On the omniscience of God

JudgeRightly

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Been watching a lot of Soteriology101 videos recently, in which Dr. Leighton Flowers consistently shows the errors of Calvinism, and promotes "Provisionism," which teaches that God has provided a way of salvation for mankind. (I definitely recommend listening to his shows on YT.)

But he pokes at the Open Theist camp (in love, of course) saying that he rejects our (as I am an Open Theist, too) view of God's omniscience, which is that God can know all things knowable, but also that God does not know the future. He obviously (because his show isn't really about Open Theism so much as it is Provisionism and attacking Calvinism,

I figured I'd start this thread to discuss what it means for God to be omniscient.
 

JudgeRightly

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@Clete recently shared with me this article which describes one of the problems with saying that God can know the future.


In it, the author(s) reason out the following logical argument:


A precise version of the argument can be formulated as follows: Choose some proposition about a future act that you think you will do freely, if any act is free. Suppose, for example, that the telephone will ring at 9 am tomorrow and you will either answer it or you will not. So it is either true that you will answer the phone at 9 am tomorrow or it is true that you will not answer the phone at 9 am tomorrow. The Law of Excluded Middle rules out any other alternative. Let T abbreviate the proposition that you will answer the phone tomorrow at 9, and let us suppose that T is true. (If not-T is true instead, simply substitute not-T in the argument below).

Let “now-necessary” designate temporal necessity, the type of necessity that the past is supposed to have just because it is past. We will discuss this type of necessity in sections 2.3 and 2.6, but we can begin with the intuitive idea that there is a kind of necessity that a proposition has now when the content of the proposition is about something that occurred in the past. To say that it is now-necessary that milk has been spilled is to say nobody can do anything now about the fact that the milk has been spilled.

Let “God” designate a being who has infallible beliefs about the future, where to say that God believes p infallibly is to say that God believes p and it is not possible that God believes p and p is false. It is not important for the logic of the argument that God is the being worshiped by any particular religion, but the motive to maintain that there is a being with infallible beliefs is usually a religious one.

One more preliminary point is in order. The dilemma of infallible foreknowledge and human free will does not rest on the particular assumption of foreknowledge and does not require an analysis of knowledge. Most contemporary accounts of knowledge are fallibilist, which means they do not require that a person believe in a way that cannot be mistaken in order to have knowledge. She has knowledge just in case what she believes is true and she satisfies the other conditions for knowledge, such as having sufficiently strong evidence. Ordinary knowledge does not require that the belief cannot be false. For example, if I believe on strong evidence that classes begin at my university on a certain date, and when the day arrives, classes do begin, we would normally say I knew in advance that classes would begin on that date. I had foreknowledge about the date classes begin. But there is nothing problematic about that kind of foreknowledge because events could have proven me wrong even though as events actually turned out, they didn’t prove me wrong. Ordinary foreknowledge does not threaten to necessitate the future because it does not require that when I know p it is not possible that my belief is false. The key problem, then, is the infallibility of the belief about the future, and this is a problem whether or not the epistemic agent with an infallible belief satisfies the other conditions required by some account of knowledge, such as sufficient evidence. As long as an agent has an infallible belief about the future, the problem arises.

Using the example of the proposition T, the argument that infallible foreknowledge of T entails that you do not answer the telephone freely can be formulated as follows:

Basic Argument for Theological Fatalism.
(1) Yesterday God infallibly believed T. [Supposition of infallible foreknowledge]
(2) If E occurred in the past, it is now-necessary that E occurred then. [Principle of the Necessity of the Past]
(3) It is now-necessary that yesterday God believed T. [1, 2]
(4) Necessarily, if yesterday God believed T, then T. [Definition of “infallibility”]
(5) If p is now-necessary, and necessarily (p → q), then q is now-necessary. [Transfer of Necessity Principle]
(6) So it is now-necessary that T. [3,4,5]
(7) If it is now-necessary that T, then you cannot do otherwise than answer the telephone tomorrow at 9 am. [Definition of “necessary”]
(8) Therefore, you cannot do otherwise than answer the telephone tomorrow at 9 am. [6, 7]
(9) If you cannot do otherwise when you do an act, you do not act freely. [Principle of Alternate Possibilities]
(10) Therefore, when you answer the telephone tomorrow at 9 am, you will not do it freely. [8, 9]

This argument is formulated in a way that makes its logical form as perspicuous as possible, and there is a consensus that this argument or something close to it is valid. That is, if the premises are all true, the conclusion follows.

 
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JudgeRightly

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Thread Rules:

To remain in this thread you will need to be able to play well with others. This thread is for folks who do not wish to bicker, fight, play games, obfuscate, or otherwise present themselves as a distraction to the discussion.

Thread derailment will NOT be tolerated. Stay on topic!!!

This thread was originally in the Open View Theology Forum, which is a PRO-Openness theology forum, but I moved it here so that discussion is more likely.

This thread is intended to primarily discuss Open View theology from the perspective that it is the correct biblical view. That does not mean that the view cannot be questioned or debated, instead it simply means it will not be a place for settled view proponents to grandstand or monopolize the thread or mock the position that this thread represents.

If a person is not following the above stated rules they will be removed from the thread and will no longer be able to make posts in it.

Thank you in advance for your cooperation. 🆙
 
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Clete

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@Clete recently shared with me this article which describes one of the problems with saying that God can know the future.


In it, the author(s) reason out the following logical argument:


A precise version of the argument can be formulated as follows: Choose some proposition about a future act that you think you will do freely, if any act is free. Suppose, for example, that the telephone will ring at 9 am tomorrow and you will either answer it or you will not. So it is either true that you will answer the phone at 9 am tomorrow or it is true that you will not answer the phone at 9 am tomorrow. The Law of Excluded Middle rules out any other alternative. Let T abbreviate the proposition that you will answer the phone tomorrow at 9, and let us suppose that T is true. (If not-T is true instead, simply substitute not-T in the argument below).

Let “now-necessary” designate temporal necessity, the type of necessity that the past is supposed to have just because it is past. We will discuss this type of necessity in sections 2.3 and 2.6, but we can begin with the intuitive idea that there is a kind of necessity that a proposition has now when the content of the proposition is about something that occurred in the past. To say that it is now-necessary that milk has been spilled is to say nobody can do anything now about the fact that the milk has been spilled.

Let “God” designate a being who has infallible beliefs about the future, where to say that God believes p infallibly is to say that God believes p and it is not possible that God believes p and p is false. It is not important for the logic of the argument that God is the being worshiped by any particular religion, but the motive to maintain that there is a being with infallible beliefs is usually a religious one.

One more preliminary point is in order. The dilemma of infallible foreknowledge and human free will does not rest on the particular assumption of foreknowledge and does not require an analysis of knowledge. Most contemporary accounts of knowledge are fallibilist, which means they do not require that a person believe in a way that cannot be mistaken in order to have knowledge. She has knowledge just in case what she believes is true and she satisfies the other conditions for knowledge, such as having sufficiently strong evidence. Ordinary knowledge does not require that the belief cannot be false. For example, if I believe on strong evidence that classes begin at my university on a certain date, and when the day arrives, classes do begin, we would normally say I knew in advance that classes would begin on that date. I had foreknowledge about the date classes begin. But there is nothing problematic about that kind of foreknowledge because events could have proven me wrong even though as events actually turned out, they didn’t prove me wrong. Ordinary foreknowledge does not threaten to necessitate the future because it does not require that when I know p it is not possible that my belief is false. The key problem, then, is the infallibility of the belief about the future, and this is a problem whether or not the epistemic agent with an infallible belief satisfies the other conditions required by some account of knowledge, such as sufficient evidence. As long as an agent has an infallible belief about the future, the problem arises.

Using the example of the proposition T, the argument that infallible foreknowledge of T entails that you do not answer the telephone freely can be formulated as follows:

Basic Argument for Theological Fatalism.
(1) Yesterday God infallibly believed T. [Supposition of infallible foreknowledge]
(2) If E occurred in the past, it is now-necessary that E occurred then. [Principle of the Necessity of the Past]
(3) It is now-necessary that yesterday God believed T. [1, 2]
(4) Necessarily, if yesterday God believed T, then T. [Definition of “infallibility”]
(5) If p is now-necessary, and necessarily (p → q), then q is now-necessary. [Transfer of Necessity Principle]
(6) So it is now-necessary that T. [3,4,5]
(7) If it is now-necessary that T, then you cannot do otherwise than answer the telephone tomorrow at 9 am. [Definition of “necessary”]
(8) Therefore, you cannot do otherwise than answer the telephone tomorrow at 9 am. [6, 7]
(9) If you cannot do otherwise when you do an act, you do not act freely. [Principle of Alternate Possibilities]
(10) Therefore, when you answer the telephone tomorrow at 9 am, you will not do it freely. [8, 9]

This argument is formulated in a way that makes its logical form as perspicuous as possible, and there is a consensus that this argument or something close to it is valid. That is, if the premises are all true, the conclusion follows.

This is one of the most brilliant examples of formal logical argumentation that I've ever been exposed to. I have yet to see any refutation of it that was the least bit valid.

The response by those who disagree with it takes one of three forms.

1. The person doesn't understand the argument and ends up refuting an argument that isn't being made.
2. The person intentionally mischaracterizes the argument and then refutes the straw man that they've constructed.
3. The person doesn't make an argument at all and simply declares the argument false and thinks that their having said it makes it so.


Clete
 
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ffreeloader

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I read that argument and don't accept it. Why? Because it ignores that we humans are finite, and that God's knowledge is not limited to what we finite beings are capable of understanding. What we know of God has been revealed to us. We didn't figure any of this out on our own.

How did God speak our universe into existence? Can anyone explain that to me?
How did God speak life into existence? Can anyone explain that to me?
How could God have no beginning and no end? Can anyone explain that to me?

Just so how do we think we can explain God's capabilities completely with finite reasoning when God's ability to reason and the infinite extent of His knowledge stretches so far beyond ours that we cannot even comprehend it? Both of those attributes of His are infinite: without end.

That is all it takes to refute that article. I'll take God's word on things which I cannot understand. I will reject human reasoning that pretends to completely understand our infinite God when our God has not revealed to us how He accomplished things that lie beyond our comprehension. That is called faith in God.

God has revealed that He allows us to make our own moral choices. I believe it. God has also said what specific individuals would do in the future and what would happen to the Messiah. I also believe He did that. He revealed that also and I accept the truthfulness of His word. I accept both as true by faith.

Now if some human told me the same type of contradictory statements I would reject them as both being true. Why? Because I do not have the same faith in humanity as I have in God and His word. It's as simple as that. I know a human being is both fallible and finite. I know God is just the opposite. He is infallible and infinite.
 

Clete

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I read that argument and don't accept it. Why? Because it ignores that we humans are finite, and that God's knowledge is not limited to what we finite beings are capable of understanding.
I assume then that you do not deny that the contradiction exist so far as our puny human brains are able to function and that there isn't any refutation of the argument not because its true but purely because we're just aren't smart enough to understand.

Are you fine with any doctrine that is irrational then?

If you are willing to accept the compatibility of doctrines of exhaustive divine foreknowledge and free will (including God's by the way), then what doctrines are you willing to reject and on what basis?

What we know of God has been revealed to us. We didn't figure any of this out on our own.
Well, this is an over statement. There are lots of things we can know about God without any need for divine revelation. (Romans 1:20 and elsewhere).
How did God speak our universe into existence? Can anyone explain that to me?
Not relevant.

More imortantly accepting as true does not ignore sound reason. There is nothing irrational about God speaking the universe into existence.
How did God speak life into existence? Can anyone explain that to me?
This is another over statement. Adam was formed from the dust of the Earth and then God breathed life into him (i.e. he was not spoken into existence). Regardless, it is not relevant. There is nothing irrational about God creating life.
How could God have no beginning and no end? Can anyone explain that to me?
Again, it is not relevant.
There is not anything irrational about the notion that God has always existed and even if you wanted to make an argument that presents some rational problem with that doctrine then we could debate it. That is those of us who accept the veracity of reason could debate it. You couldn't debate it because you don't think that we are capable of understanding God in the first place and so you'd believe your doctrine no matter what argument is made on the basis divine revelation as though any revelation could ever be communicated to you without reason!
Just so how do we think we can explain God's capabilities completely with finite reasoning when God's ability to reason and the infinite extent of His knowledge stretches so far beyond ours that we cannot even comprehend it? Both of those attributes of His are infinite: without end.

That is all it takes to refute that article. I'll take God's word on things which I cannot understand. I will reject human reasoning that pretends to completely understand our infinite God when our God has not revealed to us how He accomplished things that lie beyond our comprehension. That is called faith in God.

God has revealed that He allows us to make our own moral choices. I believe it. God has also said what specific individuals would do in the future and what would happen to the Messiah. I also believe He did that. He revealed that also and I accept the truthfulness of His word. I accept both as true by faith.
So you've sort of combined forms 2 and 3 of the responses I've seen to that argument. You both misrepresent what the argument states and, in addition to that, you simply declare the argument invalid and think that your saying it makes it so.

The argument does not attempt to "explain God's capabilities completely" nor would any such complete understanding be necessary in order to understand the argument.

Further, you beg the question by presupposing the existence of "finite reasoning" when what you mean by that phrase is "any reasoning that contradicts my dogma".
Now if some human told me the same type of contradictory statements I would reject them as both being true. Why? Because I do not have the same faith in humanity as I have in God and His word. It's as simple as that. I know a human being is both fallible and finite. I know God is just the opposite. He is infallible and infinite.
One of your major premises is that the exhaustive foreknowledge of God has been revealed to us by divine revelation. This premise is false! There is nothing in the bible that requires any such belief. Your church (i.e. "some human") has taught you that doctrine, not the bible. You wouldn't believe it at all if not for Augustine of Hippo (pretty sure he was a human too) and his importing Greek philosophical ideas about God into Christianity in the 4th century.

Clete
 
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Clete

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This is one of the most brilliant examples of formal logical argumentation that I've ever been exposed to. I have yet to see any refutation of it that was the least bit valid.

The response by those who disagree with it takes one of three forms.

1. The person doesn't understand the argument and ends up refuting an argument that isn't being made.
2. The person intentionally mischaracterizes the argument and then refutes the straw man that they've constructed.
3. The person doesn't make an argument at all and simply declares the argument false and thinks that their having said it makes it so.


Clete
There is a forth response I've seen to this argument that I didn't think of when I wrote the post quoted above.
There are those who accept the veracity of the argument but instead of rejecting foreknowledge, they reject free will.

I'd say that, based strictly on this argument alone, that is a totally valid position to take. The argument does not establish whether or not we have free will. It merely proves that we do not have free will IF God infallibly knows the future. To put it more formal terms, the argument proves that infallible foreknowledge and free will are mutually exclusive. I would go so far as to say that the argument proves that an open future is a necessary condition of free will.

Clete
 

JudgeRightly

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There is a forth response I've seen to this argument that I didn't think of when I wrote the post quoted above.
There are those who accept the veracity of the argument but instead of rejecting foreknowledge, they reject free will.

I'd say that, based strictly on this argument alone, that is a totally valid position to take. The argument does not establish whether or not we have free will. It merely proves that we do not have free will IF God infallibly knows the future. To put it more formal terms, the argument proves that infallible foreknowledge and free will are mutually exclusive. I would go so far as to say that the argument proves that an open future is a necessary condition of free will.

Clete

What about what it means for what God knows about what He Himself will do in the future?

If we apply the logic to God, rather than men, what would that imply?

For example, if T were that on December 25th, 2021, God would launch an asteroid at the earth...

In other words, take man out of the equation.
 

Clete

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What about what it means for what God knows about what He Himself will do in the future?

If we apply the logic to God, rather than men, what would that imply?

For example, if T were that on December 25th, 2021, God would launch an asteroid at the earth...

In other words, take man out of the equation.
The logic applies regardless of who its being applied to. It doesn't have to be God who knows. It doesn't matter who infallibly knows the future or how they know it so long as it is someone other than the person doing the action. If I infallibly know that you will answer the phone tomorrow at 9am then you won't do it freely.

However, if you know what you are going to do because you've chosen to do it then the argument doesn't apply because your choice is the cause of your knowledge. In other words, the choice preceded the knowledge, or at the very least coincided with the knowledge, and so cannot have been effected by it in the way discussed in the argument.

Clete
 

Bradley D

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Revelations tells me what God has planned for the future. God's understanding is well beyond what anyone could know. The gods of this world keep failing. Is God all knowing? God has an all knowing about His creation. He made it. A blessing it is to have His Word and be able to live as He would have me. I make many mistakes, but am able to turn to God for correction and keep on walking on His path.
 

JudgeRightly

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The logic applies regardless of who its being applied to. It doesn't have to be God who knows. It doesn't matter who infallibly knows the future or how they know it so long as it is someone other than the person doing the action. If I infallibly know that you will answer the phone tomorrow at 9am then you won't do it freely.

However, if you know what you are going to do because you've chosen to do it then the argument doesn't apply because your choice is the cause of your knowledge. In other words, the choice preceded the knowledge, or at the very least coincided with the knowledge, and so cannot have been effected by it in the way discussed in the argument.

Clete

Your second paragraph seems to be part of the problem with the settled view (ie, that God knows the future because He decreed every thing that will ever happen at every point in time where nothing will happen that He did not decree), simply due to the fact that they've put the cart before the horse, so to sepak.
 

Clete

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Revelations tells me what God has planned for the future.
Not in dispute and therefore irrelevant to the argument.
God's understanding is well beyond what anyone could know.
Of course! No one has suggested otherwise.
Since this also is not in dispute is too is irrelevant to the argument.

The gods of this world keep failing. Is God all knowing? God has an all knowing about His creation. He made it. A blessing it is to have His Word and be able to live as He would have me. I make many mistakes, but am able to turn to God for correction and keep on walking on His path.
None of this is relevant to the argument except perhaps one sentence that I don't understand. What did you mean to say when you typed "God has an all knowing about His creation."? There's clearly a typo in there somewhere and it muddles the meaning. Please clarify.

Clete
 

Clete

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Your second paragraph seems to be part of the problem with the settled view (ie, that God knows the future because He decreed every thing that will ever happen at every point in time where nothing will happen that He did not decree), simply due to the fact that they've put the cart before the horse, so to speak.
A big percentage of Christians who believe that "God knows the future because He decreed every thing that will ever happen at every point in time where nothing will happen that He did not decree" simply reject the notion of free will altogether.

Their problem isn't in trying to resolve the argument we're discussing. They have to deal with what I think are much more important issues concerning how concepts such as love and justice are compatible with an immutable and impassible God who predestined every vile act performed by the criminals and perverts of the world.

The fact that open theism resolves all of these issues and many more in a single stroke while maintain complete fidelity to both the bible and sound reason is one of the most eloquent arguments in favor of the doctrine. Not to mention the fact that is turns the immutable stone idol of Catholicism and Calvinism into a God with whom we can actually relate. Given that having a relationship with God is pretty much the entire point of the bible and Christianity, how much stronger of an argument could anyone want?

Clete
 
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Bradley D

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None of this is relevant to the argument except perhaps one sentence that I don't understand. What did you mean to say when you typed "God has an all knowing about His creation."? There's clearly a typo in there somewhere and it muddles the meaning. Please clarify.
God knows His creation. When a person makes something on earth (i.e. a house) he knows the house quite well because he made it.
 

ttruscott

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My problem with GOD knowing everything that can be known before HE create anything is from
2 Peter 3:9 The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.

All HE had to do to keep hell empty so HE could fulfill HIS desire that no one perish was to not create those whom HE knew would never repent!!! Not only that but Perfect Love could never create someone in HIS image knowing their inevitable end in hell when to save them from that all HE had to do was to NOT create them at all.

If HE was omniscient as currently defined, there can be no hell nor any reason to talk or warn of hell.

My current favourite suggestion to understand this conundrum is that when HE created everyone in HIS own image, HE created us all with a free will but HE did NOT create the results of any free will decisions so HE never knew what we would choose, letting us to be the masters of our own fate. HE knows what HE has created but HE did not create the results of any true free will decison. Then, by our free will, some chose to reject HIS claims to be our creator GOD and put their faith instead in the idea HE was a false god and a liar, sinning the unforgivable sin in the Satanic fall. Others put their faith in HIM as their GOD and Saviour (if they should ever need it) and were chosen/elected to be HIS Bride though some later rebelled against the call for the judgment upon HIS eternal enemies, forcing the postponement of the judgement until these sinful elect could be redeemed and sanctified, Matt 13:28...So the servants asked him, ‘Do you want us to go and pull them up' (ie bring the judgment upon them)? 29 ‘NO,’ He said, ‘if you pull the weeds now, you might uproot the wheat with them.' The sinful but good seed must be sanctified before the judgement may be called.

Once the time of choice was fulfilled and everyone had chosen their eternal relationship with HIM, HE created the physical universe and the earth as the place where HIS sinful elect could be sanctified and end the postponement of the judgement, Matt 13.

Of course once HE created the earth as the place for HIS sinful elect to live with the tares, HE has certainly programmed every result of every decision for all mankind to bring the end to this prison world the best and fastest way possible. We are clearly told that sinners have no free will here on earth being enslaved to sin and our lives are predetermined...yet without free will ever then HE is responsible for our evil which I will never accept.

By our rebirth our free will is restored to us though we still must be trained in righteousness (Heb 12:5-11) because of our memories of the pleasures and profits of sin.
 
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oatmeal

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Been watching a lot of Soteriology101 videos recently, in which Dr. Leighton Flowers consistently shows the errors of Calvinism, and promotes "Provisionism," which teaches that God has provided a way of salvation for mankind. (I definitely recommend listening to his shows on YT.)

But he pokes at the Open Theist camp (in love, of course) saying that he rejects our (as I am an Open Theist, too) view of God's omniscience, which is that God can know all things knowable, but also that God does not know the future. He obviously (because his show isn't really about Open Theism so much as it is Provisionism and attacking Calvinism,

I figured I'd start this thread to discuss what it means for God to be omniscient.
It's a very good question

What does omniscient mean in reference to God

omniscient of course is not a word found in Scripture.

It could be defined as all-knowing.

Interesting there are two Greek words that I am most familiar with regarding knowing something

Oida and ginosko.

Oida referring to mentally perceiving something.

Whereas ginosko refers to knowing something by having experienced it by participating in it and being influenced by that experience.

Does God mentally perceive that evil exists?

Yes obviously he does.

But does God know evil because he has been an active agent in doing evil?

No God has never done evil not ever.

He has allowed evil to occur because he has given free will to certain of his beings in existence by his handiwork. Humans and spirit beings.

We know that one third of those Spirit beings angels rebelled against God and were cast down from heaven.

Of course Adam and Eve send against God and all humankind procreated by a human father and human mother have likewise sinned and fallen short of the glory of God
 
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