 years for $20 anniversary special. This is the lowest price we’ve ever offered for the magazine. In addition to the print version (published six times per year), you’ll also have access to our digital version, which can be read on any smartphone or tablet device, and you’ll get immediate access to twenty years of our archives!

We’re also offering a special bulk subscription rate for pastors and churches, which will allow you to purchase individual copies of the magazine for bulk distribution for only $1 apiece.

You can take advantage of both of these deals by calling our office at 800.890.7556 or go online and complete your purchase there.

Happy Birthday Modern Reformation!

There are many folks who are familiar with the White Horse Inn radio show, but aren’t as familiar with her slightly younger sister Modern Reformation magazine who is turning 20 years old this year. To make her ready for the birthday celebrations she underwent a complete make-over, which was revealed in the January/February 2012 issue. The editor-in-chief of Modern Reformation, Dr. Michael Horton, recently answered some questions about MR and why we think it contributes to the conversation taking place within the church today. The video and transcript are below.

When did you start Modern Reformation, and most importantly, why?
Modern Reformation actually grew out of a newsletter, and we didn’t have very high expectations for it initially. It was one of those things that just sort of caught on. It grew out of the experience of a number of us, first at Biola University, and then when I became a student at Westminster Seminary California. It was sort of a cottage project of a bunch of folks who were learning Reformed theology on the fly. It became interesting to other people, and then we included, actually right from the very beginning, Lutheran writers, and people from Calvinistic Baptist backgrounds, as well as Reformed and Presbyterian. So right there at the outset, Modern Reformation established itself as a cross-pollinating conversation among the various Reformation traditions.

The reason we started it was because we thought that there was a real place for this cross conversation between various representatives of the Reformation churches. Not because we want to create some sort of united church, but because we want to take the treasures from all of the different traditions that hail from the great rediscovery of the gospel in the 16th century, and bring them to bear on the topics of interest to us as Christians today. It’s not just going back to the Reformation. It’s sort of like finding all sorts of cool things in the attic from your grandparents, and bringing them downstairs and trying them on. And then really learning how the great contributions, the conclusions out of important debates can really help us think through the controversies and challenges and opportunities of our own day. As Dr. Bob Godfrey says, we often try to reinvent the wheel, and it’s never round. A lot of people have gone before us, and hashed out a lot of issues that are still of great importance to the church today. We saw a place out there for a magazine like this, because really there was nothing in the same category out there. There are magazines for pastors, mainly about how to build a church, and how to put together a successful ministry; there are magazines out there for Christian parenting, for all sorts of special interests. But we thought that all Christians – men, women, parents, children, adults, teenagers, grandparents, grandchildren – would find theology interesting, and as it turns out, they have. And that’s one of the reasons why we’re so grateful for the blessing that God has given to Modern Reformation over these 20 years.

Where does Modern Reformation fit in the world of Christian publishing?
When you think about what Modern Reformation’s place is out there in the marketplace of magazines, it’s odd. We kind of straddle the fence between a popular magazine and a theology journal. It’s clearly not a theology journal – we don’t have a bunch of footnotes, we don’t go into great detail, we don’t explore some of the more obscure themes and figures in church history. At the same time, it’s not really just a popular magazine that focuses on news of the day, or a Christian take on this issue or that issue. It’s really more serious than that. So it’s sort of a serious magazine. And that is not exactly a place that’s occupied out there in the marketplace. There are great magazines and periodicals out there that do what Modern Reformation does not do, like TableTalk, Ligionier’s publication. But Modern Reformation is an attempt to take Christians to the next step, as far as a magazine goes, into exploring what they believe and why they believe it.

There are great resources out there for devotional use and edification from a Reformation perspective, but Modern Reformation, I think, is distinct in that it is an attempt to really rebuild the furniture, or the categories of Christian faith and practice, to remind ourselves once again what we believe and why we believe it.

Who reads Modern Reformation?
That’s interesting – we think that we know the readership of Modern Reformation until we actually conduct surveys, and of course they’re not scientific surveys; we ask people to respond who read the magazine. What we get is really quite a cross section of people from different traditions: mainly Reformed and Presbyterian, but also Lutheran, and also Baptist, Evangelical Free, even Pentecostal, and Roman Catholic subscribers, and certainly people from the Anglican churches. So it’s really exciting to see the diverse discussions across the traditions that are happening today. People are looking for something deeper than a few thoughts for the day.

Why do you still write MR articles after 20 years, and is there still a place for the long form essay in a magazine in our bit-driven world?
I’ve been writing in the magazine for these 20 years regularly because I find that it is a really important outlet for me in my teaching ministry. I’m always encouraged when people tell me that they’re going over it in their family devotions, or they’re working through it as a couple, or with their family, or that their teenagers are getting excited about theology, and wanting to graduate from reading an article on a subject in Modern Reformation to reading a book that was recommended in that issue. That’s such an encouragement to keep on writing for it. I’ve learned so much also myself from this conversation. I learn a lot from reading the articles of other contributors from other traditions. It really helps us – iron sharpens iron, and sometimes we don’t even know our own tradition very well, until someone outside of it comes to us and says something that we haven’t heard before, and we go back and we find that actually, our folks did say some things about this. So that’s been a really exciting journey for me personally.

I do think that there is a place still for the long essay form. Again, if it’s not technical, if it is clear, if it is addressing the questions that people are asking – not just giving them the truth in the form that we think we would like to give it, but asking the questions that we think are on their minds, and then forming articles around that. There’s been a lot of talk about the demise of books in our day. But one of the things that especially publishers have been fond of pointing out is the explosion of publishing companies and of distribution points – I don’t think Amazon.com has really gotten the news that books are over. “Its death,” as Mark Twain said, “is greatly exaggerated.” I think the same goes for tougher essays. “Essay” sounds so academic, but an essay in terms of a 4,000 word article that outlines why this is important, goes to the Scriptures to ground that argument, talks about the history of Christian interpretation on that subject – that’s very vital for everyday Christians. I think we forget just how prepared Christians in other ages were to read pretty difficult stuff, theologically. That’s a discipline that we need to recover. It’s only when we’re told that we can’t understand something that we give up. But we find, I think, when we pick up a strong bit of material, that a good meal is worth the wait.

What makes a good conversation for Modern Reformation?
I think there are lots of factors that go into making for a good conversation for Modern Reformation. One is selecting the topics that are of interest to a wide spectrum of Christians. The other is to find writers who are gifted in communicating that to people in the pew. You have to really be motivated to
read Modern Reformation. It’s not the sort of thing that you can just pick up and digest in five minutes. You have to make a commitment to it–not because it’s difficult to understand, but because it requires patience and investment of time and energy in poring over. That, I think, creates a good conversation. You put good topics, important topics, together with good communicators, and I think that’s one of the things that make Modern Reformation really distinctive.

What roles does Modern Reformation have in the theological pilgrimage of its readers?
One of the funny things that I hear from time to time is that people who are in churches that are not, let’s say, exactly in the Reformation camp, get their Modern Reformation and walk out of the office with it in a brown paper bag. Then they go home and digest it, and are excited about it, and then they start passing it around to their fellow pastors and elders and people in the church. We’ve heard about wonderful things happening, reformation happening in churches as a result of people having the conversations in person that we have in the pages of the magazine.

Modern Reformation is passed around a lot. We know that a lot of people who don’t subscribe read it, that it does get passed around. We have a lot of anecdotes regularly coming in along those lines, and that’s exciting, because it means that kindling is being placed in fireplaces all over, and hopefully fires are burning, and people are talking about these transformative doctrines again, in ways they haven’t, perhaps, in the past. It’s something that really is a great gift to give to pastors, to give to elders, to give to people in the church you know who are interested in digging a little more deeply into their faith. It kind of shows that you have confidence in them as gifted spiritual leaders, that you value their ability to pore over a magazine like that.

We also are in the middle right now of a redesign that’s very exciting, because now Modern Reformation will be a lot easier to put in that brown paper bag, or to put in a booklet. It’s a booklet size and the paper is going to be of a type where you can write on it easily and take notes. So you can really use it as a companion for your own reflections on the Scriptures. The way the word gets out about Modern Reformation - we don’t have a large staff or a large marketing budget at all – the way it gets out is because people like you pass it around. What we often find is that once people start reading it, they get hooked. R.C. Sproul says that it’s the magazine he reads from cover to cover. That’s the way it is, that’s why it takes some time. You get sort of into it and you don’t want to stop reading. I’m not usually like that with magazines – I’ll read an article here, an article there. But I think Modern Reformation, for a lot of people, is the magazine they read from cover to cover.

Moving from West to East? | Mike Horton on Office Hours

In recent decades a large number of evangelicals (and some Reformed folk) have left the evangelical faith for some version of Eastern Orthodoxy. Recently the CBS news program “60 Minutes” claimed that the Eastern Orthodox church is only unbroken tradition in Christianity. In the latest episode, Office Hours asks Mike to tackle these questions and more.

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Celebrating 20 Years

This year marks the Twentieth Anniversary of the publication of Modern Reformation magazine. In an era of disposable information (and media) this is no small milestone. We’re grateful to you and our many supporters over the last twenty years who have helped make this celebration possible. We want to share our joy by inviting you to participate in a contest to win a free one-year subscription for you and five of your friends plus a Mike Horton “library”: signed copies of The Christian Faith (Christianity Today’s 2012 book of the year in theology/ethics), For Calvinism, the Twentieth Anniversary edition of Putting Amazing Back Into Grace which includes a DVD of Mike teaching on each chapter, the Christless Christianity trilogy (Christless Christianity, The Gospel-Driven Life, and The Gospel Commission), A Place for WeaknessIntroducing Covenant Theology, A Better Way, and Where in the World is the Church.

This is probably the easiest contest you’ve ever entered! Just leave a comment below by Thursday at midnight (PST). We’ll randomly choose one comment to win the grand prize. We’ll also choose ten more comments to win one-year subscriptions.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you don’t win, you can still take advantage of our anniversary special: 20 years for $20. Get a one-year subscription to the magazine, which includes access to 20 years of archived content on our website for the ridiculously low price of $20. At this price you should buy a subscription for everyone you know! (Ok, maybe not everyone, but at least one or two people that you really like.)

Ok, are you ready to play? Just leave a comment below and you will have “entered” the contest. (Make sure you give us a working email address, otherwise we have no way of contacting you!) Not sure what to say? You don’t win based on the quality of your comment, but here are a few suggestions:

  • Tell us when you started reading Modern Reformation
  • Who introduced you to Modern Reformation?
  • Where do you like to read Modern Reformation?
  • Any articles/issues that stand out? made you mad? led to an “ah-ha!” moment?
  • Or, you can simply wish us happy anniversary

But wait! There’s more. You have TWO chances to win! Our friend, Justin Taylor, is helping us celebrate by running this same contest on his blog. You can leave a comment there and get a second chance to win.

WHI-1085 | For or Against Calvinism? (Part 2)

On this edition of White Horse Inn we’re airing the conclusion of our conversation between Michael Horton and Roger Olson on the role of God’s grace versus human freedom in salvation. This event was inspired by two books recently published by Zondervan: For Calvinism, by Michael Horton, and Against Calvinism, by Roger Olson.

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For Calvinism
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Click here to purchase the audio of this entire conversation
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