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Rob Bowman

Trinitarians Do Not View God As An Abstraction!

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In another thread, BCSpace wrote:

Not a fair question for trinitarians Zak. To them, "God" is an abstraction that permeates the Father and the Son (and the HG).

This isn't the first time BCSpace has advanced this false claim about what Trinitarians believe. In the thread "Question for Evangelicals on the Trinity," she wrote:

"God" is an abstraction in the trinity heresy. It's a concept belonging to the Three Persons, but itself is not a Person or a Being.

And she also wrote this:

The more I think about it, the more I come to realize that trinitarians are closet atheists because God doesn't exist in any real way for them. It's just an abstraction.

Thankfully, some of BCSpace's fellow Mormons disagreed with her criticism (thanks, Ahab and Mola). As I have explained to her in that thread, these are false statements. They are blatant misrepresentations of the doctrine of the Trinity. No Trinitarian views God as an abstraction. Here is what I said in that thread:

This is false. According to Trinitarian belief, God is in fact a Being, not an abstraction or a concept. For example, the Baptist Faith and Message, which is the doctrinal statement of the Southern Baptist Confession, states:

"There is one and only one living and true God. He is an intelligent, spiritual, and personal Being, the Creator, Redeemer, Preserver, and Ruler of the universe. God is infinite in holiness and all other perfections. God is all powerful and all knowing; and His perfect knowledge extends to all things, past, present, and future, including the future decisions of His free creatures. To Him we owe the highest love, reverence, and obedience. The eternal triune God reveals Himself to us as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, with distinct personal attributes, but without division of nature, essence, or being."

I'm sure that you don't appreciate it when non-Mormons make false statements about Mormon doctrines. I hope you will agree that just as evangelicals should try to be accurate in what they say about Mormon doctrine, Mormons should try to be accurate in what they say about evangelical doctrines (see the Golden Rule, Matt. 7:12)....

Better think some more, and this time consider what Trinitarians actually say about their belief before making such wildly erroneous criticisms (Prov. 18:13).

BCSpace made no response at all to the above post. Yet here she is again making the same false statements about what we Trinitarians believe.

In fairness to BCSpace, she isn't the first Mormon to make a false accusation of this sort against the doctrine of the Trinity. Bruce R. McConkie characterized the doctrine of the Trinity as affirming "one spirit nothingness" (The Promised Messiah: The First Coming of Christ, 132), as "an impersonal nothingness" (The Mortal Messiah 1:64). In his book Articles of Faith James Talmage quoted with apparent approval Orson Pratt's claim that "there are two classes of atheists in the world," the explicit kind that denies any God exists and the "religious atheist," referring to the orthodox Christian, who "believes that Nothing is god and worships it as such" (465).

I trust that those of you who are LDS and who do not appreciate it when critics make inaccurate statements about your beliefs will be consistent and let it be known that Mormons should also not make such patently false statements about Trinitarians.

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Since Trinitarians don't really know (nor by their own admission can they know) what the trinity really is, how can you declare what it isn't?

I wouldn't be surprise that there are some Trinitarians that do believe what BCSpace has described.

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Claiming that the Trinity is an abstraction, and that nobody really knows what the Trinity is, is not a fair statement. I think I have a good idea what the Trinity is, I just don't believe it. The people who say things like that are the ones who don't understand it. I actually don't think the Trinity is as contradictory to LDS belief as people make it seem; the LDS Godhead is very similar in many ways.

Sometimes the LDS people on this board can be just as unfair as they claim our critics are.

Edited by altersteve

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Hi Rob ~

Thanks for the call to fairness - I agree that we should all try to be more accurate when describing the beliefs of others; it certainly does hurt when people misrepresent cherished beliefs. So let me start out, then, by emphasizing that while I do not wish to be offensive, this is such a fundamental area of disagreement that my response might come off as such, which is not my intent.

Unfortunately, I'm finding it rather difficult to phrase my question in a non-brusque way, so I'll just ask and hope for the best: if the description of the Trinity as the "eternal triune God [who] reveals Himself to us as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, with distinct personal attributes, but without division of nature, essence, or being" is accurate, then in what respect is this not an abstraction?

Going off of Mirriam-Webster, I get:

1

a : disassociated from any specific instance <an abstract entity>

b : difficult to understand : abstruse <abstract problems>

c : insufficiently factual : formal <possessed only an abstract right>

2 : expressing a quality apart from an object <the word poem is concrete, poetry is abstract>

3

a : dealing with a subject in its abstract aspects : theoretical <abstract science>

b : impersonal, detached <the abstract compassion of a surgeon - Time>

4 : having only intrinsic form with little or no attempt at pictorial representation or narrative content <abstract painting>

These seem, to me, to be exactly what this conception of the Trinity consists of. Maybe it's just a personal limitation, but when someone describes a being that has "distinct personal attributes" yet is "without division of nature, essence, or being," yet is also three beings in one ... that's about as abstract as it gets, in my book. Indeed, I'm hard-pressed to understand it as being anything other than a contradiction in terms:

If there are three distinct personal beings, then They are more than One. If they are One, then by definition they cannot have distinct personal attributes. If He is personal, He must be limited to a body or substance of some sort, so how can He be infinite? But if He's infinite, how can He be a "specific instance"? Wouldn't that limit Him to something finite and "specific? By the same token, how can He be limited to three, if they are actually One? If He is a He, then He must have a gender; if His gender is merely metaphorical, then why is it necessary to apply it to Him in the first place, if in His infinite foresight He knew how deeply it'd confuse people? (If He's all-powerful, why couldn't He give us a metaphor that didn't lead to such blatant misunderstandings?)

I just ... the logical contortions necessary to sustain this view are too great for me to overcome. If this is not abstract, then nothing is.

I do admit to some frustration with this view, and I hope that's not bleeding out too bad. Personally, I was an atheist for many years for exactly this reason: it seemed that every religious denomination I looked into turned away from what, to me, was the plain sense of their own scriptures (a very loaded phrase, I know, but I can't get around it in this case). It seemed to be an attempt to remain philosophically unimpeachable by consigning Deity to a realm definitionally inaccessible to human reason - in which case, why should I bother trying to understand what He/She/It wanted me to do? (If God is all-powerful and all-knowing and infinite, why can't It provide me with the type of brain able to comprehend Its Infiniteness? And why create separate finite sinful beings in the first place if It could instantly make a world populated by people without sin?)

When Christ prays for oneness, it seems to me that that is where a metaphor is necessary: to convey an overarching "oneness" of purpose spread out across intrinsically separate beings. (I disagree entirely with altersteve that the LDS conception of godhead is very similar to the Trinitarian at all.) To me, this reads as Christ clearly talking to someone outside himself. To see this as being trinitarian in nature seems to me to be reading a, yes, abstract concept back into the scriptures as if it were implied. So when I, as an atheist, was asked to believe in a deity which talked to itself as if it were two people, it just ... made my head hurt. "If thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done"? What does that even mean if there is not more than one person speaking?

This is the fundamental objection to most religions which try to "transcend" matter and discrete personal identity. Frankly, I think the incoherence of this view of the Divine is why many religions are losing ground these days. This is why Joseph Smith said that "the first principle of the Gospel [is] to know for a certainty the Character of God, and to know that we may converse with him as one man converses with another [because] God himself was once as we are now, and is an exalted man, and sits enthroned in yonder heavens! That is the great secret. If the veil were rent today, and ... God ... (were) to make himself visible ... if you were to see him today, you would see him like a man in form - like yourselves in all the person, image, and the very form as a man."

Isn't that what a non-abstract deity would look like?

(Edited for various clean-ups)

(Another edit: I forgot to point out that I do think the view that trinitarians are "closet atheists" is silly.)

Edited by JeremyOrbe-Smith

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I think I have a good idea what the Trinity is

Then you're one up on most Trinitarians. Because they do not. It's a mystery.

Lehi

Edited by LeSellers

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the "eternal triune God [who] reveals Himself to us as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, with distinct personal attributes, but without division of nature, essence, or being" is accurate, then in what respect is this not an abstraction?

It is not an abstraction . . . it is a miracle :).

Edited by Maidservant

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These seem, to me, to be exactly what this conception of the Trinity consists of. Maybe it's just a personal limitation, but when someone describes a being that has "distinct personal attributes" yet is "without division of nature, essence, or being," yet is also three beings in one ... that's about as abstract as it gets, in my book.

I think Bowman is going to jump all over this blatant misrepresentation!!!!

It is "three persons in one being" according to him. ;)

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Vance,

You wrote:

I think Bowman is going to jump all over this blatant misrepresentation!!!!

It is "three persons in one being" according to him. ;)

Thanks for doing some of my work for me. I appreciate it, even if it is a major surprise!

:good::clapping:

Edited by Rob Bowman

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Vance,

You wrote:

Thanks for doing some of my work for me. I appreciate it, even if it is a major surprise!

:good::clapping:

Lol that is funny. Carry on.

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There is the ontological discussion, and that is one thing.

But Christians of all kind love God. And I mean adore him, and they live in the love that he sends back. They know that God hears them when they pray, and answers them personally and cares personally of what is happening in their lives, and will guide them. This is not abstract! This is a daily reality!

I agree that as a society we got off track with our paradigm(s) about the human body as it is, and how whether or not God would partake of such a condition and remain God (i.e. is God the same specie as his creature; to which Mormons answer, we are literal children).

But you can disagree and argue well against Trinitarianism (it does not convince me either), but it does not automatically follow that God is abstract and impersonal . . . just transcendant.

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Jeremy,

Let me offer some quick comments on your post.

1. We need to distinguish different usages or contexts of the word abstract. All doctrines are in some sense "abstract" in that they are theoretical or verbal constructs. Some doctrines are "abstract" in the sense of being difficult to understand (although I would personally never use the word in that way, as it is simply too confusing). But whether one accepts the doctrine of the Trinity or not, or finds it intelligible or not, it is simply a misrepresentation to claim that God in Trinitarian theology is "an abstraction" or "nothingness" and that Trinitarians are "closet atheists." This should not even be necessary to debate; it is an obvious and fragrant misrepresentation.

2. As Vance pointed out (!), the doctrine of the Trinity does not teach that the three persons are "three distinct personal beings" or "three beings in one." The triune God is one being in three distinct persons. On the other hand, when you ask about Jesus' praying in Gethsemane, "What does that even mean if there is not more than one person speaking?" you are making the opposite error of construing the Trinity to mean that God is only one person.

3. You stated that if God is personal "He must be limited to a body or substance of some sort" and therefore cannot be infinite. This is a theological and philosophical assertion, and perhaps I should say assumption. I don't know why God must be limited to a body or something similar to be personal. That claim seems to make an assumption about what counts as personal. Billions of people in history have believed in the existence of incorporeal beings, both God and angelic beings. Some of the greatest philosophers in history have believed in and defended as coherent the idea of incorporeal beings. Perhaps their belief is wrong, but to assume that the belief is impossible without explanation or reason as to why it is impossible is unjustified.

4. The demand that God communicate truth about himself in such a way that no one could misunderstand or misinterpret it is a demand contrary to fact. Whatever one's theology, clearly some people have misunderstood the Bible. The only question is whose understanding is the better, or best, understanding of what God has said. If we accept that God is a transcendent being beyond our abilities to comprehend fully, this premise neatly accounts for the differing views of the nature of God (not to mention our sinfulness and weakness due to the Fall).

Edited by Rob Bowman

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Edit: this was to Maidservant.

1

a : exceeding usual limits : surpassing

b : extending or lying beyond the limits of ordinary experience

c in Kantian philosophy : being beyond the limits of all possible experience and knowledge

2 : being beyond comprehension

3 : transcending the universe or material existence - compare immanent

If something is truly transcendent, then by definition it must have passed beyond the concrete, finite, and personal.

Edited by JeremyOrbe-Smith

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Vance,

You wrote:

Thanks for doing some of my work for me. I appreciate it, even if it is a major surprise!

:good::clapping:

I realize that you will nit pick the wording of his post. But I think his main point that it is an abstraction will remain unrefuted.

Edited to add,

Because quite frankly, "one being in three distinct persons" is an abstraction.

ab·strac·tionNoun/abˈstrakSHən/

1. The quality of dealing with ideas rather than events.

2. Something that exists only as an idea.

Edited by Vance

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There is the ontological discussion, and that is one thing.

But Christians of all kind love God. And I mean adore him, and they live in the love that he sends back. They know that God hears them when they pray, and answers them personally and cares personally of what is happening in their lives, and will guide them.

I can agree with you here...

Acts 10:35

35 But in every nation he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him.

Doesn't matter who you are or what you beleive, as long as you work righteounsess.

But none of that refutes the fact that the Trinity is in fact Abstract by very definition.

Edited by Zakuska

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Rob,

We need to distinguish different usages or contexts of the word abstract.

I did provide the dictionary definitions I was working off of. As far as I can see, everything you've described has fit the definitions of "abstract" that I gave. I do agree, however, (as I wrote in my late edit which you might not have seen) that to accuse Trinitarians of being closet atheists is sheer misrepresentation.

The doctrine of the Trinity does not teach that the three persons are "three distinct personal beings." The triune God is one being in three distinct persons.

This is precisely the rabbit-hole I have found it impossible to go down, and none of the subsequent clarifications really helped, unfortunately.

You stated that if God is personal "He must be limited to a body or substance of some sort" and therefore cannot be infinite. This is a theological and philosophical assertion, and perhaps I should say assumption. I don't know why God must be limited to a body or something similar to be personal.

Because if He is not physically present somewhere in the fabric of the cosmos as something capable of interacting with me at some level of reality, then He does not, as far as I can tell, exist. If He is interacting with me, then some aspect of Him must exist in time, because I do. If He exists in time, He is working within the laws of causality. If He is interacting with causality, He must be a substance or body or material or essence or something of some sort. That's what existence ... is. Spinning elements in complex patterns. I mean, there's no way around that.

Some of the greatest philosophers in history have believed in and defended as coherent the idea of incorporeal beings. Perhaps their belief is wrong, but to assume that the belief is impossible without explanation or reason as to why it is impossible is unjustified.

Wasn't an assumption; I tried to explain my reasons for why I thought their belief is, in fact, wrong, no matter how many believe it.

If we accept that God is a transcendent being beyond our abilities to comprehend fully, this premise neatly accounts for the differing views of the nature of God (not to mention our sinfulness and weakness due to the Fall).

But if He is truly transcendent and all-powerful, He would be able to create us in such a way that we are capable of learning whatever moral lessons we need to learn in this life through our free will choices without building in the pain and confusion of sinfulness and weakness and inability to comprehend His transcendence. Anything else implies limited capabilities on His part, and at that point we're back where we started. Mormonism posits a deity who is not all-powerful, but is more intelligent than the other beings and who loves them and works through means to raise them up. Merely invoking "transcendence" is not a get out of jail free card; as I've said, anything can be made philosophically unimpeachable if we just posit a being definitionally inaccessible to human reason and comprehensible logical constraints.

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"three persons in one being"

How that works is anybodies guess...

Person

From A person (plural: persons or people; from Latin: persona, meaning "mask")[1] is a human being, or an entity that has certain capacities or attributes associated with personhood, for example in a particular moral or legal context.[2] Such capacities or attributes can include agency, self-awareness, a notion of the past and future, and the possession of rights and duties, among others.[3] However, the concept of a person is difficult to define in a way that is universally accepted, due to its historical and cultural variability and the controversies surrounding its use in some contexts.The word "person", and the initial concepts to which it referred, were developed during the Trinitarian and Christological debates of the first through sixth centuries. Since then, a number of important changes to the word's meaning and use have taken place, and attempts have been made to redefine the word with varying degrees of adoption and influence. Today, depending on the context, theory or definition, the category of "person" may be taken to include such non-human entities as animals, corporations, artificial intelligences, or extraterrestrial life; and may exclude some human entities in prenatal development or those with extreme mental impairments or injuries.

The concept of a person is closely tied to legal and political concepts such as citizenship, equality, and liberty, and various questions in these areas have turned on the problem of what counts as a person, such as the abolition of slavery in the United States, the fight for women's rights in many countries, debates about abortion (e.g. fetal rights and reproductive rights issues), and debates about corporate personhood (e.g. for campaign spending limits).[4]

<snip>

Being (i.e. be+-ing, by synecdoche), is an English word used for conceptualizing subjective and objective aspects of reality, including those fundamental to the self —related to and somewhat interchangeable with terms like "existence" and "living". In its objective usage —as in "a being," or "[a] human being" —it refers to a discrete life form that has properties of mind (sentience), which are deemed to constitute a more complex state than simple organisms (i.e. that have only "life functions").[citation needed]

In abstract usage, "the being" or "one's being" is the mind's concept of the self as a whole entity —including both mind and body —wherein the being is in the mind, and the "body" is all sensory aspects within the being. Heidegger coined the Germanic term "dasein" for this property of being in his influential work Sein und Zeit ("this entity which each of us is himself…we shall denote by the term "dasein.""[1]), in which he argued that being or "dasein" links one's sense of one's body to one's perception of world. Heidegger, amongst others, referred to an innate language as the foundation of being, which gives signal to (and from, cf. cognition) all aspects of being.

<snip>

Edited by Zakuska

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Though Trinitarians do not view God as an Abstraction, the words they use to describe it definately point to an abstraction.

There is only one God...One "being" in 3 persons.

Then the One "being" is God, the 3 persons are incidental. God then becomes an idea, a quality or set of characteristics.

If the persons were an integral part of God, then, each individually being God, there would be 3, not one.

-

These are the conclusions I draw from the words used to describe the Trinity, and I know trinitarians will not agree with them.

I personally think that the insertion of the "being" concept, though it was an attempt to clarify, it muddies the water of understanding about the Nature of God.

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This may seem ironic to some, but I'm beginning to consider Agnostics as closer to truth (& God) than Theists or Atheists.

Theists claim to know, when they don't.

Atheists claim to know, when they don't.

God is love, & truth... which is not known, but a humble process of learning.

Edited by HeatherAnn

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This may seem ironic to some, but I'm beginning to consider Agnostics as closer to truth (& God) than Theists or Atheists.

Theists claim to know, when they don't.

Atheists claim to know, when they don't.

God is love, & truth... which is not known, but a humble process of learning.

Well insnt a happy middle the best bet.

Not to get political but left wing - right wing, far left, far-right i guess conservatives sit in the middle.

Edited by Zakuska

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This may seem ironic to some, but I'm beginning to consider Agnostics as closer to truth (& God) than Theists or Atheists.

Theists claim to know, when they don't.

Atheists claim to know, when they don't.

God is love, & truth... which is not known, but a humble process of learning.

Yes, God is. And how do we learn, such as to change from belief, faith or hope to *knowing*?

As a mystic, I would say by *experiencing*. But words fail-- the reality is ineffable. So we use metaphors and symbols. Which results in others who have experienced God understanding the metaphors etc., and everyone else being annoyed, because they cannot.

HiJolly

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If something is truly transcendent, then by definition it must have passed beyond the concrete, finite, and personal.

Well, perhaps by Webster's dictionary (which I use with a grain of salt as regards my definitions) . . . but I'm not so sure, since I would describe holding my newborn infant as transcendental; watching sunrises and sunsets, etc . . . in fact, I would say that, experientially, it would be hard to experience transcendence in the absence of matter (etc).

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I think the metaphorical use of the word is fine, but since it's directly related to the panentheism of the 19th-century Transcendentalist school of literature (Thoreau, Emerson, etc), which was itself influenced by Kantian metaphysics and Plotinus' Neoplatonism, there is a danger in taking it so seriously we lose track of the physical nature of deity. That's kinda where the Apostasy happened, in my opinion.

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I think the metaphorical use of the word is fine, but since it's directly related to the panentheism of the 19th-century Transcendentalist school of literature (Thoreau, Emerson, etc), which was itself influenced by Kantian metaphysics and Plotinus' Neoplatonism, there is a danger in taking it so seriously we lose track of the physical nature of deity. That's kinda where the Apostasy happened, in my opinion.

I see what you mean.

*has read her Plotinus, yea* :blink:

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I think the metaphorical use of the word is fine, but since it's directly related to the panentheism of the 19th-century Transcendentalist school of literature (Thoreau, Emerson, etc), which was itself influenced by Kantian metaphysics and Plotinus' Neoplatonism, there is a danger in taking it so seriously we lose track of the physical nature of deity. That's kinda where the Apostasy happened, in my opinion.

I completely agree. The loss of the identity of the father, that was the Apostasy. "To know thee the one true God and Jesus Christ whom though hast sent"

What Im going to say next Im going to have to tread very lightly and I do not wish to offend anyone. But personally I see the idea of a Bodiless Spirt as God as the ultimate form of Idol Worship. And a fulffilment of Johns words.

Revelation 13:4

4 And they worshipped the dragon which gave power unto the beast: and they worshipped the beast, saying, Who is like unto the beast? who is able to make war with him?

How can you fight a Phantom that doesn't really exists? Who doesn't have a Body that we as corporeal beings can not touch see feel hear or taste. Idols are just like that too. They have eyes and see not, have ears and hear not, have a mouth and speak not. Our God isn't like that... He lives, he hears, sees, speaks, breaths and thunders from the heavens.

What does the D&C say? Try the spirits. Ask them to shack hands. If you can feel them you know its a messenger from God because the Glory will also be manifested.

Satan is the socalled "god" who wanted to force everyone back to heaven... and as a result lost the opportunity of having a body and so now they want ours. This is ultimately what "grace alone" following their own definition of "unmerited favor" is. It forces everyone to heaven. So then theres all this election stuff concocted to try and explain why some are saved and others arent. When the Bible most definatley says that Christ died to save ALL men. a propitiation for the sins of the whole world.

Christ became man to make men god so we will all be God-men like him. He wants to make men ALL that he and his father are.

And not to offended anyone but that is personally how I see this unembodied spirit worshipped by so many in the world. As satan pulling the whool over their eyes in fulffilment of Pauls word.

2 Thessalonians 2:11

11 And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie:

God sent another lieing spirit in the mouth of their prophets.

Edited by Zakuska

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Rob,

When you, personally, say "God," are you usually referring to the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit collectively, or just one of them?

Edited by altersteve

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