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Archive for the ‘presuppositionalism’ Category

Editor’s Note: I (“SlimJim”) am away in a family trip and this is a pre-scheduled post.  It is written by our guest Ben Holloway who is a brother in Christ that is working on a PhD with Dr. Greg Welty .

Ben Holloway

The key to good apologetic strategy is knowing where to begin and where to end a debate. It requires getting at the heart of an objection and knowing what one is going to argue for in response.

The best way to find the heart of an objection is to watch out for key words or phrases. Whereas traditional apologetic methods rely on answering questions directly, presuppositional methods emphasize an indirect method, asking what would have to be the case to make the objection intelligible.

For example, take the question, “why should I believe the Bible is true?” A traditional response would be to give evidence for the trustworthiness of the documents making up the Bible. Presuppositionalists take a different tack. The issue is truth, not whether or not the Bible is true, but what would have to be the case in order for anyone to know any truth or for there to be such a thing as truth.

Knowing the key idea leads to developing a conclusion or a goal to one’s argument.

In the case in question the presuppositionalist should aim for an argument from truth to God. She might respond by arguing, “because if the Bible was not true, there would be no way to know if anything was true.” This is only the conclusion to the argument and would involve several steps to get to it, but it helps to know what one is going to argue for.

This method works as long as one spots the assumption behind the question and is able to show how such an assumption is only possible because Christianity is true.

Take another common and slightly more postmodern objection: “Christianity is a particular community’s interpretation of reality, but it is not necessarily true.” It is tempting to respond by showing that Christianity is true, but the objection is not concerned with truth (at least not in the correspondence sense). The objection focuses on the ability of human beings to interpret experience within particular linguistic communities. Consequently, the presuppositionalist may argue something like: “the interpretation of reality by communities using language is only possible because Christianity is true. Language did not emerge in human confrontation with events, but pre-existed in the intra-trinitarian language game of God. If it did not then there would be no meaning to language.” Again, there are multiple steps required to reach this conclusion, but the key is to be clear in one’s aim.

Another common objection relies on a moral assumption: “Christians have carried out many evil actions in history.” A common presuppositional response to this is: “Actions could only be judged as good or evil if Christianity is true. Human moral judgement relies on an absolute moral judgement determined by the nature of God.” It is crucial to note what that response presupposes. The objection refers to an observable event–an “evil action”–but the response refers to a conceptual framework by which one is able to asses actions. The action of kicking a soccer ball and the action of kicking a person is the same action, but what one needs in order to judge one action to be evil and the other to be good is a moral concept. Presuppositionalists do well when they show how the two are connected, in this case by the ability to judge actions according to moral concepts. Moral concepts would only arise if there is a prior standard by which human beings can discern between good and evil. And such a prior standard requires a moral judgement that is binding from God who is Holy and sets the standard of moral law.

Many objections that unbelievers have are related to what we can know from the Bible. Consequently, when asked what grounds one has for belief it is legitimate to cite one’s source. Consider the question, “what makes you think that Jesus is the only way to heaven?” This objection does not require one to show, philosophically, why it is rational for there to be only one way to heaven or to show empirically that Jesus rose from the dead thus verifying his claim to uniqueness. Rather, it requires an explanation of one’s source or grounds for believing that Jesus is the only way to heaven. In short, because the Bible tells me so. To argue that there is sufficient warrant for a belief provided by scripture is a legitimate line of response. However, one should be prepared to answer the follow up objection–“What makes you think that the Bible is true?”–to which one might respond giving the answer I gave at the top of the post.

Sometimes the word one is looking for is hidden or implied. For example, an unbeliever might suggest, “given the preponderance of evil in our world the likelihood that God exists is small.” The issue at hand is related to empirical evidence. “Likelihood” is a probability statement related to something we can observe. Therefore, one might reply that the human ability to observe, analyse and draw conclusions from empirical evidence is only possible because God exists and Christianity is true. The human ability to observe, analyze and draw conclusions relies on the predictability and intelligibility of the world and the matching human ability to assess probability and “likelihood” of the existence of certain objects. In this case the existence of a sovereign and omniscient God is the necessary condition for such a situation.

Often apologetic debate can be stifled by an objection that contains multiple starting points. In this case it is always best to seek to find out what underlying objection one’s interlocutor is wanting an answer to. Consider the objection, “aren’t all religions the same?” The objection sounds like it requires the refutation, “no, there is one true religion and many false religions.” However, it is unclear as to how one defends this answer. I have found that a conversation with someone committed to religious pluralism is difficult because there are so many lines of objection. Take the standard Hickean thesis: There are many different religions. Most people are equally rational and living in the same world. Therefore, all or most religions are equally warranted. Hick’s argument relies on several assumptions, each requiring a different response. Is the objection about justice? (It is not fair that God chooses some and not others). Is the objection about culture? (religion is a cultural product and no one chooses into which culture one is born). Many pluralist objections are rooted in epistemological skepticism. Their basic objection is that no one really knows what religion is true. Each of these objections starts with a separate (if related) assumption and it is worth exploring what is most important to one’s interlocutor.

Many apologetic debates get derailed by an inattention to what the heart of an objection is and an unclear goal in response. Perhaps you might light to practice your strategy with more common objections to the Christian faith. Try a search for “common objections to Christianity” and try to identify the key idea behind the objection and work out what you want to argue for. Then think through how you would get there.

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These are our collection of Presuppositional apologetics’ links from around the World Wide Web between August 1st-7th, 2014.

Enjoy!

1.) Atheism Fails as a Worldview: It Lacks Objective Moral Values

2.) BAHNSEN: YOU CAN PEEK INSIDE OF THE QUR’AN TO FIND ENOUGH EVIDENCE TO DESTROY ALL OF ISLAMIC THEOLOGY (VIDEO)

3.) Why Materialism Cannot Object to The Miraculous

4.) Cornelius Van Til’s lectures on Modern Theology

5.) Late week’s installment of Presuppositional Apologetics’ Links 

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For the World Essays in Honor of Richard L. Pratt Jr

I first heard of Richard Pratt when I discovered his Third Millennium Ministries and not too long after that I read his short book on Presuppositional apologetics and some assorted articles that he wrote.  This particular book is a festschrift in honor of Dr. Pratt.  I really enjoyed how various contributors throughout the book gave readers their portrait of the man and his ministry; it was quite encouraging for me given how I have benefited from his writing but didn’t know much about him.  As a result of reading this book I have a greater respect for Pratt for his desire to make theological education cheap and affordable for the rest of the world through his online ministry.  In many instances these multimedia resources are available in many languages for free!  I did not fully realize how great an impact Third Millennium Ministries was until I read this book.  It has also lead me to pray for this ministry to increase many fold!

I also found the various essays within the volume stimulating with its various topic dedicated to Dr. Pratt and his field of interests, some of the highlights which I shall discuss below.

The second chapter of the book was titled, “Saying It Anew: Strange-Making as a Pedagogical Device” in which the contributor Scott Redd talked about the pedagogical device of defamilarization.  Defamiliarization is a technique in which someone says something strange for the sake of the learner to think more carefully about a certain truth.  As Redd explained, “Ironically, defamilarizatoin can result in clarity, in part because, when skillfully applied, defamiliarization causes the hearer to encourage the idea in a new way, as if for the first time, thereby bringing its elements into stark relief” (21).  This chapter also defended this idea biblically, nothing the various use of literary devices and also nuance word order in the Bible was meant to draw the readers’ attention with something unusual so as to slow them down and make them think more carefully.  I thought defamilarization can be a useful tool for pastors, Bible teachers, professors, evangelists and the apologists.  Certainly it has made me more conscious of incorporating defamiliarization as a way of being a clear and fresh communicator of God’s timeless truth.

The chapter on “Redeeming the ‘R-Word:’ Paul against and for Religion” was intriguing and relevant since it addressed the contemporary Christian cliche that “Christianity is not a religion.”  Reggie Kid, the author of this essay, noted how Paul was against bad religion (what in the Greek is called asebeia) but this in no way implies that Paul or the Bible ever pit Christianity against religion per se.  There is, biblically speaking, room for good “religion,” and good religion is one which adheres to right doctrines and also right practices.  The author made a good point that whatever value and advantages gained in using the mantra that “Christianity isn’t a religion,” it can in the long run be counter-productive against the church’s effort in evangelism and discipleship.  Hipster Christians need to read this chapter!

The book also had a good chapter on metanarrative by the editor Justin Holcomb which is probably the only chapter I was most critical of; nevertheless I found his essay helpful because it helped me to think more clearly and precisely as a result of interacting with what he has to say.  Holcomb argues that Christian scholars have used the term metanarrative incorrectly when they call the Christian faith a metanarrative.  Technically, the term metanarrative as originally used by Lyotard (who brought the term to prominence) meant something more along the lines of a story that is used by people to justify autonomy and man-centered institutions which oppressively silence others, etc; Holcomb argues that Christian must be against autonomy and also against the justification of wicked institutions so we shouldn’t be describing Christianity as the very thing that Christianity is against.  While I agree that the term metanarrative as Lyotard employed it does not describe Christianity, I also think this might be an instance of how the use of a term over time can have a different shade of meaning than how it was originally used.  I doubt most people today in popular parlance use the term metanarrative as narrowly as Lyotard originally used it so I don’t have as much of a problem with Christians using that term in describing the Christian worldview so long as it is qualified and explained.  I did appreciate Holcomb describing how Postmodern were not necessarily all about relativism but that there was some good coming from this camp in their critical assessment of modernity’s autonomy and arrogance; but sadly at the end of the day I don’t think Postmodernism has managed to escape the problem of autonomy either.  Furthermore, since Holcomb discussed quite extensively about Lyotard, I wonder if a secularist using Lyotard’s definition of metanarrative might not call Christianity a metanarrative despite Holcomb’s wishes since Christianity presents the story that justify the Cosmic institution of the Church.

The book also had a helpful chapter on youth ministry in which the contributor David Correa argues that in light of many young people’s search for meaning beyond themselves with the realization that things are not the way it should be, this should be an opportunity for youth ministry to present our theology to make sense of the world, where it is going and how we fit in, in light of God’s Kingdom.

For those involved in teaching theological education in the context of missions and/or to another cultural setting, the discussion in various chapters on the need to make theological education “fit” for the situational context of non-Western audience sets the right direction for the future.  What is neat is to know that Richard Pratt has made a significant inroad with his ministry towards that end which readers can praise God for.  I appreciated John Frame calling for a theological education that is more “boot camp,” that is rigorous also in practical application in ministry; then there is the mentoring-in-ministry discussion by Gregory Perry.

I recommend the book for those who has appreciated Dr. Pratt’s ministry and teaching.  I wished there were more Old Testament contribution within the book besides the one by Waltke in light of the fact that this is a festschrift for an Old Testament professor!  Those unfamiliar with Dr. Pratt and are involved with theological education can also benefit from the essays found within it.

NOTE: This book was provided to me free by P&R Publishing and Net Galley without any obligation for a positive review. All opinions offered above are mine unless otherwise stated or implied.

 

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van til edited

I have found over at Sermon Audio a series of lectures that Christian Reformed apologist Cornelius Van Til gave on the topic of Modern Theology.  I don’t know the original context of when and where it was delivered but it seem that it his primarily audience were young people.

I know many people have come to embrace Presuppositional apologetics not so much directly from Cornelius Van Til as it is more likely “mediated” through his disciples (or disciples’ disciples).  Think of his student Greg Bahnsen.  John Frame.  K. Scott Oliphint.  Then there’s others who never personally knew Van Til such as James White, Jason Lisle, Sye Ten Bruggencate, the guys over at Choosing Hats, etc.  In light of this, I thought it was neat to hear Van Til himself teach–and teaching specifically not so much seminarians but young people!  It’s the closest I suspect one might come to see Van Til breaking it down for the general Christian audience.

Here are the five part series:

PART 1

PART 2

PART 3

PART 4

PART 5

I myself was surprised at how funny Van Til was (and so did the audience).  I was also surprised to see how much of biblical theology of redemptive history shape his apologetics’ presentation especially in the beginning and I also appreciated his survey of the history of philosophy, which shape the method of “Modern” theologian during his life time.

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Here are links gathered between July 21st-31st, 2014.  Enjoy!

1.) Significance For Reformed Apologetics

2.)Mind and Body Dualism: You Are Not Your Brain

3.) Paul Draper on God and the Burden of Proof

4.) The Question of Apologetics by Francis Schaeffer

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Psalm2-TH1

The incredible blogger Jeff Downs has shared with us several weeks ago of a resource regarding a Biblical Worldview.  Reverend Christian McShaffrey of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church (OPC) has preached a series titled “A Psalm 2 Worldview.”

The description of this series is given below:

A “worldview” is a philosophy of life which determines how a person sees the world. Everyone has a worldview, but most people simply “catch” their worldview and assume that it is correct.

As Christians, we simply cannot afford to be thoughtless when it comes to understanding the world around us and interpreting the events which occur in it. Rather, we need to allow the light of scripture to illuminate and interpret reality. It is only in this that we will find hope and peace in this world.

Pastor McShaffrey presented the basic principles of a Christian Worldview by explaining and applying Psalm Two during the Fall of 2013.

Here are the audios:

10/20/13  –  The Raging of the Heathen (Psalm 2:1-3)

10/27/13  –  The Disposition of God (Psalm 2:4-6)

11/03/13  –  The Inheritance of Christ (Psalm 2:7-9)

11/10/13  –  The Invitation to Nations (Psalm 2:10-12a)

11/17/13  –  The Blessedness of Christians (Psalm 2:12b)  

Enjoy!

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Here are some links on Presuppositional apologetics gathered between July 15th-21st, 2014!

1.) Biblical Apologetics: Practical and Workable

2.) Book Recommendation: Inerrancy and Worldview by Vern Poythress

3.) Atheist Peter Boghossian Loathes Christians: “Reprogram Them!”

4.) Proving God’s Existence: Would You Believe If He Showed Up at Your Door?

5.) 

6.) Is the mind an emergent property of the physical brain?

7.) Last installment of Presuppositional apologetics’ links

 

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Here are links on Presuppositional apologetics gathered from July 8th-14th, 2014.

1.) Clearing the Presuppositional Malaise

2.) Theological Memeology: Don’t Push ‘Religion’ on Me!

3.) VAN TIL CIRCLES AND THE MEANING OF LIFE

4.) The Biblical Basis for Presuppositional Apologetics

5.) Biblical Apologetics: Exegetical and Theological

6.) Militant Atheist Peter Boghossian Wants to Reprogram Christians into Atheists: Reeducation Camps is His Solution to Religion

7.) Book Recommendation: What’s Your Worldview? by James Anderson

Last Week’s: Early July 2014 Presuppositional Apologetics Round Up

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James White

Found this on Youtube of Dr. James White’s Dividing Line on the topic of apologetics’ methodology.  Specifically Dr. White advances Reformed apologetics, also known as Presuppositional apologetics versus non-Presuppositional apologetics methodology.

It is three hours long:

Dr. White’s presentation is trying to show how theology matters–even in apologetics.  I appreciate his look at one of William Lane Craig’s debate and contrast that of Greg Bahnsen vs. Stein debate.

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GO TO PART 23

there_was_a_spider_540

Point:  Practitioners of Presuppositional apologetics will no doubt notice that an atheist’s argument often ends up destroying so many other necessary things in life and rationality in their attempt to dismiss the existence of God.  This needs to be pointed out and yet in past experience, the significance of this is missed.  The following analogy might help to get the point across of what is happening.  It’s like someone trying to burn down their house–to kill something that is supposedly minor, like a spider.

Picture: On the news there is this story:

A Kansas woman was arrested after police said she went to extremes trying to kill a spider.

Ginny M. Griffith, 34, told officers in Hutchinson she set a pile of towels on fire at about 1:30 a.m. Friday in hopes of catching the spider and burning it to death, the Hutchinson News reported.

While it’s not clear if she ever caught the arachnid, the fire department did have to intervene.

Crews managed to put out the blaze without injury. The building suffered only light smoke damage.

Griffith, however, has been charged with aggravated arson. The other side of the duplex she lives in was occupied at the time, police said.

POSSIBLE SCENARIO FOR EMPLOYING THIS ILLUSTRATION DURING APOLOGETIC EVANGELISM

CHRISTIAN: Have you realized that in the last hour of our conversation, your atheism posed more problem than it solved?

OPPONENT: How?

CHRISTIAN: You ended up advocating self-refuting positions: laws of logic without law-like attributes, truth is all relative, ethical subjectivism while saying Christianity is morally wrong, etc.  That’s a problem.

OPPONENT: But I don’t see why that’s problematic.

CHRISTIAN: I’ve explained throughout our conversation how it destroys your foundation for life and even for this very debate!  I suppose an analogy might be appropriate.  There’s this story I heard the other day…<Insert analogy>.

OPPONENT: That’s funny.

CHRISTIAN: Certainly she has problem with the spider.  But do you think in the end she has created more problem than she solved in trying to get rid of the Spider?

OPPONENT: Of course!

CHRISTIAN: That’s the same thing you are doing!

 

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Here are links on the subject of Presuppositional apologetics gathered from the World Wide Web between July 1st-7th, 2014.  Which ones did you enjoyed?

1.) Mars Hill: A case for friendship evangelism or antithesis?

2.) Word Faith worldview: An Inexhaustive Internal Critique

3.) Theological Memeology: Infinite Punishment for Finite Crimes

4.) Keep A Record Of God’s Providence In Your Life

5.) The motivation of Frame

6.) Life is but a dream–Great point about the paradox of atheistic materialism being similiar to Idealism and a fading dream!

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Reformation Montana 2014

There’s a conference that sounds very interesting: Reformation Montana.  It was earlier in Mid-June.  The audio recordings of the conference is now available online and they have a good line up of speakers!

Click on the sessions below to hear audio from each speaker.

 Thursday
 
2:00-2:50              Chris Rosebrough 
3:00-350               Justin Peters
4:15-5:00              Sye Ten Bruggencate
6:45-7:45              Justin Peters
8:10-9:00              Chris Rosebrough   

Friday
 
9:00-10:50            Voddie Baucham  
1015-1045            Q&A with Sye Ten Bruggencate
11:00-12:00           Phil Johnson  
2:00-2:50              Voddie Baucham   
3:15-3:50              Q&A with Chris Rosebrough
4:15-5:15              Phil Johnson     
7:00-7:50              Voddie Baucham  
8:10-8:45              Panel Discussion (with all Speakers)  

Saturday

9:00-10:00           Phil Johnson 
10:15-11:15           JD Hall   
1130-12:30           Voddie Baucham  

(SOURCE)

 

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camden buceyIf you listen to Reformed Forum Podcast you will be familiar with the name Camden Bucey who is the President of Reformed Forum and currently a Pastor at Hope OPC.  He also has an Master of Divinity and a doctorate in Systematic Theology from Westminster Theological Seminary.

Dr. Bucey has taught a series on Presuppositional apologetics last year.  The audio recording of those messages has been made available on the church website and are reproduced below.  Click on them to download the MP3s.

1.) Introduction to Defending the Faith

2.) Worldviews and Philosophy According to Christ

3.) WHO AND WHAT IS GOD?

4.) Revelation

5.) Who and What is Man?

6.) The Antithesis

7.) Common Grace

8.) Presuppositions

9.) Apologetic Method

10.) Strategies and Tactics

11.) Proof and Evidences

12.) Review and Examples

Enjoy!

Thanks to Jeff Downs for pointing these out to us!

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John Frame's Selected Shorter Writings Volume 1

For those who want to get this book at a discounted price go over to WTS Bookstore online by clicking HERE.

This is a collection of various essays and articles written by John Frame over the years that hasn’t been published, with some being articles on his website and others being shared for the first time.  For anyone who is a fan of Frame this is a great supplement to the many works that Frame has written over the years.  Ideally those who have a little exposure to John Frame’s writings (say a book or two or some journal articles by him) will benefit the most from this book.  John Frame can write very lengthy books so I appreciate the format of shorter essays in this book.  In particular I found the first chapter that serves as a great introduction and summary of his perspectivalism.  This essay is very important in light of how some within the Reformed camp have misunderstood his position as relativism.  If some of his opponents have known about this essay it might have deterred some of the unhelpful criticisms of John Frame out there (or then again it might not).

I also found the various articles in part one of the book that focus on theological method to be a wonderful feast for the mind—in fact it’s probably the best part of the book.  Specifically I enjoyed his discussion about contrast and exegesis, with his call for preachers and theologians to properly extract what exactly the Scripture is saying and then correctly noting what the contrast of the idea is; this is important when we say that the Bible prohibit or refute something and people often err in saying what the Bible is against when in actuality the Scripture didn’t prohibit or contradict it.

In part two of the book on theological meditation I appreciated his review of N.T Wright’s bibliology in which Frame showed how Wright overstretched his rhetoric when he claimed in the subtitle of a recent book that he has gone beyond the “Bible Wars” by offering another alternative.  In reality Wright didn’t really offer anything new and it turns out instead that at times he is unhelpful because he isn’t clear or too ready with the cliché.  At times Wright turns out to be still quite conservative in his view of the Bible despite how he rags on conservatives.  Frame also did a good job of showing Wright’s complaint to move beyond the concept of infallibility is inconsistent with his job of being a Bible historian is still dedicated to defending the historicity of the Bible.

Surprisingly the shortest part of the book was the section on apologetics.  Here I have to level a criticism of Frame’s review of Greg Bahnsen’s Presuppositional Apologetics: Stated and Defended.  After going through carefully what Frame has to say, I thought the essay really was not a review of the book but more of a celebration and recollection of Greg Bahnsen the apologist.  Frame criticized Bahnsen for being unfair to Gordon Clark, Carnell and Schaeffer but Frame doesn’t really demonstrate that Bahnsen really was unfair in his critique of these men.  It was more of a comment made in passing rather than actual documentation it was so.

The last section was more personal and had several assorted pieces that reveal more of John Frame the man.  If you are a big fan of Frame you would love this section and Frame is pretty funny.  I recommend this work to those who want to understand more of Frame’s contribution to theology and apologetics and those who want to get every work by Frame.  These two types of readers will benefit most from this book.

NOTE: This book was provided to me free by P&R Publishing and Net Galley without any obligation for a positive review. All opinions offered above are mine unless otherwise stated or implied.

 

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Celebrating Francis Schaeffer 30 years Anniversary

A British Christian organization called Christian Heritage over at Cambridge has featured an event back in May 15th, 2014 celebrating the life of Francis Schaeffer on the 30th Anniversary of Francis Schaeffer’s death.

Here’s a description of the event from the event page:

The 15th May was the 30th anniversary of Francis Schaeffer’s death. To many he was unquestionably one of the twentieth century’s most outstanding evangelical leaders. His influence throughout the church was vast. Had he not ‘buried’ himself in a small mountain village in Switzerland to start a little-known work called L’Abri Fellowship, committed to prayer rather than ‘advertising’, perhaps more would know his name. Was he a prophet? Did his extraordinary authority arise from a quite unique biblical analysis of our culture? Were his warnings and pleas not exactly what were needed?  But was he – for that very reason – not also an uncomfortable prophet? Did his critiques of Evangelicalism not cut too close to the bone? Join us to find out more.

Here are the talks:

Thursday 15 May, 5.45 – 9.00pm

5.45 – 7pm: The Real Schaeffer byAndrew Fellows who is the Director of the English L’Abri Fellowship and Ranald Macaulay, Schaeffer’s son-in-law and founder of Christian Heritage

7.30 – 9pm: Schaeffer’s ‘True Truth’ byDr Os Guinness who is aprolific author and social critic

 

(HT)

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