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Apologetics

Renewing Your Mind / R.C. Sproul
The Truth Network Radio
November 5, 2023 12:01 am

Apologetics

Renewing Your Mind / R.C. Sproul

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November 5, 2023 12:01 am

If you were asked right now why you believe in Christ, would you be ready to give an answer? From his sermon series in 1 Peter, today R.C. Sproul provides instruction on the discipline of apologetics, explaining how to give a reasonable defense of the Christian faith.

Get R.C. Sproul's Expositional Commentary on 1 & 2 Peter for Your Gift of Any Amount: https://gift.renewingyourmind.org/2973/1-2-peter-commentary

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The only leap of faith you're to take is you're to jump out of the darkness and into the light. When you become a Christian, you don't park your mind in the parking lot and leave it there. We are called as Christians to think. To make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that's in you.

As R.C. Sproul just said, we as God's people are to be a thinking people. We use our minds. But would you say that you're always ready to give that defense? To supply the reason why you're a Christian? Well, I'm so glad that you're joining us today for the Sunday edition of Renewing Your Mind. Today only, we are featuring a sermon from Dr. Sproul's 1 Peter series and the often quoted verse 1 Peter 3.15. Today is also the only day that Dr. Sproul's expositional commentary, the hardcover edition on 1 and 2 Peter, can be yours for a donation of any amount at renewingyourmind.org. So what does it mean to give a defense, and how should we pursue that in a society that prefers feelings of effects and many ways over one way? Well, here's R.C.

Sproul. Well, tonight we're going to continue our study of the first epistle of Peter, and tonight's message I think will be more of a lecture than a sermon because in the text we are encountering something that is of great importance in the life of the church historically and a matter that is in constant crisis in our own day, which we'll see in just a moment. And rather than operate on the pretense that I'm going to be able to cover a large segment of this text, I'll let it be said at the outset that that will not be the case. And so I'm going to read tonight from chapter 3 of 1 Peter, beginning at verse 15 and ending at verse 15. So to hear that verse, I'd ask the congregation to stand for the reading of the Word of God. But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you with meekness and fear, semicolon. The Word of God for the people of God. Thanks be to God. Please be seated. Let's pray. Again, O Lord, as we turn our attention to Your Word and encounter such weighty matters that are in verse 15 of chapter 3, we ask that You would be patient with us and in Your patience add grace for our understanding of these things, for we ask it in Jesus' name.

Amen. There's a technical phrase that scholars use about particular texts of the Scripture, and that technical phrase is the phrase locus classicus. Now that doesn't refer to an insect that comes every seven years to devour our crops, but it's simply a fancy way of calling attention to what is deemed to be a classical location, locus classicus, a classical location of a text that in many ways is a proof text for a particular doctrine or mandate of sacred Scripture. One of the subdivisions of the study of theology is that subdivision called the science of apologetics, and the science of apologetics has to do with providing an intellectual defense of the truth claims of Christianity.

And this science and discipline of apologetics finds its classical biblical location in 1 Peter 3.15. Now before we endeavor to unpack that, let's look at the beginning portion of the text that says this, but sanctify the Lord God in your hearts. And so the first clause has to do with the responsibility of every Christian to do something with respect to their hearts. So what is in view in the first part of this passage is not the mind but the heart. We go back to the Old Testament where we read that as a man thinketh in his heart, so is he.

I've mentioned that to you before that the Old Testament text did not commit an error in human anatomy and thought that the organ for thinking was the heart rather than the brain, but rather the Jewish concept there is it's not simply what we think in our minds that determine how we live, but rather that thinking that goes deeper than the mere intellectual grasp of something and penetrates into the very core, and that's an intended pun, into the very core of our humanity, which is our heart. There are lots of things that we accept with our minds and pay lip service to, but never get to the deepest dimension of the inner chamber of our hearts. So it's not what a person professes to understand with his mind that determines how he lives, but rather which truth penetrates the heart that determines how he lives, what we call our core values or our core beliefs, those that get to the heart. Over twenty-five years ago, I collaborated with my mentor John Gerstner on a textbook, an academic work in the field of apologetics, and the title of that work was Classical Apologetics, which involved a setting forth of the historic position that Christians have taken to defend the truth claims of Christianity. And the second half of the book was the offer of a critique against a movement that arose in the twentieth century, not only in general Protestantism or even general evangelicalism, but in the Reformed world, which rejected classical apologetics and sought to substitute a new approach, which I will look at briefly in a little while.

But that particular book is still in print and has provoked quite a bit of discussion in the intellectual world, and it indicates that your pastor here is one who holds a minority report in apologetics in the contemporary Reformed community, but which minority report may be minority in our day, but it is clearly the majority report in church history. But in the beginning of that work, I made a paradoxical statement when I said that when it comes to the Christian faith, we have to affirm the priority of the heart and the priority of the mind. And of course that immediately sounds as something of a contradiction, because how can you have two things holding an equal spot of top priority? Well, obviously I took the time to qualify that paradoxical statement by saying that the heart holds a priority in one sense, but that the mind has a priority in a different sense.

Well, what were the two senses? Well, the priority of the heart is the priority of importance. In the final analysis, it's the disposition of your heart towards the things of God that weighs more heavily than the correctness of your theology. And yet on the other hand, I said there is a priority of the mind, and though the priority of the heart is first in importance, the priority of the mind is first in sequence.

Well, what do I mean by that? It means, dear friends, the truth of God cannot get to your heart unless it is first processed by your mind. Your heart cannot embrace something that your mind finds completely unintelligible.

Now, it's important for us to make that distinction, because if we divorce the heart from the mind and try to get to the heart by bypassing the mind, what you have in the first instance is a blind emotionalism that has no valid content to it. And there are many attempts in contemporary worship to do just that, to appeal to feeling without thought. And there are people who say it doesn't matter what I believe as long as I have this warm, fuzzy feeling in my heart for Jesus. Again, I've heard people say to me, I have no creed but Christ. It doesn't matter what you believe as long as you embrace Jesus.

That bubble is burst as soon as we ask the question, Who is Jesus? Because the moment you try to answer that question and to say something meaningful and intelligible about the identity of Jesus, you are now engaged with thinking, and your mind is brought into the matter. Well, this priority of heart over mind is spelled out here in this text where the first thing that the Apostle says is that we are to sanctify our hearts unto the Lord God.

To sanctify means to set apart, to consecrate in an act of devotion. The Apostle Paul told us to present our bodies as a living sacrifice. Now the Apostle Peter is saying the first thing that you must do to grow in your faith is to set your heart in devotion to Jesus.

That's the top priority. But after that admonition to consecrate your heart to the Lord God comes the next part of the text, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you with meekness and fear. Now we are told always to be ready.

In a sense, the motto of Peter here is as if he had joined the boy scouts because it is be prepared. And that preparation is to make you ready at any moment to give this defense and the reason for the hope that is within you if you are dragged before magistrates, if you are on trial for your faith that you are prepared to say why you believe what you believe. When your neighbor says to you, I observe, notice that you are a Christian, why are you a Christian? What is it that you believe? And you try to answer that question, and their next question to you is this, why do you believe that?

Are you ready to answer that question at any moment, at the drop of a hat? To tell people not only what you believe but why it is that you believe it. Now the classical and now too often politically correct cop-out that Christians use is, I just take it on faith. And you hear the language that we are to take a leap of faith, not basing our faith upon the credibility or the rational character of the truth claims of the Bible, but when we hear the summons of the gospel, we just without any reason just take a leap of faith.

As I say, that is a total cop-out and is a complete violation of this text. The only leap of faith you're to take is not one into faith, but you're to jump out of the darkness and into the light. When you become a Christian, you don't park your mind in the parking lot and leave it there. We are called as Christians to think and to think according to the Word of God, to seek the mind of Christ, to seek the understanding of those things that are set forth in sacred Scripture. This is a big book, and every bit of it I believe has been inspired by God the Holy Spirit, and ultimately the author of this book is God. But this book is given to us by God to be understood.

And you can't understand it if you close your mind to the careful study of it. Now here Peter says that we are to stand ready to give what the English translation calls a defense to everyone who asks for a reason for the hope that is within you. The word here in the Greek that is translated defense is the Greek word apologia.

Do you already catch what English word might come from it? An apologia may be translated as an apology. And so it says that every Christian is to be prepared to give an apology to all who hear us, but this does not mean apology in the sense that we say to people, please excuse me for being a Christian. I'm sorry that I'm so illiterate and irrational.

I just can't help it. I've been jumping into the darkness through my leap of faith, and so please bear with me. That's not what the text or the word means. It means indeed to give a defense. And the whole science of apologetics began in the New Testament itself when the Apostle Paul would go in every town that he visited in his missionary journeys, and he would go first to the synagogue and also to the agora or the marketplace, and he would reason together with the people who were there, and he would declare the truths of Christianity and give a defense of them. The most clear example of that is when Paul came to Athens and went to the meeting place of the philosophers at the Areopagus, and there disputed with the Stoics and the Epicureans, the philosophers of the day, and entered into intellectual argument with them. Now in the first century, after the apostles passed from the scene, this science of apologetics developed even further and on into the second century, and we see, for example, Justin Martyr as being one of the most important early Christian apologists, and his most famous writing was simply titled The Apologia or The Apology, which he addressed to the Emperor Antoninus Pius. And the purpose of apologetics at that point was in the first instance to be a defensive activity in order to defend the church against the false charges that were spread abroad in the empire against them. For example, in Justin's day, Christians were being accused of being atheists because they didn't embrace the pagan polytheism of Rome or the worship of the emperor in the emperor cult. And because they wouldn't worship the emperor, they were also accused of sedition, of being traitors to the empire because they wouldn't worship Caesar.

And they were also accused of cannibalism because rumors were circulated that the Christians would meet together in secret and devour somebody's body and blood, that serious distortion of the celebration of the Lord's Supper. And so what Justin Martyr did on the one hand was he clarified what it is exactly the Christian church believed, and he told the emperor, we are not atheists. We are committed theists, but we believe in a God who is one and not many as in the mythological religion of the Roman pantheon. And it is true that we do not worship Caesar, but it is part of our religion to be scrupulously obedient to the civil magistrate.

We pay our taxes. We pray for those who rule over us. We drive our chariots according to the speed limit, but we will not consider Caesar as a deity.

We won't recite the loyalty oath that says, Kaiser curios Caesar is Lord, but rather we say, Jesus ho curios, Jesus is Lord. Then he went on to explain what was going on in the Lord's Supper, which was far from cannibalism. And so the first task of the apologists in the early church was to correct the misapprehensions and distortions that were spread abroad about what Christianity was and what Christianity believed. But beyond that, Justin Martyr and other apologists entered into discussion with the great philosophers of Greek thought and developed a positive rational defense of the truth claims of Christianity. If we fast forward to the greatest titan of theology in the first thousand years, St. Augustine.

St. Augustine labored in this capacity to defend Christianity against pagan philosophers and to show the intellectual superiority of Christianity over Neoplatonism, Manicheanism, and other philosophical rivals to Christianity. And in that defense, Augustine talked about the role of reason in the Christian faith. And he said, for example, that God's revelation is completely unintelligible unless it is understood by the mind. Reason is part of the constituent makeup of human beings made in the image of God.

God Himself thinks, and His creatures made in His image also are called to think and to think clearly and to think rightly. Now Augustine did not believe that naked reason had the power in and of itself to climb up to eternal truths without the aid of God's revelation. And he said that we are dependent upon God's revelation for all of our understanding of truth, whether it be biblical truth, theological truth, or scientific truth. Augustine argued that we are as dependent as human beings on understanding the truths of science upon the revelation of God as the eyes are dependent upon some source of light to see anything. We have been equipped with appropriate organs, optic nerves, and the like to be able to see things.

All that we need to see is built into our human structure, but without the external manifestation of light, we won't be able to see anything. Therefore Augustine said that the Christian ought to learn as much as he can about as many things as he can because all truth is God's truth. And that God's revelation is not limited to the pages of Scripture because Scripture itself tells us that beyond Scripture, God reveals Himself in and through nature. I would trick my students with a question in the seminary when I would say, how many of you believe that biblical revelation is infallible? And they would raise their hand. And I say, how many of you believe that the revelation that God gives in nature is infallible and they wouldn't raise their hand?

I say, wait a minute. This is God's revelation. How could His revelation be fallible? It's not fallible when it comes to the medium of Scripture. It's not fallible if it comes to the medium of nature.

We're the ones that are fallible, not God. And so that would provoke all kinds of questions and discussions about the relationship between natural science and biblical truth. But again Augustine dealt with the fact that the New Testament speaks of faith in distinction from reason and says, as the author of Hebrew says, that faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. So there is a distinction between faith and reason. But beloved, even that biblical text talks about faith as being something of substance. The faith of which the Scriptures speak is not empty. It's not ephemeral.

It's substantive. And it is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. By faith we know that the worlds were made through the Word of God. Now Augustine looks at that and he said, okay, there are certain things that we believe without having a complete knowledge about them. We don't have the total scientific evidence to know that the universe was created by the Word of God. We have the testimony of the Scripture to that end, but none of us were eyewitnesses of creation.

We don't have first-hand experience of those things, and so we take it on faith that what the Bible says is true with respect to creation. Now Augustine wrestled with that and said, is that therefore unreasonable? You know, I've been limping around now for a few months with this bad leg, and after my surgeon did the surgery on my knee, he gave me a very negative report of the condition of my knee and said, I think that you're going to have to get your knee replaced. I've talked to at least three other doctors since that time, and a couple of them said, yes, you ought to do that.

And the other two said, you ought not to do it, at least at this point. You ought to wait and see whether or not the full healing takes place before you go and have your knee replaced. Well, I don't know what kind of condition my knee is in except at how I feel. I'm not an expert in medicine.

I'm not an orthopedic surgeon. And yet when I need help in these fields, I go to experts in the field who have demonstrated expertise, and I seek their opinion, which at some point, ladies and gentlemen, I have to just trust them. And that is true of every human being in the world that every day you have to put faith in sources of truth that you cannot personally verify. Now the question is, when we put faith and trust in the people who have demonstrated a track record of expertise, is that reasonable, or is it an irrational leap in the dark?

Augustine asked those questions in his day. He understood that people had to take on faith a lot of things that they didn't see. But the question is this, is it reasonable to trust God when He tells us about things that we do not see? This is critical to the Christian understanding of faith. There is nothing in my imagination more reasonable than to trust the integrity of God's revelation.

I can't think of anything more irrational than to elevate your own sight as the final arbiter for what is true. God has demonstrated in His Word and in history that He is eminently trustworthy, and to be trustworthy means to be worthy of our trust. And so Augustine says we trust things that we cannot see.

It is a provisional acceptance unless or until these ideas are proven to be demonstrably false. But faith is that which is based upon trustworthy evidence. John Calvin in his classic work of the Institutes of the Christian Religion gave his defense of the Bible as being the Word of God. He spent a whole chapter giving reasons why the church believes that the Scriptures come from God. These reasons that he advanced he called in the Latin version the indicia, or the indications that something may be true.

The word we use for that is evidence. And then he goes on from there and says that the heart of man is so opposed to the truth of God that despite the overwhelming evidence of the truth of God, fallen creatures still refuse to submit to it. And unless or until the Holy Spirit works with that evidence and open your eyes to see this truth, you will not submit to it. But the point Calvin made is of vital importance. But he said when the Spirit does change the disposition of your soul and change the darkness that holds you captive against the truth of God, you don't believe against the evidence, which is what a leap of faith would be. But Calvin said you acquiesce into the evidence. So the Spirit causes us to submit to that which is objectively true.

And Calvin made also another important distinction between proof and persuasion. John Warwick Montgomery, the Lutheran apologist, tells the story of a man by the name of Charlie. His wife tries to rouse him from bed to go to work, and Charlie won't get out of bed. She comes in and she said, Charlie, you've got to get up or you're going to be late for work, so come on, get out of that bed and go to work. And Charlie says, I can't go to work today. His wife says, why can't you? And Charlie said, because I'm dead.

His wife said, Charlie, that's the most ridiculous excuse you've ever given to try not to go to work. You're perfectly well. You're perfectly alive.

Now get out of that bed and go to work because I can't. I'm dead. And no matter how she reasoned with him, she wasn't able to convince her husband that he was alive and well. He persisted in saying that he was dead. So she called the doctor, and the doctor came and listened to his heart and took his blood pressure, checked all of his vital signs and said, Charlie, you're alive and well.

Now you need to get out of bed and go to work. He said, I'm sorry, doctor, your instruments are wrong. I'm dead, and I know it. So the doctor thought, and he thought, how can I convince Charlie that he's not dead? And he went on to say, Charlie, do you know that what happens when a person dies, their heart stops beating, and when their heart stops beating, they no longer push blood through the blood vessels, and so dead people after they're dead don't bleed. And he took Charlie down to the coroner's office, and he poked a needle into the cadavers that were there and proved to Charlie that dead people don't bleed. And so the doctor said, now Charlie, do you believe me that dead people don't bleed?

And he said, yes, you've proven it to me. So the doctor said, come here, Charlie, give me your finger. And he took his thumb, and he pricked his thumb with a pin, and Charlie's thumb began to bleed. The doctor said, what do you think now, Charlie?

Charlie looked at his bleeding thumb, and he said, well, I'll be. Dead men bleed after all. That's what Calvin meant between the difference between proof and persuasion. The proof may objectively be compelling, but because of the hardness of the heart, people will not submit to it. In our day and age, there are three schools of thought with respect to apologetics that compete with each other. One is that school that is broadly held in evangelical circles, usually among Arminians, which view is called evidentialism.

Now please, if anybody, if you ever tell somebody that you come to St. Andrews and that your pastor is R.C. 's pro, you might hear them say, oh, yes, I know who he is. He's an apologist, and he's an evidentialist.

And you can tell them, oh, no, he isn't. But the evidentialist position is this, based upon sense perception, empirical study, that the evidence for the existence of God is raised to such a high probability that only a fool would refuse to submit to it. That is, the evidentialist says that the rational evidence and the empirical evidence for the existence of God is so overwhelming that the probability quotient for the existence of God is astronomical. There is no legitimate reason to reject it in light of the abundance of evidence. However, as dramatic as that evidence may be, it falls short of absolute logical proof of the existence of God. Classical apologists, on the other hand, from Thomas Aquinas and on down through the ages, even in Reformed circles like Benjamin Warfield and Charles Hodge and in the South, the Thornwell and Dabney, all believe that the evidence for the existence of God is compelling and that one must opt for irrationality to deny the existence of God.

That's the classical approach of Anselm and others, and it's the approach of your pastor. I believe that the case for the existence of God is not just highly probable but is absolutely logically compelling. The third group is that group that has swept the allegiance of Reformed people throughout America called presuppositionalism that says that the only way you can come to the conclusion that God exists is by presupposing that God exists in the first place and that all people have presuppositions upon which they build their thought processes and the godly presupposition that you must begin with is the existence of God. The Bible does not seek to prove the existence of God. It simply declares it in the first verse of sacred Scripture, In the beginning God created the heavens and earth. No attempt to prove that there is a God.

And in fact to even argue from nature and from reason for the existence of God is, in their view, to fall into the trap of a kind of humanism that exalts the human mind above the Word of God. Now I don't have time tonight to give the whole discussion about that, but simply to say that is the prevailing view in most Reformed circles today, and it's a circle that which I have not been willing to dance. But we notice here in the text that after we sanctify the Lord God in our hearts and we are to be ready to give an apologia, a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope, not a feeling, but a reason. This issue has become so muddled in our day that some of our modern translators want to say that what we are to give is not a reason for the hope that is within us, but to give a word about it, to give a message about it, because the Greek word that is there is the word logos, and you're familiar with that.

If you don't know any other Greek word, you know that one. In the beginning was the word logos, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. And so we have that word logos in such an elevated fashion in the prologue to the gospel according to Saint John. If you look at the Latin text, the word the Latin text used is razionem, reason. Give a reason because one of the translations of logos is reason. We get the word logic from the Greek word logos.

The late Gordon Clark, Christian philosopher of the twentieth century, even went so far as to translate the preamble to the gospel of John this way. In the beginning was logic, and logic was with God, and logic was God. Now he did that almost with his fingers crossed, knowing that he would be accused of elevating reason to the level of divinity. But what he was saying is that rationality comes from God Himself, that God is a rational being, and He relates to His people in a rational way. Just recently outside of this church and outside of this city, I've been involved in a very serious controversy involving a scholar who has been teaching that biblical truth cannot be understood by reason, but only through some kind of mystical intuition. It's exactly the position that the heretical Gnostics took in the second and third century who thought their mystical apprehension of truth was superior to the apostles because the apostles relied on their minds. And again the criticism comes that if you rely on your minds to understand the content of the Christian faith, you have submitted to the dreadful heresies of rationalism.

I was involved in discussion with this particular professor, and I said, I'm afraid that you are having a problem with suffixes, particularly the three-lettered suffix –ism. And I said, when you talk about rationalism, what do you mean? Are you talking about Cartesian rationalism of the seventeenth century? Are you talking about Enlightenment rationalism as opposed to Revelation in the eighteenth century? Are you speaking about Hegelian rationalism that deified reason itself of the nineteenth century?

And he was completely unaware of those radically different three types of rationalism. But to say that you're a rationalist because you say that Christianity is rational simply does not follow. One can be rational without being a rationalist just as one can be human without being a humanist or can exist without being an existentialist or be feminine without being a feminist.

You put that suffix on the end, you change everything. But what I'm pleading for on the basis of Christian Scripture is for you never to negotiate the principle that the faith that we receive, the truth that we receive from God is rational. It's not irrational. It's not illogical.

It's not absurd. And to say that the Word of God is irrational, contradictory, or absurd is to accuse the Holy Spirit of speaking with a forked tongue. No, dear friends, as Peter himself says, we don't claim carefully conceived myths and fables, but we declare to you what we have seen with our eyes, what we have heard with our ears, the sober truth of the Word of God, which is intelligible and reasonable for any reasonable person to embrace.

Dear friends, this is such a tiny, tiny, tiny introduction to this subject. We could spend the next six weeks easily just on this text since one of my disciplines that I've taught for forty years is apologetics. I'm tempted to do that, but I don't want to just park my car at verse fifteen and never get on with it. But I want you to see that we are called to give an apology, an apologia, to give a reason for what it is that we believe in. As we will see hopefully next week along with that, that we are to do it with meekness and with fear, not with an arrogant spirit and not with cold hearts. I read a book when I was in seminary written by an Anglican apologist who gave one chapter that was devoted to the subject of what he called the treason of the intellectual. And he pointed out that one of the reasons why there is a crisis of faith in the church today, one of the reasons why people in the pew no longer trust theologians, is because it has not been the atheists who have taken Christ away where we cannot find Him. But most of the cynicism and skepticism that floods our Christian colleges and seminaries come from those so-called Christian professors who have committed treason against their Lord.

But the answer to that is not to surrender the rationality of the faith to the skeptic and to the cynic, but to stand toe-to-toe with them and demonstrate their falling. Let's pray. Our Father and our God, we thank You that we can understand with our minds what You promise us in Your word and that those things that we trust are worthy of that trust. Convince us all the more, O God, of the verity of Your word, that we may live by it in peace and in trust. For Jesus' sake. Amen. Growing up as an unbeliever, I was convinced that there was no evidence to support the Christian faith. In fact, I believed in faith, really, that the evidence actually disproved what the Bible taught.

But that's not the case, and we can and we must give a defense for the hope that's within us. Ligonier Ministries has many resources to help you do that, including R.C. Sproul's commentary on 1 and 2 Peter. You can request this hardcover volume today only with a gift of any amount at renewingyourmind.org. This will not be our featured resource offer next Sunday, so be sure to respond today at renewingyourmind.org. For further help knowing what you believe and why you believe it and how to make that defense, download the free Ligonier app for thousands of free resources to browse. And while you're in the app, listen to the Ask Ligonier podcast each week as we answer biblical and theological questions. That's just a small taste of some of the ways Ligonier Ministries seeks to come alongside the church, all made possible by your generosity. Next week, we'll be in Matthew's Gospel, when Jesus tells his disciples to pray the Lord of the harvest, to send out labourers into his harvest. So join us next Sunday here on Renewing Your Mind. .
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-11-05 18:07:43 / 2023-11-05 18:22:31 / 15

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