CultureWatch

Bill Muehlenberg's commentary on issues of the day...

Wisdom, Biblical Truth and Apostasy

May 5, 2018

Although this piece is mainly about a famous Christian theologian, let me begin with a bit of an autobiographical intro. I just read again the request of Solomon when he had established his kingdom and God asked him what he desired. In 1 Chronicles 1:7 we read this: “That night God appeared to Solomon and said to him, ‘Ask for whatever you want me to give you’.”

And his famous reply is found in verse 10: “Give me wisdom and knowledge, that I may lead this people, for who is able to govern this great people of yours?” I have taken to praying the same thing, since I have a ministry that does indeed require plenty of wisdom and understanding.

I am not a king, but as a teacher, writer and a public figure, and as someone involved in the issues of the day, including the culture wars, I sure do need wisdom. I need to know when to speak and when to stay silent. I need to know which battles to get involved in, and which ones to just let go.

I need to know when to confront and when not to. I need to know when to just be affirming, accepting and gracious, and when to stand strong and rebuke error. I need to know when to let an argument or debate go, and when to keep at it. I need to discern who is asking honest questions and who is just being a troll.

I need to know who to accept as a friend on the social media and who to reject. I need to know how long I should deal with someone who is argumentative or perhaps just a bit “thick”, and when to just give them the flick. I daily need real wisdom and knowledge.

That is why I so much covet the prayers of God’s people. Often I do not get it right, often I make mistakes, and often I am not properly serving my Lord and representing him as I should in the public arena. So please do keep me and this ministry in prayer thanks.

And this is true for any other public figure as they seek to be a faithful ambassador of Christ. They need real wisdom in so many areas. Biblical Christianity is always about orthodoxy and orthopraxis. That is, it is about right doctrine and right behaviour. Both must be affirmed.

So what happens when a pastor or leader or church or even an entire denomination starts to go off the rails in these areas? What if a current hot potato issue is not handled properly, and a church body gets both the doctrine and the practice wrong?

The issue of homosexuality is an obvious case in point, and it of course covers both right and wrong beliefs and behaviours. And plenty of church groups are getting it wrong big time here. What happens then? Do you stay and fight, or can things get so bad that it is better just to walk away?

The famous Christian that I have in mind here is the great J. I. Packer. He is now well into his 90s, has failing eyesight, and is now almost completely inactive in the Christian scene. But an episode from his life some 16 years ago is well worth recounting here.

It involved issues of the church, homosexuality, and the way forward. Packer wrote a famous piece about what he did back then and why he did it. The introduction in a Christianity Today article on this offers the setting for his actions:

In June 2002, the synod of the Anglican Diocese of New Westminster authorized its bishop to produce a service for blessing same-sex unions, to be used in any parish of the diocese that requests it. A number of synod members walked out to protest the decision. They declared themselves out of communion with the bishop and the synod, and they appealed to the Archbishop of Canterbury and other Anglican primates and bishops for help. J. I. Packer, an executive editor of Christianity Today, was one of those who walked out. Many people have asked him why. Though one part of his answer applies specifically to Anglicans, his larger argument should give guidance to any Christians troubled by developments in their church or denomination.

Packer begins with these words:

Why did I walk out with the others? Because this decision, taken in its context, falsifies the gospel of Christ, abandons the authority of Scripture, jeopardizes the salvation of fellow human beings, and betrays the church in its God-appointed role as the bastion and bulwark of divine truth.

My primary authority is a Bible writer named Paul. For many decades now, I have asked myself at every turn of my theological road: Would Paul be with me in this? What would he say if he were in my shoes? I have never dared to offer a view on anything that I did not have good reason to think he would endorse.

He closely looks at the biblical material on this matter as well as the historical and theological issues involved, and discusses the issue of biblical authority. He concludes with these words:

Luther’s response at Worms when he was asked to recant all his writings echoes in my memory, as it has done for more than 50 years:

‘Unless you prove to me by Scripture and plain reason that I am wrong, I cannot and will not recant. My conscience is captive to the Word of God. To go against conscience is neither right nor safe [it endangers the soul]. Here I stand. There is nothing else I can do. God help me. Amen.’

Conscience is that power of the mind over which we have no power, which binds us to believe what we see to be true and do what we see to be right. Captivity to the Word of God, that is, to the absolutes of God’s authoritative teaching in the Bible, is integral to authentic Christianity.

More words from Luther come to mind:

“If I profess with the loudest voice and clearest exposition every portion of the truth of God except precisely that little point that the world and the devil are at the moment attacking, I am not confessing Christ, however boldly I may be professing Christ. Where the battle rages is where the loyalty of the soldier is proved, and to be steady on all the battlefield besides is merely flight and disgrace if he flinches at that point.”

Was the protest in order? Was “no” the right way to vote? Did faithfulness to Christ, and faithful confession of Christ, require it? It seems so. And if so, then our task is to stand fast, watch, pray, and fight for better things: for the true authority of the Bible, for the “true truth” of the gospel, and for the salvation of gay people for whom we care.

His entire article is well worth reading. And it should be pretty obvious that we have countless examples of this very thing going on in other church bodies. For example, just a few days ago reports emerged of one large Australian Protestant denomination seemingly heading down a similar path of blessing homosexual marriage. As one news item puts it:

The Uniting Church in Australia’s key national governance body has recommended a change in church policy to allow same-sex marriage. The church’s Assembly Standing Committee endorsed an internal report that recommended changing its policy statement on marriage from being the union of “a man and a woman”, to being between “two people”. It could pave the way for the Uniting Church to become the first major Christian denomination in Australia to perform same-sex marriages.

One of the reasons for the change, according to the report, is that “scientific research generally supports the view that people who are attracted to someone of the same gender were born that way. This knowledge supports the view that same-gender sexual attraction can be understood as part of God’s good and diverse creation rather than unnatural,” it says.

Um no, there is no scientific evidence to show that homosexuals are born that way, and there is not a skerrick of biblical data to show God’s support of this lifestyle. But that case I and others have made countless times now. The real issue here is what will faithful Christians still in this liberal denomination now do.

If the UCA goes ahead with this apostasy, will true believers stay and fight, or will they walk? Again, this is a place where real wisdom is needed. Should biblical believers remain and seek to promote much-needed truth in this theologically crumbling denomination, or should they realise the gig is up and just leave?

Individual pastors and members will need to carefully and prayerfully discern what option is best. And of course much of the UCA has been embracing theological and social liberalism for years now, so groups resisting this have already emerged over the years, including the Assembly of Confessing Congregations within the Uniting Church. See their site here: www.confessingcongregations.com/

Just as Packer had to decide what to do and how to do it, once again orthodox Christians who affirm biblical truth will have to decide what their next steps will be in the light of such apostate directions of this and other church bodies. They will need the wisdom of Solomon here.

And they will need to desire what he desired: “Give me wisdom and knowledge, that I may lead this people”.

www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2003/january/6.46.html
www.gafcon.org/sites/gafcon.org/files/resources/files/why_i_walked_by_ji_packer.pdf
www.sbs.com.au/news/god-s-good-creation-uniting-church-s-key-governance-body-endorses-same-sex-marriage

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14 Responses to Wisdom, Biblical Truth and Apostasy

  • But Bill, it is not clear apostacy and heresy of which we have to be aware. This we should be able to see at a thousand yards distance.

    The greater threat to churches are the “Christians”, like Sam Allberry and Ed Shaw, of “Living Out” who though not identifying as being gay, describe themselves having strong romantic and sexual attractions to those of the same sex. These are sex- lite and “celibate” church leaders who have infiltrated churches to become pastors, youth leaders and creche minders on the understanding that they do not support same sex marriage and that they will not “smash the windows, dance on the tables” or run off with other people’s husbands or corrupt their sons. Moreover they accuse anyone in the church who objects to their presence as being homophobes in the same league as Westboro Baptist Church – and no one wants that! Moreover they will accuse dissenters of being tunnel – visioned and divisive for concentrating on homosexuality.

    During a Q&A session at my former church, 19th March of last year, Sam Allberry was asked if he would consider reparative therapy to change his heart, mind and desires to conform to the way God had intended ? He answered, “Yes and No actually.” He then proceeded to change the subject completely by saying how he found the single life perfectly satisfying and had no desire to marry…, when the original question was would he be prepared to have his sexual attraction restored to that which was natural and normal? Not necessarily would he like to get married? [1]. His answer was no; he did not want to change. He claimed that he could find no verses in the Bible where it says ” Guys should be attracted to girls and vice versa”. What truly shocked me was to discover that mature Christians, some of whom had spent their lives on the mission field found the question offensive. They said he was perfectly comfortable with whom he was and people should not be probing into highly sensitive and private areas of his life or that of anyone else. Indeed Sam Allberry along with two other pastors have produced a Youtube explaining how their life – styles guarantee satisfaction [2] .
    Their strategy is not to refer to the Bible, apart from diffusing and distorting it, but to concentrate on stories, of those who find being homosexual a good thing and how it makes them more like Jesus!! [3]. I recommend articles written by Pastor Shawn Mathis of Denver, Colorado [4] and Pastor Tim Bayly [5] who hit the nail fair and square on the head.

    [1] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DQMgUYR-kCc&feature=youtu.be&t=3622
    [2] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_GqYU1DTwQ8
    [3] http://www.livingout.org/
    [4] http://pastormathis.com/
    [5] baylyblog.com/blog/2017/03/response-inquiries-concerning-sam-allberry-post

    David Skinner UK

  • As Christians we must seek God’s wisdom and guidance on whether to stay in the domination we belong to or walk away from. We need the gift of discernment on this matter. If a person stays what do they do? Do they try and pray for repentance of the leadership, do they stand up and teach God’s truth? It is hard. The only time I have ever moved Church has been because I have moved state, or felt it was time to move on, still having good friends at my old Church. Only once did I leave a Church because of concerns about spiritual issues. Should our Evangelical brothers and sister in Christ leave the Uniting Church, they need to seek God. I personally would stay and fight for the Gospel and encourage people to seek the truth of the Scriptures not the truth of a group of people.

  • So now UCA, being politically correct, has replaced ‘sex’ with ‘gender’ and that has been created by man, not by God. But even if they had used ‘sex’ and were right about some people being born with their brain wired up so as to render them same sex attracted they still have other parts of their brain by which to understand that their behaviours are dysfunctional and to choose different behaviours is always an option open to them.

    Many a male might be attracted to more than one female and high status males will fnd females willing to reciprocate (as the groupie phenomenon surrounding rock stars demonstrates) and so the sexual behaviours often result. Would the UCA endorse these interactions? Even secular society on the whole does not, well at least not yet.

  • Absolutely correct and for those who are trying to make out that the sin of Sodom was lack of charity and hospitality we have:-

    2Pe 2:7 And He delivered righteous Lot, oppressed with the lustful behavior of the lawless.
    2Pe 2:8 For that righteous one living among them, in seeing and hearing, his righteous soul was tormented from day to day with their unlawful deeds.
    2Pe 2:9 The Lord knows how to deliver the godly out of temptation, and to reserve the unjust for a day of judgment, to be punished,
    2Pe 2:10 and especially those who walk after the flesh in the lust of uncleanness, and despise dominion. They are darers, self-pleasing; not trembling at glories, speaking evil.
    (MKJV)

    Clearly Peter believed the sin of Sodom was to do with lustful deeds and he reiterates that these deeds are unlawful confirming that, while we are not under Mosaic law, the Words of God are eternal. It is not just the very direct words of Paul we have but clearly Peter and the other Apostles and Biblical writers are in complete agreement. E.g.

    Jud 1:7 as Sodom and Gomorrah, and the cities around them, in like manner to these, committing fornication, and going away after other flesh, laid down an example before-times, undergoing vengeance of everlasting fire.
    Jud 1:8 Likewise, indeed, also these dreaming ones even defile flesh, and despise rulership, and speak evil of glories.
    (MKJV)

    So Jude also identifies the sin of Sodom as committing fornication.

    The scriptures could not be clearer and the science that shows that the overwhelming causes of homosexuality are sociological is also absolutely rock solid with irrefutable, replicated studies with identical twins and especially identical twins separated at birth. We have a society that is living a lie based on countless other lies and we have the media, and especially the public funded media, feeding this lie and refusing to allow the truth to be told and in the midst of this we have churches refusing to stand on the truth of God’s Words and giving in to the deception. The fact is it is not only the souls of homosexuals we are fighting for but the souls of those who promote these demonic lies who think they can claim faith while opposing God’s direct words. Everywhere we see people too scared to stand up for the truth (Rev 21:8) and even the concept of there being truth is being attacked. Yes the Pharisees were condemned for being actors and putting heavy burdens onto people but are these claimed Christians any less actors and what is worse, putting burdens onto people in this world or leading people into eternal destruction? They say they have faith that God will not be that harsh but the scriptures are absolutely clear that God is not willing that any should perish (2 Pet 2:9) but that does not prevent the fact that the majority of people will (Mat 7:13). They say we are saved by proclaiming the name of Jesus but if the Jesus they speak of says different things to the real Jesus who are they having faith in? If the Jesus they worship has been recreated in their own image and is opposing the Father then all they are doing is worshiping themselves. Just as with the Pharisees, if their worship is based on the commandments of men then it is worthless (Mat 15:19) no matter how pious or nice it seems. The Pharisees too looked very nice on the outside (Mat 23:27) and they too were relying on God’s name and what they chose to act on from the scriptures but that did not prevent their path leading to destruction (Mat 23:33). Do we believe in God’s Words or not? How can you say you believe in God while at the same time rejecting His Words? I am absolutely sure the scriptures do not warn of people being without excuse for no reason. We were all created in corruption but we are meant to see and understand that corruption and come to repentance. This is the whole reason for us being created in corruption in the first place. If we love the world and are incapable of seeing it for what it is then we are incapable of being perfected and being given the power, authority and eternal perfection of Heavenly citizens. This is not something God can change because it is a fundamental truth. God was not willing that Satan should sin and oppose Him either. The imperfection Satan came up with was purely his own creation, by his own free will (John 8:44) just as is ours can be but our potential insurrection has been planned for. We are now on the proving ground. Which way will we choose? I am sure this issue is not a divisive line for no reason.

  • “If I profess, with the loudest voice and the clearest exposition, every portion of the truth of God except precisely that little point which the world and the devil are at that moment attacking, I am not confessing Christ, however boldly I may be professing Christianity. Where the battle rages the loyalty of the soldier is proved; and to be steady on all the battle-field besides is mere flight and disgrace to him if he flinches at that one point.”

    J.I. Packer probably wasn’t to know, but the famous ‘battle quote’ he attributes to Luther (as many others have also done, e.g. Francis Schaeffer), although likely consistent with Luther’s views, was not from Luther. Instead it comes from a 19th century novel called “The Chronicles of the Schoenberg Cotta Family” (Thomas Nelson, 1864), by Elizabeth Rundle Charles (who also penned a few hymns). In the novel the quote is attributed to a fictional character called Fritz, in a long section invoking Luther and the Reformation.
    https://creation.com/battle-quote-not-luther

  • All believers can at times understand the cognitive dissonance of being part of a field which has both wheat and tares together. When does one make the agonising decision to express that status confessionis which says “Yes” to the Biblical call to leave Babylon before inevitable judgement falls:
    …“‘Come out of her, my people,’
    so that you will not share in her sins,
    so that you will not receive any of her plagues;…”
    – Revelation 18:3 [NIV] ?

    On one occasion, Quaker pioneer, George Foxe saw from his gaol cell window a flaming sword over England. Where are those who can tell the people of our times that God’s axe is laid to the root of our society’s most prized “trees”?

  • After Sam Allberry of Living Out’s visit to my former church in March 2017, a member of the church wrote the following to the elders:
    “I could not bring myself to attend the Saturday or Sunday morning sessions but felt compelled to attend the Big Questions evening. As I have told several others, I felt physically sick for the first 45 minutes. I felt like I was in a dark place, sensing a spirit of evil. Two Homosexuals were running a very well attended opinion-forming event at my church politely undermining God’s creation order. Same sex attraction must either be of God or it is a disease/disorder as a result of our fallen nature and resulting genetic entropy.
    Yes, Sam Allberry and the 4-5 strong team he works with are homosexuals. ‘Same-sex attracted’ is a euphemism that has been around for only a few years. It is intended to dumb-down their status. It is just like the term ‘Gay’, a propaganda term. Can you imagine walking into our church 10-20 years ago and the evening service being run by 2 homosexuals? You would have probably never returned. Of course, Sam Allberry, is Oxford educated, highly articulate, charming, witty, an author, and a friend of the pastor so we had to open our hearts and minds to him. One thing that you will agree with me on is that Satan has used the LGBT movement and Internet based pornography as his master plan to attack and compromise the family and the Church in the last generation. His strategy could not have been more successful. All of the media, lawmakers and big business have surrendered to Stonewall. Ten years ago same-sex marriage was unthinkable in the UK, today if you question it you risk your job and reputation. I have listened to many debates and discussions on the subject of the Churches response to the onslaught. I have also read material extensively on the subject from brave organisations like The Christian Institute and Christian Concern.
    Clearly many parts of the church have moved to 2nd, 3rd or 4th base where they embrace same-sex marriage and see no moral or theological issue with it. The same churches and opinion formers are also arguing that sex outside of marriage is also fine if the couples are in-love. (Recent debate on Premier Christian Radio) The point being that the cultural revolution (under the direction of the adversary) is a downward journey and once started it will go further than ever intended. Last month, the leadership moved our church to 1st base on changing our attitudes and traditional position onto the liberal road of ever more inclusion / diversity / equality. If anyone thinks we now stay at 1st base they are very naïve. Now that our church has visiting homosexual preachers, why should our next pastor or staff appointment not be the same, or bi-sexual, or have transgender tendencies. Why would any of us raise an eyebrow at a cross-dressing member, after all that is just the way they are? Providing they claim to be celibate that is just they way they are.
    You are probably now calling me homophobic. In the correct dictionary sense I guess I am in that I fear the homosexual lobby’s power and disproportionate influence to aggressively and boldly reshape our moral and social culture. Back to the weekend. At the very least Sam Allberry should have been invited to present his position as part of a panel where others represented our traditional position. (I would argue, bible and science based position). Instead the good folks at our church got a one-sided brain washing. The church website ‘carrying-on-the – conversation is disgraceful in that it represents only the views of 7 ‘out’ evangelicals. This and the content of your letter to the members effectively prescribe to the members how they need to think about the matter. Manipulation? No doubt the folks that do not support the new liberal position will be labeled ‘homophobic bigots, stuck in the past’. Throughout the Regeneration project we have often talked and prayed about a satanic attack as a result of our bold and ambitious venture. I have a strong sense that this is it. This matter has caused serious division in similar Churches in recent times. Interesting though, the attack was not through the back door but through the front at the invitation of the leadership. Considering how scarce and precious a commodity unity is, it was probably very unwise to run this event, particularly in the way it was orchestrated. I trust that you and the other elders will act graciously, honestly and faithfully.
    In the summer of 2017, (slippery) Sam Allberry was in Australia. Here he is in a Q&A in Sydney
    http://www.liberty.sydney/youth/ (Slide to 38 minutes 15 seconds)

    David Skinner UK

  • The likely decision of the U.C. National Assembly to allow S.S. marriages is simply a continuation of their decision in 2003 to ordain homosexuals if the district Presbytery agreed. But probably about 80% of the members hold to the plain message of the Bible on the essentials. They need to speak up more and get reps to the National Assembly rather than let the noisy minority hold sway. I have good friends who’ve decided to remain in the U.C. and try and work for change. I decided in 2003 that I would never return because my time is better spent fighting other battles such as the notorious “safe-schools” issue.

  • Graham Lawn the problem in 2003 was that no decision was made to ordain homosexuals. This was a deliberate action from the gay supporters no decision meant the was no decision not to. This is worse than making a decision, because they claimed that without a decision they could just go ahead and fulfil their own agenda. It worries that a similar approach will happen I. This their next step.

  • Greetings in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. Hi to all. I think that it is very interesting to see the gates of hell open up. Just as we the faithful in Christ are awaiting the marriage of the Lord Jesus Christ. The LORD has been away preparing the Mansion. He is coming back for a spotless undefiled chaste virgin, not a whore. The whore belongs to Satan. Satan is the ADVERSARY, and what does this mean? It is anti-righteousness! He is opposed to the Bride of Christ, it is his intention to destroy the Church. Perversion is one of Satan’s medals, pride is another! He is out to discredit the people of God. We are in a war! I’m in the middle of a battle, as well as many who claim to belong to Christ Jesus our Lord.
    Suffering for Being a Christian
    12 Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. 13 But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed. 14 If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you. 15 If you suffer, it should not be as a murderer or thief or any other kind of criminal, or even as a meddler. 16 However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name. 17 For it is time for judgment to begin with God’s household; and if it begins with us, what will the outcome be for those who do not obey the gospel of God? 18 And,

    “If it is hard for the righteous to be saved,
    what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?”

    19 So then, those who suffer according to God’s will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good.
    New International Version (NIV)

    If we suffer according to the word, we will receive the crown of life. Those who intercede are like Abraham, who’s intercession for Sodom, was unwilling to let go of the salvation of those who were righteous in the city. One just needs to know when to take their hands off, and allow God’s wrath to bring correction. I have family members who are seduced by Satan’s lies. I pray that this gives you courage and hope.
    Regards Ross Scrivener.

  • Grahame Abrahams is correct. No decision was made in 2003. The way things worked out in practise was to turn away, (turn a corporate Presbytery blind eye) and let congregations wanting to go against the truth, just not ask any difficult questions. The evangelicals who have remained, to resist the false teaching, and give leadership in the UCA, are to be commended. It has been a painful, slippery task.

    Please pray (we are for the next 40 days), for all who are attending the Assembly in Box Hill, Melbourne. As yet the heretical decision has not been taken. If the UCA can be preserved, saved from further apostasy, it will help the other (one, holy catholic and apostolic) churches in Australia, to be clearly different to the Aussie culture around us.

    If any of the 4 current apostate options before the UCA Assembly are approved, Australia will indeed be seeing the arrival of ‘The Dividing Church’, and the triumph – for now – of reckless, manipulative leaders. They will have rejected the apostolic teaching, supplanting it with pathetic, spurious ‘sleight-of-hand-scholarship’.

    Jesus Christ is Lord of the Church, and may remove ‘the lamp stand’. As for the Evangelicals, they will not accept the apostate changes. Many are trying to say this to their Synods and Presbyteries. To get a hearing for orthodox teaching, and to get a hearing when warning of the impending disunity, is extremely difficult. Our eyes are upon the Lord. The gospel truly taught will go on with the orthodox and evangelical churches and ministers. As for the wreckage, it may be huge.

    Some have suggested that amicable separation, (people and property), or a massive big social, legal and costly mess, may be the only solutions. It is unclear. We will see, what July 7-14 2018 brings.

  • Update: July 13th brought a “right royal mess” and it is a decision to be apostate and conduct ceremonies for so-called gay ‘marriages’.
    This foolish decision should have sought the concurrence of congregations and Synod’s and Presbyteries….but the Assembly by-passed our own ‘rules’ and just foisted it upon the church. It will never be accepted.

    So a painful new round in our argy bargy begins. The cat is at least out of the bag now.
    Yes, wisdom is needed. People can just walk away. It is so time consuming.

    But why should they hand over the family inheritance to Gnostics and heretics?
    Thanks for your prayers.

  • In response to Trevor Faggotter- “But why should they hand over the family inheritance to Gnostics and heretics?”
    Yes $ comes into it. So many have “tithed”(one law that survived the cross apparently) all their church-going lives into that denomination, funding buildings, missions & paying wages etc. Many even paid extra tithings in the belief that they were set-apart from the homosexual component of the overall denomination but this extra tithing still went into the UCA bank, just through another UCA avenue. Why would anyone want to keep dishing $ into it when it clearly is not going to the spiritual needs of whomever may get any charity benefits from it? Yes it may be feeding & clothing Yeshua when he is represented as the poor & hungry but if the poor & hungry, in return, thank & worship the spirit of the man of lawlessness, which is behind the works, rather than the Spirit of truth, then the charity in my opinion, is in vain & misleading. “Come out of My people!” Lest other denominations follow suit as the pressure builds.

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