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May 31, 2016

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"This is obviously a huge topic—sin, evil, God’s holiness, justice, and more are involved with this one."

The best explanation I've heard so far is that God displays his glorious attributes against the backdrop of sin. Without animal sacrifices there would be no comprehension of personal sin. It would always be the other guy who needed it. But God required it of all Israel showing how each deserved what the animal took in their place. Eventually we see how bad we really are in what it took to pay for our sins in the death of Christ.

Without sin there would be no mercy, righteousness, unconditional love, etc. Nor would there be judgement, wrath, and sovereignty in salvation.

As one author put it, he believes God saved as many in Love and mercy as his wrath, righteousness and justice would allow, thereby manifesting all his glorious attributes.

Interesting, my faith community has been discussing this, and I reflected on this very issue.
In fact the Hindu point, while not *theologically* right (ha!) gets to the heart of how a Christian universe works --
It does work by the energies, let's call them, that are released.
God establishes a universe built on love. (Which we cannot really understand.) Lucifer's disruptive energies - envy, deception, pride, and so on create fundamental disruption. This disruption has real consequences, down to the harmful behaviors we witness right outside our windows - behaviors we engage in one to another...
The point is, these energies are disruptive, according to the universe of love. They must be purged.
How are they purged?

Somehow, there is a deep human understanding that there must be this purgation, that there *is* indeed disruption of an order, when our evil or harmful behaviors are enacted and put out into the world.

And there we have the principle of blood. The purgation happens through someone "paying," someone satisfying the pain of all those "disruptions."
There is the sacrifice of Christ, of Godhead.

It is not God "smelling" blood, it is him cleaning up, neutralizing, transforming *our* blood, our bloodiness and evil disruptions of his order - that is the thing we are all smelling, which has stunk from the moment Salvation was authored.

Unsurprisingly, this objection is raised by a white American Hindu convert. I suspect that an Indian Hindu wouldn't have a hard time swallowing animal sacrifices, since it seems to be fairly common practice among folk hindu worshippers: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Animal_sacrifice_in_Hinduism

In response to the question: animals aren't moral agents. So applying moral categories to them like "innocent" and "murder" are misleading. I suspect an Americanized Hindu (and maybe some Indian Hindus as well) will have a hard time swallowing that since their moral sensibilities are askew here. But one need only look at animals in the wild and see that not even Hindus treat animals like moral agents who murder, rape, and steal food from other animals.

So we see that it's misguided to frame animal sacrifices as murder of innocents. But one might still wonder what the animal sacrifices in the OT were all about. Animal sacrifice was symbolic of how we deserve to die for our sins and, if we are to live, require some substitute. Why does there need to be a substitute? Because God must maintain justice. If God merely ignores sin then he is allowing injustice to reign. This is also unloving to the victims of injustice because it trivializes their suffering. In order for both mercy and justice to be upheld there must be a willing substitute for punishment. That the willing substitute is also the victim of the wrongdoing is even more fitting. Thus, God--the one primarily wronged in our sin--becomes our willing substitute. And because Jesus is the truly innocent God man who suffers the full wrath of God that we deserve, his sacrifice is able to perfectly save everyone who trusts in him for all time.

I don't think you guys are hitting the nail on the head regarding the Hindu's objection. The Hindu mentions "fresh blood" and to answer properly you need to address why the God of the Bible requires blood to forgive per Hebrews 9:22 "For without the shedding of blood, there is no forgiveness." Apparently God is either unable or unwilling to forgive people unless there is spilled blood. Many non-believers and of course Islam are highly critical of what non-Christians see as a the remains of a primitive and pagan belief system.

The temple of Shiva in India is one of the few places left in the world where blood sacrifices are still practiced. Shiva is a goddess who rarely moves on your behalf without smelling blood. She is, after all, the goddess of destruction.

This is where the worldview of Hindu Karma disconnects with the Christian view of Sin. In Hinduism the bad deeds we do build up bad karma, karma that must be worked off by corresponding good deeds, or suffering through corresponding suffering (that is punishments that fit the crimes).

Christianity recognizes that sin is something much worse than simply "screwing up". To take something that doesn't belong to you is more than removing some object worth X dollars from someone. It represents a turning of your back to the God who told you it was wrong to steal, the God who gave the other the object stolen and didn't give it to you. It represents a dehumanizing of the victim into someone you feel you have a right to take from. So, ultimately, any "screw up" is not just a mistake, but a willful act of rebellion against God and an act of hatred against your neighbor (and what did Jesus say about one who hates his brother?).

Even an act as "inconsequential" as a child snitching a cookie when he has been told not to can show us this attitude. The child who takes a cookie that his mother has forbidden him, is saying in his heart that his desire for the cookie is more important to him than his mother. It reflects an absence of trust that his mother truly loves him and wants the best for him ("If mommy really loved me she would let me have what I want. Her claim that something so yummy is not good for me must be false." Not all that different a thought process than what we see going on in Genesis 3.) We see that Sin is something a whole lot deeper and a lot more, well, evil than simple acts of misbehavior or petty crimes.

In human justice, we cannot see the heart. So our justice system punishes wrong according to the deed. So we recognize that murder as a deed is worse than rape, or that stealing something worth $10,000 dollars is worse than taking a $1 candy bar. And this is also reflected in the Old Testament law which required crimes to be punished in accordance with the deed, for the victim to be compensated in accordance with what was lost.

But after justice between the guilty and the wronged was settled, the guilty had to bring sacrifices to God. Because God DOES see the heart. He recognizes that sin is an act of rebellion against Himself, that is, an act of treason. It is a rejection of God as God and a desire on our part to be the god of our own reality where we can define right and wrong not based on God's nature, but on our selfish desires. This is why Hebrews tells us that "without the shedding of blood there can be no remission of sin."

We forget, or ignore, or deny how evil Sin is.

This makes us blind to how amazing Grace is.

Which is what this Whitehindu guy does when he sees God's act of grace, taking our punishment upon Himself, as an act of bloodthirsty cruelty rather than the ultimate act of His love for us.

The Hindu's question would be fair if the "killed man" was just that, a killed man. But it was the Son of God, God himself made man. The honest answer would be "God is only in a forgiving mood when he smells fresh blood shed by Himself for those that didn't deserved forgiveness?" Col 1:20. Regards from Uruguay.

Michael,

Shedding of blood in Hebrews 9:22 is a euphemism for death, the penalty for sin. This is clear when one considers that if Jesus had only shed some blood but not died then his sacrifice would not have been completely. He said it is finished upon his death. If he only needed to shed blood he could have said it was finished after being whipped. If merely shedding blood is all that is really in play here then not only was Jesus' death not necessary but neither was that of any animal in the OT.

Trying to make a big deal out of the biblical references to blood is like trying to make a big deal out of someone saying "all hands on deck": why just hands?

I'll ignore the fact that the question was raised by a Hindu. While there are similarities across all of Hinduism, it's hardly a monolithic religion.

I want to respond by linking sin and death. We know how terrible sin is because we know how terrible death is. Physical death is designed by God to give us a picture of being separated from him. When you see a dead body, smelling badly, being consumed by worms, and turning back into the earth, you know this person or animal isn't coming back to spend time with you. It's the same thing with God. Sin is spiritual death. Without God, we are like that dead body spiritually.

Let's take this picture of death to the slaughter. When we kill and animal, we understand, even if we are used to it, that this critter is just as dead as any other dead thing and we caused it to happen. Ideally, you can eat the meat and have something good come of it. But in the sacrificial system, the sacrifice mill had to have been a particularly disturbing experience. Read the law and try to keep up with all the sacrifices for every little thing. Imagine this for every Hebrew. If they were being faithful, the altar would be a constant bloodbath and the smell repulsive. Death is terrible.

And yet we know that Israel couldn't possibly keep up with the sacrificial system. Additionally, we know that animals are truly insufficient to provide a substitution for the sin of humanity. They aren't made in the image of God and only the Image of God can truly reconcile the image of God. Yet the sacrifice of animals gives us a picture as to how dire our situation is and how great the sacrifice of the innocent Man is.

So all that killing of innocent animals was designed to point the way to the true substitutionare sacrifice of the Man of God sent for the very purpose of accomplishing the forgiveness of sin once and for all. And yet he went willingly to the slaughter... for us.

So it's good that this person recognize how terrible the sacrificial system is. It's supposed to be. But the challenger shouldn't worry about God's character in demanding it. God created that which he demanded the Hebrews kill, and God himself is the innocent Man who was ultimately sacrificed on our behalf. God has every right over his creation and every right over his own actions. And he did this that we might know him and be saved.

MFGA,

"Shedding of blood in Hebrews 9:22 is a euphemism for death"

So what you are saying is all Jesus had to do was die, no blood needed to be shed, is that your position?

How many people in this blog agree with that?

Michael,

Odd that you want to take a vote on my response, as if the validity of it will be determined by the number of people on this blog that agree.

Jesus didn't die by loss of blood. He most likely died by suffocation.

Blood has symbolic significance in the Bible because of its natural, close association with life. The easiest way to bring about death, especially in the ancient world, is to cut an artery. The fact that blood has symbolic significance is hardly relevant here. What exactly is the argument, focusing on blood rather than death, supposed to be from the Hindu or yourself? Why don't you spell that out for us.

It is not odd at all that I want more than one Christian's opinion, I've never heard your psoition before and I'd like to hear from Amy, Greg Koukl and other STR staff if they agree that the shedding of blood is simply a euphemism.

Then you ask why my question is relevant here so apparently you missed the headline of the blog which is "Challenge: God Is Only Forgiving When He Smells Blood?

Michael,

"Euphemism" may not be the precise term. Synechdoce, maybe. But the point is still valid for the reasons that I gave. Merely shedding blood, in the literal sense, obviously would not have been sufficient. Jesus didn't die by blood shed. Elsewhere Scripture is clear that the penalty required is death and death itself counts as the penalty even when blood isn't literally shed (e.g., when a person dies by heart attack or cancer). It's also the case

I didn't ask why your question was relevant to the title in the post. I asked what the argument is supposed to be here. Presumably the Hindu (and you?) think there is some objection to biblical theology at this point. But merely asking a question isn't an objection. And the question here is rhetorically framed to try and make it seem silly. The Bible never talks about God smelling blood. The closest you can get is God smelling a burnt offering. So to not be biblically illiterate the question should be "Is God only forgiving when he smells burnt offerings?" but the obvious answer is no, since he was pleased with Jesus' self-sacrifice and Jesus wasn't a burnt offering... It's just a low-brow rhetorical dig. So what exactly is the argument supposed to be?

Whether you use euphemism or synecdoche makes no difference to me. I don't think you speak for all of Christdendom and therefore I'd like to hear from others.

Actually I have heard from others, many others and nobody I know shares your belief. Check out the famous Charles Spurgeon and other evangelists.

The point is that blood doesn't have any power to forgive sins. Not even Jesus' and based upon your posts you agree with me.

Michael,

I agree with Mr "Facism". The Scriptures frequently connect "blood" with "life", and "shedding of blood" with "causing death". You seem to think there's some idea that's being missed, but you'd be more convincing if you linked to an article elaborating this rather than name-dropping historical authorities without further elaboration. It's like an appeal to authority without actually citing how the authority demonstrates your case

Ok, good. So maybe it is true that Christianity doesn't require blood but that goes against everything I've heard and read. Perhaps I stand corrected. So you also agree then that Jesus' shed blood has nothing to do with the forgiveness of sins rather it was Jesus death that allows God to forgive? If that is true then God could have chosen for Jesus to die in many other ways, such as drink poison, drown in the Sea of Galilee, die of old age etc. and accomplished salvation for those who believe?

By the way here is a link to a Charles Spurgeon sermon... http://www.the-highway.com/Spurgeon1.html

Here is a better link for references about "The Power of the Blood"

http://www.walkingbyfaith.tv/journal/single-article/81/

Michael,

It doesn't matter if I'm the spokesman for all of Christendom. I gave reasons for my view.

The point is that blood doesn't have any power to forgive sins. Not even Jesus' and based upon your posts you agree with me.

So you still haven't given me that argument I asked for... But your comment here hints at a really ridiculous line of thinking. As if Christians believed that blood had some inherent power related to forgiveness of sins.

You're right, I don't believe there is some forgive-sins property in blood. Nor does anyone else. Nor does the Bible teach it. And even if there was someone who believed it their belief wouldn't be substantiated by the biblical evidence. A quick search turns up a sermon by Charles Spurgeon called "The Precious Blood of Christ" but nothing in the sermon suggests that he thinks blood has any inherent efficacy in it either, unless we read him like my nephew would have read him when he was 5 years old. The text of his sermon indicates that he uses "shedding of blood" similar to what I said, because he uses "shedding of life" as a synonym.

Furthermore, even if we think that there is special significance to blood shedding that other means of death lack (like, say, drowning) it doesn't logically follow from this that we think the special significance is derived from some inherent property in the blood. For instance, most Christians think communion should be taken with wine. If you suggested to them that they drink coke instead of wine for communion they would probably object. But only the village atheist would try to spin that as though Christians think wine has some special communion-preserving properties inherent to it.

P.S. Here is the Spurgeon sermon I referred to: http://www.the-highway.com/Spurgeon1.html

And see about 5 paragraphs down where he uses "shedding of life" as a substitute for shedding of blood.

Ok you guys "win". The shed blood of Jesus does not forgive sins. Next time a Christian tries to convert me I'll let them know they've got it all wrong. Death allows God to forgive sins, shed blood just happens, sometimes, when stuff dies.

However, did Jesus die? Isn't he god from eternity past? He shed is body and then reoccupied it a few days later. Apparently that still counts.

It's important to remember that it was Yahweh Himself that hung up on that cross. Because Jesus is Yahweh.

Yahweh wasn't out thirsting for some man's blood...nor is He satisfied by that. He's satisfied only by His own blood.

Jesus did suffer a savage death.

The most savage aspect of it was that He took upon Himself all of our Sin and Suffering. It is through that act of Christ that every evil that ever was or will be is experienced by God for all eternity. The physical savagery of the cross is not what conveyed these evils to Christ. Instead God laid those evils upon Himself.

Why is that necessary?

Well, as I see it, there are at least two reasons, both involve God's acquiring knowledge of Sin and Suffering.

For starters, this is necessary for God's Omniscience.

If evil exists (or some good is lacking) God must know this. Not only must He know that it is the case. He must know what it is like.

The second reason trades on the first. Only by God knowing what evil is like does He know how to heal it.

Or looking at it from the other direction. God's knowing how to heal an evil implies His knowledge of what the evil is like. And that in turn implies that he experiences the evil. And that's what happened in the incarnation; He experienced all the evils of all time. That's what He took upon Himself on the Cross. That was the point of it.

The shed blood of Jesus does not forgive sins.
You're 100% correct. Jesus' blood does not forgive sins. God forgives sins. The death ("shed blood", if you prefer) of Jesus is how God reconciles the blood-guilt that we owe because of our treason with his plan to forgive us.

"The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Jesus Christ our Lord" (Rom 6:23)

The blood of Jesus does indeed justify us (e.g. Rom 5:9), but only because God chooses to count it as such. One of the great mysteries of Scripture is that God would use the most hideous sin by his rebellious people as the means by which he would enact the sacrifice which would save them and all of creation.


There is a sense where all this is a cosmic object lesson, but one God counted as necessary.
- rebellion is sin
- sin brings death
- you deserve to die
- God dies instead, and counts this as your death
- Jesus is raised to life and rule, signalling the new age where there is neither sin nor death
- Will you let his death be yours, and join him in life, or will you remain in the old age and continue in death?


With respect to the original post, a consideration of pagan vs Mosaic understandings of (animal) sacrifice and how this is fulfilled in Jesus is fascinating.

Michael,

The shed blood of Jesus does not forgive sins. Next time a Christian tries to convert me I'll let them know they've got it all wrong.

They'll just shake their head at you for having such a naive grasp of language and what it means to say they're cleansed by the blood of Jesus. Of course you're grasp of language isn't really that naive (unless you really are around five years old). You've just got an axe to grind.

Michael,

By the way here is a link to a Charles Spurgeon sermon... http://www.the-highway.com/Spurgeon1.html

Funny that I found that same sermon on my own and had enough reading comprehension to see where Spurgeon uses "shedding of life" synonymously with "shedding of blood" which fits with how I originally explained it... I think that demonstrate a major bias in your ability to rationally assess the details here. It demonstrates where your misunderstanding is coming from.

However, did Jesus die? Isn't he god from eternity past? He shed is body and then reoccupied it a few days later. Apparently that still counts.

Another elementary mistake. Death is the separation of the soul from the body.

Wisdom Lover, your response is appreciated. No insults, just your understanding of things and you explained yourself very well. Not that I agree but I appreciate the manner in which you expressed yourself.

Fascism,
My point is that according to Christian dogma Jesus is God which means Jesus has the characteristic of omnipresence. Even during the Christian doctrine of the incarnation many Christians believe he remained omnipresence since God is unable to cease to be God and if Jesus ceased to be omnipresence he would have cease to be God. So Jesus’ “emptying” of himself did not, according to some Christians, involve laying aside of his divine attributes, which again includes omnipresence. If those Christians are correct then Jesus never ceased to be everywhere at any time and the atoning death seems incredibly trite when you consider Jesus continued to exist throughout the entire universe in the precisely exact manner he existed in from eternity past, nothing changed except for the microscopic discarding of his infinitely tiny body of a Homo sapien and then re-inhabited it a few days later and that “death” is what allows God to forgive sins. Remember you have disavowed blood atonement, in your own words the blood atonement doctrine is simply a euphemism or synecdoche for death but the death you refer to is not what it is purported to be.

Michael,

If those Christians are correct then Jesus never ceased to be everywhere at any time and the atoning death seems incredibly trite when you consider Jesus continued to exist throughout the entire universe in the precisely exact manner he existed in from eternity past, nothing changed except for the microscopic discarding of his infinitely tiny body of a Homo sapien and then re-inhabited it a few days later and that “death” is what allows God to forgive sins.

A non-sequitur. God's omnipresence has nothing to do with the intensity of suffering.


Remember you have disavowed blood atonement

A dishonest caricature. I haven't disavowed "blood atonement", just your silly caricature of it.

in your own words the blood atonement doctrine is simply a euphemism or synecdoche for death but the death you refer to is not what it is purported to be.

The death I refer to is not what it is purported to be? Not sure what you're talking about.

I've asked you several times for you to spell out an argument. You seem incapable of doing so. Here is another chance:

Lay out what your argument is supposed to be with numbered premises, please.

Look, it's not difficult to do this sort of thing. Here is an example:

1. Jesus is omnipresent.
2. An omnipresent can't experience significant suffering.
3. Jesus didn't experience significant suffering.

Obviously this example is a ridiculous argument, but I'm skeptical you can do any better. Please give it your best shot though.

"A non-sequitur. God's omnipresence has nothing to do with the intensity of suffering."

And I never said it did, have you lost your mind? You are arguing against a position I never took. I believe that is referred to as a straw-man argument. Go back and read the posts, I never mention suffering.

My point was originally stated per post dated "michael | May 31, 2016 at 08:20 AM" and you answered by stating that when the bible talks about blood atonement is referring to death, not actual blood. It is there for everybody to read and you've read it and responded to it.

Michael,

So strange that you still refuse to spell out what your argument is. Why do you need to hide it? It seems as though you're not very confident in your own line of reasoning and this why you only vaguely gesture at objections.

And I never said it did

Your argument has something to do with omnipresence, correct? And your argument is supposed to somehow support the claim that Jesus' death is trite, correct? I'll give you the courtesy of spelling out my line of reasoning, hopefully you'll do the same.

So, then:

1. Jesus died a torturous death.
2. To die a torturous death is to suffer.
3. Suffering isn't trite.

So then how do your observations about omnipresence support your claims about Jesus' death being trite. Spell out the argument for us. And you can explain what any of this has to do with your views of blood too.

The shed blood of Jesus does not forgive sins.
You're 100% correct. Jesus' blood does not forgive sins. God forgives sins. The death ("shed blood", if you prefer) of Jesus is how God reconciles the blood-guilt that we owe because of our treason with his plan to forgive us.

A little confused at this point of the line of responses. I note 1 John 1: 7-9: But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ, his Son, cleanses us from all sin. 8 If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and righteous to forgive us the sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

I think the thrust of the challenge is the conative argument connected to the expression "smell blood." God is not driven by vindictive "blood lust." It is a simple matter of justice:

sin = death = blood

Grace understands the rights of divine justice and submits to it:

sin = death = Christ's blood instead of ours.

John nailed it in his letter. Sin remains man's insoluble problem. Legislation fails to curb sin. God's substitutionary atonement or we stand in God's dock on our own merits.

In all this line of posts, Andrew W. has made some excellent points.

Michael-

First, thank you for your kind words.

Now, I'm not quite tracking on your omnipresence argument. Is your point that somehow the localized suffering of Jesus is somehow diffused throughout an omnipresent God?

I think the standard Christian view on omnipresence and eternality is that God is fully present at all places and all times (by being independent of both). As such the suffering of Jesus is all suffering at all times and is felt fully at all times and in all places by God.

One last point:

Consider the OT concept of blood = life (the idea that JW's base their odd teaching on refusing blood transfusions).

Therefore: loss of blood = loss of life.

Hi Wisdom Lover,

Thank you for your courtesy. However I've never addressed anything to do with Jesus' suffering or passion in this blog. The conversation has to do with blood atonement and then later on I wrote the following....

"However, did Jesus die? Isn't he god from eternity past? He shed is body and then reoccupied it a few days later. Apparently that still counts."

Thus I followed up with the omnipresence stuff which was addressing the issue of if Jesus died in the sense we normally think of dying. Absolutely nothing I wrote was in regards to suffering, the scourging, the passion. You'll need to start from the very beginning and read or re-read every single post to know what I've written.

No doubt you'll disagree with me on Jesus' death, that is a given but again I made no connection between the suffering Jesus and omnipresence.


Michael,

Presumably whatever argument you think you can run from omnipresence and death would also apply to omnipresence in suffering. It's entirely unclear what relevant distinction would separate them. However you haven't attempted to give any arguments for what you've asserted about death either... so I guess the point is moot.

You talk about dying "in the sense we normally think of dying." But you haven't told anyone here what you think the "normal" sense of dying is. When an atheist talks about death he means something very different than the Christian. You've failed to give any explanation or argument for your claims about Jesus dying in some "normal" sense and what this has to do with omnipresence. This indicates a lack of interest in actually communicating or having a discourse. You're content to sit back and vaguely gesture at "problems" in Christian theology. But they remain to be seen.

Well, I guess the way we normally think about dying has everything to do with the view we hold about the immortality of the soul.

If you think that death is an end of conscious existence, then of course Jesus never did die.

But, needless to say, it's no good raising a difficulty with the death of Christ beginning with the premise that death is soul annihilation. If you start there, the jig is already up for Christianity and for most forms of theism. No need to get hung up over Jesus' death, or lack thereof.

But if you hold to the immortality of the soul, then death is another form of conscious existence. In the Book of Revelation, John defines the term "second death" as hell.

So the question is, for example, on the Christian view, does Jesus suffer the torments of Hell?

And yes, I think He does. He suffers all evils, because He is Omniscient.

In the follow-up thread to this thread [ over at http://str.typepad.com/weblog/2016/06/challenge-response-god-is-only-forgiving-when-he-smells-blood/comments/page/2/#comments ] the conversation continued.....


Some thoughts added in:


It's not clear there is a disagreement between MFGA and WL. It's all about the definition of ACTUALITY. Is the created X "more" "actual" than said X "in" the Divine Mind? That doesn't seem feasible. Definitions end in Necessity Himself after all. Whatever God's creative act is relative to God's Knowing, it seems the later surpasses the former. If we focus on the tensed, time, and God's knowing, well then God's knowing (which *is* actuality) is seen, by us, "in" time. We call it experience. But if God does not create, well then is His Knowing less actual? Well no. An appearance of disagreement may emerge where there is none, depending on where our lens is zoomed in on as we define "actual". It seems both lines work quite well. Of course, if love's timeless self-giving vis-à-vis those timeless processions within Trinity were to actualize and pour Himself out and "into" and "for" the entire order of time and physicality, well we had better expect, again, Actuality. Nothing less than Incarnation would do. Nothing less than Love Himself, God, *actually* spreading his arms wide, pouring himself out, and such to the bitter ends of, not some other order, but to the bitter ends of the Adamic, of Time, of Physicality.

What would that "look like"?

Like Christ.

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