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Thread: David Hume's criteria for accepting stories of miracles applied to religious miracles

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    Default David Hume's criteria for accepting stories of miracles applied to religious miracles

    In 1748, Scottish philosopher David Hume published the essay Of Miracles, in which he argued that the argument would "be an everlasting check to all kinds of superstitious delusion". That's certainly not the world we live in, but we can't conclude that Hume failed, because most people are not familiar with Hume's argument.

    Hume wrote:

    If the falsehood of his testimony would be more miraculous, than the event which he relates; then, and not till then, can he pretend to command my belief or opinion.
    As we all know, there are many legends and fables around the world. Even religious believers accept this. They consider many of the stories of other religions to be fables and legends.

    Now, let's consider the reported miracles in the Bible, the Quran, and other religious holy texts. Is it more likely that these stories actually happened, than that they did not?

    - Is it less miraculous that Moses' parting of the Red Sea actually happened, or that it never actually took place?

    - Is it less miraculous that Jesus raised dead people, or that it never happened?

    - Is it less miraculous that Muhammad actually split the Moon, apparently unnoticed by the rest of the world, or that this event never actually took place?

    We can look at this scientifically. In order for these events not to have taken place, the null hypothesis, all we need to assume is that some ancient texts got it wrong, which we know happens all the time. No need to introduce anything new in our understanding of the universe. The other hypothesis is that a so far unknown divine force caused one or several of these purported events. Which one of these hypotheses is more miraculous?
    "A skeptic is one who prefers beliefs and conclusions that are reliable and valid to ones that are comforting or convenient, and therefore rigorously and openly applies the methods of science and reason to all empirical claims, especially their own. A skeptic provisionally proportions acceptance of any claim to valid logic and a fair and thorough assessment of available evidence, and studies the pitfalls of human reason and the mechanisms of deception so as to avoid being deceived by others or themselves. Skepticism values method over any particular conclusion." - Dr Steven Novella

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    conon394's Avatar hoi polloi
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    Default Re: David Hume's criteria for accepting stories of miracles applied to religious miracles

    We can look at this scientifically. In order for these events not to have taken place, the null hypothesis, all we need to assume is that some ancient texts got it wrong, which we know happens all the time. No need to introduce anything new in our understanding of the universe. The other hypothesis is that a so far unknown divine force caused one or several of these purported events. Which one of these hypotheses is more miraculous?
    Quibble on the got it wrong part. You are talking about religious text abut religion and belief. They intend to assert miraculous events. It does matter that Mark, Luke etc. have a complexly unbelievable and unexplainable three hour darkness as Jesus dies on the cross... that seems to impact absolutely nobody and goes unnoticed and unremarked on by everyone... Its a question of faith not logic. Note thus of course educated people of the time will have completely aware of when an eclipse could occur and how long they last... thus a remarkable event both in duration and one that could not be caused by the moon would have provoked mention well outside of Christian religious circles. For comparison the eruption of vesuvius and the submergence of Helike in Greece due to and earthquake/tsunami event were widely remarked on at the time (and that survived into our rather very slim bits of classical writing)
    Last edited by conon394; November 23, 2022 at 01:19 AM.
    IN PATROCINIVM SVB Dromikaites

    'One day when I fly with my hands - up down the sky, like a bird'

    But if the cause be not good, the king himself hath a heavy reckoning to make, when all those legs and arms and heads, chopped off in battle, shall join together at the latter day and cry all 'We died at such a place; some swearing, some crying for surgeon, some upon their wives left poor behind them, some upon the debts they owe, some upon their children rawly left.

    Hyperides of Athens: We know, replied he, that Antipater is good, but we (the Demos of Athens) have no need of a master at present, even a good one.

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    Default Re: David Hume's criteria for accepting stories of miracles applied to religious miracles

    The most profound statement ever made to mankind is, " In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth." What follows is each procedure as it happened until after six days God rested. Since that time mankind has seen and heard of many miraculous events yet still have no other explanations for them, the replies usually being, " I never saw them and so they couldn't have happened meaning they're not true." As one who has observed and experienced many miracles I would have to say it's a sad day that so many others haven't and funnily enough don't really want to see any as they would have their applecart of wisdom overturned and they couldn't take that.

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    conon394's Avatar hoi polloi
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    Default Re: David Hume's criteria for accepting stories of miracles applied to religious miracles

    The most profound statement ever made to mankind is, " In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth."
    Or technically any other creation myth you choose to have faith in.

    Since that time mankind has seen and heard of many miraculous events yet still have no other explanations for them
    Very good you have a list
    IN PATROCINIVM SVB Dromikaites

    'One day when I fly with my hands - up down the sky, like a bird'

    But if the cause be not good, the king himself hath a heavy reckoning to make, when all those legs and arms and heads, chopped off in battle, shall join together at the latter day and cry all 'We died at such a place; some swearing, some crying for surgeon, some upon their wives left poor behind them, some upon the debts they owe, some upon their children rawly left.

    Hyperides of Athens: We know, replied he, that Antipater is good, but we (the Demos of Athens) have no need of a master at present, even a good one.

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    basics's Avatar Vicarius Provinciae
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    Default Re: David Hume's criteria for accepting stories of miracles applied to religious miracles

    conon394,

    No, just what God had Moses write down as to how we got here. As regards miracles there are some 160 plus in the Bible plus the number I have witnessed or experienced myself and yes some of Biblical proportions and others little every day interventions by God when I need them.

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    Default Re: David Hume's criteria for accepting stories of miracles applied to religious miracles

    Quote Originally Posted by Calypze View Post
    - Is it less miraculous that Muhammad actually split the Moon, apparently unnoticed by the rest of the world, or that this event never actually took place?
    The validity of that interpretation is debated in Islam. Quran doesn't describe Muhammad splitting the moon but the verse talks about the end times and the moon splitting as Quran also talks about solar system's physical end. So, its not exactly an established miracle in Islam as the other examples you gave for other religions.
    Last edited by PointOfViewGun; November 24, 2022 at 05:07 AM.
    The Armenian Issue
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    Default Re: David Hume's criteria for accepting stories of miracles applied to religious miracles

    Quote Originally Posted by basics View Post
    The most profound statement ever made to mankind is, " In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth."
    That's debatable, don't you think?

    I like the following statements way more:

    "A wise man proportions his belief to the evidence." - David Hume

    "If we take in our hand any volume; of divinity or school metaphysics, for instance; let us ask, Does it contain any abstract reasoning concerning quantity or number? No. Does it contain any experimental reasoning concerning matter of fact and existence? No. Commit it then to the flames: for it can contain nothing but sophistry and illusion." - David Hume

    "Every one of us is, in the cosmic perspective, precious. If a human disagrees with you, let him live. In a hundred billion galaxies, you will not find another." - Carl Sagan
    "A skeptic is one who prefers beliefs and conclusions that are reliable and valid to ones that are comforting or convenient, and therefore rigorously and openly applies the methods of science and reason to all empirical claims, especially their own. A skeptic provisionally proportions acceptance of any claim to valid logic and a fair and thorough assessment of available evidence, and studies the pitfalls of human reason and the mechanisms of deception so as to avoid being deceived by others or themselves. Skepticism values method over any particular conclusion." - Dr Steven Novella

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    Default Re: David Hume's criteria for accepting stories of miracles applied to religious miracles

    Quote Originally Posted by basics View Post
    conon394,

    No, just what God had Moses write down as to how we got here. As regards miracles there are some 160 plus in the Bible
    How do you know that they actually happened?

    Quote Originally Posted by basics View Post
    plus the number I have witnessed or experienced myself and yes some of Biblical proportions
    Do you have any examples?

    Quote Originally Posted by basics View Post
    and others little every day interventions by God when I need them.
    Such as?
    "A skeptic is one who prefers beliefs and conclusions that are reliable and valid to ones that are comforting or convenient, and therefore rigorously and openly applies the methods of science and reason to all empirical claims, especially their own. A skeptic provisionally proportions acceptance of any claim to valid logic and a fair and thorough assessment of available evidence, and studies the pitfalls of human reason and the mechanisms of deception so as to avoid being deceived by others or themselves. Skepticism values method over any particular conclusion." - Dr Steven Novella

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    conon394's Avatar hoi polloi
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    Default Re: David Hume's criteria for accepting stories of miracles applied to religious miracles

    No, just what God had Moses write down
    That is a made up tradition a myth.

    As regards miracles there are some 160 plus in the Bible
    Rather more likely made up in general. Certainly the largest ones are of such a scale that should have been remarked upon outside of the tiny closed loop of the Gospels. Note people in classical world were not adverse to recording myths or miraculous events if they were told about them. Even if they prefaced such references with it was said, they say, or I have been told. Thus if Persian claimed the priests of Zoroaster could cure blindness in a miraculous fashion Herodotus will have reported I was told this by the priests but did not see it happen. Seeing as he like most people in the ancient world was polytheistic they have no particulate reason to care really. By that I mean great your gods work for nifty it would have no particular impact on their own religion.
    IN PATROCINIVM SVB Dromikaites

    'One day when I fly with my hands - up down the sky, like a bird'

    But if the cause be not good, the king himself hath a heavy reckoning to make, when all those legs and arms and heads, chopped off in battle, shall join together at the latter day and cry all 'We died at such a place; some swearing, some crying for surgeon, some upon their wives left poor behind them, some upon the debts they owe, some upon their children rawly left.

    Hyperides of Athens: We know, replied he, that Antipater is good, but we (the Demos of Athens) have no need of a master at present, even a good one.

  10. #10

    Default Re: David Hume's criteria for accepting stories of miracles applied to religious miracles

    How do you measure what's more miraculous?
    The Armenian Issue
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    conon394's Avatar hoi polloi
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    Default Re: David Hume's criteria for accepting stories of miracles applied to religious miracles

    Quote Originally Posted by PointOfViewGun View Post
    How do you measure what's more miraculous?
    More I guess rather in scale. The three interlinked Gospels of Mark, Matthew and Luke a three hour darkening of sun. The word used implies not just some minimal event over Jerusalem but a maximal one. Educated people would that such an event was profoundly outside of the understanding of the natural world. It both too long and not the right time for an eclipse. It would have provoked comment outside of the gospels. Nor is easy to believe the people hanging about soldiers and what would utter apparently indifferent to such an event - thus internal credibility is a bit thin. If I decided that is made up than frankly miracles of any scale attested by late sources and unnamed traditions do not hold much water.
    IN PATROCINIVM SVB Dromikaites

    'One day when I fly with my hands - up down the sky, like a bird'

    But if the cause be not good, the king himself hath a heavy reckoning to make, when all those legs and arms and heads, chopped off in battle, shall join together at the latter day and cry all 'We died at such a place; some swearing, some crying for surgeon, some upon their wives left poor behind them, some upon the debts they owe, some upon their children rawly left.

    Hyperides of Athens: We know, replied he, that Antipater is good, but we (the Demos of Athens) have no need of a master at present, even a good one.

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    Default Re: David Hume's criteria for accepting stories of miracles applied to religious miracles

    I know an everyday miracle. Revelations 22:18 says

    I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this scroll: If anyone adds anything to them, God will add to that person the plagues described in this scroll.19 And if anyone takes words away from this scroll of prophecy, God will take away from that person any share in the tree of life and in the Holy City, which are described in this scroll.
    Boy let me tell you what has that curse been triggered so many times with the innumerable variations in translation and editing (taking away koine words and replacing them with innumerable words in a Babel of tongues), yet none of the plagues described in the books (imagine if everything in the sea died once each time there was a new edition of the Bible, it'd never stop dying) has appeared as promised: a miracle!
    Jatte lambastes Calico Rat

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    antaeus's Avatar Cool and normal
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    Default Re: David Hume's criteria for accepting stories of miracles applied to religious miracles

    I think I'm with Conon to a certain extent...

    This isn't a question of miracles, it is a question of religion itself. As a large percentage of them contain attempts to explain through known logic at the time of writing, some sort of unproveable or unverifiable event or scenario. Miracles are in essence, that explanation for those unproveable events.

    Therefore the only real everlasting check that is required, is whether said event can be proven or repeated, or otherwise explained by independent discovery, or whether it is still awaiting that explanation as over time knowledge expands.

    This in turn leads to the idea that for every religious event that cannot be independently explained, we must remain somewhat agnostic and open to that explanation when it does arise.

    Of course, this is a crossover discussion regarding our openness to reassessing a scenario over time. Religions often are guilty of actively discouraging us from applying any stress test on their chosen explanations for events - as religions often come with the societal baggage of temporal power.
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    Default Re: David Hume's criteria for accepting stories of miracles applied to religious miracles

    Quote Originally Posted by Calypze View Post
    How do you know that they actually happened?

    Do you have any examples?

    Such as?
    Calypze,

    Eyewitness accounts. I have a sister in Christ who is married with two boys and a little girl, the father being a sereant armourer in the RAF. The little girl, Fiona, was born with twisted eyes severely crossed and despite doctors and experts having tried everything, nothing could be done medically but Karen her mum wasn't prepared to give up. Every Tuesday we went to a Christian fellowship on the base at Kinloss and it was decided to lay hands on Fiona at the next meeting. As a new Christian I was skeptical and so didn't go. The next morning at our dry cleaning and laundry business, Neill Fiona's dad stuck his head round the door his face beaming and saying at the same time, " Have you heard about Fiona ?" No I replied, " Where is she ?" " Outside in her pram," he replied and I then said, " Bring her in." So in she came and her dad lifted her out of the pram and handed her to me. Her wee face had that smile and you know what, her eyes were as straight as yours or mine.

    Neill said that they had just come up from the doctor's surgery leaving behind a host of doctors and nurses who had come into one of the surgeries to see her and were all baffled at what they saw. They couldn't believe what they saw and heard yet were delighted by the result. I felt ashamed because my faith was not strong enough and so ever since I have cast aside any doubts, the result being to see or hear of miracles large and small being an everyday occurrence not just others but me and my family as well. The little things are such as walking in a bubble as the rain pounded down around me when walking the dog or running out of petrol in the middle of the night and a stranger pouring a can of it into my car leaving me his name and address so that I could repay him or the day my gears locked into third and yet after a prayer them working properly again and have worked properly ever since.

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    conon394's Avatar hoi polloi
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    Default Re: David Hume's criteria for accepting stories of miracles applied to religious miracles

    Quote Originally Posted by basics View Post
    Calypze,

    Eyewitness accounts. I have a sister in Christ who is married with two boys and a little girl, the father being a sereant armourer in the RAF. The little girl, Fiona, was born with twisted eyes severely crossed and despite doctors and experts having tried everything, nothing could be done medically but Karen her mum wasn't prepared to give up. Every Tuesday we went to a Christian fellowship on the base at Kinloss and it was decided to lay hands on Fiona at the next meeting. As a new Christian I was skeptical and so didn't go. The next morning at our dry cleaning and laundry business, Neill Fiona's dad stuck his head round the door his face beaming and saying at the same time, " Have you heard about Fiona ?" No I replied, " Where is she ?" " Outside in her pram," he replied and I then said, " Bring her in." So in she came and her dad lifted her out of the pram and handed her to me. Her wee face had that smile and you know what, her eyes were as straight as yours or mine.

    Neill said that they had just come up from the doctor's surgery leaving behind a host of doctors and nurses who had come into one of the surgeries to see her and were all baffled at what they saw. They couldn't believe what they saw and heard yet were delighted by the result. I felt ashamed because my faith was not strong enough and so ever since I have cast aside any doubts, the result being to see or hear of miracles large and small being an everyday occurrence not just others but me and my family as well. The little things are such as walking in a bubble as the rain pounded down around me when walking the dog or running out of petrol in the middle of the night and a stranger pouring a can of it into my car leaving me his name and address so that I could repay him or the day my gears locked into third and yet after a prayer them working properly again and have worked properly ever since.
    Its a fine story an utterly unverifiable in way with out a whole raft of medical records and dates and times. But in general lots of infants outgrow development problems because not everyone emerges quite finished. My father had pretty bad lazy eye when he was a kid. Never wore the corrective ugly glasses he was given and basically he grew out of it in later growth. To have 20/20 vision. Err nobody did any hand laying. But its interesting to see you buy into pagan transactional religious belief.
    IN PATROCINIVM SVB Dromikaites

    'One day when I fly with my hands - up down the sky, like a bird'

    But if the cause be not good, the king himself hath a heavy reckoning to make, when all those legs and arms and heads, chopped off in battle, shall join together at the latter day and cry all 'We died at such a place; some swearing, some crying for surgeon, some upon their wives left poor behind them, some upon the debts they owe, some upon their children rawly left.

    Hyperides of Athens: We know, replied he, that Antipater is good, but we (the Demos of Athens) have no need of a master at present, even a good one.

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    Default Re: David Hume's criteria for accepting stories of miracles applied to religious miracles

    Quote Originally Posted by conon394 View Post
    Its a fine story an utterly unverifiable in way with out a whole raft of medical records and dates and times. But in general lots of infants outgrow development problems because not everyone emerges quite finished. My father had pretty bad lazy eye when he was a kid. Never wore the corrective ugly glasses he was given and basically he grew out of it in later growth. To have 20/20 vision. Err nobody did any hand laying. But its interesting to see you buy into pagan transactional religious belief.
    conon394,

    It's a wonderful story and quite true and it gets even better when I tell you that Neill who was not a Christian at the time was posted to the Falklands where he had his conversion experience making Karen the happiest wife and mother. As far as medical records are concerned it is obvious that these would be at the doctor's surgery and since Neill had just come from there a record of that visit must have been made. I didn't buy into anything as God changed my life as once I was blind but now I see.

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    conon394's Avatar hoi polloi
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    Default Re: David Hume's criteria for accepting stories of miracles applied to religious miracles

    Yet your remains a story - it one that can't possibly be verified or examined in this context. In general by 'in her pram' she was well withing the range of eyes fixing themselves.

    In any case you still have two problems. Lots of people have after this therefore because of this I prayed on an individual level stories after praying to different version of god or gods... are you a polytheist now Basics? All them almost assuredly cannot be examined in any way. But larger is you ignored all the epic miraculous events in the bible which would have been commented on but seemingly exist only in the bible.

    I didn't buy into anything as God changed my life as once I was blind but now I see.
    Your internal truth is you own and can't really be used as evidence. Finding your particular god may have changed your life, but I think I can find people who feel the same about finding faith in Islam or Buddhism or returning to their Traditional religions. Even w/o god/gods I sure you fine people who made some profound life altering choice and hare very much certain their life is changed for the better.
    Last edited by conon394; November 26, 2022 at 06:37 AM.
    IN PATROCINIVM SVB Dromikaites

    'One day when I fly with my hands - up down the sky, like a bird'

    But if the cause be not good, the king himself hath a heavy reckoning to make, when all those legs and arms and heads, chopped off in battle, shall join together at the latter day and cry all 'We died at such a place; some swearing, some crying for surgeon, some upon their wives left poor behind them, some upon the debts they owe, some upon their children rawly left.

    Hyperides of Athens: We know, replied he, that Antipater is good, but we (the Demos of Athens) have no need of a master at present, even a good one.

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    basics's Avatar Vicarius Provinciae
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    Default Re: David Hume's criteria for accepting stories of miracles applied to religious miracles

    conon394,

    It's a factual story that actually happened that you don't or won't accept it is your problem for it happened nonetheless. Why even had I quoted the miracles from the Bible which were not experiential by me you would still argue about them. As there is only One God in One Being yet consisting of Three Persons that's all I need to know about Him. There are no other gods except in the imagination of men.

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    conon394's Avatar hoi polloi
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    Default Re: David Hume's criteria for accepting stories of miracles applied to religious miracles

    It's a factual story that actually happened that you don't or won't accept it is your problem for it happened nonetheless.
    I can only not accept it. I have way to examine the event in a way so it remains just a second hand story. Sorry I'm not in fact calling you untruthful its just its not data. If you me tell inflation was X percent in 1960 in England I can very that. I you say Maradona punched the ball into the goal I can look at film and make my own decision....

    Why even had I quoted the miracles from the Bible which were not experiential by me you would still argue about them
    I see no particular reason to believe in miraculous events purported only by religious texts written by believers for believers long after the supposed events happened. And of those the largest ones would almost assuredly leave some trace in outside literature.

    As there is only One God in One Being yet consisting of Three Persons that's all I need to know about Him. There are no other gods except in the imagination of men.
    Outside of your internal belief and truth that is a meaningless statement as everyone who is a firm believer in a different deity can say the same and banish yours to being just your imagination (or not other regions can lack the arrogance of Christianity). The parenthetical is important because most ancient people were not like basics they were generally of the mind there were lots of gods and you know thus the other guys god(s) might or might not intervene to help them or punish them etc. So a truly grand scale event would in fact be noted or commented on. There is a to repeat a pile load of arrogance in your declaration.
    Last edited by conon394; November 27, 2022 at 03:24 PM.
    IN PATROCINIVM SVB Dromikaites

    'One day when I fly with my hands - up down the sky, like a bird'

    But if the cause be not good, the king himself hath a heavy reckoning to make, when all those legs and arms and heads, chopped off in battle, shall join together at the latter day and cry all 'We died at such a place; some swearing, some crying for surgeon, some upon their wives left poor behind them, some upon the debts they owe, some upon their children rawly left.

    Hyperides of Athens: We know, replied he, that Antipater is good, but we (the Demos of Athens) have no need of a master at present, even a good one.

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    basics's Avatar Vicarius Provinciae
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    Default Re: David Hume's criteria for accepting stories of miracles applied to religious miracles

    conon394,

    All these beliefs came about after Nimrod was deified by Semiramis and Cush and were based on the promised " seed " foretold of by God in the garden at the fall of man. The prophecies about Him have stood the test of time and resulted in Him being crucified and resurrected as proof where those that believe on Him will go when this life passes for them. When that great day of His coming arrives every knee of every religion or none at all will bow down and confess that Jesus Christ is Lord so believing or not be prepared. If I appear arrogant it's not my intention rather to preach what God has commanded I preach. Remember I once thought much the same as you but the irresistible power of God changed all that.

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