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The Trinity: More Than Just Doctrine
Catholic Exchange ^ | May 24, 2010 | Michael Baruzzini

Posted on 05/24/2010 5:55:51 AM PDT by NYer

“Let us make man in our image,” God says in the book of Genesis (1:26), using a curious plural that seems out of place in the scriptures of a monotheistic faith. Indeed every other reference in the early Creation story speaks of God in the singular except this instance. Catholic exegesis has long seen in this grammatical peculiarity an early hint of the doctrine of the Trinity. Though fully revealed only with Christ’s coming, God began uncovering the mysterious nature of his own existence early in his revelation to man. The doctrine of the Trinity is unique to Christianity and serves to set our theology apart, but there’s more to this doctrine than a simple theological assertion to be accepted and then left alone. The Trinity matters.

The Church teaches de fide that the existence of God is knowable by natural human reason. The idea of God developed by Western Greek philosophers on the basis of reason before the advent of Christianity congrues remarkably with aspects of God as found in revelation, such as His omnipotence and omniscience, His unchangeability, his nature as an ultimately simple and absolute Being which is in fact Being Itself.

This philosophy is sound and edifying, yet alone this rational vision of God can be somewhat cold and distant. Greek philosophers, on first hearing the message of Christianity, were scandalized not only by Christ’s ignominious death, but by the very suggestion that such a transcendent God could care for man. Christ’s sacrificial death on the Cross is “a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles” writes Paul, having in mind the (not unrespectable) wisdom of the Greek philosophers (1 Corinthians 1:23). For Christians, it is precisely the revelation of the Trinity that sheds light on the way in which the detached and abstract God we know by reason can also be the dynamic, sacrificing Christian God of love. If God really is a Trinity of love and relationship, his creation of man and desire for a relationship with him becomes more plausible than it would seem solely under the cold calculation of the philosophical picture.

Returning to Genesis, we see that this first hint of the Trinity is made precisely at the moment when God creates man, as the scripture says, in his own image. This clue is very important, because it reveals that God’s Trinitarian nature tells us not only about him, but also about ourselves as well. If God’s existence as a Trinity means that his own nature is in some mysterious sense relational, and we are made in that same image, then relationality is an intrinsic part of our own existence as well.

The first and most fundamental relational aspect of human nature is of course in our own relationship to God. Augustine’s famous cry, “You have made us for Yourself, and our hearts are restless until they rest in You,” captures this fact of our nature: we are incomplete without him. We cannot exist as radically independent beings, we can only really be by having a relationship with our Creator.

This relational aspect also extends beyond the individual relationship to God. In Aristotle’s famous classification, “man is a political animal.” Aristotle meant not that man enjoys parliaments and voting, but that he naturally organizes himself into structured societies with others. The first of all these societies is the family; of all relationships, this one is inescapable. Everyone is born of a mother and father. It should not be a surprise then that nowhere else do we find the Trinity more closely imaged in human nature than in the natural institution of the family. As the Catechism of the Catholic Church states, “The Christian family is a communion of persons, a sign and image of the communion of the Father and the Son in the Holy Spirit. In the procreation and education of children it reflects the Father’s work of creation” (CCC 2205).

The traditional commentary – we cannot go so far as to say explanation – on the Trinity focuses on God the Father’s self-knowledge being itself a Person, the Son, and on the love between them producing another Person, the Spirit. The language is vague and mysterious, as the nature is finally beyond us. Yet we see the same theme echoed in Adam’s first sight of Eve, recognizing in her “bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh”, capturing a certain loving intimacy and familiarity in the spousal relationship. From this intimacy, of course, comes new life. In the Creed we recite every Sunday, we profess our belief that the Spirit “proceeds from the Father and the Son” and just so does new life proceed from the union of spouses in a family. Around this fundamental and central social relationship of the family, all of the other structures of a society are formed. The nature of God himself is echoed in our human relationships.

Trinity Sunday, the Church’s yearly liturgical recognition of this unique doctrine, falls on May 30th this year. As we celebrate this day, let us remember that our belief in the Trinity is more than a dry and esoteric doctrine. As Genesis reminds us, echoes of the Trinity are part of our own nature as images of God.


TOPICS: Apologetics; Catholic; Theology
KEYWORDS: trinity
Michael Baruzzini's previous articles on Catholicism and science have been published by InsideCatholic, and he has had additional articles, fiction, and poetry published by Gilbert, Dappled Things, and The Christendom Review.

A graduate of the University of Notre Dame, he writes and teaches science in Colorado Springs, Colorado, where he lives with his wife and two children. His blog on Catholicism and science, The Deeps of Time, may be found at deepsoftime.wordpress.com.
1 posted on 05/24/2010 5:55:52 AM PDT by NYer
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To: netmilsmom; thefrankbaum; markomalley; Tax-chick; GregB; saradippity; Berlin_Freeper; Litany; ...

Monday morning ping!


2 posted on 05/24/2010 5:56:29 AM PDT by NYer ("Where Peter is, there is the Church." - St. Ambrose of Milan)
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To: NYer
The traditional commentary – we cannot go so far as to say explanation – on the Trinity focuses on God the Father’s self-knowledge being itself...

OK, I'll give this author an "A" for effort. But if you Catholics are going to let this author get away with referencing God as "itself," then shame on you.

God is Personal. He's not some impersonal entity. The Bible NEVER describes God as an "It."

So what RC lurkers & FReepers are actually going to take the time and e-mail Mr. Baruzzini that if He doesn't personally know a personal God, what's he doing writing about Him? (or something to that effect)

If somebody's ignorant about Someone as important as God, don't export the ignorance.

3 posted on 05/24/2010 6:28:17 AM PDT by Colofornian
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To: Colofornian
OK, I'll give this author an "A" for effort. But if you Catholics are going to let this author get away with referencing God as "itself," then shame on you.

The reference is to self-knowledge, not to God.

It is an awkward construction, to be sure; but the entire doctrine of the Trinity is a difficult one to understand and explain. I would cut the author some slack.

4 posted on 05/24/2010 6:59:56 AM PDT by Logophile
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To: Colofornian
No, earlier in the article he repeatedly refers to God as "him".

"It" in the sentence you complain of modifies "self-knowledge", not God the Father (or God the Son for that matter).

Sometimes in quick-draw nitpicking you shoot yourself in the nit.

5 posted on 05/24/2010 7:22:01 AM PDT by AnAmericanMother (Ministrix of ye Chasse, TTGC Ladies' Auxiliary (recess appointment)T)
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To: AnAmericanMother; Logophile
No, earlier in the article he repeatedly refers to God as "him". [AnAmericanMother]

I didn't say the author never referenced God as Him/personal. But if you present God as both impersonal and personal, the Bible doesn't do that. (It only presents Him as personal).

The reference is to self-knowledge, not to God. [Logophile]

"It" in the sentence you complain of modifies "self-knowledge", not God the Father (or God the Son for that matter). [AnAmericanMother]

You know, that might be a cover, except you don't read well in the larger context, do you?

I referenced this author's "it" citation later in his article. So how do you explain this author's erlier reference?

The idea of God developed by Western Greek philosophers on the basis of reason before the advent of Christianity congrues remarkably with aspects of God as found in revelation, such as His omnipotence and omniscience, His unchangeability, his nature as an ultimately simple and absolute Being which is in fact Being Itself.

"Being Itself?"??? What a joke!!!

Even animals have personal genders. But I'd cut him some slack referencing some critter as a "Being Itself."

How would either of you like it if I referenced either of you as a "Being Itself?"

So what we wouldn't ascribe to a fellow human being, this guy will ascribe to God, Himself?

Sorry. But you both flunked reading in the larger context. "Being Itself" has NOTHING, ZERO, NADA to do with "self-knowledge."

6 posted on 05/24/2010 7:37:11 AM PDT by Colofornian
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To: NYer

The Trinity is one of my least favorite subjects. I think it to be the least understood of all of the Church doctrines.

The Trinity as we know it today did not become popular until the first council held by Constantine approximately 300 years after the death of our Lord.

When the various bishops presented their ideas of the Gospel to the emperor he personally embraced the doctrine of the Trinity taught by a Greek bishop. This caused a schism. At the pain of excommunication the bishops were made to sign on to this doctrine. Those who would not were banished and later threatened with death if they did not sign literally to this doctrine. Constantine was under pressure to unify a Church that celebrated many different doctrines in each area. I do not condemn him or the Greeks that gave us the doctrine of Trinity, the Church needed to be unified under one set of doctrines. I think as a whole this was a good thing for The Church, I just think it was not all correct.

Prior to this council the Holy Trinity was not know by a majority of saints as we know it today. It was simply thought of as three entities with God the Holy Father at the head, Christ His literal son and The Holy Ghost who was an entity without form as God and Christ had. It was Christ who appeared to Paul on the road to Damascus not The Holy Father Elohim. When Stephen was martyred he looked up into heaven and saw both The Holy Father and the Son next to each other. When Christ left this world at the last meeting he had with the Apostles the angels standing by said he would come again in the same manner. Christ told his saints that He would inherit all that His Father had and that His saints would be joint heirs with Him.

The only way that Christ could inherit is if he didn’t already have it, the same way with the saints.

Christ did not pray in the garden to Himself for the cup to be taken away but instead did His Fathers will. When Christ taught us to pray he taught us not to pray to Christ but to “Our Father Who art in Heaven”. When The Lord was baptized by John the Gospels record that The Voice of God the Father was heard by those present acknowledging His satisfaction with His Son. At the same time the Holy Spirit was seen to descend in the form of a dove. All the while the Savior of the world was in the water at the hand of John. Three members of the Trinity in three different places at the same time. These are three entities. They share a mission and purpose but they are not one God. There is only one God, God the Father.

In the Godhead or Trinity there are three entities. We don’t really know how they are connected but much pious thought has been given to this matter. Many very intelligent people have spent years contemplating how this must be. Our doctrines of today are given to us by the wisdom of great men but is it only child’s play compared to the wisdom of God.

In the end I’m not sure how important it is to know exactly how the relationship of the Trinity works. It is important to know God the Father of mankind and also know His Son the savior of mankind. Without the Savior none can be saved. I’m not sure if it is important to believe that The Son is a literal inseparable part of The Father or that he is not but it is important to realize that he came to earth of his own choice and suffered the punishment for the sins of all men so that we would not have to suffer.

It would not bother me if I never heard the word Trinity again. My refusal to believe the common doctrine of Trinity keeps me from being a part of the organized catholic church. I do not mean the Roman Catholic Church, of which I have the most profound respect but the whole of organized Christianity.

Please don’t feel sorry for me or call me damned, I am a Christian in that I follow what I believe are the Christian doctrines handed down to us by the early Christian fathers and the Gospels.

Please don’t bother pouncing on me telling me how I am damned to Hell because I don’t believe the way you do, and then I won’t say the same thing to you. It is after all a matter of faith.


7 posted on 05/24/2010 8:20:23 AM PDT by JAKraig (Surely my religion is at least as good as yours)
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To: Colofornian
It's the difference between a person and a concept. When referencing concepts, the writer uses 'it'. Which is perfectly o.k. and not disrespectful.
8 posted on 05/24/2010 8:24:09 AM PDT by AnAmericanMother (Ministrix of ye Chasse, TTGC Ladies' Auxiliary (recess appointment)T)
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To: AnAmericanMother
It's the difference between a person and a concept.

You know what? Our "concepts" -- our worldviews -- are intended to come from God, Himself. From Scripture. If God's "concept" of Himself is not an "itself" then why even bring such a confusing "concept" into the picture?

It's bad enough we have to deal with Hinduism and New Age & some cultic thought that presents God as an impersonal force, let alone deal with it when it's carted into the Christian community.

Let's not provide them with additional cover for covering up God's PERSONAL nature!!!

9 posted on 05/24/2010 8:41:42 AM PDT by Colofornian
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To: JAKraig; NYer
The Trinity as we know it today did not become popular until the first council held by Constantine approximately 300 years after the death of our Lord.
When the various bishops presented their ideas of the Gospel to the emperor he personally embraced the doctrine of the Trinity taught by a Greek bishop.

Sorry, you have your explaination mixed up historically. It was the anti-Trinitarian teachings of Arius that was upsetting the apple cart so to speak. Trinitarian teachings are present in ANF writings over a hundred years prior to Nicea.

10 posted on 05/24/2010 8:52:13 AM PDT by Godzilla (3-7-77)
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To: Colofornian; AnAmericanMother
I agree with AnAmericanMother on this one.

How would either of you like it if I referenced either of you as a "Being Itself?"

I would be amused and a bit puzzled if anyone ever referred to me as "Being Itself."

So what we wouldn't ascribe to a fellow human being, this guy will ascribe to God, Himself?

There are plenty of traits that I would not ascribe to a fellow human being that I would ascribe to God.

I really do not wish to start an argument with you over the doctrine of the Trinity (which, as a Mormon, I do not accept).

However, I am bothered when one Christian attacks another who attempts to explain difficult doctrine. It is one thing to say that the author is wrong in his concepts or that he expresses things badly. It is quite another to accuse him of trying to "get away" with something, or to question whether he personally knows God.

Do something positive. Write a clear, concise, and coherent explanation of the doctrine of the Trinity that explains things better than this author has. Write it at a level the general reader can understand. When you are sure that you have it exactly right, post it on FreeRepublic for comment.

11 posted on 05/24/2010 8:53:05 AM PDT by Logophile
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To: Godzilla
Sorry, you have your explaination mixed up historically. It was the anti-Trinitarian teachings of Arius that was upsetting the apple cart so to speak. Trinitarian teachings are present in ANF writings over a hundred years prior to Nicea.

_____________________________________________

I didn't say they were non-existant, they were not popular.

12 posted on 05/24/2010 8:56:41 AM PDT by JAKraig (Surely my religion is at least as good as yours)
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To: JAKraig
I didn't say they were non-existant, they were not popular.

Again, history says otherwise. Arianism only appeared with Arius. Prior to that it was the teaching of the Trinity that was within the core of orthoxy - by your definition - it was popular. Prior to Arius were the various gnostic sects that attempted to appropriate Christianity as its own with their aberant teaching on God. Gnosticism never gained traction within orthodox Christian teachings - never 'popular' by your definition.

So if Trinitarism was not 'popular' cite sources for what WAS more popular then.

13 posted on 05/24/2010 9:02:16 AM PDT by Godzilla (3-7-77)
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To: Godzilla
Prior to Arius were the various gnostic sects that attempted to appropriate Christianity as its own with their aberant teaching on God. Gnosticism never gained traction within orthodox Christian teachings - never ‘popular’ by your definition.

_________________________________________________

Actually the word “Trinity” never shows up in New Testament writings or any of the early church fathers until nearly 300 years after Christ, when Tertullian coined the term. While it is true that Arius’teaching of Christ being the first creation of God was rejected in the first council of Nicea it was a popular belief.

There are many hints of the belief of the doctrine we now call Trinity in the early church writers, especially John but they are vague and ill defined. In my opinion while those hints exist and I fault nobody for coming to the conclusions now popular I think there is more evidence that the 1st century beliefs as shown in the Gospels is more likely correct.

14 posted on 05/24/2010 9:33:32 AM PDT by JAKraig (Surely my religion is at least as good as yours)
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To: JAKraig
Actually the word “Trinity” never shows up in New Testament writings or any of the early church fathers until nearly 300 years after Christ, when Tertullian coined the term.

There are a lot of terms not found in the Bible either, so that is a non-starting arguement. Check your dates again. Tertullian's writings date to the end of the second century, less than 200 years after Christ, not 300. Tertullian's formulated of the basic terminology used in formal expressions of the doctrine shows that the doctrine was very mature by the end of the second century.

Going back further Ignatius' (30-107 A.D.) writings contain conclusions that only make sense within the construct of Trinitarian doctrine. Same goes for Justin Martyr (165 A.D.). Theophilus of Antioch (175 A.D.) - first to use Greek trias for "threesomeness" of God.

While it is true that Arius’teaching of Christ being the first creation of God was rejected in the first council of Nicea it was a popular belief.

popular? Short lived with no evidence that the teaching reached back to the apostles as shown by the other ANF above.

There are many hints of the belief of the doctrine we now call Trinity in the early church writers, especially John but they are vague and ill defined.

Such as? John 1 is not vague, Matthew 28 contains the Trinitarian formula recited at baptism for example. The Scripture is also very clear that there is One God - period - yet within that context, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are God.

. . . . I think there is more evidence that the 1st century beliefs as shown in the Gospels is more likely correct.

Which you have failed to produce. Arianism did not exist with Jesus or apostolic teaching - Trinitarianism permeates that teaching.

15 posted on 05/24/2010 10:17:25 AM PDT by Godzilla (3-7-77)
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To: Logophile; AnAmericanMother
Do something positive. Write a clear, concise, and coherent explanation of the doctrine of the Trinity that explains things better than this author has. Write it at a level the general reader can understand. When you are sure that you have it exactly right, post it on FreeRepublic for comment.

Thank you for your suggestion.

However, I am bothered when one Christian attacks another who attempts to explain difficult doctrine. It is one thing to say that the author is wrong in his concepts or that he expresses things badly. It is quite another to accuse him of trying to "get away" with something, or to question whether he personally knows God.

My comment of "get away with" was clearly talking about a challenge to give the feedback and to hold him accountable. For you to put that under the banner of an "attack" vs. a clear critique shows how ill-sensitive you are to feedback...which I'm not sure why it's any skin off your back, given that you aren't even RC.

...or to question whether he personally knows God.

OK, let me state this quite clearly: If you were talking about your wife or a relative, and sometimes you referenced them as a "her" and sometimes as an "it" -- that's a really basic matter. I'd really question what kind of a relationship you have with them, when you couldn't even be consistent in discussing them as ones who have a personal relationship with you...when you can't even consistently describe them as beings who at their core are Personal!

(I think I'd begin to wonder if you "married" your robot concubine or something)

If the way you describe your family or friends can call into question your witness testimony that you really know them, then the same carries over to God, Himself.

Now that doesn't mean we determine IF they actually DO know them. Maybe this generic "you" is a horrible communicator (as you have indicated this author is an awkward communicator at best). Maybe he does know them, and just is terrible at communicating that.

But that's my point. You don't go on the initiative and publish a world-wide love letter or description re: your spouse if you continually reference him or her as an "it." By all means, don't offend your spouse in such a way. And don't embarrass your spouse and yourself by doing so. Because by doing so, you call into question whether you know that person or not. (Raising Q is NOT the same as being the "determiner"; you can raise a Q without outright judging that they don't know a person)

The Trinity...attempts to explain difficult doctrine. [Logophile]
...quick-draw nitpicking... [AnAmericanMother]

So now knowing what a kindergartener knows -- that you can personally pray to a personal God -- becomes hooked to your trailer of understanding the Trinity? Really?

So, now, AnAmericanMother, something as basic as consistently comprehending God as "Personal" is being merely "nitpicky?"

I suppose if somebody objects to a Jehovah's Witness understanding of the Holy Ghost as being a personal being (vs. an impersonal force), they, too, are just being "nitpicky?"

Or if a New Ager or Hindu presents God as a Divine Ocean we merge into or as a Divine Flame we merge into, we're being "nitpicky" in objecting to impersonal pantheism?

(No wonder people slide down a religious Bahai-like pathway where they run everything together about God and begin to conclude a fundamentalist Mormon-is-a-Mormon-is-a-Christian-is-a-Jonestownite-is-a-Branch-Davidian-is-a-Heavens-Gate-ian-is-a-Urantia believer-is a Church Universal & Triumphant-is-a-Wicca-Witch-is-Voodoo practioner-is-a-New-Ager-is-a-whirling dervish-is-a-Hindu-is-a-Sikh-is-a-Muslim!)

16 posted on 05/24/2010 11:26:05 AM PDT by Colofornian
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To: AnAmericanMother; Logophile
To clarify: I said: I suppose if somebody objects to a Jehovah's Witness understanding of the Holy Ghost as being a personal being (vs. an impersonal force), they, too, are just being "nitpicky?"

I meant to say: I suppose if somebody objects to a Jehovah's Witness understanding of the Holy Ghost as being an IMpersonal being (as they DO believe the Holy Ghost IS an impersonal force like the wind), they, too, are just being "nitpicky?"

17 posted on 05/24/2010 11:30:13 AM PDT by Colofornian
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To: Colofornian
. . . which I'm not sure why it's any skin off your back, given that you aren't even RC.

I am not a Protestant either, but I will stick up for Protestants when they are unfairly treated. I will do the same for Muslims, Hindus, Sikhs, Bahais, or atheists. Won't you?

18 posted on 05/24/2010 11:59:05 AM PDT by Logophile
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To: Godzilla
Tertullian’s writings date to the end of the second century, less than 200 years after Christ.

__________________________________________________________

You are a little off in your dates. Tertullian was born approximately 160AD and his writings don’t show up until early in the third century. I’m sorry I said 300 years when I meant third century.

19 posted on 05/24/2010 12:01:36 PM PDT by JAKraig (Surely my religion is at least as good as yours)
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To: JAKraig
You are a little off in your dates. Tertullian was born approximately 160AD and his writings don’t show up until early in the third century.

160 Ad is mid second century. Since he died in 220 AD still places his writings within 200 years after Christ (33 AD). Fact is his first writings (Ad Martyras) actually begin about 197 AD - again late 2d century and within 200 years after Christ. Adversus Marcionem is dated around 207-208, once again, well within 200 years of Christ.

20 posted on 05/24/2010 12:43:44 PM PDT by Godzilla (3-7-77)
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To: Logophile
...I am not a Protestant either, but I will stick up for Protestants when they are unfairly treated. I will do the same for Muslims, Hindus, Sikhs, Bahais, or atheists. Won't you?

To agree with you in this specific matter would be to agree with your assessment that they were undergoing an "unfair treat[ment]" in the first place.

(1) Asking Roman Catholics to give feedback and hold this author accountable is NOT "unfair treatment" (your response to my comment that RC shouldn't let this author get away with these descriptions of God...give me a break, Logo)

(2) Authors who describe what should really be a kindergartner's view of God within a high Judeo-Christian saturated culture...as some "deep" philosophical "Being ITself"...and are asked, "Author, do you really know this Being to whom you reference?" is not being "unfairly treated".

I guess I could ask you Logo: Is one of the other reasons you identify with this author and feel a need to defend him is because, you, too, as a Mormon wrestle with another simple question about God? Not how personal or impersonal or "combo" of the two...but, rather, how many of them do you worship?

Do you worship 1 god, 2, or 3?

Context for other FReepers: Do Mormons Worship 1, 2, or 3 gods?

21 posted on 05/24/2010 12:45:57 PM PDT by Colofornian
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To: Colofornian
If somebody's ignorant about Someone as important as God, don't export the ignorance.

Why not? Catholics have exported "trinity" to you. You bought it hook, line, & sinker. Now you're going to tweak it for them? laughable.

22 posted on 05/24/2010 1:03:56 PM PDT by Invincibly Ignorant
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