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What Is Man?
Various | September 25, 2003 | betty boop

Posted on 09/24/2003 11:25:56 PM PDT by betty boop

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What Is Man?

The original idea for this thread was the question: What Is Reality?  Then interested parties settled on Alamo-Girl's specification of the different criteria by which such a problem could be profitably engaged. In no particular order of importance, eight different possible approaches to the problem were identified:
To a metaphysical naturalist, "reality" is all that exists in nature

To an autonomist "reality" is all that is, the way it is

To an objectivist "reality" is that which exists

To a mystic "reality" may include thought as substantive force and hence, a part of "reality"

To Plato "reality" includes constructs such as redness, chairness, numbers, geometry and pi

To Aristotle these constructs are not part of "reality" but merely language

To some physicists, "reality" is the illusion of quantum mechanics

To Christians "reality" is God's will and unknowable in its fullness

This list is probably not exhaustive of legitimate frameworks by which to consider the main question. But it will have to serve as a point of departure. [Meanwhile, other points of view can expect all due consideration on this thread. (Just speak up.)]

Subsequently, it was observed that "what is reality" is an impossibly broad question. How does one even begin to "get purchase on"  a problem of that order, complicated as it necessarily is by its sheer intractible, amorphous intangibility?

It was then suggested that perhaps a more modest question might be asked: "What is Man?" This is a much less abstract question, because we humans all have experience as and with other humans. So, although this question is a problem virtually as complex as "what is reality?", on this view at least we have the benefit of human experience to help us answer it.

Just maybe the answer to the human question answers the question "what is reality?" also. But that remains to be seen.

Of the eight categories to be described, it was my (blessed!) lot to draw Plato.

The above is my meditation on theme. Hopefully, other writers will explore some or all of the other worldviews on Alamo-Girl's list.

Your thoughts, insights, questions, and comments are most welcome!

1 posted on 09/24/2003 11:25:57 PM PDT by betty boop
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To: betty boop
Not to quibble but it was King David, not Plato, that first posed the question, "what is man".
2 posted on 09/24/2003 11:30:18 PM PDT by MissAmericanPie
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To: betty boop
Bump. Lemmee think about this one.
3 posted on 09/24/2003 11:36:01 PM PDT by djf
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To: Alamo-Girl; Phaedrus; pariah; unspun; PatrickHenry; Right Wing Professor; OWK; Doctor Stochastic; ..
Bump to y'all! Hope to hear from you, if you have the time and interest.
4 posted on 09/24/2003 11:40:18 PM PDT by betty boop (God used beautiful mathematics in creating the world. -- Paul Dirac)
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To: Hank Kerchief
Bump to you, Hank!
5 posted on 09/24/2003 11:41:19 PM PDT by betty boop (God used beautiful mathematics in creating the world. -- Paul Dirac)
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To: MissAmericanPie was King David, not Plato, that first posed the question, "what is man".

That's not a quibble! Yet I suspect, however, that King David was not primarily interested in the question as a philosophical problem. And so didn't treat it as one.

6 posted on 09/24/2003 11:45:06 PM PDT by betty boop (God used beautiful mathematics in creating the world. -- Paul Dirac)
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To: betty boop
Platonic BTTT
7 posted on 09/24/2003 11:48:02 PM PDT by spodefly (This is my tagline. There are many like it, but this one is mine.)
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To: betty boop
Allright, I'll throw out a few things, but they may not necessarily jive with your essay.

In asking any question, rather I should say trying to find an answer, it always hels that both the question and the answer are somewhat well defined. There may somewhere be a mathematical approach to it, which we don't know, but think about this. If you ask a priest what a man is, then ask a doctor, then ask a politician, you will probably get pretty different answers.

So that in a way indicates we haven't phrased the question in a precise way. We can flip a coin, and look at it as it lies on the floor, and answer the question about which side came up. But if somebody asked me "what is man" today, and I gave them an answer, they might well return tomorrow, ask me again, and get a somewhat different answer!

I am not invalidating the question. It is a very good question, for precisely that reason. To answer the question, we have to come up with enough bits and pieces to satisfy the priest, and the doctor, and the politician. So the answer has to be a very global type answer.

Physically, man is not tremendously different from a large number of animals. Observations of species, not only mammalian, show many to be omnivores. Our tendency to build structures to inhabit is not unlike many activities in the animal kingdom, it is a difference of complexity, not purpose. Yet is physicallness enough to define man? Definitely not, as studies of feral humans have shown them to never really reach any semblence of what might be called human.

To be continued...
8 posted on 09/25/2003 12:12:15 AM PDT by djf
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To: djf
OOps... the second spiritual on the list was supposed to be Social...
9 posted on 09/25/2003 12:14:35 AM PDT by djf
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To: betty boop
10 posted on 09/25/2003 12:55:23 AM PDT by Drammach
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To: betty boop
Bump read after my physical chemistry exam.
11 posted on 09/25/2003 1:15:13 AM PDT by ChemistCat (Terra Vegetable Chips. WOW they're good. But you will worry about your $800 crowns.)
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To: djf
Anyways, physical, continued. Trying to write this inbetween making dinner and rebuilding my rototiller.

A somewhat cursory look at physical seems to make that quality not particularly needed for humaness. I think there is a natural tendency to do this when philosophers describe man.

That would make man very intrinsically different from say, a dog, who seems to be driven and build entirely on his physical structure. Man, we argue, has qualities vastly different from a dog, it is a qualitative difference, not a quantitative one.

But there are those who would argue against this point. Dancers, for instance. Prostitutes another. So we cannot delete the physical side to soon, we must admit that form and function are highly intertwined, but I won't now get into a chicken or the egg argument about that.

But it cannot be emphasized enough that when the question "What is man" is asked, it goes well beyond the physical. Mans physical needs are no different from other animals. One relation I'd like to mention though, is this: Man, as a physical creature, is not very threatening. He's not equipped with huge teeth, or tremendously bulging muscles. He can't jump or run very much faster or higher than most creatures. Man's relative lack of fierceness can only be explained by his head.

More to follow, I am trying to dovetail this with Betty's stuff...
12 posted on 09/25/2003 1:53:41 AM PDT by djf
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To: betty boop
Great post. It's been a while since I delved into philosophy with any degree of serioiusness, so take this with the appropriate grain of salt.

Not to quibble, but for Aristotle,isn't reality what we see, feel and tastes? What is observable through our senses (which, as opposed to Plato) we can pretty much trust? Or am I wrong? My (admittedly limited) reading of Aristotle seemed to indicate that he was pretty content to make judgments on what we can observe, and pretty much rejected, at least in practice,the kind of speculation in which Plato engaged.

Not to say that either one was less valid. Both are great teachers for conservatives (and anyone else). Plato's Republic is the ultimate primer on the futility of trying to build a utopia (the eternal liberal project). I think Plato appeals to Christians because he seems to be longing (the term he uses, as I recall, is "eros," meaning not sexual desire - or as it now seems to be used, kinky sex - but desiring) for God. Socrates, in the Republic, is referred to as the "erotic man" in that sense. This longing or desiring, expressed in the Republic as a longing for truth, Christians would say, is a longing for God.
For Christians, Plato (or Socrates as portrayed by him)seems to be the ultimate virtuous pagan.

At least that's what I thought after reading Bloom's translation of the Republic with a bunch of friends.

As to Aristotle, try reading Politics and Ethics. They are not difficult. You'll find some shocking things - Man has a nature, he is rational (I'm sure losts of college humanaities and social science professors out there don't like that) and political by nature (the latter, I think, undercuts the social contract idea), the fundamental societal unit is the family, reality is as reality appears to be, virtue is necessary for good government, etc.

13 posted on 09/25/2003 5:33:33 AM PDT by bigcat00
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To: betty boop
Bumping one of the most relevant questions of our time.
14 posted on 09/25/2003 5:52:22 AM PDT by Phaedrus
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To: djf; Alamo-Girl; Phaedrus; unspun
Physically, man is not tremendously different from a large number of animals... Yet is physicallness enough to define man?

Apparently not, djf. What decisively separates man from the rest of the animal kingdom is that man, unlike other animals, is free to choose the pattern of his life. Animals can only execute their instinctual "program": A man may "order himself," while the animal is ordered solely by instinct. There are, of course, other differences. But I think this one is key to understanding the vast chasm that separates the human from the animal.

15 posted on 09/25/2003 7:04:49 AM PDT by betty boop (God used beautiful mathematics in creating the world. -- Paul Dirac)
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To: betty boop
Thank you so much for this excellent essay, betty boop! Kudos to you!!!

I have been praying for several days over my part of this discussion and have something prepared to answer the question What is man? from the Christian worldview.

But wouldn't you know I have to go out-of-town for the biggest part of the day, so I won't be able to engage in the actual conversation until later on today.

Anyhow, I decided to go ahead and post what I'm compelled to post.

16 posted on 09/25/2003 7:19:31 AM PDT by Alamo-Girl
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To: betty boop; Phaedrus; pariah; unspun; PatrickHenry; Right Wing Professor; OWK; Doctor Stochastic; ..
My part in this comparison and discussion is to present the Christian worldview. To help Lurkers see things through a Christian’s eyes and thus understand better “where he is coming from” - I shall answer the question more specifically as follows:

What is [a Christian] man?

He’s different. He involuntarily perceives things that others cannot. Before he believes in Christ, he is already known to God and has been chosen. Only those who are chosen are able to hear the Word.

For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate [to be] conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified. – Romans 8:29-30

Jesus said unto them, If God were your Father, ye would love me: for I proceeded forth and came from God; neither came I of myself, but he sent me. Why do ye not understand my speech? [even] because ye cannot hear my word. – John 8:42-43

I am the good shepherd, and know my [sheep], and am known of mine. As the Father knoweth me, even so know I the Father: and I lay down my life for the sheep. And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, [and] one shepherd. Therefore doth my Father love me, because I lay down my life, that I might take it again. - John 10:14-17

But even a chosen man has free will. If he believes what he hears, he becomes Christian and receives many assurances as well as responsibilities:

Jesus answered them, I told you, and ye believed not: the works that I do in my Father's name, they bear witness of me. But ye believe not, because ye are not of my sheep, as I said unto you. My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any [man] pluck them out of my hand. - John 10:25-28

I am come a light into the world, that whosoever believeth on me should not abide in darkness. And if any man hear my words, and believe not, I judge him not: for I came not to judge the world, but to save the world. He that rejecteth me, and receiveth not my words, hath one that judgeth him: the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day. - John 12:46-48

In this life, the Christian man becomes alive in the spirit, a new creature through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit of God. His changed life is the most visible evidence of his becoming a Christian. Even so, it takes time, trials and patience for him to learn to surrender self-will allowing himself to be led of the Spirit. But because of this, he is adopted as a child of God and a joint-heir with Christ:

But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his. And if Christ [be] in you, the body [is] dead because of sin; but the Spirit [is] life because of righteousness.

But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you. Therefore, brethren, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live after the flesh. For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live.

For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God. For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father.

The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with [him], that we may be also glorified together. – Romans 8:9-17

And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; And to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness; And to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity. – 2 Peter 1:5-7

The Christian man’s goal in life will change; his first priority will be to keep Christ’s commandments. Along the way, he will stumble and fall, but he won’t despair because forgiveness is always available to him:

Master, which [is] the great commandment in the law? Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment.

And the second [is] like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets. – Matthew 22:36-40

He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. - 1 John 2:4

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us [our] sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. - 1 John 1:9

When he has fully surrendered to the Spirit, the Christian man becomes perfect, protected and strong. This is achieved - not by his own thought, word or deed --- but by where he lives:

Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me. I am the vine, ye [are] the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing.

If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast [them] into the fire, and they are burned. If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you. Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples. - John 15:4-8

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law. - Galatians 5:22-23

But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust. For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same? And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more [than others]? do not even the publicans so?

Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect. – Matthew 5:44-48

The fully grown Christian man’s perfect love supplants all of his fear. He is bold. He becomes stronger in the face of mortal difficulties. He doesn’t fret about earthly things or worry about his salvation.

And we have known and believed the love that God hath to us. God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him. Herein is our love made perfect, that we may have boldness in the day of judgment: because as he is, so are we in this world.

There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love. We love him, because he first loved us. 1 John 4:16-19

And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ's sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong. – 2 Corinthians 12:9-10

But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day [is] the evil thereof. – Matthew 6:33-34

When the Christian man leaves his flesh behind, he becomes something new and incorruptible and then receives his treasure:

Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God: therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew him not. Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is. - 1 John 3:1-2

Blessed [be] the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, To an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you, Who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. Wherein ye greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations: - 1 Peter 1:4-6

In my Father's house are many mansions: if [it were] not [so], I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. – John 14:2

And in the future age, when God has fully revealed Himself and culled all that is not His will --- when His kingdom has arrived --- the Christian man will be a ruler:

Dare any of you, having a matter against another, go to law before the unjust, and not before the saints? Do ye not know that the saints shall judge the world? and if the world shall be judged by you, are ye unworthy to judge the smallest matters? Know ye not that we shall judge angels? how much more things that pertain to this life? – I Corinthians 6:1-3

For unto the angels hath he not put in subjection the world to come, whereof we speak. But one in a certain place testified, saying, What is man, that thou art mindful of him? or the son of man, that thou visitest him? Thou madest him a little lower than the angels; thou crownedst him with glory and honour, and didst set him over the works of thy hands: Thou hast put all things in subjection under his feet. For in that he put all in subjection under him, he left nothing [that is] not put under him. But now we see not yet all things put under him.

But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honour; that he by the grace of God should taste death for every man. For it became him, for whom [are] all things, and by whom [are] all things, in bringing many sons unto glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings. For both he that sanctifieth and they who are sanctified [are] all of one: for which cause he is not ashamed to call them brethren, Saying, I will declare thy name unto my brethren, in the midst of the church will I sing praise unto thee. And again, I will put my trust in him. And again, Behold I and the children which God hath given me.

Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil; And deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage. For verily he took not on [him the nature of] angels; but he took on [him] the seed of Abraham. – Hebrews 2:5-16

A Christian man will identify himself by his open profession of faith in Christ Jesus. He may not yet appear perfect according to the above Scriptures, either because he is still growing or perhaps because he has not yet found the right path:

Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide [is] the gate, and broad [is] the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: Because strait [is] the gate, and narrow [is] the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it. - Matthew 7:13-14

Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works?

And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.

Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock: And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell not: for it was founded upon a rock. – Matthew 7:22-25

Because the Christian man is spiritually minded, the best way to communicate with him is by using the Scriptures themselves. He will receive science and other forms of knowledge, but only if they do not conflict with Whom he already knows to be Truth and in Whom he lives:

For the word of God [is] quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and [is] a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. – Hebrews 4:12

O Timothy, keep that which is committed to thy trust, avoiding profane [and] vain babblings, and oppositions of science falsely so called: Which some professing have erred concerning the faith. Grace [be] with thee. Amen… - 1 Timothy 6:20-21

Personal interpretation of Scriptures and reliance on the counsel of men leads to sincere contention among Christians. One such example – common on this forum - is the origin of Adam, whose fall from grace is the need for Christ’s propitiation. One side insists that Adam was the first mortal man, the other insists that he was the first man to be ensouled (neshama - the breath of God):

Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned: (For until the law sin was in the world: but sin is not imputed when there is no law. Nevertheless death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over them that had not sinned after the similitude of Adam's transgression, who is the figure of him that was to come. – Romans 5:12-14

So also [is] the resurrection of the dead. It is sown in corruption; it is raised in incorruption: It is sown in dishonour; it is raised in glory: it is sown in weakness; it is raised in power:

It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body.

And so it is written, The first man Adam was made a living soul; the last Adam [was made] a quickening spirit. Howbeit that [was] not first which is spiritual, but that which is natural; and afterward that which is spiritual. The first man [is] of the earth, earthy: the second man [is] the Lord from heaven.

As [is] the earthy, such [are] they also that are earthy: and as [is] the heavenly, such [are] they also that are heavenly. And as we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly. – I Corinthians 15:42-48

A belief that Adam was the first mortal man leads to the conclusion of young earth creationism. A belief that he was the first ensouled man leads to the conclusion of either intelligent design or theistic evolution.

In either case, the understanding itself may become part of the Christian’s worldview and thus will constitute a firm boundary which cannot be broached by any non-Spiritual argument to the contrary. In the Christian man’s worldview, each core belief is more important than mortal life.

17 posted on 09/25/2003 7:24:35 AM PDT by Alamo-Girl
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To: bigcat00; PatrickHenry; Alamo-Girl; Phaedrus; unspun
Not to quibble, but for Aristotle,isn't reality what we see, feel and tastes? What is observable through our senses (which, as opposed to Plato) we can pretty much trust?

Can we really trust what is observable by means of our senses? Our senses do not detect the quantum world, though the physicists tell us it is there, and have found ways to "observe" it -- via mathematics, not direct sensation. How much do our senses really report of the actual structure of the universe?

Aristotle spent something like 27 years as a student of Plato at the Academy. Then he left for Asia Minor, later to become tutor to one of the greatest hegemons of all time, Alexander, son of King Phillip II of Macedonia, who ended up being the "undertaker" of decadent Athens....

I don't think Aristotle so much rejected the Platonic speculation (he was as concerned with the metaleptic structure of the soul -- Plato's metaxy -- and its order according to the divine measure as Plato was). But there was a shift of focus or attention away from the Platonic Idea, which dealt with expressing what is common in an entire generic class of objects, to the particularity of objects themselves. (And thus was science born!)

I enjoyed your comments on The Republic. Many people today believe that it ought to be understood as a "prescription" for the "ideal state." That certainly wasn't Plato's intention at all. Perhaps I can flesh out some details in this regard a little later today. But must run to a meeting right now.

Thank you so much for writing, bigcat00.

18 posted on 09/25/2003 7:43:54 AM PDT by betty boop (God used beautiful mathematics in creating the world. -- Paul Dirac)
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To: betty boop; Alamo-Girl
I can't really contribute.

Alamo-Girl used up all of the first page of the thread's supply of Profound. That means I am only left with Humor, Sincerity, and Respect all herein offered to her response.

19 posted on 09/25/2003 7:46:48 AM PDT by KC Burke
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To: betty boop
Man is a creature created in the image of the Creator God.
20 posted on 09/25/2003 8:10:08 AM PDT by LiteKeeper
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