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The greatest miracle of the Incarnation is not that God visited us—as Creator, he has every right to enter his creation. All through the Hebrew Bible, we find God intervening in the affairs of our planet.

The greatest miracle of the Incarnation ...

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Displaying 1–33 of 33 comments

H. D. Schmidt

May 31, 2013  10:25am

In reality it is God who makes the final decision as when he considers a child to be of age/understand what it means to enter heaven eventually. However, I am absolutely sure that the billions of children murdered in a mother's woman, God will no forget them. To prove my point on this, is the fact that Jesus himself started his business here on earth to save us all, deep and secure in a human mother's womb! Yes, with this Jesus himself in reality says that killing unborn babies is murder, and the murderer be better ready to find God's forgiveness, if that mother and father wishes to enter the new earth eventually! As to the children killed in the Oklahoma Tornedo I would suggest that they will all enter heaven someday, while now going through a perfect sleep in their graves. They are not in heaven right now and looking down seeing their parents weeping. That is not the kind of heaven I envision, where people are safe up there and I am here living in sin or dying of a terrible sickness!

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KERMIT P SOILEAU

May 30, 2013  8:06am

Having grown up Roman Catholic & been subject to the "limbo" idea, as well as origiinal sin, I categorically reject both ideas. By God's grace, I found salvation in Jesus alone. Salvation comes from a free will, faith expression to accept the death of Christ as the payment for sin/sins. Sin can only be assigned where will has been expressed...otherwise, we are automatons & God is unjust. Therefore, children who are incapable of understanding sin & the gospel, are acceptable to God. And, yes, Calvinism aside, that's my grace of God story and I'm sticking to it! My conclusion is not based on my 30+ years as a pastor, 10 years of academic preparation, or a systematic theology...but on my personal relationship with the Christ I have known for 50+ years!

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Zenon Lotufo Junior

May 29, 2013  3:55pm

It is worth considering in this context, what writes R. Olson concerning the interpretation that Augustine makes in Romans 5:12, for not knowing the Greek: It is rather ironic to note that the biblical passage takes as basic support for his thesis, Romans 5.12, has been erroneously interpreted by him. The text not say what he believed it said: The Greek text of Romans 5.12 says that death passed upon all human beings 'for that all have sinned'. Augustine, however, does not read Greek and used a deficient translation of Romans that erroneously understood the citation mentioned as in quo omnes pecaverunt or 'in who [that is to say, Adam] everybody has sinned'. In other words, when Augustine read Romans 5.12, he understood that death passed upon all human beings because everyone sinned by intermediacy of Adam. But this is not what says the verse in the original language. OLSON, R. (2001). História da Teologia Cristã (History of Christian Theology). São Paulo: Vida, p. 276. [From Z. Lotufo, Jr., Kind God. Cruel God – How Images of God Shape Belief, Attitude, and Outlook]

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yvette moore

May 29, 2013  10:42am

David was right: "Let me fall into the hands of the LORD, for his mercy is very great; but do not let me fall into the hands of men." As the teachings of these great theologians of the church prove yet again, on our best day humans don't love enough to judge anybody, even babies! Honestly, if we can't trust our loving God to deal w/dead children lovingly, we all might as well eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow we die!

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gordon payne

May 29, 2013  10:37am

Neither add nor detract. We know what we are told and experience. Only God knows the ultimate judgment He delivers respecting all, not only His own. That defeats neither foreordination nor compliance with His law. It is one thing to believe in Predestination, another to presume where learned ignorance is the call. We do know there is a special case for incompetence, which, like the life of a church, the interference in which to sustain or destroy, may encroach on the province God has reserved for Himself in the matter at hand. If He takes or permits a child to be taken away from its parents, who are we to say He does not intend it for their edification in growing nearer to Him, if only to see the child again in a way only Scripture defines? The pain of the loss should not affect the substance of belief, but, indeed, so long as mercy permits, instill a look forward to a better homecoming. That does not obviate necessity of loving a child the same way He loves us, to grateful response.

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CB Ross

May 28, 2013  10:10am

[Part 2!] May I suggest that this is not the case. Father God inhabits eternity - a dimension that is beyond our mortal comprehension. What we may say, with confidence, is that it is outwith created time. I give two chapters of my own Kindle book "Great Words of the Christian Faith" to the subject - one on 'Predestination' and the other on 'Eternity' - so am unable to write fully on the subject here (who would read a comment as long as that?!). However, it helps if we realise that heaven is just one day - no night (Rev.21:25, 22:5), and that YHWH is the "I AM" (Ex.3:14). Father God sees all of our human time simultaneously - including the death of a child. This means that the idea of "what the child would have done if it had not died" is, frankly, nonsensical! What God sees is that the child is dead - not some 'magical' picture of what has never been! Blessings, and shalom.

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CB Ross

May 28, 2013  10:08am

An interesting article on a very sensitive subject. My own approach is that those who, in spite of having a sinful nature, have not consciously sinned (sin = "any want of conformity unto, or transgression of, the law of God" - the Shorter Catechism) are saved! However, their presence in glory is on exactly the same basis as my own - the grace of God. One other point. There is, it seems to me, much confusion over the perceived dichotomy between "Calvinism" and "Arminianism". The author quotes Calvin: "we may rest assured that God would never have suffered any infants to be slain except those who were already damned and predestined for eternal death," This position presupposes that Almighty God sits at the beginning of time, looking forward, and deciding who will be saved and, the inescapable corollary, who will be damned. [Not enough characters - to be continued!]

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John pierce

May 27, 2013  9:59am

I have often wrestled with this thorny question, without resolution, other than to utilize the words of Abraham from Gen. 18:25: "Shall not the Judge of all the Earth do right?" Whatever the true answer is, we can trust that God has judged fairly, that no one is condemned unjustly. And with that, we must be satisfied. (Now, a THEORY that I've developed, and it is nothing more than that, is that perhaps those who die before the age of accountability, whatever that age may be, might be resurrected and brought into the Millennial Kingdom, where they can live out a life as originally intended, and have the opportunity to submit to Christ's rule. But this is nothing more than a fanciful theory, with no Scriptural basis whatsoever.)

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Nathan rice

May 26, 2013  7:59pm

It's pretty sad the way that this pernicious thing, "theology", causes so many decent people to tie themselves up in knots. Paradox and unreason pile high. The author completely fails to refute Augustine's lunatic idea of a "just" God condemning infants to eternal torture, but merely offers bland reassurance. Just another example of the moral and intellectual poverty of Christianity. Blood does not, has never, and will not pay for anything. When a liar sacrifices a dove, you have a liar and a dead dove. Any supposed deity who engages in such ridiculous pantomime can not be anything more than an invention of primitive men. Human, or deific, sacrifice is just as empty and insulting.

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Bev Sterk

May 26, 2013  6:54pm

I am testing this possibility... what if every child that dies under the age of twenty is with Jesus... I base this on all the children of Israel that were under 20 at the time of the punishment to wander in the wilderness for 40 years, were allowed to enter the promised land... every one over 20 at that time died in the wilderness... those over 20 were held accountable for their unbelief, but those under 20 were not (Numbers 14:29-32). several supporting passages, including the above reference for the age of accountability at 20 are: Numbers 14:29-35; 1:22,24,26 etc; 26:2,4; 32:11; I Chron 23:24,27; 2 Chron 31:17; and Ezra 3:8 and as the OT promised land is a foreshadow of heaven/eternity, is it possible 20 is the age of accountability? (one caveat, there are those with disabilities that are older, but never reach the mental age of 20, and I believe under God's generous and loving nature, this would be extended to them as well)

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Nathan Garmatz

May 25, 2013  4:01pm

Yes.

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Martin Tampier

May 25, 2013  1:46pm

What Jim wrote makes sense and I'd love to believe what he wrote. Yet, at least two problems remain. Quote: "The key to the "trespass" that leads to "condemnation for all men" is therefore our decision to reject such grace." - this would ALSO mean we should not evangelize! If someone who has never heard the Gospel is better off this way than hearing and rejecting it, we better not tell them - think about young Muslims who never had the chance to hear what the Bible is actually about. According to Jim's argument, they would also be innocent since they never consciously rejected Christ (Rom 2:12). The other problem that needs to be explained is 1.Cor 7:14 - does this mean the children are saved because one of the parents is a Christian? Then inversely, there would be a question mark if not. Also, what Jim wrote means ANY sin does not condemn anyone (incl. children) but only the rejection of Christ. So a lie does not mean condemnation? A more refined answer would be great.

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Raymond Swenson

May 25, 2013  1:19pm

The state of small children who die without baptism is not a mere theological conundrum, but as the author attests, it is an immediate concern for every person who has loved a little child. If you are a missionary in a country like Japan where 99% of the people are not Christian, what do you tell a person you are trying to convert who has lost a young child to illness or to accident? What if their children were lost in the great tsunami of 2011? How can you persuade them to accept the power of Christ's atoning sacrifice of it cannot reach their lost children? If God has infinite power, why can't it reach those innocent little ones whom Christ clearly loves? If your theology, your interpretation of the Gospel, forces you to throw out the babies along with the bathwater, then you need to revisit your theology, because in condemning infants to suffer eternally alongside Hitler, Stalin and Pol Pot you have reached a reductio ad absurdum.

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Raymond Swenson

May 25, 2013  1:00pm

Thank you for this thoughtful and loving article. This issue is addressed directly by one of the sermons in The Book of Mormon, a letter found in Chapter 8 of the Book of Moroni, close to the conclusion of the entire Book of Mormon. The author of the letter states "Little children cannot repent; wherefore it is awful wickedness to deny the pure mercies of God unto them, for they are all alive in him because of his mercy. And he that saith that little children need baptism denieth the mercies of Christ, and setteth at naught the atonement of him and the power of his redemption. Wo unto such, for they are in danger of death, hell, and an endless torment." The author of the letter turns the question around on us, and tells us that those who would condemn innocent children to hell are the ones who are in danger of God's punishment for attempting to restrict the abundant mercy and redemptive power of Christ's atonement on behalf of all mankind.

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KATHLEEN L Kexel

May 25, 2013  11:51am

As sister and guardian to a brother with a developmental disabilty (Fragile X Syndrome) that limits his ability to understand theology...this question is quite germane to me. (He does believe in Jesus...but beyond that?) I can accept that "innocent" children who die are with the Lord. The big question is when does that innocence evaporate. Philip Yancey gave a solid reason for Scripture not telling us when that age occurs. If we truly believed that children who die are in heaven, then would not the kindest thing for us to do be to kill them before they attain the age where they could deny Christ/sin? I believe one of the justifications for radical Muslims have for killing the innocent is that they believe that all children are "born" Muslim and that it is their non-Muslim parents who corrupt them. Therefore killing children who are too young to say "allah is god" "saves" them from rejecting Islam and delivers them to paradise.

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Guy Rodgers

May 25, 2013  7:29am

Augustine was the Christian General leading his troops in a war to the death with Paganism. The 5th century was a desperate time. Augustine deemed it necessary to exploit the ugly concept of infant damnation in order to wage a campaign of mass conversion. The Roman Empire became Christian, but at a terrible price. Calvin and Luther wrestled the Church away from the sacrament of baptism to the mystery of unconditional election. The Augustinian and Calvinist versions of Christianity are rigorously Bible-based and beautiful for saved Christians, but positively horrible for all who are not Christians, or not the right kind of Christians. We can agree that the Christianity of Augustine, Luther and Calvin was seriously flawed. But it had the power to rally armies, conquer nations, and terrorize the god-fearing into submission. Good riddance. Unfortunately, despite its compassion and noble intentions, Jim Dennison’s theology removes human free will divine coherence from salvation.

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Jazmin C

May 25, 2013  7:28am

"Do All Children Go to Heaven?" That we even have to ask that question is just another reason why I've become a universalist. It is another reason why I don't believe in hell as Evangelicals do. That we even have to ask that question is the reason why I once bordered on atheism. How incredibly, incredibly disturbing to even imagine that a child let alone an infant can burn in hell. How can anyone follow a faith that claims that. My conscious, which I believe was breath by God, cannot accept that.

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Pop Seal

May 25, 2013  7:00am

"All judgment is committed to the Son". Trust Him to make everything right. The question has intellectual merit only because fails to take in the eternal nature of things. A short term view can never be right when considering eternity. It is a problem for those who are without the assurance of Eternal Life, but not for us that know God.

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Wendy Willmore

May 25, 2013  3:45am

I appreciated the authors exposition of Jesus' teaching on children, but I do agree with Jim Sparks that both from Scripture and experience we know that even the tiniest children are sinners. Quite frankly, however, I think that condemning infants, and those who have never heard is taking logic to extremes - a part of a rationalism that denies the mystery that we often find in Christianity. As a doctor, I have seen too many strange things on the cusp of the hereafter. Our God is the Lord of time and space. Does Jesus come to some people in their dying moments to present them with a final invitation? Maybe. Do you know any infants that would from birth avoid a parents' arms? Why wouldn't they fly to Jesus when given the chance? Why wouldn't God tell us about it in Scripture? Probably to avoid giving us one more excuse to avoid the Great Commission (like Jonah we come up with all sorts of them) and also because, as Don Loops says "it's well above our pay grade".

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Michael Thomas

May 24, 2013  10:38pm

It's my belief in order to be condemned the understanding of what you have done must be recognized by that individual. If one cannot even communicate how can one understand? The word was written as a guide book for life not to condemn us but to show us where we have failed or sinned. If one does not understand as an infant does not; how can one be condemned? We are all a part of the natural order of sin from birth because of the sin of one man and we are all who will accept Jesus as their personal Lord and Savior justified or made righteous by the gift of grace by one man/God. It's easier for me to comprehend that all children go to heaven because of what Christ said in Matthew 19:14-but Jesus said, "Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven". ESV

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KEVIN W ANDERSON

May 24, 2013  8:32pm

Options #2 & #3 do not at all necessitate that we abandon missions & evangelism. In fact, believing that God has given a measure of his Spirit to everyone (John 12:32, Acts 2:17) is good reason to go and find those who will respond to it, and going to evangelize someone will no more "cause" them to reject God than if they died without hearing the Gospel at all. Either they will or they won't respond to God. When a Calvinist is asked "how can you believe in election and still evangelize," he responds with "I do it because God tells me to." Well those who believe in God judging "according to the light that they have" (John 12:36) can say the same thing. It's not about the apparent practicality of the command, it's about obedience. We do it because God tells us to.

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Grant Alford

May 24, 2013  8:15pm

Mark: The ONLY reason Augustine HAD to have infant baptism was to undo the crime that his "genetic sin nature by the sexual act" created. Without his twisted doctrine of "original sin" he did not need infant baptism. Having painted themselves into a corner that condemns the unborn, and some kind of limbo he needed infant baptism and/or baptismal regeneration or Calvinists "children of the covenant" baptism to get them out of the conflict. It is so much easier just to admit he was wrong than trying to do all the fancy footwork. Before there was "original sin" there was "original innocence". Look how everyone is defining "sin" as an act of disobedience to parents etc. but God's definition is a "falling short of the glory of God" or as it shows over and over, dis-belief... or lack of trust IN GOD. Every condemnation of an ADULT as an individual or a group is when they failed to trust God or depend on Him. Murder, or theft or covetousness amounts to that lack of Trust or dependence.

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Grant Alford

May 24, 2013  8:00pm

Mr. Pepper's reference to a child clobbering his brother serves as our definition of sin. But is this not OUR definition so that we can fit the "all have sinned", and MAKE it apply to even the "innocent" child? We go so far as to imply that an infant crying for his feeding shows how selfish and sinful he is. "Away in a Manger" tells us that of the infant Jesus - "no crying he makes" because that would, by our twisted theology, mean he must have "sinned". We have manufactured a "sin" where the Scripture does not count it. Scripture's own definition of what sin is, is much more condemning and much easier to apply to every act I do, to determine when *I* have sinned and when I need to repent. Any time I do anything "that is not of faith" or trust or dependence on God, I have sinned. "Jesus was in all things tested like we are, but sinned not", because he never did anything apart from his Father. Eve sinned when she stopped trusting the God she knew and trusted the unknown serpent.

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Grant Alford

May 24, 2013  7:07pm

A few thoughts that MIGHT broaden the presentation. What if we defined "faith" as "trust or trusting" - ie. Trusting God? What if the OT/NT/Reformation cry of "The just shall live by faith (trusting)" applied to all peoples? (Trusting God as Abraham did before he had all the theology worked out, but of whom it says "he saw Jesus/my day" and by trusting God's mysterious plan, it was counted to him for righteousness? What if Trust speaks of "relationship" and "dependence" (as Adam with God before the fall) and "sin" means "doing it MY way/independence" as per Eve (and Adam) in listening to the serpent? What if the phrase from Romans 14 (out of context but an eternal verity) applies to all of mankind: "That which is not of faith (Trusting) is sin"? Now apply that any reference that speaks of "sin" is addressed to responsible adults so verses about all have sinned etc. is intended for adults to respond as adults. Trust & be reconciled. Give up your independence! Children do trust/depend.

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Don Loops

May 24, 2013  6:54pm

" Perhaps scriptural "salvation" is broader than our systematic theologies." Amen. And then again, perhaps narrower. For certain we can be thankful that our salvation does not hinge on our theological correctness, for as Paul stated, we see through a glass darkly. Trying to determine who's saved and who's not is well above my pay grade. I have too many times of doubt about my own salvation. I think the answer to Abraham's rhetorical question in Gen. 18:25 is our answer--the Judge of all the earth WILL do RIGHT. And both those in heaven AND hell will some day kneel and profess it.

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Mark Adams

May 24, 2013  4:54pm

I should add that in comforting grieving parents we can state that we know for certain that God is in control and that He has done what is right. Can you imagine the effect that could be made on the issue of abortion if women were taught that by aborting their child they was condemning that child to an eternity in hell? Issue should not determine our theology, but if one truly believed as Augustine on this issue (minus infant baptism) how would this effect the abortion issue?

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Mark Adams

May 24, 2013  4:50pm

I stand more with Augustine on this issue (except for infant baptism). If a child must sin in order to be culpable before God, at what age does a child express willfulness? At what age do they begin to rebelliously disobey a parent? Certainly before they are a year old. Is not willful disobedience to a parent sin? If so, would this not place a child even just a few months old in the position of guilt and therefore of accountability before God as a sinner if he/she were to die? I believe we sin because we are sinners, rather than we are sinners because we sin.

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Jim sparks

May 24, 2013  7:47am

The trouble with the "children are not saved - but are safe" approach is that it overlooks two, very important witnesses. The first is the witness of Scripture: "All have sinned . . . no one is righteous . . ." This is unequivical. There are no exceptions given, no matter how much we might want to find them. The second, is the witness of experience. I have heard those who said that the "age of accountability" was "13 - or thereabouts". But we all know primary school children who know what is wrong - and quite willingly and deliberately do it anyway. Each of us who are parents know full well that our "little darlings" knew at a very young age - often under two - when were doing something wrong. They may not be able to explain it, but they are fully aware of it. It was wrong. They knew it was wrong. And they did it anyway. And they cowered in "fear of judgment" from us, their loving parents. Scripture, and experience, tell us that there is no such thing as an "innocent" child.

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Aidan Herman

May 24, 2013  2:57am

The problem I have with this approach is it says that "children have not sinned - therefore they are not judged". What then does then mean in regards to the death and resurrection of Jesus with respect to children? Did Jesus die for them? Perhaps not on this model - they simply did not need salvation and merited the Kingdom by not sinning. I am a little uncomfortable with this approach.

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Howard Pepper

May 23, 2013  5:43pm

I cannot find a way to see that "age of responsibility" does anything to solve the difficulties, from an Evangelical perspective, of children going "to heaven" or not. The best it seems to be able to do is say "We'll leave it in God's hands, as God knows if they have taken any conscious action to reap 'the wages of sin'." I would certainly wonder if the child himself or herself would know, even if they had some sense they had done something wrong, like clobber little brother. Perhaps "heaven" and "hell" aren't so clearly distinguished as we've come to think. Perhaps scriptural "salvation" is broader than our systematic theologies.

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J G

May 23, 2013  2:13pm

I used to be a hyper Calvinist, attracted by what I perceived to be its un-challengable logic and consistency. In my resulting arrogance I used to assert that "All dead babies roast in hell", partly out of shear cussedness, but also because that is (I thought) is a logical extension: since God is sovereign, His will for the Elect is not thwarted by infant death or abortion: but since all are sinners and therefore lost, only those who make a (fore-ordained) choice for Jesus are saved. Then I soured on the whole thing. And I noted CS Lewis' position, which is something like: all who are saved are saved through Jesus, but not all those "know" Jesus. That is not universalism, it just acknowledges that God has discretion to save outside and beyond our narrow "Make a decision for Jesus" - ism.

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Maryann Eidemiller

May 23, 2013  1:49pm

All innocent little children go to heaven and all dogs go to heaven, too. God wouldn't have it any other way.

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NORMAN STOLPE

May 23, 2013  1:28pm

We naturally recoil from eternal condemnation for "innocent" children. We also find something inherently unjust in an arbitrary election and non-election of children. Yet, we also need to be careful about making our decision to accept God's grace in Christ into another kind of works-righteousness, as though we determine our salvation by our will based decision and cross an invisible line into an "age of accountability." Understandably, we avoid universalism. I suggest that the problem is not with God's grace in Christ but in the limitation of our human understanding to grasp its magnitude. So we push for a human logical consistency that misses God's mysterious depths and leaves us with a conundrum. We want answers that we can neither comprehend nor tolerate. That we struggle with ambiguity is our problem, not God's. Faith is not affirming the veracity of a doctrinal articulation but trusting God in Christ exactly where we recognize our finitude.

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