"Belief" vs. "Knowledge"

Discussion in 'Apologetics' started by Runner, Oct 27, 2017.

  1. Runner

    Runner Member

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    A recent thread on the Theology forum that was closed before I could comment on it had touched on the difference between “belief” and “knowledge.” This is one of my particular areas of interest.

    One can certainly have belief without knowledge. One can believe something that is simply not true. One has no knowledge it is true because it is in fact not true. One's belief is simply false.

    Or one can believe something that is in fact true, but for reasons that are false. The fact that what one believes is actually true is a matter of pure happenstance. One does not have knowledge, or even a belief that is justified. One has only an unjustified belief that happens to be true.

    One can also have a belief that is entirely justified without actually knowing it is true. If one's mental faculties are operating properly and one has a sufficient basis in experience or evidence for what one believes, then one's belief is justified. It is not necessarily true, and one cannot say that one has knowledge it is true, but at least one is justified in believing it.

    James 2:19 (NASB) states, “You believe that God is one. You do well; the demons also believe, and shudder.” Since the demons occupy the same (spiritual) level of reality as God, they may both believe and actually know that God is one. They know this in approximately the same direct way that I know my wife is a woman or my Ford is in my garage.

    The interesting question is the sense in which we as Christians know God. I may believe in God, and my belief may be justified, but do I know Him? In what way (if any) do I know Him that the demons James is talking about do not?

    As a Christian, I believe I am actually indwelt by the Holy Spirit. I know God, or at least believe I do, through the relationship I have with Him via reading His word, the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, and prayer.

    In one sense, my “knowledge” of God may be less solid than that of the demons, who have direct knowledge of His existence and monistic nature that I don't. In another sense, my “knowledge” of God is far solider than that of the demons, since I have (or so I believe) an ongoing father-child relationship with Him while the demons have only their superficial knowledge of His existence and nature.

    I think it is more accurate to say that Christians “believe” rather than “know.” Our experience of being indwelt by the Holy Spirit and communing with God through prayer strengthens the foundation of our belief and makes it supremely well-justified to us, but it is not really “knowledge” in the sense in which we ordinarily use the term or that makes sense to a non-believer.

    This is why James talks of faith. Even when I have the solidest possible foundation of evidence and my belief is justified to the nth degree – for example, when I step onto an aluminum ladder that I have carefully examined – there is still an element of faith. I do not know the ladder will support me unless and until I make the tiny leap of faith of actually stepping onto it.

    With Christianity, the leaps of faith are much larger – the leap that God actually exists and the additional one that, if He does exist, He is the God of Christianity. After we take these leaps and enter into a relationship with Him, we may use the language of “knowledge,” but in my view what we're really talking about is “a much stronger foundation for belief.”

    I at least do not say that I know God exists or that, if He does, He is the God of Christianity. I say I believe these things. I demonstrate my faith, to God and to others, by trying to live my life as though what I believe is true, even though I cannot say I know it is.

    Even as a Christian, I don’t find it convincing when fellow Christians speak of “knowing” things they really don’t know (especially when they suggest that those who don't use this confident language of "knowing" are somehow lesser Christians). I think it is fair, however, to suggest to a non-believer that he or she may, after committing to Christ, eventually arrive at a much higher level of certainty of belief (through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, reading God’s word, and prayer) than seems possible in his or her current state of unbelief.

    My closest analogy is with my direct experience of some paranormal phenomena. In my mind, I know they are real.

    This is why some Near Death Experiencers have a disdain for non-experiencers. They know (they say) while non-experiencers merely believe (so if there is any area of disagreement, it's the non-experiencers who must be wrong).

    I could say the same about the paranormal phenomena I have experienced. However, my experiences are not "knowledge" for anyone but me. They give me a very strong foundation for belief, and the beliefs I hold are justified by these experiences and a wealth of other evidence. But even in regard to these phenomena, I must acknowledge that I do not really know. I could have been fooled, my senses may not have been operating properly, or there may be an explanation entirely different from the one I attach to what I experienced. So, as with God, I never claim to know.
     
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  2. Jim Parker

    Jim Parker Member

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    The aspect of James' comments about belief and faith that are consistently overlooked is that, from a New Testament perspective, faith-belief, with regard to eternal life, is completely worthless unless the faith-belief is acted upon by the believer. In the 2nd chapter of his letter, he addresses that issue.

    "James does not teach we are saved by works, but he does teach that a dead faith, one without works, does not save. This is an early polemic against invisible religion, wherein salvation by faith has no visible works, and against antinomianism, the teaching that moral behavior is irrelevant to salvation. James is clear: the human will is not bypassed in salvation; grace does not nullify personal responsibility." The Orthodox Study Bible p.1673

    iakov the fool
     
  3. Kidron

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    Knowledge is all about learning.
    Faith is all about believing.
    To know is to have learned.
    To have Faith is to have Trusted<.

    Faith, regarding Christianity, is to believe and trust in a LIVING PERSON., Whereas knowledge is simply the act of having learned a subject.
     
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  4. Hermit

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    This is my approach to belief vs knowledge.

    First of all I replace the word God with Truth. This helps me to see the Truth in Scripture, in God, in everything else. Then my belief and knowledge starts to become based on what is Truth.

    Normally knowledge arises from reasoning. However, when it comes to God, and the invisible realms of Truth, reasoning becomes unfounded. When I started looking for Truth in all visible and invisible realms, I discovered that truth has a unique way of presenting itself, as infallible, without need for reasoning. It becomes obvious. And from this obviousness comes doubtlessness, and no amount of reasoning against it can sway that "knowing" which cannot be reasoned out of.

    Truth is so complete it cannot be anything else. In itself it has no needs or wants for it to be understood. It cannot be broken down, which reasoning is based on. When we come across it, a big YES, or confirmation, is felt within us. It is like in Hebrews 4:12 as a double-edge sword slipping right into our heart-consciousness, by-passing all veils of denial, disbelief, and fears. Inescapable.

    The unexplainable Truths adds to our belief systems, but it is one that will remain with us as long as we live. We may try to deny it, and may even think that we have, but as soon as we get faced with it, we undoubtedly say to ourselves "I knew that!"
     
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  5. iLOVE

    iLOVE Member

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    It dawned on me that in many of my petitions to the Lord, I believed that He had the power to complete them. However, the true question was, did I feel confident that He was attending to my need?

    I began to realize that faith must believe that God is attending to the need, even as we ask Him to provide for it.

    Faith isn't believing that God can do it. Faith is knowing that God will do it.

    The Bible says in 1 John 5:14-15, "And this is the confidence that we have in Him, that, if we ask any thing according to His will, He heareth us: And if we know that He hear us, whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we desired of Him."

    Pastor Loren Larson - JSM
     
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  6. iLOVE

    iLOVE Member

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    If we find evidence in Scripture that it is God's will and desire to do the things for which we are petitioning Him, then we can be confident that when we ask Him to perform what He has said He will do, He will do it! So, my faith goes beyond the truth that God can and moves forward to the idea that God will. Even as I ask, He has already started to meet my request.

    Pastor Loren Larson - JSM
     
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  7. iLOVE

    iLOVE Member

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    So, as I pray relative to any situation, I bring it before the Lord in this way: "Lord, I know that what I'm asking is Your will, for I have seen that in Your Word. I'm asking for a healing in my body, and the Word says that by Your stripes, I am healed. I'm asking for Your financial provision, and the Word says that You'll supply my every need. I'm asking for Your leading, direction, and Your guidance, and the Word says that the Holy Spirit will lead me into all truth.

    Lord, not only am I assured by the unalterable, immutable truth of You Word, but I also have history that I recall to my mind. I remember in the past when I was ill, and the doctors couldn't figure out what the problem was. I remember that You bought me through that, and I'm not sick today because You healed me. I remember times of financial stress, times when I didn't know how I would pay the bills, but each and every time that I faced a financial impossibility, You somehow supplied the need through sources I couldn't even imagine. I also remember when I was at a loss regarding how to proceed for many of life's circumstances and situations - when I didn't know what to do. You were ever faithful. You guided me by Your Spirit and led me in the right way and onto the path of victory."

    So, now I know that God isn't just able to heal my body, meet my financial needs, or to give me the direction I need. I'm confident that God isn't just able; I know that God will!

    Mark 11:23-24 - For verily I say unto you, That whosoever shall say unto this mountain, Be thou removed, and be thou cast into the sea; and shall not doubt in his heart, but shall believe that those things which he saith shall come to pass; he shall have whatsoever he saith. Therefore I say unto you, What things soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them.

    Pastor Loren Larson - JSM
     
  8. Runner

    Runner Member

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    But faith that is completely divorced from learning is blind or mindless faith. You trust in Christ because of what you have learned about Him. You were not a blank slate when you made the decision to trust in Christ. No one is. I believe that experience, observation and study - all species of "learning" - lead to belief, and that belief aided by intuition leads to a point where a leap of faith is possible. Our further experience may confirm that our leap of faith was correct - we believe we experience the living Christ. I'm not disagreeing with your definition of faith, which is really no different from mine, merely pointing out that belief and faith cannot realistically be separated from learning. I think that belief is strengthened by learning, whereas others go the opposite direction and shield themselves from people, situations and materials that might challenge their beliefs.
     
  9. Cygnus

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    I don't know if I agree with this....
    In your post you said "You were not a blank slate when you made the decision to trust in Christ. No one is. I believe that experience, observation and study - all species of "learning" - lead to belief, and that belief aided by intuition leads to a point where a leap of faith is possible. "

    Perhaps I'm reading you wrong but it sounds like you're saying life experience is what leads to belief and salvation. As if once you've gathered information and learned enough about Jesus then you can possibly take this leap of faith....and get saved.

    Eph 2 seems to tell us it is a gift....8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God.

    As to being a blank slate....if you back up a few verses we learn ...1 As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins,....How much blanker can a person being dead be? It is God who has to regenerate us, enable us to come to Christ as stated in John 6:65.

    You are correct when you say some people have a knowledge of Jesus Christ....knowledge of God...But, unless God gives you the gift of faith, regenerates you and enables you...knowledge of God is the best you'll get.
     
  10. Runner

    Runner Member

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    Yes, I think that is certainly true. That's why I said in my OP, "I demonstrate my faith, to God and to others, by trying to live my life as though what I believe is true, even though I cannot say I know it is." The definition of faith always leads to a debate in its own right, but in religious matters "living as though what you say you believe is true is actually true" is the one I prefer. I think this is close to what is being suggested in Hebrews 11:1 (NASB), "Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen."

    I think that is what James is getting at when he says in 2:17 (NASB), Even so faith, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself." You can certainly have belief without faith - that's the demons - but to have faith requires both belief and action (works). There is really no such thing as faith without works, only belief.
     
  11. Runner

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    I really didn't deal at all with the issue of the "sensus divinitatis" (innate sense of God) that Calvinists believe all humans have, or the "prevenient grace" of Arianism, or any other notion of faith being a gift. (FWIW, my understanding is that the Greek construction of Ephesians 2:8-9 will not allow "faith" to be the "gift," but rather that salvation is the gift.)

    I basically do believe that people come to a meaningful faith through a process of experience, observation and study that makes an intuitive leap of faith possible. Sages of all religious traditions - including Christianity - have emphasized that the Divine must ultimately be approached through intuition rather than through the sort of rational analysis we engage in when making everyday decisions. Where "intuition" ends and the "sensus divinitatis," "prevenient grace" or the "calling of the Spirit" begins, or whether there is any meaningful difference between them, would be difficult to say.

    I have observed that some people are seemingly able to believe and others are seemingly unable to believe, regardless of how strong the evidence or arguments might be. Those in the latter category are simply unable to make the intuitive leap into faith. Why, I can't say. I have often found this inability quite puzzling in friends who seem like they would be prime candidates to become Christians.

    Is it that they lack some "gift," that they aren't "called"? That really isn't my theology. I believe that all persons who engage in a sincere spiritual quest will reach a point where belief and an intuitive leap into faith are possible, which I guess would make me an Arminian if I cared about labels.

    The vast majority of people, in my experience, are simply spiritually lazy. They aren't on a spiritual quest at all, and they don't actually believe (or even understand) the things they pretend to believe.

    How much experience, observation and study are going to be necessary to ripen into belief will vary, of course, from individual to individual. Some may sincerely believe and make a sincere leap of faith on the basis of minimal experience, observation and study.

    With no religious indoctrination whatsoever, I had a very strong intuition of Something More when I was a mere toddler, but this did not ripen into a meaningful Christian faith until after I had engaged in an extensive spiritual quest that involved a great deal of experience, observation and study. An effective proselytizer might have talked me into a pseudo-faith when I was eight years old, but I think I would eventually have recognized it as a pseudo-faith and embarked on the same spiritual quest I actually did.

    "Dead in our transgressions and sins" is far from being a blank slate. Those who are neck-deep in sins and transgressions are often the most receptive to the Christian message because their experiences and observations have brought them to a point where they are ready to admit that something is drastically wrong and they need what Christianity offers. No matter how strong one's gift of faith might be, one must at least have sufficient preparation to be able to understand and appreciate the Christian message and to believe it is likely true.

    It appears that your basic objection is your understanding that I'm suggesting that the leap into faith is entirely of the individual's own doing, whereas you understand that a leap of faith is possible only as a result of God's gift or calling. I don't have any quibble with your understanding since my element of "intuition" is basically the same thing. What I am calling intuition could just as easily be called God's gift or calling.
     
  12. Runner

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    Yes, this all resonates with me. Definitely the notion that we cannot "reason" our way to God is one of the cornerstones of my theology. As I explain in a post above, I use the term "intuition" because this is found in all the religious traditions. We might say that we "intutively appreciate" Divine Truth, or that Divine Truth "reveals" itself to us, but either way we do not grasp it through reasoning. Reasoning may lay the groundwork for intuition to operate or Divine Truth to be recognized, but we cannot reason our way to Divine Truth.

    This is why Christian theologian/philosopher Alvin Plantinga argues that a belief in God is "properly basic." Belief in God is "warranted" (Plantinga's term for "justified") without any reasoning or evidence whatsoever. This does not inevitably mean it is true, but that it can justifiably be held without reasoning or evidence and that one is not irrational for holding it. This is also why famed German theologian Karl Barth had a disdain for apologetics. I always laugh when, at the beginning of apologist Frank Turek's weekly "Cross Examined" radio program, he shrieks "You know why people are so easily talked out of Christianity? Because THEY'VE NEVER BEEN TALKED INTO IT!!!" You aren't "talked into" faith. (To be fair to Turek, he really just means they don't know enough about Christianity for it to seem reasonable, believable and plausible.)

    As I state above, I don't think a belief in God or Christianity ever just drops out of the sky. I think there is always some level of pre-conditioning in the form of experience, observation and study. But as you suggest, it can "sort of" drop out of the sky in the sense of presenting itself and being recognized as Divine Truth even though it is contrary to everything you thought you believed yesterday.
     
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  13. Jim Parker

    Jim Parker Member

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    That's good. Me likie.
    In Heb 11, it gives 20+ examples of how "by faith" somebody DID something. (vs: 3,4,5,7,8,9,11,17,20,21,22,23,24,27,28,29,30,31,33)
    Faith without works seems to me to be a coin with only one side. When you flip it over it disappears.
    Faith that Jesus is who he says he is and has accomplished what the Bible says he has, if not accompanied with the good works which God created for us to do as a way of life ("walk in them", Eph 2:10) is merely agreement or acceptance of a fact. (Like I agree that 2+2=4) It is faith without faithfulness. It is worse then worthless as it allows for hypocrisy like that of the scribes and pharisees.
    Mat 23:1-3 Then Jesus spoke to the multitudes and to His disciples, saying: “The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. Therefore whatever they tell you to observe, that observe and do, but do not do according to their works; for they say, and do not do."
    The pharisees and scribes devoted their lives to knowing and doing all the minutia of the Law without practicing justice and mercy.
    Mat 23:23 Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith. These you ought to have done, without leaving the others undone.

    And, no, that is not "salvation by works"; it is obedience to God's commands to us.

    My personal observation is that many appear to believe that knowing about scripture, being able to quote it and argue about it, constitutes "real faith." But, to me, that appears to be a kind of Christian Gnosticism by which some people imagine that their knowledge of scripture will save them.

    But Jesus asked:
    Luke 6:46 ... why do you call Me ‘Lord, Lord,' and not do the things which I say?
    and
    Luke 18:8b .., when the Son of Man comes, will He really find faith on the earth?
    and He told us;
    John 14:15 If you love Me, keep My commandments.

    If we have faith that Jesus is the Son of God our savior and that He wants us to act like we believe we should do as He tells us then we really should act like we believe what He tells us by doing what He said we should do.

    Seems reasonable to me......:shrug

    iakov the fool
     
  14. Cygnus

    Cygnus Member

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    The problem with this type of belief is that it's too much you. Not enough God.
    The plan of salvation is added to and becomes Jesus, you and happenstance.

    On the other hand once one is regenerated then faith can increase more and more as they live and learn Godly things.
     
  15. Cygnus

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    I agree with some of what you have said...but I don't think intuition plays a part.

    here's one of the reasons why I think so...
    Matt 16:15 “But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?” 16 Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” 17 Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven.

    Intuition didn't play a part in what Peter knew....the Father told Peter.
     
  16. Runner

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    Ah, there is a "problem" with this "type of belief," eh? And what is the "type of belief" with which there is not a "problem"?

    In what sense is the plan of salvation "added to" with "this type of belief"? In what sense does the plan of salvation become "you" and "happenstance" with "this type of belief"?

    I am honestly finding your position incoherent unless you are some species of hyper-Calvinist. It appears to me that you do not accept that an individual's own efforts play any role in coming to belief and faith, a position that I simply but flatly reject.

    In what sense do you think the Father "told" Peter? Do you not think Peter's long association with Jesus (experience and observation) played a critical role in his understanding of Jesus as the Messiah? Do you think God simply whispered "Hey, He's the Messiah" in Peter's ear, as he might have done with someone who had no association at all with Jesus?

    I do not believe that real belief and faith ever develop in a vacuum. It probably would be helpful if instead of making bald statements about "problems," you identified more clearly the theological perspective you hold. If it's hyper-Calvinism, then again that is a position I simply but flatly reject - and frankly find almost obscene.
     
  17. Cygnus

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    You seem to be adding life situation into salvation. Where you live, went to school, who your friends were etc...
    If you had the good life experiences...you got saved. That was a pretty basic explanation...but shows happenstance.

    You're choice to accept or reject Jesus is based upon happenstance. I don't see your view as being biblical.

    I would only be speculating...as I wasn't there...but I think it was the whisper. The bible doesn't say it was because of experience and observation....it says the Father told Peter. Doesn't your bible say that?
     
  18. Runner

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    Your characterization in no way accurately summarizes what I actually stated. As predictably occurs on these forums, you have gone directly into defensive mode rather than deal with substance. You predictably find my views - which you clearly do not even grasp - "unbiblical." Yawn.

    You do, however, unwittingly raise an interesting point: What is the likelihood that someone born into a devoted but poor 100th-generation Hindu family in New Delhi, with an IQ of 82 and an education that in our terms would be considered kindergarten-level, surrounded all his life by the trappings of Hindu culture, would be likely to turn to Christ even in the unlikely event his hovel were visited by a Christian missionary? Impossible, no. Highly improbable to the nth degree, yes.

    What is the likelihood of our little Hindu ever turning to Christ in comparison with a child born into a middle-class, church-going family in Omaha, introduced to Christianity at Vacation Bible School at the age of five and surrounded all his life by a culture that has its roots in Christianity and at least pays lip service to Christian beliefs and values? What are the odds of our little Christian ever becoming a Hindu? An atheist, sure. Perhaps a Buddhist, because Buddhism is trendy and has a foothold in America. But a Hindu, no.

    For that matter, what are the odds of our little Hindu ever becoming a Christian in comparison to a child born into a middle-class, raving-atheist family in Omaha? I guarantee you, our little atheist Nebraskan is far more likely to turn to Christ.

    So how does that work, in your simplistic "biblical" worldview? Should our theology at least consider such questions? Perhaps God makes sure a high percentage of the "elect" are born into the right circumstances and cultures? If God wants to "call" one of out of 10,000,000 devout Hindus in India, He'll find some way to do so - is that a sufficient answer? The other 9,999,999 of them? Well, I guess they just weren't among the "elect" - is that a sufficient answer?

    The notion of a predestined elect, or even of God calling those He wants irrespective of life circumstances, really just doesn't work except in a version of Christianity that I find obscene. I consistently find that platitude-spouting Christians picture the world in terms of their own American culture, or at least in terms of Western culture. Those in other circumstances and cultures - which is, of course, something like 95% of humanity - are just sort of shadowy figures who are "out there somewhere," consigned to Hell unless one of our missionaries gets to them first.

    The fact is, the "biblical" worldview was predicated on a "world" about the size of New Jersey. The entire Roman Empire had a population of 4-5 million at the end of the first century. The reality is, whether one becomes a Christian in our 21st century spherical world of 7 billion is highly dependent upon accidents of birth. The simplistic answer that "God calls, irrespective of life circumstances," is just IMHO silly. Silliness is what happens when one's theology requires one to force-fit reality into the Bible, rather than viewing reality through the lens of the Bible.

    No, mine doesn't, and yours doesn't either. Every translation says "revealed." Find a reputable commentary that suggests anything like you are suggesting in terms of how Peter recognized Jesus as the Messiah, and I will eat a large bowl of fried cockroaches.
     
  19. for_his_glory

    for_his_glory Member

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    Faith which is Christ Jesus brings us to belief, very weak at first until we build upon it to gain knowledge and understanding by that of Gods Holy Spirit to know that Christ is who He said he was, is and evermore will be. We can know Gods attributes, but will never fully know Him in all His glory until the day we are eternally with Him.
     
  20. Cygnus

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    I'll stick with election rather than accident.
     

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