Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Swords & plowshares

A sure-fire way of starting an argument in the blogosphere is to make a statement which no reasonable person would disagree with. In this case, Phil Johnson upheld the right of self-defense. Here is one response:

***QUOTE***

neopuritan said...

Nice straw man you have set up.

Most Christians who are labelled "pacifists" are not radical, but conservative in their application of Rom 13:4, while also being mindful of Mt 5. In a society where gun violence is an epidemic, and where our government feels free to pre-emptively invade other countries, the church needs to speak prophetically that violence is not a suitable response in almost any situation. The fetishizing of weapons and warfare is incompatible with Christian peacemaking - unless of course you live in Florida, where one can now shoot first and ask questions later.

http://www.blogger.com/comment.g?blogID=12723103&postID=112840697638512766

***END-QUOTE***

Why this guy calls himself a neopuritan is mystifying. There was nothing notably pacifistic about Puritans like Milton, Cromwell, and John Owen. But I guess that's the difference between neopuritan and paleopuritan, right?

Should we love our enemies? All things being equal, yes, we should. But Jesus also said that we should love little children as well.

Now, Phil used the example of lethal force to prevent child-rape. He used that example because it’s about as morally unambiguous as you can get.

You see, there are situations in which you can’t be equally loving to all parties concerned. You can’t be equally loving to the child and the child molester. If you don’t intervene to protect the child by any means necessary, then you are being unloving to the child by allowing it to be molested.

So which should take precedence—the child or the pedophile? For normal men and women, the question answers itself.

Now, neopuritan doesn’t have a real argument to make against Phil. You can see that because, in place of a real argument, he simply strings together a number of question-begging assertions.

The strategy here is that if you don’t have a real argument, you can fake an argument by piling on a number of fallacies so that the sheer weight of the fallacies will add up to an argument.

i) Is gun violence an epidemic in the US? Short answer: no. It is only an epidemic among the criminal element in certain urban centers and minority groups. But, of course, it would be a sin against political correctness to do a demographic breakdown. Propaganda trumps truth.

ii) Gun violence is also epidemic in England, where they have draconian gun-control laws, the effect of which is to disarm the general public, leaving them defenseless against marauding street gangs who have the police outgunned as well.

iii) On the other hand, you also have a country like Sweden where, due to compulsory military service, most everyone has an Uzi in his closet, and gun-violence is quite low.

iv) Naturally, neopuritan disapproves of preemption. Since preemption is a logical extension of national defense, which is, in turn, a logical extension of self-defense, it is consistent to oppose one and all.

But like the liberal demagogues elsewhere, he also goes out of his way to misrepresent the argument. Certain just-war criteria must be met to justify preemptive action.

v) He then says that “violence is not a suitable response in almost any situation.”

No supporting argument is given for this sweeping assertion.

The obvious rebuttal is that you resort to force when persuasion is insufficient to repel evil.

vi) Again, for someone morally blind like neopuritan, all violence is morally equivalent. The violence of the child-rapist and the violence the policeman in restraining the child-rapist are morally—or, I should say—immorally equivalent.

vii) Presumably this would extend to the violence of an attending physician in the ER who performs invasive surgery, often without the consent of the unconscious patient, to save his life.

viii) One wonders if his abhorrence of violence extends to spraying cockroaches, trapping rats, and consuming a plate of fried chicken.

ix) He talks about peacemaking. Fine. If he can make peace through non-violent means, then there are plenty of hot-spots around the world for him to put his philosophy into action. Why doesn’t he lead through example?

x) Then he lies through his teeth about the Florida law. This is simply a common sense law which allows homeowners to defend themselves on their own property. If they abuse the law, they can be prosecuted. But it does shift the burden from the homeowner to the criminal—which is where it should belong. The criminal should assume the risk, not the homeowner. But that is way too morally transparent for someone like neopuritan.

For someone who disapproves of straw man arguments, neopuritan has a whole factory full of them.

11 comments:

  1. What I thought was cool was Phil Johnson's endorsement of theonomy:

    "Note that the principle grants rulers authority to use deadly force against those who "do evil." Scripture -- not public opinion or some dictator's personal whim -- gives the only reliable and authoritative definition of who is an evildoer and how much force is justifiable in which situations."

    ;-)

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  2. Yes, there may still be hope for him. We need to keep up the deprogramming! :-)

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  3. I'll speak here as someone who did not reead Johnson's blog, but who is an "accredited" pacifist (meaning I belong to a denomination that is officially pacifist).

    Pacifism is not normally about questions of law enforcement and defense of others. Pacifists affirm the state's right to usse the sword while also maintaining that such use ought not be the first option used.

    If the scenario of deadly force aganst a child rapist involves deadly force used by the police, then a pacifist has little problem, although there would be the question of whether such use is really justified.

    Pacifists would not such use of deadly force by those not employed by the state. Intervention would cerainly be in order, but the use of deadly force is precluded.

    I would, byt the way, challenge the notion that the example of a child rapist is valid as "unambiguoous as it gets." In fact it represents the exceptional crcumstance, the extreme situation, and we do not normally go about defining moral rules by exceptional circumstances. That would be what pro-abortionists used to do when they made their argument for freedom of abortion as justifable because of the incidence of incest and rape.

    Finally the comment about going to hot spots to practicve peacemaking is simply fallacious. Being a peacemaker does not require one to go to areas in conflict in order to promote peace. The remark is emotive only and lacking real substance.

    If anyone is truly interested ina positve stance for pacifism see this link: http://www.mbconf.ca/believe/pamphlets/war.en.html

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  4. To the extent that pacifism has a bit of prima facie support in the Sermon on the Mount and a few other Anabaptist prooftexts, it is entitled to a respectful hearing.

    The oddball pastor dodges the issue of whether a Christian can be a soldier or policeman. In classic Anabaptist theology, the state is not merely the city of men, but the city of the devil. So when it comes to cops and robbers, this is simply one set of hellions policing another set of hellions.

    And then there’s the larger question of whether one is morally justified in delegating the dirty work to a second-party. If lethal force is wrong, then is it possible to contract out the use of deadly force to a second-party without incurring complicity in his actions? The oddball pastor’s insulating strategy is morally facile and casuistic.

    The example of the pedophile is not an exceptional circumstance, but simply a special case of a general principle in which we distinguish between the innocent victim and the guilty perpetrator.

    It also involves the principle that adults have a responsibility for the welfare of the young.

    The comparison with abortion begs the question. If abortion were licit in cases of incest and rape, then it would be licit in analogous cases. The problem is not with the extrapolation, but the operating premise.

    As to the final comment, you have no right to call yourself a peacemaker if you have nothing to show for it. If you claim that there are practical alternatives to the use of deadly force, then, indeed, you have an obligation to make it happen.

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  5. About alleged dodges. False of course. I did not address it directly becuase it wasn't relevant to anythign Steve had said. The issue is of course directly addressed in teh link I offered. I guess one has to try to poisont he well by alleging dodges...

    "And then there’s the larger question of whether one is morally justified in delegating the dirty work to a second-party."

    Respecting the authoirty that God has set up, is not delegating. And respecting God's well is not casuisitc or facile.

    "The example of the pedophile is not an exceptional circumstance, but simply a special case of a general principle in which we distinguish between the innocent victim and the guilty perpetrator."

    No, it is an exceptional circumstance. How often is a person a) to be in a position to stop a crime? Hw often is that crime going to be of a child rape? How often is that intervention going to require force? How often is it going to require deadly force? Once you get past all those questins, it is plain to see that Steve is seeking to justify a rule by an exception, a rare occurrence.

    "The comparison with abortion begs the question."

    The compariosn of course is not with abortion, with the pro-abortion argument, which seeks to jsutify a general rule, by illicit use of an exception.

    "As to the final comment, you have no right to call yourself a peacemaker if you have nothing to show for it. If you claim that there are practical alternatives to the use of deadly force, then, indeed, you have an obligation to make it happen."

    It is not for Steve to determinbe how a peeacemaker goes about making peace. His standard is arbitrary and used simply to justify a slam against a person. It is a thinly veiled ad hominem, asserting the person is a a hypocrite.

    I continue to encourage Steve to avoid such needless personal comments.

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  6. "Respecting the authoirty that God has set up, is not delegating. And respecting God's well is not casuisitc or facile."

    If, in Anabaptist fashion, you define the state as diabolical, then you delegitimate it. You have removed its moral authority.

    "No, it is an exceptional circumstance. How often is a person a) to be in a position to stop a crime? Hw often is that crime going to be of a child rape? How often is that intervention going to require force? How often is it going to require deadly force? Once you get past all those questins, it is plain to see that Steve is seeking to justify a rule by an exception, a rare occurrence."

    No, one doesn't have to answer any of those questions in advance since they’re obviously unknowable in advance, concretely speaking.

    One only has to answer at a hypothetical level, involving distinctions of innocence and guilt and what moral priorities would govern the situation if such a situation presented itself.

    I'm all for peacemakers who actually make peace. What I oppose is the pretentious affectation to the title by those who talk about peace, but don't make peace.

    It's an arbitary standard to judge a man by whether he can make good on his claims?

    I can appreciate how the oddball pastor would like to be judged by a nonexistent standard.

    I'm under no obligation to give someone the benefit of the doubt who makes an empty claim for himself.

    BTW, some folks are hypocrites. Pretending to have a nonviolent solution to evil and aggression which one never puts to the test in hotspots around the world is an obvious exercise in play-acting.

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  7. "If, in Anabaptist fashion, you define the state as diabolical, then you delegitimate it. You have removed its moral authority."

    You would do bettter to let others define their beliefs. The church lives in tension with the state simply because the kingdoms of the world are not the Kingdom of God. Mennonite Brethren recognise that the state is institued by God. The definition of the stae hterfore is your own.

    "One only has to answer at a hypothetical level, involving distinctions of innocence and guilt and what moral priorities would govern the situation if such a situation presented itself."

    If one is, as you are, seeking to use the hypotehtical situation to discern what ought to be normal, then it is indeed incumbent upon you to show, as you required of the other poster you referred to in your blog, to demonstrate that the situation is actually representative.

    "I'm all for peacemakers who actually make peace. What I oppose is the pretentious affectation to the title by those who talk about peace, but don't make peace."

    Again, it is not up to you to say wwhat making peace is, or who is a legitmate peace maker. Perhaps you should fmailiarise yourself with what peacemaking actually is about. It has at its heart reconciliation, surely a biblcial concept. It has to do with loving people who are not loving to us. Peacemaking, as an illustration of God's character, is part of discipleship. Peacemaking is thus licved out in daily life, as much a part o the mundane as it is the extorardinary which you seem to think is the only way to make peace.

    "I can appreciate how the oddball pastor would like to be judged by a nonexistent standard."

    I have not done this of course. I have simply stated that you Stve don't get to decide what the standard is. Your apparant ignorance of what peacemaking actually is actually disqualifies you.

    "I'm under no obligation to give someone the benefit of the doubt who makes an empty claim for himself."

    Here is where it is just sad. Steve assumes what first must be proven; that the claim is indeed empty. The assumption if likely based on the flase notion of peacemaking. Steve in reality is being uncharitable, and supproting it with a circular argument. In the spirit of peacemaking, Steve ought really to be giving the benefit of the doubt first, not second and only after evdence is provided.

    The last paragraph is simply nonsensical, based as it is upon the same false assumptions about peacemaking.

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  8. “You would do bettter to let others define their beliefs. The church lives in tension with the state simply because the kingdoms of the world are not the Kingdom of God. Mennonite Brethren recognise that the state is institued by God. The definition of the stae hterfore is your own.”

    Actually, I’m pulling my definitions straight from such Mennonite sources as John Wenger (The Doctrines of the Mennonites) and the articles on separatism and nonresistance in The Mennonite Encyclopedia.

    You would do well to take your own advice for a change.

    “If one is, as you are, seeking to use the hypotehtical situation to discern what ought to be normal, then it is indeed incumbent upon you to show, as you required of the other poster you referred to in your blog, to demonstrate that the situation is actually representative.”

    The situation of taking guilty life in the defense of innocent life is a commonplace of defensive warfare and policing the world over. Nothing could be more actually representative. The case of pedophilia was simply an illustration of the larger principle, an illustration chosen for its moral clarity, and not because it’s especially distinctive.

    But I realize that no illustration is sufficiently heinous for those who have neutered their conscience.

    “Again, it is not up to you to say wwhat making peace is, or who is a legitmate peace maker. Perhaps you should fmailiarise yourself with what peacemaking actually is about. It has at its heart reconciliation, surely a biblcial concept. It has to do with loving people who are not loving to us. Peacemaking, as an illustration of God's character, is part of discipleship. Peacemaking is thus licved out in daily life, as much a part o the mundane as it is the extorardinary which you seem to think is the only way to make peace.”

    i) I have quite as much right to define terms as you do. You do not hold the copyright on “peacemaker.”

    ii) And yes, happen to define peacemaker as someone who makes peace. Pretty arbitrary, all right.

    The way to make peace is to make peace. If you can’t implement your philosophy to actually prevent warfare abroad, or even urban warfare at home, then all you have is a paper theory.

    You are not making peace. Talking about peace and making peace are two very different things.

    Remember, the context of this debate was over the moral propriety of deadly force. You are shifting ground when you recast the debate in terms of “reconciliation.”

    iii) You are also redefining classic Anabaptist ethics. In the classic form, nonresistance was a consequence of commitment to the governing principle of separatism. Because the church had nothing to do with the state, the church had not stake in the world at large. That was the reason for pacifism.

    You, on the other hand, are retaining nonresistance while ditching separatism for social activism, a la Yoder, Wink, Wallis, Hauerwas, Sider, Kaufman and McClendon.

    This represents a dramatic and illogical break with the classic Anabaptist paradigm. It is nurtured on Gandhi and Tolstoy, MLK and the civil rights movement. Not the same thing at all. Completely different animal.

    iv) You continue to dodge the question of what to do in commonplace situations when loving the victimizer is unloving towards the victim.

    v) And, no, I don't define peace & reconciliation the way Bishop Tutu does. In Scripture, peace and reconciliation are not decoupled from justice and judgment.

    “I have not done this of course. I have simply stated that you Stve don't get to decide what the standard is.”

    You don’t get to decide what the standard is either.

    “Your apparant ignorance of what peacemaking actually is actually disqualifies you.”

    No, actually your continual resort to groundless assertions in lieu of making a reasoned case for your own position is what disqualifies you from being taken seriously.

    “Steve in reality is being uncharitable.”

    You’re right about that. I’m uncharitable to those who deny that we should intervene by any means necessary, including lethal force, to prevent child rape. Such people are not entitled to charity. They are no better than the pedophile.

    “In the spirit of peacemaking, Steve ought really to be giving the benefit of the doubt first, not second and only after evdence is provided.”

    I should give someone the benefit of the doubt in the absence of any probative evidence?

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  9. "You would do well to take your own advice for a change."

    I do just that; I was referencing from teh Confession of Faith of the Canadian Cnference of MB Churches (2000).

    "The situation of taking guilty life in the defense of innocent life is a commonplace of defensive warfare and policing the world over. Nothing could be more actually representative. The case of pedophilia was simply an illustration of the larger principle, an illustration chosen for its moral clarity, and not because it’s especially distinctive."

    The situation is not representative. Again, you neeed to back this up: how often does the situation arise that one has a chance to intervene? How often is it that inteverntion requires violence? How often does violence involve lethal force? Your speicla case is actually an extreme and unrepresentative one. You ruse of "distinctive" is misleading at best.

    "But I realize that no illustration is sufficiently heinous for those who have neutered their conscience. "

    And people are to consider you a serious theologian, nevermind a Christian, with such unfounded and unwarranted personal comments? You seem to be incpapbale of letting your pont stand on its own without such comments.

    "i) I have quite as much right to define terms as you do. You do not hold the copyright on “peacemaker.”"

    If you want to define it in a way that is utterly unrepresentative of thee beleif of those who hold to peacemaking, go ahead. You are merely justifying the creation of astraw man.

    Remember that if you are to interact with the beliefs of others you must actuallt fairly represent those beliefs. That means that they must agree with your representation.

    "ii) And yes, happen to define peacemaker as someone who makes peace. Pretty arbitrary, all right."

    I don't deny that being a peacemaker means making peace. The methods of doing so are the issue however, and it is quite unfortunate that you now skirt that fact.

    Your arbitrariness was in defining a a peacemaker as one who must go to a hot spot in the world. Legitimate peacemaking includes that, but is not restricted to that. One can be a legitimate peacemaker in their own home, in their neighbrohood, in their community.

    Your charge that I do not make peace is flase on its face. You cannot know what I do, so you have no basi for yoru judgment anyway. You simply judge based on your false notion of a peacemaker only being legitimate if he is going to a hot spot.

    "This represents a dramatic and illogical break with the classic Anabaptist paradigm."

    That's your opinion. I suggest you take it up with the folks who wrote the Confession. Sorry f they are not "real Anabaptists" for you.

    Boy you are sounding like TGE here.

    "iv) You continue to dodge the question of what to do in commonplace situations when loving the victimizer is unloving towards the victim."

    I don't dodge it.I have affirmed the role fo the state, and I have affirmed the need to uphold justice and alleviate suffering. You have not given an instanceof lving the victimizer at the expense of the victim.

    "No, actually your continual resort to groundless assertions in lieu of making a reasoned case for your own position is what disqualifies you from being taken seriously."

    Given that I have cited the cnfession of faith and have rebutttred your every point shows this staemetn to be nothign mroe than empty posturing, and another attack on my person, something that you should eb able to do without Steve.

    "I should give someone the benefit of the doubt in the absence of any probative evidence?"

    Guilty until proven innocent Steve?

    You may have the last word; its your blog. I for one tire of the personal comments.

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  10. “I do just that; I was referencing from teh Confession of Faith of the Canadian Cnference of MB Churches (2000).”

    Now you’re trying to finagle a little bait-and-switcheroo by tacitly changing the context. We were talking about classic Mennonite theology. I cited older sources such as John Wenger (The Doctrines of the Mennonites) and the articles on separatism and nonresistance in The Mennonite Encyclopedia— sources which uphold not only the traditional Anabaptist commitment to nonresistance but the broader principle of separatism.

    I also pointed out that the younger generation who came of age during the Sixties counterculture have retained pacifism, but dumped separatism.

    You counter by referring me to a statement of faith from the year 2000. That is unresponsive to the way the issue was originally framed—a bad habit of yours. If anything, it proves my point, not yours.

    “The situation is not representative. Again, you neeed to back this up: how often does the situation arise that one has a chance to intervene? How often is it that inteverntion requires violence? How often does violence involve lethal force? Your speicla case is actually an extreme and unrepresentative one. You ruse of "distinctive" is misleading at best.”

    Actually, yours is the ruse. You cook the books by tacitly ruling out Christians in the military and the police force (stated or implied in the link you posted), so that all that’s left are civilians.

    But the issue is the morality of Christians qua Christians forcibly intervening, not Christians qua civilians as over against Christians as soldiers or policemen.

    “And people are to consider you a serious theologian, nevermind a Christian, with such unfounded and unwarranted personal comments? You seem to be incpapbale of letting your pont stand on its own without such comments.”

    i) You suffer from an incapacity for self-criticism. You constantly duplicate the very faults you fault in others. What you just said is a classic ad hominem attack, isn’t it? Try looking in the mirror once and a while.

    ii) To say that my “personal” comments are unfounded and unwarranted just begs the question.

    There are plenty of reprobates who have more moral discernment that you have. Lacking special grace, they nonetheless have enough common grace, common sense and common decency to appreciate the moral imperative of restraining a child-rapist, by deadly force if necessary.

    When certain “Christians” become so sophisticated that they gouge out their eyes, thereby lacking the natural insight to see what even many a reprobate can see, no, they’re not entitled to any respect.

    “If you want to define it in a way that is utterly unrepresentative of thee beleif of those who hold to peacemaking, go ahead. You are merely justifying the creation of astraw man.

    Remember that if you are to interact with the beliefs of others you must actuallt fairly represent those beliefs. That means that they must agree with your representation.”

    I have news for you: fair-play is a two-way street. When I cite Mennonite sources that articulate the classic Anabaptist view, and you pass over that in silence as if nothing was said, you don’t score very high on intellectual honesty. You’re an amazingly insular person.

    “I don't deny that being a peacemaker means making peace. The methods of doing so are the issue however, and it is quite unfortunate that you now skirt that fact.”

    No, the method is not at issue. What is at issue are results, or the lack thereof. If you claim to be a peacemaker, and propose to offer an alternative of violence as a way of making peace, then you’re proposal is no better than the results.

    “Your arbitrariness was in defining a a peacemaker as one who must go to a hot spot in the world. Legitimate peacemaking includes that, but is not restricted to that. One can be a legitimate peacemaker in their own home, in their neighbrohood, in their community.”

    Yet another bait-and-switcheroo on your part. The original point at issue was some sort of constructive pacifism as an alternative to violent forms of restraining evil, such as police work and defensive wars.

    Creating a little commune in your corner of the world while leaving the rest of the world in flames is fake peacemaking, a fake alternative.

    “Your charge that I do not make peace is flase on its face. You cannot know what I do, so you have no basi for yoru judgment anyway. You simply judge based on your false notion of a peacemaker only being legitimate if he is going to a hot spot.”

    I can judge you own words, by your hair-trigger defensiveness about moving out of your comfort zone and testing your paper theory in a real world situation of warfare. You choose to play it safe.

    “That's your opinion. I suggest you take it up with the folks who wrote the Confession. Sorry f they are not "real Anabaptists" for you.”

    That’s your opinion. I suggest you take it up with folks who wrote before the Beatles. Sorry if they are not “real Anabaptists” for you.

    “I don't dodge it.I have affirmed the role fo the state, and I have affirmed the need to uphold justice and alleviate suffering. You have not given an instanceof lving the victimizer at the expense of the victim.”

    You hide behind your hollow, toothless abstractions. Try a real world example for a change: a sniper shoots and kills a number of innocent bystanders while pining others down. A police sharpshooter has the sniper in his sights. Should the police sharpshooter pull the trigger while he has a clear shot, or should the police try to talk the sniper out of it while he’s picking off more bystanders?

    Why don’t you try real hard for once to give a straight answer. What is your practical alternative?

    “Given that I have cited the cnfession of faith and have rebutttred your every point shows this staemetn to be nothign mroe than empty posturing, and another attack on my person, something that you should eb able to do without Steve.”

    To the contrary, you only respond to the points you think you can answer, and pass the others over in silence—which just goes to show that your position is indefensible.

    “Guilty until proven innocent Steve? “

    i) That is a legal rule of evidence that only applies in the jury box.

    ii) What is more, this is not merely an absence of evidence. I’ve positively argued against your position. That discharges the burden of proof.

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  11. Just a couple of needed correctives Stve.

    You may have been talking about od style Mennonite Theology, but I wasn't. So ther is no bait and switch on part. If you'd beenlistening to what I said, and read what I linked to, instead of trying to pigeonhole me, you'd have done better.

    You would also do well to realist that your little thing about those who wrote prior to the Beatles doesn't work. I am not denying that tose folks were Mennonite. YOu are the one arguing that those who write after the Beatles are not Mennnites. Thus the problem is yours, not mine.

    I did not cook the bookds by ruling out the military. They are included in the state which I grant its legitmate place.

    Your second accusaton of bait and switch is also incorrect. I was responding to your caricature of what it means to be a peacemaker. I rightfully put it in a context you denied. I have been quite consistent in that. Your memory of what I am responding to is faulty.

    It is sad that you degenerate to such misrepresentations and various personal comments Steve.

    We should also note your own bait and switch, in that the burden of proof deals with the notion of neopuritan not deserving the benefit of the doubt. It has nothing to do with my position. You chose to condemn without giving the benefit of the doubt.

    I continue to commend you for your zeal and determination. However your tendency to make personal comemnts and react with great hostility to any correction is not commebndable.

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