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Posts Tagged ‘Christianity’

killer mike

Secularist love to promote the idea that religion is responsible for most of the deaths and wars in our world. They confidently reference the Salem witch trials, where 20 people were tried and executed. The Crusades of the Middle Ages are also mentioned often as a means to support the claim (estimates range from 1-3 million dead); a series of wars fought by professional soldiers on both sides. Recently rapper Killer Mike was a guest on Real Time with Bill Maher and responded to the opinion of Bill O’ Reilly that rap music was responsible for violence. Mike demonstrates a complete lack of understanding regarding, history, religion, and his own worldview. He also seems to have a self created idea of what Hip-hop is and his contribution to it. What results is a very weak argument against religion and a disturbing solution to the problem of violence (religion).

Hip-Hop vs. Rap Culture

I agree and appreciate Killer Mike in regards to the history of Hip hop. He is correct that it started as a peace and entrepreneurial movement combining various skills and art (elements) together for a purpose. These would become the pillars of the culture now known as Hip-hop. He then however proceeds to deny that rap music in any way influences violence. I am a Hip-hop head. I am not as old as Mike, but I remember when Hip-hop shifted from story telling, to gangsta rap. For sure, stories were still told. The narrative however changed from, “Let’s keep a unified and positive movement going and let the world know about the injustice we are suffering under.”, to “murder and violence are actually virtuous and badges of honor. To not engage in violence and crime is to have no credibility.” This is a huge paradigm shift, and its one that Mike has perpetuated and profited from. The current mentality and message of most mainstream rap music is antithetical with the origins of Hip-hop. This is one main reason why I conclude that style is not enough to make one apart of a culture. Modern rap culture is in may ways influenced by Hip-hop to be sure, but it is not Hip-hop. Rap culture is a newer and perverse anti-type of Hip-hop culture.

One Bloody Century

Killer Mike claims that his music, and that of the Rap Culture (which he misleadingly labels and lumps together as Hip-hop) has nothing to do with creating or influencing violence. He instead blames the “three Abrahamic religions” and their “books” (I will not engage here in the massive injustice he does to the issue by lumping Christianity together with Islam and Judaism.).In fact, the first thing we ought to do as a society, as a solution to violence, is to do away with these religions and their books. Killer Mike then proceeds to mention that after religion is gone, the next focus should be on government oppression. I find this very interesting. Mike is making a claim that the main cause of violence in society (and I assume the world) is religion. However recent history tells a completely different story. Just the top ten evil world leaders of the past century (rated as such by kill counts) are responsible for an estimated 140 million deaths. This is more than all of recorded world history, including all wars, outbreaks and natural disasters up to the 20th century, combined. Let that sink in. Not one of these “leaders” were Islamic, Jewish or Christian, but rather, atheist, communist and socialist. In fact many of their victims were those who dissented due to their religious convictions and their refusal to throw away or deny the teachings of their holy “books”.

Something really disturbing about Mike’s plan is how similar it is to that of some of these evil leaders. Mao ZeDong, Communist ruler of China from 1949-1976, ordered the confiscation of church facilities and destruction of Bibles as well as the arrest and/or execution of thousands of Christians. There are historically three waves of intense persecution of Christians by ZeDong: 1. The Communist Party first comes to power in 1949  2. The Great Leap Forward  3. The Cultural Revolution. The banning of Christianity and punishment for those even suspected of the crime was a constant situation, but these three eras mark extreme and intentional, violent persecutions. Today in China, Christianity is flourishing even though it is still illegal, and many Christian leaders are saying that Christendom itself has shifted to the East, as the West becomes more and more settled in the thinking and policies of the Enlightenment. Killer Mike seems to have a similar idea in his solution. I hope he understands that not only is his theory of religion and violence in history seriously flawed, but also that the conclusion he builds based on his premise actually has been seen played out in history as persecution against the religious. These persecuted religious were at times, the main resistance to the tyranny. A clear example of this would be The Confessing Church, a church and seminary that operated illegally underground in Nazi Germany smuggling out Jews in an underground railroad system. These Christians spoke publicly against the Third Reich. They also plotted and attempted assassinations on Hitler himself. I could go on and on, but the point I believe is clear: Killer Mike’s plan is to remove a very important and active worldview that has resisted secularist oppression and tyranny in our modern era.

The Gospel of God as the End of Death

I would like to offer my opinion on how violence can be done away with in the world.  As a Christian in the culture, I am told to serve and renew my communities. Serving means the giving of time, resources, body and words. Hip-hop and Rap Culture both have serious needs and shortcomings, as every human culture does. The “Book” I ascribe to and obey is the only source where actual diagnosis is given and where solutions are presented. Killer Mike seems to believe Hip-hop is special in regards to the needs it has. Though there are culturally unique challenges that must be addressed as unique, the underlying issue is the same with the whole of humanity. According to the Bible, the “book” which provides the explanatory framework for Christianity, humans are valuable because they are created in God’s image. Indeed, “Image Bearer” is the definition of “human being” in Scripture. We have been created and therefore belong to God as his possession. We are beautiful because he is beautiful. We create as imitators of our Creator. We long for justice and cringe when it is absent, because we are humans. All humans at some level understand and are attracted to justice as creations in the image of the One who loves justice and indeed its only source.

This good God, is also the active and reigning King of all the earth. This is where understanding who Jesus is and what exactly he did is crucial. Jesus died in order to defeat evil and death. This is the core of the ‘gospel’ (good news) message. Jesus resurrected, not only for the shock value of a grand finale miracle that would top all his previous ones. He resurrected as a declaration of his power in his victory over his enemies. Remember the scene in Troy when the two armies were facing each other? One side brings out a giant champion and the other side is waiting on Brad Pitt. When Brad, or rather Achilles, finally arrives it is clear that he is responsible for fighting the giant gent on the other side. Why do they do this? The Kings decide it is best to have their two best fight it out rather than have many of their men and resources destroyed in a battle. The rules are clear, the two champions fight to the death and the armies they represent will share their fate. What is true of the champion is true of their people. Well Brad wins, he usually does, and his victory is victory for his men, though they didn’t lift a finger. The huge dead man representing the other side means that the men he was representing, lost that day as well, of course not as bad as the dead guy. Watch the scene here.

This is the idea that the Apostle Paul is communicating in his New Testament Epistle to the Romans. In chapter 6 we learn that all who have faith in Jesus and have been baptized, are now to understand that they have a new identity with him, vs. 1-6. What is true of Jesus, is true of his people, who are all who have faith in him. In the beginning of this text, Paul says that the resurrection was the defeat of death, Romans 1:4. Death is an important character in the biblical narrative. God hates death. Like any King, he is severely insulted by the vandalism and destruction of his image. And not only that, but death is the champion for sin, which is bringing brokenness and injustice to all of God’s creation, including the ecology itself (see Romans 8). Romans 5 says just this, that sin “reigned in death”, vs.21. When Jesus resurrected from the grave, defeating death, he didn’t just defeat death, he defeated all that death was representing as champion of that kingdom. Sin, which was reigning in death, was defeated as well. Lets unpack this thought. If death, the great power of sin, terrorizing and destroying as sin’s champion, is defeated, what does that mean for all the powers and authorities under it? I’m referring to all those things not as strong and mighty as death. They are defeated as well, not only because their champion is dead, but because they, who are weaker, can in no way resist the power of Jesus and the Kingdom he has ushered into this world.

This means that no government, evil dictator, torture campaign, or army can hold power over the people of God. Many empires, rulers and authorities have tried to defeat the Kingdom of God and stop its advance, yet it expands over the earth. Death is no longer scary, the kingdom of sin is no more. Violence exists today and is a terrible thing. Evil is most heinous but Secularism still fails to give justice to how terrible it is. The Bible however does not excuse evil or explain it away. Its bad. There is no justifying or reasoning with it, it must be destroyed. Jesus Christ has defeated evil and therefore is the only way broken humans can be made whole. He is the only way sinners can be forgiven and transformed from wretches to restored image bearers. As horrible as death and violence are, these are temporary institutions, doomed to destruction and extinction.

In this current time, violence and evil seem to still be strong and full of vitality. However, what many perceive as strength, is actually panic and desperation. “Sin will be no more” is the end of the Biblical narrative. In Isaiah 2, the prophet is shown a mountain that is higher than any other peak on the earth. This mountain is the Mountain of the Lord and upon it sits a City shining bright as a beacon to the nations of the earth. This “City on a hill” is where all humanity is to live, and indeed we see that the nations and peoples are drawn by the light of the liberty and justice of God’s Law up the mountain and into the city. The peoples of the earth all say,

Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem. Isaiah 2:3

This is the solution to violence and wickedness, the law of God. He has defined liberty and justice, life and flourishing. His Law preserves justice for the society that comes and lives on his holy mountain by the light of his word. The practical result of living according to his law is the end of violence, which is what Killer Mike, and indeed most of us, want:

And he shall judge between the nations, and shall rebuke many people: and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more. Isaiah 2:4

God is the only one who can end violence in this world, and in sending his son to suffer the violence of evil, he has guaranteed his resolve and victory:

He makes wars cease to the ends of the earth. He breaks the bow and shatters the spear; he burns the shields with fire. Psalm 46:9

Killer Mike claims to want to end violence by doing away with religion, when in truth, the end of violence and all evil is the goal and end of true religion.

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sea

In ancient literature, the sea is at times an image used to depict chaos and evil. The ancients, in common with their predecessors, had a hard time justifying and understanding the dark that seemed to exist inappropriately in their world. The Sea was a powerful and mysterious thing, completely out of human control. The great armies of the most powerful rulers on earth were powerless and themselves at the mercy of the sea. It was thought that monsters lived there and great storms could come out of nowhere, seemingly under the command of the gods, and swallow the largest and best equipped of ships, or entire fleets.  Every great people tells of their difficulties with the sea. From the mighty Egyptians of ancient times to our own Gulf Coast in recent years, it is known that the sea is powerful to destroy any who are too close or too comfortable. It is vast and even with modern technology and incredible amount of focus on it, the sea is still as much a mystery and out of human control as it was tens of thousands of years ago. Mankind is no match for the sea.

The Christian story is one full of this imagery. In the opening scene of Genesis there is nothing but the sea and the Spirit of God “moving over the waters”, Genesis 1:2. God’s power is displayed when he, with just a word, places the mighty sea within its boundaries therefore creating land. This is a reoccurring praise of God’s power and authority in Scripture as seen in Job 38:10, Proverbs 8:29 and Psalm 104:9. God is Lord of the sea. He alone has established its limits and he alone has authority over it.

The Exodus narrative acknowledges this with powerful and dramatic displays. The first plague in Egypt is one such example, Exodus 7. The mighty and life-giving Nile was the domain of Hapi, a favored god of the Egyptians. He was responsible for the waters flowing and bring the soil enriching silt every year. The annual flooding was known as the “arrival of Hapi”. He was, at a time in Egypt’s history known as the creator of all things. The Nile was turned to blood by the God of Israel as a direct overthrowing of Hapi from his place of authority. Even the god of the Nile, the loved and worshiped, Hapi, was not able to control the sea. This plague demonstrates that Yahweh alone is Lord. Indeed all the plagues of Exodus were direct challenges to and victories over the major deities of Egyptian culture.

The Red Sea would be a dead-end, resulting in death and misery, for any who found themselves between it and a vengeful and pursuing Egyptian army. The Israelites themselves saw their own death sentence as they stood before the waves of the sea, “they became very frightened”, Exodus 14:10, and they cried out to Moses, “Is it because there were no graves in Egypt that you have taken us away to die in the wilderness?” vs. 11. God was victorious over Hapi, he had demonstrated his authority over the Nile. What now of this enormous sea that expanded out before them? We know the story and indeed it is repeated and re-imagined all throughout the rest of Scripture. God has Moses raise his staff and the waters part before the people allowing them to cross unharmed. The Egyptians do not have the same experience, they are swallowed up by the deep as God brings the waters down upon them. It was believed by the Egyptians that Pharaoh was a god, yet he was not able to safely pass through, nor deliver his mighty army. He was no match for the sea, vs. 28.

There is a story about Jesus and the sea. His disciples are fishing and a storm breaks out over them suddenly. The storm was causing water to fill the boat and fear grips the disciples. They seem to be angry with Jesus who is sleeping, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?”, Matthew 4:38. Jesus tells the storm to ““Hush, be still”. And the wind died down and it became perfectly calm.”, vs. 39. The disciples were afraid of the storm, and who could blame them? What is interesting is that they were more afraid once all was calm. For it is then they realized that they had with them in their boat one who could command and control the sea, “Who is this?”. But the story of Jesus and the sea does not end there.

Elsewhere in the New Testament the mission of Jesus is described as an Exodus.  Paul teaches this idea in Ephesian, Romans, I Corinthians, Titus, his letters to Timothy and even in Philemon. The author of Hebrews as well conveys that Jesus is a better Moses, Hebrews 3. Jesus delivers all Peoples, not just those of Israel. The Gentiles were in need of exodus from the bondage of their idolatry, and the Jews were in need of liberation from their worship of the Law as that which could make them God’s possession. Paul argues this in his letter to the Romans, chapter 3. Jesus would do more than deliver from political oppression and slavery, he would make all the nations free from sin and death. If death itself were to be defeated, then so also would all the lesser evil powers of the world. If he were to defeat death, then what would follow would be the obedience of the nations, Romans 1:1-5.

Jesus himself would enter the sea. He played this out with his own baptism and his time in the wilderness. As Israel went through the sea and then spent forty years wandering, so Jesus went through the waters of his baptism and into temptation, Matthew 3. It is on the cross that Jesus faced the great sea, evil itself. All of its fury and terror, injustice, betrayal, misery and death would come against Jesus as a great wave, smashing and breaking him. It did not hold back, it did its worse. The broken and bloody body of a would be King, washed lifeless upon the shore as so many before him. It seemed as though the sea would always be a scourge to humanity and a chaos to insult and denounce God’s authority and justice.

In his Gospel, John tells the story of Jesus and his ministry in a series of sections. These sections are to be seen as “days” of a week to make a point that Jesus is the means through which a new creation is coming. God’s new age of salvation has finally appeared. According to John, Jesus is laid in the tomb, he rest on the Sabbath. The week is over, ending in the tragic death of the one who would be both a new Adam and the Creator of a new world. John 20 is one of the most exciting texts in all of literature, for here John reveals that though one week has ended, a new one has begun. On the “first day of the week”, vs.1, it is discovered that the body of Jesus is not in the tomb. When the disciples are told this they run to the empty grave site to be met by an Angel who tells them that Jesus has risen. Jesus later on appears before them. Every one of the Gospels tell of Jesus eating and feeding, teaching and praying, appearing to a few on the road or even to a group of over 500 at once, I Corinthians 15:6. The phrase in John 20, “the first day of the week”, is to point us forward. The new world has come. Each of the Gospel writers invites regardless of where (or when) one may be, to join them in the new age, a world that has come as a result of the apocalyptic event(s) known as the ministry, death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus. Jesus has come and since he has risen nothing has ever been the same. The world, as it was known before him, has ended.

This brings us back to the sea. In John’s Revelation he tells of a new heavens and a new earth, ch. 21. The prophet Isaiah also tells of this, Isaiah 65:17. Like Isaiah, John’s vision of the new world is of a world very different from the old. Isaiah says that there will be no more weeping or infant death. There will be long life for most people. A world of justice and plenty, without calamity or famine. All will be as God originally intended for his world. In accord with Isaiah, John simply says,

“Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth passed away, and there is no longer any sea.” Revelation 21:1

No longer any sea. Other translations say, “the sea was no more”. When one observes how the image of the sea is used in the biblical narrative, what John is saying here is extraordinary. It has been demonstrated that in John 20 Jesus is the one through whom a new creation week has begun and that week has not ended. He is currently active in his mission, which is directly stated in Revelation 21:5, “Behold, I am making all things new”! The New heavens and New earth are being created now as Jesus is reigning from the throne of God. This new creation will be a place where, upon its completion, there will be no sea, evil will be evaporated from God’s good creation once and for all. The sea with all its chaos, terror and monsters, the sea that drowned the Son, has itself been swallowed up in his victorious resurrection. It is being evaporated from the earth through the activity of Jesus as King.

The sea is no more. What does this mean for his Spirit filled people? They too have come through the waters of baptism and now find themselves in the wilderness of a broken world. The Gospel is about the justice and power of God through the reign of Christ over the nations, Romans 1:5, 16&17. How does the power and the justice of God, revealed within the Gospel, go forth and do its work? It works through his obedient people. The Church has been given the very presence of God. The Shekinah that led the former slaves of Egypt through their wilderness now inhabits the Israel of God as they are sent into theirs, see John 17:22. Since the victory of Jesus, evil and death have no authority here. Fear and lack of faith must be cast away, since the saints are set apart as ones sent to complete the work of the King. An evaporating and diminishing sea seems to convey that Christ is working through his people to subject all authorities and powers, both earthly and spiritual, to himself (see I Corinthians 15:24-28). When the sea rages and floods communities and even a society, the faithful are called and equipped to stem the tide. They are the ones who are called to stand between an oppressive authority and defenseless people. They are the ones who are called to feed the hungry and poor, clothing them with all they have. They are the ones who must stand and demonstrate the liberty and beauty of God’s Law as the standard for all human societies for the civil government, Church, family and the individual. There exists a power and a liberation in the truth of the Gospel of King Jesus, the good news that his Kingdom has come. It is a Kingdom that is everlasting and will never be defeated, Daniel 7:14. In his Kingdom the sea is no more.

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law of god love pic

God’s Law is perfect. The Law of God is the foundation and source, as well as the preserver, of life, liberty, justice and love. This Sermon, given at Grace Church of Dunedin, presents a survey of the Biblical Narrative as the Story of God’s Law. This Story is of a God who creates and redeems a people for his own precious possession. He is a jealous husband and and good King.

https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/the-law-of-god-a-love-story/id487084986?i=326059332&mt=2

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pulpitLiving out a limited Gospel is practical atheism. The Enlightenment thinkers set in place rules prohibiting the Christian worldview from being expressed or having any say in culture and the public square. Relegating the gospel to the realm of “private religious experience” it has been effectively silenced. Finally after years and generations of struggle by the Christian Church to see a Gospel movement in America, the state of our society indicates a grim reality, we have given up. Not that we have given up “believing in Jesus” or our hope in heaven, an afterlife that promises a longed for escape and reprieve from the pains and miseries of this world. We have given up good sound doctrine concerning what the Gospel is and what it encompasses. We live as if the Gospel is primarily about our plight and condition. To us, the Gospel is about us, and what we do with it in secret is noble, worthy and good enough. We pick some causes that we deem as a violation of Gods Laws and fight fervently while ignoring other violations, agreeing with the Secularism that has boxed us in, “something is better than nothing”.

Today is a day to come back to right doctrine. God’s perfect standard expressed in his Law and his justice and power demonstrated through the victory of his unique Son whom he has established as King of the nations requires us to change. Indeed the Gospel is not a message of how to obtain a ticket to heaven, as though heaven was a realm way out in space completely distinct from us and the only way we will get there is through our deaths. The Gospel is the message that Jesus is King and that his Kingdom is here. Heaven has come to this broken world, and we are to pray “thy will be done” because the death and resurrection of Jesus is the means through which he has defeated all powers, both earthly and spiritual.

This Gospel is more than a philosophical idea to be discussed at a distance by scholars in lofty towers, it is more than a private joy to be kept secret, locked away in church buildings. It is the message of power that brings “the lofty down from their thrones”, Luke 1:51. It gets results instead of just wishing things would change. The Kingdom of God calls the people of God to action, and it calls us to hold this message dear as our explanatory framework. The Gospel is hope and a solution for all that pains this place. There is not one area of life and existence that does not find itself well within the reign of Christ. Our social ills even systemic racism, worldwide hunger, poverty, violence and all other evils can never be solved and eradicated through secularism. The Enlightenment has lied to us all. Human reason is itself inconsistent and flawed, we cannot reason our way out of the cave. After hundreds of years, the Age of Reason has proven to be the Dark Ages. Its time for the Spirit filled people of God to let their light shine.

When we live a limited Gospel that is about us and our plight, the result is a society that does not know the Gospel. This type of Gospel religion looks the exact same as Atheism in a practical sense. May we cease living as Atheism would have us live, as if the reign of Jesus is a figurative or imaginary one. He is King active in his rule now. He has brought the world as we knew it to an end. The New Age of God’s salvation has come. May we be people who live in this new age, living out the full Gospel, heralding the Great King who’s Kingdom will know no end.

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“You shall also love the stranger, for you were strangers…”

Deuteronomy 10:19

About an hours’ drive from my Church in Dunedin Fl is a little town called, Wimauma. There is a community of migrant farmworkers there made up mostly of families who must pick and harvest to survive. They live below the poverty level, most are not legal aliens, have no health insurance and are over charged for rent by their land lords. They are hard working and seeking a better life for them and their families, one they believe cannot be had in their own countries. Beth-El is a mission there dedicated to serving the needs and families of the migrant farmworker. They provide food and clothing for the families, health, and legal advice, education for the children and an adult high school. In addition to all these services, Beth-El provides a message of hope through the Gospel of Jesus. There is a congregation that meets there for worship and fellowship; like Koinonia Farm before them, Beth-El is a real and living “demonstration plot for the Kingdom of God”.

Beth-El has helped me to see a real need in our culture to obey the Law of God in regards to the stranger in our land, the alien or immigrant. Exodus and Deuteronomy record God’s vision for strangers. He loves them and desires to include them in his people and to show them that they are humans and therefore created in his image and have his special attention. He charges his people to love them as he does and to care for them as their own family, for indeed we are all one under God. Israel is also given another motivation for seeing the immigrant as one they love; Israel was once a people of immigrants and strangers in Egypt. Indeed, Israel’s beginnings under Abraham were as a nomadic tribe. Wherever they went they were strangers and passers through.

If there is anything we have in common as a nation with ancient Israel it is that we too are a nation of immigrants and aliens. My great, great grandmother was a member of the Blackfoot tribe and I have ancestors from Ireland and England, how can I look down at an immigrant from Mexico or Guatemala without looking down also at my ancestors? And not to mention how can I treat the immigrant with prejudice and injustice and say I love God and his law? I wonder can these same questions be posed by our nation as a whole? We all have ancestors that had to come through Ellis Island in order to give us citizenship in this great nation. Do we actually believe that we as Americans can afford to shun the stranger?

Another point I would like to draw from the example of Israel is that like her we are all born in exile. An angle with a flaming sword guarding the entrance to the Garden of Eden signifies our desolate state as a species. We were created to reflect God’s image of beauty and justice to the world and each other, to live forever with our great God as his children and stewards. We are however not permitted into the Garden ever again. We wander aimlessly through existence without purpose, without our humanity. Is it any wonder that when we are awakened by his grace that we experience such fullness in our lives never before present? It is the victory and provision of Jesus that opens up the Garden once again, in him we return home to our God and to our humanity. Our salvation is therefore dependent on God’s kindness to us as strangers. We cannot know him unless he discloses himself. We remain a stranger until he reaches down and adopts us into his kingdom. I believe then it is the duty of those given grace to inspire our nation of immigrants to a greater compassion for the strangers in their land. To love God is to love our neighbor, whether they are across our street or across our borders.

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This is a really great talk from Pastor Tim Keller on the Jealousy of God. God’s law, his creation of man and woman and the sending of his Son all reveal a God who is passionately in love with his people. Hos doesn’t just want us to serve him out of obligation, he declares to us, “Love me with all you are as I love you.”

http://sermons2.redeemer.com/sites/sermons2.redeemer.com/files/sermons/The_Jealousy_of_God.mp3

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kuyper portrait

Kuyper on Science by René van Woudenberg

Abraham Kuyper believed faith and science were not at odds, in fact he believed that “science presupposed faith”. Here is a great article highlighting this thinking in Kuyper by René van Woudenberg. Enjoy.

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