From DGH on Christ's Temptation Submitted on 2014/10/27 at 4:45 am

Mark, Mark, Mark,

Yet another post about Jesus as the “best believer who ever lived.” Why? You write:

The temptation of Jesus in the wilderness furnishes us with clear evidence that the life he lived he lived by faith in God. He trusted in the God who was able to help him in his time of need (Heb. 2:13). Jesus had to live the life of faith in order to bestow upon us the gift of faith. As the second Adam, Jesus rectified Adam’s first sin. And what was Adam’s first sin? Unbelief, not pride.

Are you suggesting again that Jesus is like us and a model for how we live a life of faith?

What seems odd is that when you describe Jesus in ways that we might describe a regular believer you sound like Roman Catholics in the way that they describe (and revere) Mary as “the Greatest of Saints”:

Catholic belief is that all of us, Mary included, need a Redeemer because of our fallen nature and that no one can attain Heaven without His Blood. We are saved from our fallen nature by His grace alone through faith that worketh in charity. Mary, though, because God knew how she would use the free will He gave to her, was saved, by His grace, from having a fallen nature at the moment of her conception. She was redeemed from her mother’s womb, an act planned from Genesis 3 so that she could act as the New Eve and so that Christ could be born of vessel even more pure than the Ark of the Covenant. Christ would not have been born from that which is impure! God knew of Mary’s will to serve even before she was conceived. He knew she would say yes to Him, and He saved her at her first moment.

I sure hope you don’t go overboard on Jesus as the model for our faith. If you keep our sinfulness in mind, you should be A-okay.

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57 thoughts on “From DGH on Christ's Temptation Submitted on 2014/10/27 at 4:45 am

  1. I’m confused. Are you saying Jesus is not a model of faith? Because I had a RC tell me that it is precisely because Jesus can’t be our model for faith that we need the intercession of the saints.

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  2. Darryl,

    Okay, but are you denying that the NT uses Jesus as a model for us?

    1 Peter 2:20–21

    For what credit is it if, when you sin and are beaten for it, you endure? But (AQ)if when you do good and suffer for it you endure, this is a gracious thing in the sight of God. For (AR)to this you have been called, (AS)because Christ also suffered for you, (AT)leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps.

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  3. Isn’t Jesus-as-founder more in keeping with a Kantian conception of the Christian religion, which is to say merely ethical? But like someone once said, “While Christianity has a way-of-life resident within it, it certainly is no way-of-life. Christianity is a religion of revelation, not a philosophy of life, and the two are entirely different things.”

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  4. Erik, the youngest was allowed to attend a friend’s mega youth group last night. The spry preacher man paused at one point and said semi-reflectively, “You know, it’s hard being a teen.” She laughed to herself. Stereotypes are funny because they’re true.

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  5. DG, that was my exact question to Mark via twitter yesterday:

    If Jesus is our example of faith, then what did he trust in God for? Provision? Right but Jesus wasn’t trusting in God’s provision for provision’s sake but for righteousness sake. So, either Jesus trusted in himself (absurd) or Jesus trusted in God’s essential righteousness which we should do likewise (equally absurd)? Where’s imputation of Christ’s righteousness in that scheme?

    Either Mark doesn’t understand the implications of his assertions, or he does and is treading in troubling waters.

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  6. Darryl,

    Forgive me, but I really am confused about your beef here. Did Jesus not trust in His father? Sure, he didn’t trust in the Father for His justification or His salvation. But to ask whether Jesus trusted in Himself or not strikes me as a bit odd. Obviously, Jesus wasn’t praying to Himself when He prayed. To say otherwise is to be a oneness Pentecostal. So Jesus was not trusting in the Father during His lifetime? Obviously there is a certain limit to the way in which Jesus serves as a model for us, for we aren’t incarnations of God. But it seems odd to say He didn’t trust in the Father in any way like we do. That leaves us with a teflon Jesus whom temptation just bounced off of because of His inherent sinlessness, which doesn’t seem at all to compute with what Hebrews says about Jesus’ experience of temptation.

    I know there is mystery here, but what is the alternative to Jesus trusting in God in the wilderness? Isn’t the whole point of Phil. 2 that Jesus set aside the use of certain divine prerogatives in the incarnation and lived as a man subject to all our infirmities, except that He was without sin. Hebrews specifically points to Jesus’ experience in the wilderness with temptation as similar in some way to our experience with temptation. Is that insufficient to view Him in some way as an example?

    I really am confused by what your issue here is.

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  7. Robert, why is this hard to understand?

    From Machen:

    Certainly Jesus had a religion of His own; His prayer was real prayer, His faith was real religious faith. His relation to His heavenly Father was not merely that of a child to a father; it was that of a man to his God. Certainly Jesus had a religion; without it His humanity would indeed have been but incomplete. Without doubt Jesus had a religion; the fact is of the utmost importance. But it is equally important to observe that that religion which Jesus had was not Christianity. Christianity is a way of getting rid of sin, and Jesus was without sin. His religion was a religion of Paradise, not a religion of sinful humanity. It was a religion to which we may perhaps in some sort attain in heaven, when the process of our purification is complete (though even then the memory of redemption will never leave us); but certainly it is not a religion with which we can begin. The religion of Jesus was a religion of untroubled sonship; Christianity is a religion of the attainment of sonship by the redeeming work of Christ. (Christianity and Liberalism, 92)

    If Jesus wasn’t a Christian, how is he like me in my being a disciple of him?

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  8. Robert,

    To explicate a little further, what is confusing about the request to have “Christlike” faith is that Christ lived in obedience to the Covenant of Works (or Law of Works) and we live in obedience to the Law of Christ, that law as delivered to us by Christ (through the mediator). To ask us to have faith like Christ (or Adam) is to ask us to go back to a “faith” that is under a religion of works.

    There are corollaries to Christ’s faith and our (perfection) but how we are to understand our faith towards God in relation to Christ’s faith towards God is not a simple as saying “Have faith like Jesus”.

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  9. Maybe the problem is that some think that once justified, a Christian in his sanctification has moved closer to Jesus’s state and therefore to his experience. We, it is said, are set free from the power of sin and now able to ‘not sin.’ So they might well disagree with Machen when he says that Christianity is a “way to get rid of sin.” Rather they may be de-emphasizing sin within the believer, i.e. his inherent sinful nature, by emphasizing that once becoming a believer (forgiven your sins in Christ) the Christian life is then a “way to become more like Jesus…” So, Jesus is the template: look to his relationship/obedience to the Father as to how to grow your relationship/obedience to the Father. Ironically though, one might detect a hint of the dread “antinomianism” in such an approach.

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  10. Nate,

    That is more helpful. Thanks.

    I still think you guys are making a mountain out of a molehill based on your disagreement with Jones on other issues.

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  11. Darryl,

    That quote is helpful. Machen’s quote is well-taken, but do we not have to take into context that Machen is writing against those who see Christianity merely as following the example of Jesus? Obviously there are discontinuities between our faith and Christ’s faith. We’re not incarnations of the second person of the Trinity. But to say that Jesus isn’t our example in faith seems terribly odd. I mean, if Jesus is our example to imitate in suffering what are we imitating except the faith that he displayed in persevering through his suffering?

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  12. Robert, and isn’t Mark Jones writing in the context (mountain) of confusion about justification or the relation between faith and obedience? All Mark seems to give is well, there’s lots of diversity, nice try if you think there isn’t. Or, let me show you Jesus as the way to live the Christian life.

    Huh!?!

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  13. Darryl,

    But is there confusion about faith and obedience? How many people in the confessionally Reformed world are saying that our obedience justifies us? Besides Norman Shepherd and a handful of Federal Visionists, that is.

    There’s confusion about the role of obedience and effort in sanctification though, I’ll grant you that.

    And Mark does have to answer the question as to how Adam’s reliance on the Spirit/faith under the covenant works is any different from Roman conceptions of the pre-fall state.

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  14. Robert, but couldn’t your criticism be retro-applied to Machen; When the Protestant liberals talk about Jesus as example and you howl, you’re just making a mountain out of a molehill based on your disagreement with them on other issues. Or are you saying that the Protestant liberals can’t repackage the faith into Kantian religion, but Jones can speak that way because, well, he’s no mainliner? But I don’t think the criticism leveled against Jones is to say there’s no such thing as taking up the cross and following–a lot of 2k piety involves just that. And it may be better to say what we imitate is his obedience rather than his faith.

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  15. But Robert, have you ever had a mole in your garden? We only have gophers out west. Those are pesky suckers.

    Sometimes you have to resort to drastic measures to get rid of them:

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  16. I am waiting for the release of Robert and Mark’s photo-shoot complete with Jesus is my (ideal) homeboy T-shirts.

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  17. Zrim,

    And it may be better to say what we imitate is his obedience rather than his faith.

    That sounds good to me.

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  18. Berkhof does a nice job of nuancing the sense in which Christ exercised his work in “faith”–making clear how different this was from “saving faith” required of us. See pages 268-269.

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  19. You can’t be expecting precision out of doctors. Yeah, they like to remind you of it when you disagree with them and when they give you the bill, but really they’re just slobs like you and I. My only request of Jones is that he be better than I am in my spare time, after I’ve been drinking, while my dogs are barking at me, as I’m balancing the books for 13 distinct companies, while my wife is telling me about her day, as my mother calls to ask me what channel Criminal Minds is on, while I’m cooking dinner and intermittently doing burpees. IOW, Just be better than me at what you do with the prime hours of your day for which you pull a paycheck, relative to my efforts drunk, standing on my head, while dosing klonopin, on my way to bed. Suck less than that. .

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  20. This was the theology that we were indoctrinated with in my charismatic days…….that we would do ‘greater works’ and so on and so forth…………….very Catholic idea as well, if you ask me.

    Reeder and Company quote extensively from Catholic mystics in the ‘Meditation’ section of their Fanning The Flame manual, Redeemer NYC is into the same stuff, which seems to be really permeating the PCA, so it’s got to be in the oxygen that Jones is breathing. Just think – Rick Phillips, and all the GRN guys, and the PCA – GA, are actually endorsing Catholic Mysticism (included in Ember’s Pantheon of Meditation practices) when they all laud Embers To A Flame ministries, er, uh, business.

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  21. Semps, my reservations about GRN were greatly increased when I learned Henry “The Pocket Square” Reeder was involved. Most of those guys don’t really move in Henry’s upscale megachurch circles so I’ll bet they don’t even know about the meditation stuff you describe — and I’m taking you at your word.

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  22. Sean – You can’t be expecting precision out of doctors. Yeah, they like to remind you of it when you disagree with them and when they give you the bill, but really they’re just slobs like you and I. My only request of Jones is that he be better than I am in my spare time, after I’ve been drinking, while my dogs are barking at me, as I’m balancing the books for 13 distinct companies, while my wife is telling me about her day, as my mother calls to ask me what channel Criminal Minds is on, while I’m cooking dinner and intermittently doing burpees. IOW, Just be better than me at what you do with the prime hours of your day for which you pull a paycheck, relative to my efforts drunk, standing on my head, while dosing klonopin, on my way to bed. Suck less than that. .

    Erik – That’s an instant classic.

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  23. CW,

    There is an entire chapter on Meditation in the Fanning The Flame Manual. Anyone who has known of a church that has gone through this phase of Embers To A Flame (for around$16,000, unless they did it for free) should be able to look through a copy of this big bulky document, that looks like a government policy manual. Every church that went through this phase had a ‘weekend coaching retreat’ and everyone there got a big binder that contained the Meditation chapter, among others. So if you could find someone who did the program, and look at their binder, you would find it. Then you
    could not only take my word for it, but the word of others who have done it. It’s not published on their website (Embers To A Flame), and they have very strict rule about their materials being ‘proprietary and copyrighted’ (my paraphrase). If that was not the case, it could be easily posted here.

    At least Redeemer is open about it, though I do disagree. I just don’t understand why or how people can’t see that these practices lead people inward instead of outward to Christ. My charismatic background is so painful due to the damage that the mysticism caused me, and so many others. And there are still people who have not recovered…….there are some who still believe in the ‘inner word’ that they were going to be President…..or going to Africa…..or fill in the blank. It’s sad. And bad – for believers and churches to be mislead, and charged out the wazoo for such bad stuff. And to be shackeled to man-made laws, and submit without question to individuals and small group leaders in the name of accountability to extreme violation of personal and Christian liberty. All the while, yes, I agree with you, Harry goes upscale – everywhere and in everyway it seems.

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  24. hmm. I loved that post yesterday. Especially because I hate the recent attempts to minimize Jesus as our example, despite that He Himself says this, and because denying or minimizing that truth can only have one objective in my mind;and it is so hard to see thinking that one truth must minimize another truth for some reason, as if Jesus is not full of,and consistent of, all truth. Also, given this am meditation on blasphemy of the Spirit because of another recent post, it is a good reminder not to deny that Jesus’s earthly works were completely by faith, by the Spirit

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  25. a., well you know, as Mark Jones often tells us, there is great diversity among Reformed folks on these matters.

    why hide your name under a bushel? Did Jesus go around as j.?

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  26. by faith, by the Spirit, I use a.! Yes we know Jesus’s glorious names, yet He came and went in relative obscurity, didn’t He, especially given He is God; yet obsure no more – may He greatly unite His people in Him- so the world will know Him– one body, one Spirit,one hope,one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father.
    Anyway, though I am a., I am a real person, originating from PA where I see you may reside.

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  27. I DEEPLY appreciate Jack Miller’s many comments on this blog over the time I’ve been reading it–they conclusively demonstrate the antinomian, non-Reformed, non-confessional ethos that has developed here (contrary to the way most of you apparent actually think and live):

    “…once justified, a Christian in his sanctification has moved closer to Jesus’s state and therefore to his experience.”

    We have.

    “We, it is said, are set free from the power of sin and now able to ‘not sin.’”

    We have been and are.

    “…they may be de-emphasizing sin within the believer, i.e. his inherent sinful nature,”

    They aren’t. Can you read (ala Clark’s repeated criticism of those who disagree with him)?

    “…once becoming a believer (forgiven your sins in Christ) the Christian life is then a “way to become more like Jesus…””

    It is.

    “So, Jesus is the template: look to his relationship/obedience to the Father as to how to grow your relationship/obedience to the Father.”

    Yep.

    “Ironically though, one might detect a hint of the dread “antinomianism” in such an approach.”

    Nope.

    What a joke. So this is what Old Life has become? This is what it allows without rebuke while jumping on every little thing it might force into a disagreement with Jones?

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  28. Shane,
    Given your assessment-skills, you have now effectively classified yourself as the “Reformed” equivalent of a John Bircher of the 1950s who interpreted almost everything in the U.S. government as confirmation that communists were hiding in every department and cabinet position, extending even to Eisenhower himself. Your template doth distort your vision…

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  29. First and foremost, unlike Jesus, we don’t have a direct face-to-face relationship with the Father. Rather we approach our Father through a Mediator, a Saviour, our Surety. Those three offices/names are an ever present reminder of our sinfulness before God apart from Christ. To quote Machen from above:

    The religion of Jesus was a religion of untroubled sonship; Christianity is a religion of the attainment of sonship by the redeeming work of Christ.

    And Jesus:

    He that hath seen Me hath seen the Father

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  30. Shane,

    1) Based on imputation, our “state” isn’t closer to Jesus. Simul justus et peccator. S. Jesus was perfect in his nature. We are defiled. Which leads to:

    2) We are able “not to sin”? Are you reading your confession?

    XVI:

    when we have done all we can, we have done but our duty, and are unprofitable servants: and because, as they are good, they proceed from His Spirit, and as they are wrought by us, they are defiled, and mixed with so much weakness and imperfection, that they cannot endure the severity of God’s judgment.

    Believers sin, even in their good works. No “not sinning” for Presbyterians.

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  31. Erik, to the grumpiest people in the room the grace is for THEM only, everyone has to live under the most yellow and jaundiced eyeball of legal examination.

    I admit I can be prone to putting elders and pastors (and people who actually matter to me in real life) to a higher standard, but that’s to cover my butt from getting burned again by charlatans.

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  32. Isn’t grumpy a-hole a complement here?

    If I shouldn’t t imitate Christ I can at least try to imitate y’all.

    Truth is, I like you all more than the masses who ignore or disdain your ranting.

    Erik– A is for Anderson. I live in Greensboro NC. If you’d like to know more, just ask. No need to insult.

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  33. Here’s a quote from Jones’ “Antinomianism.” It’s part of the conclusion to his book. Does this need any “distinguishing” or qualification?

    “Christ’s truly human experiences, including his faith, hope, and love, as well as the promises by which he lived, provide the pattern for his own people because of our union with him. Our union with him in his death and resurrection guarantees that the blessings we receive from God all come through and in our Savior. But this reality also guarantees the shape and nature of the Christian life insofar as we live our lives in a manner similar to Christ’s. He obeyed, prayed, learned, and trusted. Our union with him requires that we likewise obey, pray, learn, and trust. He received his reward, and we likewise will receive our reward. He depended upon the work of the Spirit for his obedience, even his obedience to death on the cross (Heb. 9:14). We must likewise depend entirely on the Holy Spirit for our obedience, as we live by faith (as Christ did). If Christ understood that his obedience pleased his Father, as well as that disobedience would have displeased him, then Christians must likewise acknowledge that the same is true for them. The stakes were infinitely higher for Christ—our salvation depended on his perfect obedience—but the principle remains true for his people.”

    In that quote I think Jones leaves himself open for one to question whether he flattens the experience and faith of Christ and that of the believer. His position seems to be that if you have that question then it is your problem – that he has no need to clarify. Whereas it would be helpful if he did.

    And this is why Machen’s quote is relevant to the discussion (which he doesn’t want to be a part of…):

    “But it is equally important to observe that that religion which Jesus had was not Christianity. Christianity is a way of getting rid of sin, and Jesus was without sin. His religion was a religion of Paradise, not a religion of sinful humanity. It was a religion to which we may perhaps in some sort attain in heaven, when the process of our purification is complete (though even then the memory of redemption will never leave us); but certainly it is not a religion with which we can begin. The religion of Jesus was a religion of untroubled sonship; Christianity is a religion of the attainment of sonship by the redeeming work of Christ.”

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  34. “Erik Charter: Is “a.” short for a-hol……Never mind…”

    and in closing isn’t our Father so good to provide so much opportunity, illustration, clarity, even here: how our imputed righteousness gives us apparent arrogant freedom from Christ-imitation and freedom to hate; also opportunity to resist or not in return… thinking life is one very big, difficult test

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  35. Jack, not only that, but Jesus prayed etc, so we are “required” to pray etc. Isn’t the point of having Christ’s righteousness imputed to us that we don’t have to do anything because Christ did it all (and because we are incapable of doing anything — even good works are rags, filthy only makes them less appealing).

    In other words, Jesus was required to keep all the law because we couldn’t. What is so hard (or discouraging) about that?

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  36. Jack, Darryl beat me to it, but that’s my question: Where does any of that leave room for us to inherit by faith Christ’s good works? It would appear his substitution is swallowed up by his example. Again, this isn’t to diminish our call to imitate his obedience, but it is to wonder seriously how this doesn’t at least lead to an undermining of his substitution and our inheritance.

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  37. Darryl and Zrim,

    It’s the emPHAsis thing. The truth that the moral law is still binding on believers is sooo stressed as to lose sight of what has actually been merited for believers by Christ. Jesus proclaims “It is finished” and then that gets put into a lock box as believers now need to get about their part that is “necessary” for their salvation… I get it – obedience – isn’t optional as if we were saved to then go out and do whatever. But the emPHAsis that we obey, pray, learn, and trust like Jesus did – that he is the pattern for our Christian life – leaves out (despite the reality of the Spirit now within) a very big something >>> the abiding reality of our sinful nature and that our faith at its most basic and important level is a faith that looks to Christ for cleansing from sin, comfort for our consciences assaulted by the accusations of the enemy, and repentance of our wobbly hearts… In sanctification our sin is overcome by the blood of Christ not our defiled good works which are acceptable only inasmuch as they are imputed acceptable by God for Christ’s sake. By free grace (WSC 35)

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  38. Jack, so the wrong emPHAsis on the wrong syLLAble? Are the Imitation Boys to obedience what the unionists are to justification?

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  39. Zrim, I’m not good at algebraic or geometric formulas, but you may be on to something. I do know that when the priority and ground of justification gets minimized or ignored when talking about obedience and doing good works then something essential and vital to our salvation becomes clouded and put at risk.

    Therefore, as we ourselves when engrafted into Christ appear righteous before God, because our iniquities are covered with his innocence; so our works are, and are deemed righteous, because every thing otherwise defective in them being buried by the purity of Christ is not imputed. Thus we may justly say, that not only ourselves, but our works also, are justified by faith alone. Now, if that righteousness of works, whatever it be, depends on faith and free justification, and is produced by it, it ought to be included under it and, so to speak, made subordinate to it, as the effect to its cause; so far is it from being entitled to be set up to impair or destroy the doctrine of justification.

    Calvin, Institutes 3.17.10

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  40. It is instructive that Jesus is not named in Hebrews 11 as well. One would think that if this way of thinking (Jesus as supreme example of faith) was as prominent as MJ makes it out to be, that it would have been featured in this list of “The Hall of Faith”.

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