Is 1689 Federalism Novel?

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Andrew35

Puritan Board Sophomore
Here's a list to start out with. Make sure to read in the original language:
Francis Robert's Mysterium & Medulla Biblorum
J.H. Heidegger's Corpus Theologiae
Cloppenburg's Disputationes de Foedere Gratiae
Witsius's Oeconomia Foederum
Rutherford's Covenant of Grace Opened
Bucer's Commentaria super quattuor evangeliorum
Oecolampadius's Commentaria super ezechiele
John Ball's Treatise on the Covenant of Grace
Cocceius's Summa doctrinae de foedere et testamento dei
Burman's Summa theologiae
Anonymous Scottish Presbyterian's A Snake in the Grass
Thomas Blake's Vindiciae Foederis
You shouldn't think yourself able to criticize Westminster covenant theology until you've read all of those, especially the ones in Latin. It's not on the other side to have a productive dialogue if you haven't done your research.
Ha! Your omission of Brakel's 1650 letter to his grandmother reveals to us all that in these matters you yet wear the humble robe of a neophyte.
 

Ben Zartman

Puritan Board Junior
Re-read what Sean said Ben.

That's a pretty clear difference.

Could you please point me to a book or other resource that explains your view?
LBCF 7:3 says that all who were ever saved are saved by the virtue of this New Covenant--that is to say, the covenant in Christ's blood by which He purged away the sins of His elect people. So far I believe we both agree, though I'm not sure whether you quibble at the language of being "revealed by farther steps."
It goes on to say that the whole shebang is founded in that "eternal covenant transaction that was between the Father and the Son about the redemption of the elect."
We have so far:
1: God the Father and God the Son covenanting together in eternity past to redeem a people.
2: Various covenants and prophesies and types and shadows and figures pointing to the Messiah, all under the banner of God's covenant with Christ to save a people.
3: The actual price paid for the sins of all people at all times; the work accomplished in time on the cross, and the final, the New, covenant established. This is the defining moment of the eternal covenant made between the Father and the Son.

All of these things, past, present, and our future resurrection and reign with Christ for eternity as His bride are parts of that "eternal covenant transaction that was between the Father and the Son about the redemption of the elect (LBCF 7:3)."
With what part of this do you disagree, or if you don't, and this is actually the historic position of all Reformed Baptists, why confuse things by taking on a new name and saying everyone else has had it wrong for fifty years?
 

brandonadams

Puritan Board Sophomore
Ben, your #2 is vague. I don't know what "under the banner of God's covenant with Christ" means. We need to be more precise.
With what part of this do you disagree, or if you don't, and this is actually the historic position of all Reformed Baptists, why confuse things by taking on a new name and saying everyone else has had it wrong for fifty years?
The more we discuss, I get the feeling the problem is you may have a very underdeveloped covenant theology, so you're not understanding what 1689 Federalism is in contrast to (on the baptist side). Here are some lectures from Waldron in 2013 explaining his view of covenant theology. You can see from his lectures where he disagreed with 1689 Federalism. For example "The theological concept of the covenant of grace cannot be strictly identified with any particular biblical covenant." https://contrast2.wordpress.com/2013/03/03/waldrons-sermons-on-covenant-theology/

See also this video comparing James White's view with 1689 Federalism
 

Charles Johnson

Puritan Board Sophomore
The more we discuss, I get the feeling the problem is you may have a very underdeveloped covenant theology, so you're not understanding what 1689 Federalism is in contrast to (on the baptist side).
I get the sense that you really can't help yourself in terms of this rhetoric. There are a dozen or so posts now on this thread criticizing this kind of rhetoric and you still turn to it when you respond to criticism. Ultimately it's condescending. It sets you up as the expert, unwilling to have a discussion as equals with your brothers in the faith, even though many here that are criticizing you are ordained and exceed you in age, maturity, and piety, and many who aren't are still advanced in the Christian faith and deserving of more respect and deference than you show.
 

Smeagol

Puritan Board Graduate
Early Baptist theologians held a variety of views on the covenant. The Second London Baptist Confession does not specifically teach the doctrine of Coxe and Keach, but leaves open or undefined the relation of the covenant of grace to the Abrahamic and Mosaic covenants. It allows for diversity among those who subscribe to it." (RST, vol. 2, 551-552.)
Wouldn’t this (assuming true) be enough to show that the label “20th Century Reformed Baptist” is uncharitable and misleading?

The 1689 Federalist will often cry “our view is historical”, which I am willing to admit, BUT I find it ironic that they use the label “20th Century Reformed Baptist”, towards those whose view of the covenants differs, yet still fits within 1689 LBC. If the likes of John Gill (differing from Coxe) held to a more Westminster view of the covenants, then would not the views of @Ben Zartman & @Pergamum be equally historical in pedigree?

It is this attitude and their use of John Owen that makes me suspicious of the “1689 Federalism” label. Owen’s uniqueness in Covenant Theology did not seem to lead him to a differing view on baptism regarding the question of proper recipients. From what I have read, it would seem that Owen’s view of the Abrahamic Covenant would have been acceptable to Westminster.

@PuritanCovenanter has an entry here highlighting 2 excellent PB posts that help better understand how Owen viewed the Abrahamic Covenant:
 
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Challer

Puritan Board Freshman
I'm pretty new here, both to PB and to this thread. :) But an elder from my church on this topic referred me to 1689Federalism.com, which has some pretty handy graphics. I've attached them here in case it's helpful. If the conversation's way past that point and this isn't helpful, kindly disregard. I think I spot the disconnect Brandon touched on and just thought I'd try to contribute what I could to bridge the gap.

God bless!
 

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Smeagol

Puritan Board Graduate
I'm pretty new here, both to PB and to this thread. :) But an elder from my church on this topic referred me to 1689Federalism.com, which has some pretty handy graphics. I've attached them here in case it's helpful. If the conversation's way past that point and this isn't helpful, kindly disregard. I think I spot the disconnect Brandon touched on and just thought I'd try to contribute what I could to bridge the gap.

God bless!
Don’t forget this one. I think it has sense been removed from their site.
1642365444097.jpeg
 
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Taylor

Puritan Board Graduate
I think this has already been touched on in this thread, but wasn’t Meredith Kline criticized for teaching something like “1689 Federalism”?
 

SeanPatrickCornell

Puritan Board Junior
Again with this rhetorical tactic.

I am not completely sure YOU understand reformed covenant theology. We need to give you a list of 30 books to read on covenant theology and I suggest you don't post again until you read them all to ensure you properly understand the Reformed position.

Isn't he right, though? If I were to critique WCF style Presbyterian Covenant Theology and all I knew about it was several sentences / bullet points, wouldn't those who understood the system better tell me that I wasn't well versed on the topic and to read up on it more?
 

Challer

Puritan Board Freshman
Isn't he right, though? If I were to critique WCF style Presbyterian Covenant Theology and all I knew about it was several sentences / bullet points, wouldn't those who understood the system better tell me that I wasn't well versed on the topic and to read up on it more?

Not sure. Personally, I think if someone wasn’t educated on a topic but came with earnest questions and a willingness to learn I would try to take the time to explain the topic to them.
 

Ben Zartman

Puritan Board Junior
Ben, your #2 is vague. I don't know what "under the banner of God's covenant with Christ" means. We need to be more precise.

The more we discuss, I get the feeling the problem is you may have a very underdeveloped covenant theology, so you're not understanding what 1689 Federalism is in contrast to (on the baptist side). Here are some lectures from Waldron in 2013 explaining his view of covenant theology. You can see from his lectures where he disagreed with 1689 Federalism. For example "The theological concept of the covenant of grace cannot be strictly identified with any particular biblical covenant." https://contrast2.wordpress.com/2013/03/03/waldrons-sermons-on-covenant-theology/

See also this video comparing James White's view with 1689 Federalism
By "under the banner of God's covenant with Christ" I mean that the OT covenants are steps on the path of God's plan to redeem a people. Waypoints along the overarching plan of salvation. Different periods of redemptive revelation, progressively getting closer to Christ's incarnation. Covenants that were made in aid of, or because, God had determined in eternity past to save a people and covenanted with the Son for the price of their salvation.
I hope that's clearer: because of the Covenant made between Father and Son in eternity past, God was pleased to develop and reveal the plan to humanity by means of these other covenants.
I've run out of ways to say it. As for having an underdeveloped covenant theology, I fear, alas! that I probably do. But the price of understanding a position so inscrutable that it can only be arrived at by reading reams of paedobaptist writings and watching endless videos and buying the latest books is too steep for me. Since no one can seem to lean down from their ivory tower to tell me exactly what's wrong with my Vanilla flavored Baptist Covenant Theology, I have to assume it's because they don't know the difference either, or at least that it's so small it doesn't add up to a hill of beans. So I'll be content in my ignorance, knowing that God chose me for salvation from eternity past, that Christ died for my sins in history, and that at the Resurrection I'll understand it all perfectly.
In the meantime, I wish you much joy of your hobbyhorse.
 

brandonadams

Puritan Board Sophomore
I get the sense that you really can't help yourself in terms of this rhetoric. There are a dozen or so posts now on this thread criticizing this kind of rhetoric and you still turn to it when you respond to criticism. Ultimately it's condescending.
Charles, please note Ben's response
As for having an underdeveloped covenant theology, I fear, alas! that I probably do.
Please note that this was not a "rhetorical tactic" of mine to "respond to criticism." Rather, this was my attempt to help this brother understand why he is having such a frustrating time understanding the difference between his "vanilla RB covenant theology" and 1689 Federalism. Perhaps there is no difference! Perhaps he does not have a systematically detailed enough position to be in disagreement with 1689 Federalism's systematically detailed distinctives. Thus far everything that he has said has been very high level and general in nature, thus it does not actually get at the points of disagreement. This was not a dismissal of Ben, but rather an attempt to help alleviate his frustration in understanding the differences. To that end, I provided him with two resources from non-1689 Federalism baptists explaining some of their systematic points of disagreement with 1689 Federalism.
 

TheInquirer

Puritan Board Sophomore
"Here, here's an article to help understand the view" - Response: "Too many words!"

"Here, here's a picture to help understand the view" - Response: "You're just like the Dispensationalists!"
 

kainos01

Puritan Board Senior
*Brandon:
"Charles, please note Ben's response"

Ben Zartman said:
"As for having an underdeveloped covenant theology, I fear, alas! that I probably do."

I'm watching this from the sidelines as a Presbyterian, but I took Ben's words as a humble confession to our inadequacy to fully grasp the glorious depths of covenant theology, not as an admission of ignorance regarding the particulars of the doctrine as it has been understood historically.

* I couldn't figure out how to quote Brandon quoting Ben...
 
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Taylor

Puritan Board Graduate
Here, here's an article...
I don't think it was just an article that was being suggested; that's a slight understatement.

Besides, I don't think anyone is complaining about being asked to read books and articles or listen to lectures. We all love reading here. I think the frustration here is that there has been little teaching/explaining in this thread. And I agree: it is somewhat frustrating to try to have a conversation when it feels like you're talking to a bibliography and not a person. Nobody is saying, "Hey, reading books is too much for me." Rather, as Ben noted, it's, "Just have a conversation with me."

A winky-face puts all things right.
How about you go pound sand. ;)
 

Pergamum

Ordinary Guy (TM)
I don't think it was just an article that was being suggested; that's a slight understatement.

Besides, I don't think anyone is complaining about being asked to read books and articles or listen to lectures. We all love reading here. I think the frustration here is that there has been little teaching/explaining in this thread. And I agree: it is somewhat frustrating to try to have a conversation when it feels like you're talking to a bibliography and not a person. Nobody is saying, "Hey, reading books is too much for me." Rather, as Ben noted, it's, "Just have a conversation with me."


How about you go pound sand. ;)
A trip to the beach does sound nice. ;) (note the winky face)
 

brandonadams

Puritan Board Sophomore
If the likes of John Gill (differing from Coxe) held to a more Westminster view of the covenants
The asterisk regarding Gill was premature. A more thorough analysis of his view of the covenants demonstrates that he was largely in agreement with Coxe, though he was a bit idiosyncratic in how he chose to express himself. This elaborates if you are interested https://contrast2.wordpress.com/2017/04/14/some-comments-on-john-gills-covenant-theology/
It is this attitude and their use of John Owen that makes me suspicious of the “1689 Federalism” label. Owen’s uniqueness in Covenant Theology did not seem to lead him to a differing view on baptism regarding the question of proper recipients. From what I have read, it would seem that Owen’s view of the Abrahamic Covenant would have been acceptable to Westminster.
Please consider this lecture from Owen scholar Crawford Gribben on your exact question https://www.1689federalism.com/john-owen-baptism-and-the-baptists-crawford-gribben/

See also this summary of Why Baptists Appeal to Owen to possibly better understand why would would appeal to him, despite the fact that he remained a paedobaptist. https://contrast2.wordpress.com/2016/01/27/a-summary-of-why-baptists-appeal-to-owen/ In short, Owen departed from Calvin and Westminster (what Owen called the majority view) in a very important and substantial way. The baptists built upon Owen's critique of the majority view, drawing additional conclusions that they felt were justified (including drawing upon Owen's view of the Abrahamic Covenant where he acknowledges a twofold seed of Abraham (carnal and spiritual) that then correlated to a twofold distinction of promises/privileges made to Abraham). Congregationalists in the 17th century objected to baptists appealing to Owen since Owen was a paedobaptist, but the baptists responded (paraphrasing from memory) "If you think the good Doctor has been injured by our use of him, then show us where we have erred."
Wouldn’t this (assuming true) be enough to show that the label “20th Century Reformed Baptist” is uncharitable and misleading?
Maybe, maybe not. There was really only 1, possibly 2 baptists who held a more Westminster/majority view (and one of those was never published publicly if I recall - Renihan's "From Shadow to Substance" gives details), but their view was not necessarily the same as the 20th century men who developed their view in isolation from any historic baptist view, largely being influence by John Murray. Regardless, the chart was removed from the site to avoid creating unnecessary heat. Many men who would have fallen under that label have since embraced 1689 Federalism (see here for instance https://cbtseminary.org/covenant-theology-the-2lbc-cbts/ )

The 1689 Federalist will often cry “our view is historical”
For whatever it's worth, my personal concern has not been over what is historical, but what is biblical. If I end up disagreeing with what baptists historically held, I am ok with that and it is not my intention to criticize others simply for disagreeing with them either. Rather, I find a very helpful ally in those baptists as I believe they (largely) had a biblical understanding of the issue. (That said, I understand that others are very concerned with the historical issue and the label "1689 Federalism" probably added unnecessary heat to that question, though it was not intended to).
 

brandonadams

Puritan Board Sophomore
I think this has already been touched on in this thread, but wasn’t Meredith Kline criticized for teaching something like “1689 Federalism”?
Yes. R. Scott Clark and others have made that criticism. In truth, Kline's view was largely a 20th century re-statement of the subservient covenant view (held by the Congregationalists like Samuel Bolton and John Owen, tracing back further to men like John Cameron) - in fact Lee Irons was defended by T. David Gordon and Fesko (I believe) by arguing Kline's view was equivalent to the subservient covenant view. See https://www.upper-register.com/papers/subservient_cov.pdf

D. Patrick Ramsey's WTJ essay "In Defense of Moses" specifically argued that Kline's view was contra-confessional because it was substantially the same as the subservient covenant view rejected by the WCF. https://d3ecc98b-a-62cb3a1a-s-sites...fFhROl-jgJYJ1Mz6pZpFE2CeTHmgc=&attredirects=1
 

brandonadams

Puritan Board Sophomore
I believe this will be my last comment on this thread and then I'll leave it to the rest of you to discuss, as I don't appear to be helping.


Please forgive my rash statement earlier that Izaak must study more before he may offer a critique. I should not have spoken in a universal manner. Of course, he may offer whatever critique he wishes and if someone would like to respond and walk him through what we believe, then that may prove to be a beneficial conversation for them. I should have spoken in particular for myself only and not presumed upon others in this thread. It is not a good stewardship of my time to answer the critiques of someone who only has a 4-sentence understanding of our position, but it may be worthwhile for someone else to. I would be more than happy to discuss objections with someone who has put in the time to study the position in more depth. Izaak might offer the same criticism once he has studied the position more fully, but the ensuing conversation would be different. As of now, the conversation would largely consist of me clarifying and elaborating what we believe (something that can be done by pointing to other resources).

Charles, I appreciate your list of recommended books on your view. I have read several, but not all of them. I will add them to my queue. However, I do perhaps think there is a middle ground between asking someone to study a position beyond a 4 sentence summary and requiring someone to read 12 17th century works in Latin.

 

Pergamum

Ordinary Guy (TM)
The asterisk regarding Gill was premature. A more thorough analysis of his view of the covenants demonstrates that he was largely in agreement with Coxe, though he was a bit idiosyncratic in how he chose to express himself. This elaborates if you are interested https://contrast2.wordpress.com/2017/04/14/some-comments-on-john-gills-covenant-theology/

Please consider this lecture from Owen scholar Crawford Gribben on your exact question https://www.1689federalism.com/john-owen-baptism-and-the-baptists-crawford-gribben/

See also this summary of Why Baptists Appeal to Owen to possibly better understand why would would appeal to him, despite the fact that he remained a paedobaptist. https://contrast2.wordpress.com/2016/01/27/a-summary-of-why-baptists-appeal-to-owen/ In short, Owen departed from Calvin and Westminster (what Owen called the majority view) in a very important and substantial way. The baptists built upon Owen's critique of the majority view, drawing additional conclusions that they felt were justified (including drawing upon Owen's view of the Abrahamic Covenant where he acknowledges a twofold seed of Abraham (carnal and spiritual) that then correlated to a twofold distinction of promises/privileges made to Abraham). Congregationalists in the 17th century objected to baptists appealing to Owen since Owen was a paedobaptist, but the baptists responded (paraphrasing from memory) "If you think the good Doctor has been injured by our use of him, then show us where we have erred."

Maybe, maybe not. There was really only 1, possibly 2 baptists who held a more Westminster/majority view (and one of those was never published publicly if I recall - Renihan's "From Shadow to Substance" gives details), but their view was not necessarily the same as the 20th century men who developed their view in isolation from any historic baptist view, largely being influence by John Murray. Regardless, the chart was removed from the site to avoid creating unnecessary heat. Many men who would have fallen under that label have since embraced 1689 Federalism (see here for instance https://cbtseminary.org/covenant-theology-the-2lbc-cbts/ )


For whatever it's worth, my personal concern has not been over what is historical, but what is biblical. If I end up disagreeing with what baptists historically held, I am ok with that and it is not my intention to criticize others simply for disagreeing with them either. Rather, I find a very helpful ally in those baptists as I believe they (largely) had a biblical understanding of the issue. (That said, I understand that others are very concerned with the historical issue and the label "1689 Federalism" probably added unnecessary heat to that question, though it was not intended to).
This was a good and substantial response. I am reading your links. Thank you.
 

TheInquirer

Puritan Board Sophomore
I think the frustration here is that there has been little teaching/explaining in this thread.

True enough but my only purpose for starting the thread was to address one small issue - the charge that 1689 Federalism is a new idea. I had just come across the Beeke quote which prompted me to start it. I thought many of the issues discussed in this thread had already been discussed here at PB since I had read many of them. Didn't think we need to rehash but perhaps not everyone had read those old threads.

I always like pictures! Especially ones I can color. :)

A "1689 Federalism Adult Coloring Book!" Just imagine - a pic of Sam Renihan arm wrestling Sam Waldron and a dour James White officiating with a gavel and referee whistle...
 
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Ben Zartman

Puritan Board Junior
"Here, here's an article to help understand the view" - Response: "Too many words!"

"Here, here's a picture to help understand the view" - Response: "You're just like the Dispensationalists!"
The problem is that neither the pictures nor the articles actually SAY anything. They're a lot of words that don't pin anything down.
Einstein is purported to have said, "If you can't explain something to a six-year-old, it's because you don't understand it yourself."
I suspect that what's going on with the Federalists.
This looks a lot to me like the Divine Impassibility fiasco some other reformed baptists got embroiled in, where they micro-split fine hairs into incomprehensibility, published a yawner of a paper that was more semantics than substance, then made it a test of orthodoxy!
It was a hobbyhorse.
So is this Federalism.
 

SeanPatrickCornell

Puritan Board Junior
The problem is that neither the pictures nor the articles actually SAY anything. They're a lot of words that don't pin anything down.
Einstein is purported to have said, "If you can't explain something to a six-year-old, it's because you don't understand it yourself."
I suspect that what's going on with the Federalists.
This looks a lot to me like the Divine Impassibility fiasco some other reformed baptists got embroiled in, where they micro-split fine hairs into incomprehensibility, published a yawner of a paper that was more semantics than substance, then made it a test of orthodoxy!
It was a hobbyhorse.
So is this Federalism.

This is a very uncharitable view, especially since in this very thread I gave a very concise summary of what 1689 Federalists (generally) believe. Could a six year old understand it? Maybe, maybe not, but I think Mr. Einstein's quote is actually rubbish anyway. There are tons of things that NO ONE can explain so that a six year old could understand it, and it doesn't mean that the explainer doesn't know what they are talking about, it just means that some topics are above the understanding of a six year old.
 

Challer

Puritan Board Freshman
This is a very uncharitable view, especially since in this very thread I gave a very concise summary of what 1689 Federalists (generally) believe. Could a six year old understand it? Maybe, maybe not, but I think Mr. Einstein's quote is actually rubbish anyway. There are tons of things that NO ONE can explain so that a six year old could understand it, and it doesn't mean that the explainer doesn't know what they are talking about, it just means that some topics are above the understanding of a six year old.

I agree.

Where's Einstein these days, anyway? /s
 

Smeagol

Puritan Board Graduate
Just seems suspicious that a new baptist label arose in the 20th century and began claiming Owen, Gill, and Augustine as being in line with 1689 Federalism in their covenant theology.

From what I have read of Owen, beyond just focusing on snippets from his Hebrews Commentary, he affirmed the Abrahamic Covenant as being a part of the CoG. Same can be said for Gill. The snipping of these men to bring them under as somehow proponents of the 1689 Federalist label seems to over simply the covenant theology of both men who can be read to see the CoG as having a different administration under Abraham. I think both Owen and Gill are technical enough to deserve a wider reading than soundbites relative to there full works. So who is right? I would lean towards the older interpretation of these men instead of the newer 1689 lenses, that apparently no one seemed to pick up on until now.

And I am sorry, but it is VERY suspicious that everytime someone critiques the 1689 Federlist (even more well known men like @R. Scott Clark), the starting line almost always (even see the blogs linked by Brandon is this thread) have a foundation of “ you just don’t understand what Gill or Owen is saying” or “ you need to read it over & over again until your conclusions match mine”. Check the links yourself.

I already posted a link to Owen’s words outside of his hebrews commentary. Below was another old PB snippet from Gill.

 
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Pergamum

Ordinary Guy (TM)
I believe this will be my last comment on this thread and then I'll leave it to the rest of you to discuss, as I don't appear to be helping.


Please forgive my rash statement earlier that Izaak must study more before he may offer a critique. I should not have spoken in a universal manner. Of course, he may offer whatever critique he wishes and if someone would like to respond and walk him through what we believe, then that may prove to be a beneficial conversation for them. I should have spoken in particular for myself only and not presumed upon others in this thread. It is not a good stewardship of my time to answer the critiques of someone who only has a 4-sentence understanding of our position, but it may be worthwhile for someone else to. I would be more than happy to discuss objections with someone who has put in the time to study the position in more depth. Izaak might offer the same criticism once he has studied the position more fully, but the ensuing conversation would be different. As of now, the conversation would largely consist of me clarifying and elaborating what we believe (something that can be done by pointing to other resources).

Charles, I appreciate your list of recommended books on your view. I have read several, but not all of them. I will add them to my queue. However, I do perhaps think there is a middle ground between asking someone to study a position beyond a 4 sentence summary and requiring someone to read 12 17th century works in Latin.

I don't think there is any reason for you to bow out of the conversation. The last post was informative. I just got tired of the "read this book or you are not equipped to respond" replies. I have also never liked the "branding" or "marketing" strategy of calling this view 1689 Federalism as if it is THE one view, when the views vary. Even worse is calling other views the 20th Century View which is almost slanderous. Get past these rhetorical tactics and a fruitful discussion can be had. I appreciated the links given in your last post.
 
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