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The Dangerous Doctrine of Justification

While religion can make people happier by giving connection to a larger world, it can also make people blind and neurotic. Self-righteousness is the grand delusion distorting life in the church and outside the church (cf. Eberhard Juengel). Christians should change the world socially and not only interpret the world theologically in the sense of Jesus of Nazareth.

Where has "faith in Christ alone" brought us? Where will it lead us?

By Dieter Potzel

[This essay published in 2009 is translated from the German on the Internet,  http://www.theologe.de.]

"Not everyone who says to me, `Lord, Lord' shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven" (Jesus of Nazareth, Matthew 7,21)

"If I have all faith so as to remove mountains, but have no love, I am nothing" (church teacher Paul, 1 Cor 13,2)

"If someone thinks he will gain forgiveness of sins, that he has love, the reviled and disgraced Christ, will find when he stands before God's judgment at the end that such a disposition is vain. Faith alone can make a person just" (from the evangelical Lutheran confessional writings, Apologie IV.151)

"Germany has been marked by Protestantism for 500 years. Emotions, pictures and ecstasy are all ignored. It is probably the only religion of the world that promises one can only enter heaven by firmly believing. Concrete life experience does not count. Thus one perseveres with a firm faith for 85 years on earth and then there is ascension and holiday" (Jurgen Fliege, evangelical pastor interviewed in Frankfurter Rundschau "The churches know little about the soul," 7/30/2009)

"The proclamation and the sacraments were made cheap. A whole people were unconditionally baptized, confirmed and absolved... Streams of grace were poured out without end... When was the world Christianized more dreadfully and hopelessly than here? What are the 3000 Saxons killed by Karl the Great compared to the millions of killed souls today" (Protestant theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Cost of Discipleship)

One of the most quoted part of the book deals with the distinction which Bonhoeffer makes between "cheap" and "costly" grace. But what is "cheap" grace? In Bonhoeffer's words:
"cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline. Communion without confession. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ."
Or, even more clearly, it is to hear the gospel preached as follows: "Of course you have sinned, but now everything is forgiven, so you can stay as you are and enjoy the consolations of forgiveness." The main defect of such a proclamation is that it contains no demand for discipleship. In contrast to this is costly grace:

"Costly grace confronts us as a gracious call to follow Jesus; it comes as a word of forgiveness to the broken spirit and the contrite heart. It is costly because it compels a man to submit to the yoke of Christ and follow him; it is grace because Jesus says: "My yoke is easy and my burden is light." (Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Cost of Discipleship)

"Faith alone is enough for "salvation," according to the doctrine of the church. Since the Reformation in the 16th century, this has been taught by the protestant churches. The Catholic Church has agreed since 1999. But if faith alone is enough, why do catholic and protestant pastors hopelessly cry "God, where are you" in disasters? Faith is obviously not enough regarding peace or "salvation" for the wounded soul. People question and search for God. Faith alone is not enough for them.

"Christians have never practiced the acts which Jesus prescribed to them. The impudent gossip of faith and justification by faith and its supreme and unique importance is only the result that the church did not have the courage or the will to confess the works that Jesus demanded. The Buddhist acts differently than the non-Buddhist. The Christian acts like the entire world and has a Christianity of ceremonies and moods" (the philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche, Tolstoy excerpts, unpublished works November 1887-March 1888).


If faith alone were enough, why did Moses give the Ten Commandments to the Israelites? Why did Jesus of Nazareth teach the Sermon on the Mount? Why did not Moses and Jesus say: "faith alone is enough"? In bringing this offer of redemption to people, did Paul say in a single passage in the Bible that man is justified "by faith" apart from works of the law (Rom 3,28) or later Martin Luther who spoke of this again and again? Is the Bible passage of Paul a little false in this sense in that the Bible today translated by Martin Luther says a man is justified "by faith alone"? The word "alone" was not in Paul's original text. Luther added it in his translation.


The churches teach again and again "Jesus took all sins on himself." "Believe, and your sins will be taken from you." If Jesus took all sins on himself, why do people suffer so grievously, even believers? Why are they increasingly sick, unhappy and violent if Jesus took everything negative on himself? Marriages break up and envy and corruption rule in the economy. More and more people are at each other's throats with thoughts, words or deeds. Bombs fly in many countries. If Jesus took sins on himself, must not at least believers be freed from that and spread peace and happiness on earth? A glance at our world and church Christendom shows the opposite is true. What brought this doctrine that faith is enough? The history of the church and the condition of people and the earth demonstrate this today. "Behold, I make all things new! Through Jesus' discipleship or through the climate catastrophe?

In the Bible to which the churches appeal, we read: "Behold, I make all things new!" (Revelation 21,5) How does that happen? The question here is: by faith alone or that people become disciples of Jesus of Nazareth by doing what he taught step by step? Jesus explained to people how to distinguish prophets of God and wise persons from "raving wolves." His answer was: "You will know them by their fruits" (Matthew 7,16). The gradual discipleship of Jesus of Nazareth would certainly lead to good "fruits" and a positive renewal. What fruits has "faith alone" brought? The fruits of this church faith in the last centuries are manifest or will be manifest. Christendom is the dominant religion on this planet on which under its influence many things have become worse than ever. No religion has blessed more wars on both sides of the front. Animals and nature suffer in our age as never before in the history of the earth and humanity. Christianity gave the commission: "Have dominion over the earth!" (Gen 1,28). How was this commission realized? In unparalleled speed, the animals are dying out and the whole "creation" cries for redemption from its human tormentors and for renewal. One could ask: In what way could a conversion be introduced? In this drastic situation, could the believer learn communication with mother earth and all her elements and forms of life so that he feels the suffering of an animal slaughtered for meat consumption or horribly tortured in animal experiments for the alleged health of people. Can the believer renew his conduct toward God's creation in this way or will everything soon become new in another way - through climate change that expands to an unparalleled climate catastrophe because believers beastly maltreat the earth and its creatures instead of tending and preserving them. Will the planet earth be "cleansed" of believers and other people because it cannot endure their rage any more? Will "everything become new" in this way? The future will soon show us.


The immune system of animals and plants on earth becomes increasingly weak and similarly with people. Sicknesses increase worldwide. Who, when and why someone falls is "God's mystery," the churches say. "Faith alone saves you" should be the watchword in this situation. "If only your faith is firm, you will be healthy." If nothing else helps, "take the last rites and everything will be good."

Whoever only believes does not find the causes that brought him into a certain life situation and can change nothing. His life is like a puddle that has hardly any inflow and outflow any more. Believing the person languishes.


Believers often go to their pastors or priests and ask forgiveness for their sins. Then the office-holder says: "Do you believe I can forgive you in God's name?" The pastor cannot forgive. However the church Christian should believe this and answers "Yes." Jesus never taught forgiveness through confessions, pastors and priests. Rather he said: "First, be reconciled with your brother" and sister (Matthew 5,24). No church "sacrament of confession" is needed. This only leads the "sinner" astray. The concerned must bring the situation under order. If the person is now reconciled or consciously takes the first step to his neighbor, the person gradually becomes free and experiences this in his soul and body. He does not need to bear burdens any more. He does not need to "believe" anything that doesn't bring him anything and isn't true, for example the presumption that the words of forgiveness by pastors or priests allegedly bring about God's forgiveness as both large churches try to convince their faithful.

"Faith alone is enough." The church has built a whole doctrinal structure around this and yet all this is built on sand from the start.

Compare yourself! On the left side, you can read further ideas about how "faith alone" should be enough. This is described here as "passive faith." On the right side, you can read what could practically help: the "active faith" that grows out of trust in a loving creative God or from the gradual discipleship of the great teacher of humanity, Jesus of Nazareth.

1) Martin Luther and church doctrine JESUS OF NAZARETH
assumed people intent on doing Jesus said: "Everyone who hears these words of
something good wanted to "boast." mine and does them is like a wise man who built
(See Luther's well-known treatise his house upon "rock: (Matthew 7,24). However
"On the Freedom of a Christian"). He commanded his disciples: "Beware of
With this thinking, the spiritual practicing your piety before men in order to be
arrogance of theologians and modern seen by them; for then you will have no reward
scribes is often projected on other from your Father who is in heaven"
persons. Jesus of Nazareth already said (Matthew 6,1)
about theologians of his time: "They
do all their deeds to be seen by men"
(Matthew 23,5).

2) The church teaches Jesus took the sins Jesus the Christ proclaimed that all persons
of all people at all times on the cross of could gradually find the way back to God.
Golgotha and one only needs to accept Therefore he taught the Sermon on the Mount
this "gift of grace" in faith. But if Jesus and gave people the highest possible goal that he
takes all sins on himself why do believers once described as follows: "You therefore must
bear the heavy burden of their sins? Be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect."
Something is not right. If Jesus takes all
sins on himself, why are sinful believers
simply unchanged? Something is not right

3) If faith alone is enough, then churches of Early Christians in the discipleship of Jesus asked
stone, pastors and sacraments (like baptism about God's will. Jesus of Nazareth taught: "Not
and the Lord's Supper) are not needed. Everyone who says to me, `Lord, Lord' shall enter
Faith alone would suffice. Why then are the the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will
churches of stone so splendid with costly of my Father who is in heaven" (Matthew 7,21).
organs and golden Lord's Supper chalices?
Why all the "accessories" with sacraments, What is God's will? Jesus explains this to a scribe
masses and ceremonies and so forth if faith who asked him: "Teacher, what should I do to
alone is enough? Can God be influenced in inherit eternal life?" Jesus answered: "You
this way so he does what believers want from shall love the Lord your God with all your heart
him? and with all your soul and with all your strength,
and with all your mind, and your neighbor as
yourself," as the Old Testament already teaches.
Jesus continued: "Do this and you will live." Thus no "faith alone," no church, no priests and
no new sacraments.
4) As a supposedly "infallible truth," the Jesus of Nazareth did not teach churchgoing or
Catholic Church teaches: "Every Christian a "communion," much less an exclusion from
Must go to communion at least on Easter "salvation," not even someone who does not
Every year according to the rule of the Holy take a host on the anniversary of his
Mother, the church. Every one who refuses resurrection. The active believer does not
Is excluded (=eternally damned) demand the host. Rather he may thankfully
take food every meal time in remembrance of
Christ and in God's power, food which nature
gives people as originally in the creation
narrative (Gen 1,29).
Our body should be a "temple" of life or a
"temple of the Holy Spirit" (see 1 Cor 3,16).
No outward church is needed. God's reign is
"in us" (Luke 17,21).

5) People become sick. Disasters pile up. Active faith is the way to health, happiness and
The church teaches it does not know why vitality. With the question of "why" a certain life
God allows so much sickness and distress situation occurs, the active believer wants to
to one person and makes possible a understand what happens. There are no
beautiful life to another. These are all God's accidents. The question "why" leads to self-
mysteries." Martin Luther even taught the knowledge. If his own misconduct underlies this,
question of why a disaster happens is a the why leads to the root of this conduct. Then
"temptation" of the "devil" (Table Talk). The active believer has remorse from which he
can honestly ask for forgiveness. On the other
hand, he forgives himself when someone is at
fault. When something has to be restored, he
restores it. Happiness and joy in life gradually
appears and the soul recovers. All this is the will
of God, not a mystery.

6) The churches teach the "sacrament" of Jesus of Nazareth, Paul and nearly all the
Confession. The passive believer confesses scriptures of the Old Testament teach that
His sins to the pastor or priest. The latter everyone who does an injustice to another
"absolves" the confessed sins. However all must suffer for that one day. If he reconciles
This is meaningless and lulls the believer in with his neighbor and his neighbor forgives
A fatal false security. A priest, bishop or pope him, then he need not suffer. That is the great
Can never absolve from sin. Whoever does not chance in the life school of the earth. Jesus
Bring his lapse or abnormal behavior in order explains this connection with an example
With the "injured one" remains afflicted with from everyday life: "Make friends quickly
His sins despite "absolution." Even if he appeals with your accuser while you are going with
To all the "saints" and asks countless people to him to court, lest your accuser hand you over
Pray for him, this is good for nothing. to the judge and the judge to the guard and
you be put in prison; Truly, I say to you, you
will never get out till you have paid the last
penny" (Matthew 5,25-26).

7) The churches a person is weak and wicked The Bible regarded as "God's word" by the
by an "original sin." Therefore he must "sin" churches says unmistakably: "Do not be
again and again but can pass over his sins to deceived. God is not mocked, for whatever
Jesus. Whoever does not do that will a man sows that he will also reap" (Galatians
supposedly be eternally damned later. 6,7). The harvest of a seed occurs on this-side,
Mentally-sick church theologians dreamt up in the world-to-come or in another
this nonsense of "original sin" and "eternal incarnation. Jesus of Nazareth also taught this
damnation." Human brains thought up the original knowledge of humanity. It was
alleged possibility of escaping this stricken from the tradition by the churches
"damnation" by simply "passing" the "sins" but is found in the "apocryphal" (=hidden)
to Jesus. Scriptures outside the Bible.

One can naturally ask why. One explanation "Mockery" toward God is mockery toward
could be: passive believers do not want to faith. A person only needs to pass on his
accept responsibility for their sins or face seed. Then he doesn't have to harvest it
their affliction. Whoever has passed his sins if he believes.
to Jesus supposedly reaches his goal: "One
stands before God as though one never Since every person is a "temple of the Holy
committed a sin" (the Protestant preacher Spirit," he can lay his abnormal behavior on
Billy Graham). Such thinking is typical for his "inner altar" and trust Christ for the
passive faith. Jesus never spoke of that. transformation. Christ is the support and
dynamic Redeemer-power in him helping the
active add less and less to this "sin." Instead
increased power flows so he can "purge" the
roots of his abnormal behavior and these can
can be completely dissolved after a certain

8) The churches teach, Christ said and did Christians in active faith know themselves led
everything around 2000 years ago once by the speaking God. They do not believe God
and for all. One has to believe this. This or Christ has abandoned humanity today or is
means he could be silent today. So one silent on the burning questions of our time. As
"praises" him as a silent God, for example there were prophets before Christ, there are
as a helpless baby in the manger or as the also prophets after Christ, which is often
executed on the cross. The main thing is proclaimed in the Bible (John 16,16; 1 Cor 12.
that he does not speak any more or 28). Since then, many of these prophets were
question church doctrine. burned at the stake of the church. In our time,
the church tries to make a fool of the
prophetic word and slander persons in active
faith. Like Jesus of Nazareth, prophets raise
their voice today against the church
theologians who lead people astray. The
chance of their earthly life is to become
happier through active faith from within and
gradually open up "heaven" in themselves.

Jesus called to theologians of his time: "Woe
to you, scribes!" (Matthew 23) Would it be
different today?

9) The churches teach no one needs to Unlike the passive church faith, the active
exert himself for his "salvation." believer trusts Jesus' saying: "Ask, and it will be
Everyone is "declared just" as he is. given you, seek and you will find, knock and it
A pastor once preached in a typical way: will be opened to you" (Matthew 7,7). This
"Whoever does what he can is a hero." message is plain and simple and means:
Everyone can say this about him- or Everyone who honestly seeks connection to the
herself. Everyone can easily say: "I do Creator God takes two or more steps to the
what I can." More is not necessary. Thus Most High. God's love is a stronger power than
no one needs to change to later come into the power of darkness. This is different from
the church heaven. According to the church doctrines where at the end the majority
teaching of Martin Luther which was also of humanity will be tormented with eternal
adopted later by the Lutheran churches, a pains of hell without the church God doing
person can do nothing because he is passive anything positive for these people. This aspect
llke a riding animal. of their doctrine alone contains the whole
unmasking of the churches. Who wants a
creation separated for all eternity in the saved
on one side and the suffering damned on the
other side?

The honest search for God is bound with effort
because a person must seek actively. Everyone
is loved by God as he is. But he does not need
to remain as he is. God forces no one or uses
no one like a "rider" on a riding animal. God
created humans as children of freedom and
grants freedom to everyone.

10) Martin Luther taught: "Sin bravely but Jesus says to healed persons: "Go and do not
believe more valiantly!" (Letter to sin again" (Sin no more, that nothing worse
Melanchthon 8/1/1521). The heavier the befall you). He did not speak of "brave faith"
sin, the greater must be the faith that but taught: "You will know them by their
someone must then develop. fruits... Every sound tree bears good fruit but
the bad tree bears evil fruit" (Matthew 7,16-7)
And "By this all men will know that you are my
disciples, if you have love for one another"
(John 13,35).

11) Martin Luther taught faith contradicts God gives us intelligence to use. Active faith is
reason and cannot be understood. The logical and does not contradict the
greater the contradiction to the intelligence. No one can prove to another
natural sense, the greater the faith. The that God exists, a kindly and merciful God.
Reformer said literally: "Everything believed However everyone can prove to himself.
Is hidden.. God hides his eternal goodness Faith is only a first step for individuals.
and mercy under eternal anger and justice
under injustice. The highest degree of faith God does not hide from people and speaks
is to believe God who saves a few and from many mouths: from a fellow person,
damns so many is kindly." a plant or an animal. God speaks in a
concrete life situation. God is the positive in
The well-known Catholic Church teacher everything negative. God is the solution in
Tertullian (ca.150-230) taught: "Credo every problem, the help in every distress, the
quia absurdum" (=I believe because it is relief in every sorrow and the signpost out of
absurd). sorrow and misery. If I do something good to
my neighbor, the inner joy that I feel is
God's answer in my soul.

12) The catholic church teaches as The Creator God did not design any faith
"infallible" truth: "Whoever does not accept system that - like a totalitarian worldview -
the whole church tradition, written and must be held as true by everyone without
unwritten, is expelled or excluded exception. "He who is able to receive this,
(=eternally damned). Thus all church can receive it." After death, there is not
dogmas and doctrines must be simply only "black" or "white." Rather everyone
accepted. Then one will be "saved." Harvests the fruits of his or her earthly
life. "Whatever you bind on earth shall be
bound in heaven and whatever you loose
on earth shall be loose in heaven"
(Matthew 18,18). All the bonds and
dependencies that hold a person will also
keep him dependent in the world to come.
A person learns of these burdens in the
earth school of life and unties them with
the help of Christ that will no longer burden
him in the world to come. With active faith,
one can recognize and solve the roots of
one's own abnormal behavior.

13) The church teaches that no experience For active believers, God is not a killing and
of God is necessary. Martin Luther even damning God. He does not give any
taught that faith is the opposite of authority a right to wage wars and kill in his
understanding. For example, he wrote: name. In conflicts, Jesus teaches in the
"Since God cannot be understood, Sermon on the Mount: "Why do you see
space is given for the exercise of faith. In the speck that is in your brother's eye, but
that God slays, faith in life is exercised in but do not notice the log that is in your
death" (On the Bondage of the Will). own eye? (Matthew 7,3). First, take the log
"God's" killing happens through a out of your own eye, and then you will see
totalitarian authoritarian regime seen by clearly to take the speck out of your
him as "God's servant" according to brother's eye" (verse 5). And "So whatever
Romans 13,4. This also happens through you wish that men would do to you, do to
preachers and theologians who instruct them" (verse 12). Formulated differently,
politicians. He said of himself: "In the what you don't want to be done to you,
rebellion, I killed peasants (in the don't do to any other." This is also true for
Peasants' War). The Lord God commanded politicians in their service.
me." Luther urged bloody massacres of
peasants that were then carried out. Man cannot create a single mosquito and
70,000-100,000 peasants were killed in presumes he can kill.
1525, countless persons who did not even God lives life to all persons and all life
join in the insurrection. forms. God is the breath in all existence.
"He makes his sun rise on the evil and the
good, and sends rain on the just and on
the unjust." Those who believe in him
should act that way. "Do not only love
those who love you." Rather "Love your
enemies and pray for those who
persecute you, so that you may be sons
of your Father who is in heaven, bless
those who curse you, do good to those
who hate you and pray for those who
insult and persecute you" (5,46.44). And
he said: "Do not fear those who kill the
body, but cannot kill the soul"
(Matthew 10,28)

14) The church teaches man cannot establish The prophets before Jesus of Nazareth
the "reign of peace" on earth promised spoke of the coming reign of peace on
by the prophets and by Jesus of Nazareth. earth where man and animal respect one
Believers must wait until God intervenes another and where the so-called wild
one day and does it himself. predator animals become peaceful
Out of this faith, the evangelical regional because of peaceful persons. One "word
bishop Otto Dibelius said "even the use of God" from the prophet Isaiah says:
of a hydrogen bomb is not a terrible thing "The wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and
from the Christian viewpoint since we aim the leopard shall lie down with the kid...
at eternal life." "If such a bomb kills a The cow and the bear shall feed; their
million people, believers attained eternal young shall lie down together; and the
life all the faster" (from 1957). lion shall eat straw like the ox. The
According to this faith, everything will be sucking child shall play over the hole of
new one day - through wars or through the asp..They shall not hurt or destroy in
a climate disaster. Man cannot actively all my holy mountain; for the earth shall
bring this about. Sometime or other God be full of the knowledge of the Lord as
will come along and bring everything into the waters cover the sea" (Isaiah 11,6ff).
order again, at the latest in the world to
come. How is this possible? In active faith, the
Whoever thinks that way can put the whole person learns very gradually
planet at risk. "God" could clear away the communication with all existence: with
consequences of the most horrible human his fellow humans, with animals, plants
conduct and reassemble everything. and the elements of nature. He begins
However Paul taught: "Do not be deceived; to discern God in all life forms. He
God is not mocked, for whatsoever a man plunges in God's great universal stream
sows, that he will also reap" that flows through the whole creation,
(Galatians 6,7). the great unity of nature. In this way,
"God's reign," the reign of peace, is
gradually built on earth. Jesus foresaw
This in a parable when he said: "The
kingdom of heaven is like a grain of
mustard seed which a man took and
sowed in his field; it is the smallest of
all seeds but when it has grown it is
the greatest of shrubs and becomes a
tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches"
(Matthew 13,31-32).

15) Martin Luther and the evangelical Jesus taught the opposite of Martin
confession today teach only the Luther, as for example in the parable
"good works" of believers please God. of the world judgment. This parable
The good works of others allegedly do not emphasizes active faith. Those people
please him. Luther said literally: "... if a from all nations who will later stand at
person did not previously believe as a the right hand of Christ did not know
Christian, all his works would be vain, in their earthly life that they served
foolish and damnable sins" (On the him. Christ says to them: "For I was
Freedom of a Christian). Only the works hungry and you gave me food, I was
of believers please God. "Good works thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a
without faith" are sins (Augsburg stranger and you welcomed me, I was
Confession CALXX). naked and you clothed me, I was sick
and you visited me, I was in prison
Up to today, the evangelical Lutheran and you came to me." People asked
church teaches: If someone without the him when this happened and Jesus
"right" faith does something good, this answered: "As you did it to one of the
conduct is counted as "sin." Whoever least of these my brethren, you did it
does something good could even be to me" (Matthew 25,35-40).Whether
damned eternally according to church the persons who acted this way were
doctrine. Christians or not plays no role. To
the others who will reap what they
Whoever shows that a life according to sowed, Jesus says: "As you did it not
ethical-moral principles is possible to one of the least of these, you did
without the church has always been the it not to me" (verse 45).
greatest danger for the church. When
someone proves no church and no priest Thus "faith alone" which ultimately
are needed for live an honest good life, is a passive faith is completely
that is the most grievous attack on the futile and lulls believers into a
church and on the doctrine of passive false security, escaping this way
faith. Therefore primitive Christian the harvest of one's own negative
communities up to our time that turn seed. Thus active faith, just
their back on the church and join Jesus conduct in God's will, is crucial. To
of Nazareth are combated by the church. That end, everyone can orient him-
or herself in the Ten Commandments and in the Sermon
on the Mount of Jesus of Nazareth.

Jesus did not want any church
"mediator" or "representative" of
God on earth because God is
represented in each of us. He taught: "But you are not to be called
rabbi, for you have one teacher, and you are all brethren. And call no
man your father on earth, for you have one Father, who is in heaven" (Matthew 23,8-9).

Therefore the active believer does not follow any religious teacher. Rather he lives out the certainty: "Christ is in me. Christ is in my neighbor." He gradually learns to love his neighbor as himself.

VIDEO: The Narcissism Epidemic by Jean Twenge, 2009
 link to www.booktv.org
"Breaking the Vicious Circle of Poverty" by Bettina von Clausewitz, December 2010

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