Christianity as Truth
Another name for apologetics is Christian evidences. It is so called because it furnishes the evidences that the teachings of Christianity are true. We live in a day when there is little respect for truth and few people tell the truth. Yet truth is important.
How you handle truth has consequences. If the weather service says that a tornado is bearing down on your neighborhood, you can either ignore the warning or take action, and your decision could mean the difference between life and death. As another example, the Bible says there is a God. You must make a decision whether to ignore him or put yourself in right relation to Him, and again these two roads lead to radically different outcomes. Loving and obeying Him brings eternal life. Ignoring Him brings eternal death.
Fallacies in Relativism and Pragmatism
Yet many people today minimize the importance of truth. Some educated people go so far as to say that all truth is relative. What they mean is that truth is whatever you want it to be. You can believe whatever suits you and makes you happy. But since all people do not prefer the same truth, the practical effect of relativism is to deny that truth exists. If truth is relative, then there is no truth.
Relativism founders on two fallacies.
- It is self-contradictory. No one would bother to say that there is no truth if he did not believe that he was speaking the truth. If truth is relative, then the statement that truth is relative is relative also, and we need not take it seriously.
- Nobody really believes in relativism or lives in a manner consistent with relativism. A man may say there is no truth. But what does he do when he picks up a bottle labeled "poison"? Does he say, "There is no truth, so it makes no difference whether I drink the contents." No, he says to himself, "The label may be true, so I will leave the contents alone." People espouse relativism only when truth doesn’t seem to matter.
A philosophy closely allied to relativism is pragmatism, which says that whatever works is right. But here is another self-contradictory viewpoint, because it may pronounce the same course of action as both right and wrong. For example, if I steal from you, that works for me if I get away with it, but it doesn't work for you. So a basic tenet of pragmatism is that right and wrong depend on who you are. Pragmatism is merely an extension of relativism into the realm of ethics. Just as relativism amounts to a denial of truth, pragmatism amounts to a denial of morality.
But as with relativism, nobody really believes in pragmatism or lives in a manner consistent with it. Suppose a self-proclaimed pragmatist finds himself in a vicious authoritarian state, such as Communist China, which decides that the only way to curb overpopulation is to kill off older people. If there are no moral absolutes, the policy makes sense, doesn't it? To kill off the older people is certainly right if rightness is whatever works. But if the pragmatist is getting on in years, does he say, "Me first"? Of course not. When they come to take him, he views himself as the victim of unjust oppression. People espouse pragmatism only when they feel that it will not put themselves in the place of victims.
We see, therefore, that attempts to dismiss actual truth as unreal are hollow and foolish. It is of utmost importance to determine what is true.
We can start by asking the question, "What is the precise meaning of the term "truth"? Truth is a statement that conforms to reality. To assert that the sun rises in the east is true because in fact the sun rises in the east. "A lion is a big animal" and "2 plus 2 equals 4" are also true statements. There is nothing in reality to contradict them. A false statement is unsupported by reality. For example, "Water runs uphill," or, "Money produces happiness."
Doctrines of Christianity
Not all truth is absolute truth. Some truth is subject to conditions, whereas absolute truth is true always. For example, to say that nearly all students are enrolled in algebra is true only for ninth graders. It is a conditional truth. Another example is the statement, “Gravity pulls down.” For a person on the earth, that’s true only for the earth’s gravity, not for the moon’s. But to say that murder is wrong is certain and without exception. It is therefore absolute truth. Absolute truth can be accepted without question or qualification.
Anything in God's Word falls in this category. It is true absolutely. Thus, all the doctrines of Christianity are absolute truth. The cardinal doctrines are seven in number.
- God exists.
- God is unlimited in His power and knowledge and perfect in His love and righteousness.
- God is one Being in three persons.
- The Bible is the inerrant Word of God.
- The man Jesus was and is God in the flesh.
- Jesus died for our sins, was buried, and rose again on the third day.
- We can gain eternal life by confessing that we are sinners and trusting in Jesus alone for salvation.
How do we know that these doctrines are true? A full answer to the question requires the study of apologetics, which is the formal defense of the Christian faith. Today, an apology means to say you're sorry. But that is not the meaning of apologia, the Greek word from which we derive the term "apologetics." The word appears in 1 Peter 3:15, where it is translated "answer." It is a legal term, often used for an attorney's defense against a charge. In Philippians 1:17, it is translated "defense."
Purposes of Apologetics
Apologetics has two purposes.
1) It protects and strengthens the faith of a Christian. Although you cannot lose your salvation if you are truly saved, you can lose your faith, as I did for some years during my youth. Scripture says of Hymenaeus and Alexander that they made shipwreck of their faith.
19 Holding faith, and a good conscience; which some having put away concerning faith have made shipwreck:
20 Of whom is Hymenaeus and Alexander; whom I have delivered unto Satan, that they may learn not to blaspheme.
1 Timothy 1:19-20
Paul's expectation that severe chastening would bring them back from their folly shows that they were real Christians who had gone astray.
The devil is less able to overthrow your faith if it is grounded in knowledge. Your heavenly Father does not want your faith to be grounded in emotion, or wishful thinking, or blind imitation of others. Rather, He wants it to be grounded in an understanding that Christianity is the only reasonable world view.
If you attain this understanding, it will help you be a better Christian. It will keep you from being wishy-washy and half-hearted about your faith, with one foot in the church and one foot in the world. You will never come to church only when you feel like it, and or come just to sit there feeling that you would rather be at home. Instead of fooling around with your faith, you will get serious about living for God. As Joshua declared to the nation of Israel, "Choose you this day whom ye will serve" (Josh. 24:15).
Of course, you can always choose not to serve God. You can always turn away from Him. But if you do even though you know that Christianity is true, you will face a severer judgment, because you have sinned against greater knowledge.
Your basic reason for rejecting God will be that you prefer a life of sin.
And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.
But as a result of throwing away God's favor and blessing just so you can please your flesh for a mere breath of time, your short life will amount to nothing. In all probability you will grieve your loved ones, ruin your marriage, burden your children with unhappiness, make no useful contribution to society, and at last fall into utter despair.
2) The second reason apologetics is important is that it is a good witnessing tool.
So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.
The Word of God presented in preaching, teaching, or witnessing leads to hearing, which means "comprehension of truth," and hearing in this sense leads to faith. But a man can block any beneficial result. He can refuse to hear, and he can refuse to respond with faith. Such resistance is man's innate tendency.
1 The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God. They are corrupt, they have done abominable works, there is none that doeth good.
2 The LORD looked down from heaven upon the children of men, to see if there were any that did understand, and seek God.
3 They are all gone aside, they are all together become filthy: there is none that doeth good, no, not one.
Yet the Holy Spirit can overcome resistance to truth. He can open a man's heart to receive the Word of God when he hears preaching, teaching, or witnessing. Of course, the Spirit does not need such means. He could bypass them and reveal the truth directly to a man's heart. But He chooses to get human beings involved in the process as preachers, teachers, and witnesses because such involvement gives them profitable work, hastening their growth as servants of God.
The chief point we wish to draw from Romans 10:17 is that faith arises from hearing truth. Truth produces faith. Therefore, the systematic presentation and defense of truth in apologetics has value in the work of winning the lost.
How much of the truth must someone hear to be saved? A simple recital of the gospel may be sufficient. But some people do not accept the gospel until they have seen convincing evidence that the gospel is true. Many testify that the evidence bringing them to salvation was a dramatic sign that God is real. Perhaps He gave them a miraculous answer to prayer. When they were sick with a deadly disease, He healed them. When they went into battle, He spared their lives. When their child seemed lost, He brought the child home safely. Many others testify that the evidence bringing them to salvation came from the study of apologetics. In other words, they discovered that God is real from the imprint of His hand on nature and history. Of particular value have been the lectures and writings of creation scientists, showing that evolution has no basis in fact.
Apologetics is especially useful for reaching educated people. As a result of attending public schools that have indoctrinated them in the world view known as secular humanism, they feel that Christianity cannot possibly be true. If they hear a gospel presentation, or receive a tract, or are exposed to any other appeal for religious belief, they reject it automatically, without any thought. Using Christian evidences as a witnessing tool challenges them to think, and to think about the ultimate questions of life is a good thing. Perhaps for the first time they will pose to themselves the vital question, "Might there really be a God?" Once they start thinking, the Holy Spirit can help them see that their own world view is flawed and that the Christian world view makes better sense. Moreover, if they begin thinking about their relationship to God, the Holy Spirit can bring them to a conviction of sin.
We must add that you cannot convince someone to become a Christian just by presenting him with all the evidences supporting Christianity. You can show a man proof that the Bible is true and you can demolish all his objections, and he may still spit in your face. Whether a person accepts Christ depends solely on whether the Holy Spirit works in his heart to convict him of sin and to create a desire to be saved. Then the arguments from apologetics will help to reshape his thinking. In brief, salvation is supernatural.
We may go so far as to say that human reason unaided by the Spirit of God never leads anyone to the truth.
17 For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel: not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of none effect.
18 For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God.
19 For it is written, I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and will bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent.
20 Where is the wise? where is the scribe? where is the disputer of this world? hath not God made foolish the wisdom of this world?
21 For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe. . . .
26 For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called:
27 But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty;
28 And base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are:
29 That no flesh should glory in his presence.
1 Corinthians 1:17-21, 26-29
Indeed, the wisdom of the wise is a great obstacle keeping them away from the truth. To them, the preaching of the cross seems like mere foolishness. Why has God afflicted the wise with blindness to the light of the gospel?
But he giveth more grace. Wherefore he saith, God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble.
The answer—because He resists the proud. So, is it better to be stupid than to be wise?
If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.
No, we are to seek wisdom, as the book of Proverbs also advises (Prov. 1:1-7, 20-23). We should not imagine that God puts a premium on ignorance, nor should we imagine that God does not love someone or cannot use someone who is unusually intelligent and learned. But the wisdom we should seek is the right kind of wisdom.
But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be intreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy.
True wisdom is meek, peaceable, honest, and in submission to God.
Mandate for Apologetics
The reasons we have given for studying apologetics carry little weight unless Scripture itself authorizes such a study. The text usually cited as the mandate for apologetics is the following:
But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear:
1 Peter 3:15
In fact, however, this text is not urging us to embark on a reasoned defense of Christianity. It is merely encouraging the believer to open his mouth in witness for Christ whenever people of the world notice that he bears persecution patiently and with confident hope.
A clearer mandate for apologetics comes from Mark's version of the Great Commission.
And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.
What is the gospel? The fullest definition is given by Paul.
1 Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand;
2 By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain.
3 For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures;
4 And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures:
5 And that he was seen of Cephas, then of the twelve:
6 After that, he was seen of above five hundred brethren at once; of whom the greater part remain unto this present, but some are fallen asleep.
7 After that, he was seen of James; then of all the apostles.
8 And last of all he was seen of me also, as of one born out of due time.
1 Corinthians 15:1-8
Notice that at the heart of the gospel are three kinds of evidence that the gospel is true: the fulfillment of Messianic prophecy, the historical fact of the Crucifixion, and the historical fact of the Resurrection.
Evidences were prominent in the preaching of the apostles. The centerpiece of the message preached by the early church in Jerusalem was the resurrection of Christ (Acts 4:33). In Paul's preaching, he gave foremost place to the Resurrection whether he spoke to Jews in a synagogue (Acts 13:33-37) or to cultured gentiles in Athens (Acts 17:31). In addition, when he spoke to Jews who knew the Scriptures, he showed that Jesus was the fulfillment of Messianic prophecy (Acts 13:34-35), and when at Mar's Hill in Athens he spoke to gentiles trained in Greek philosophy, he used what is known in apologetics as a theistic argument (Acts 17:24-29). He showed from the things God created that He must be greater than the gods of polytheism.
Apologetics is essentially just an elaboration of all the kinds of argument that we find in the book of Acts. Of central importance are the theistic arguments, the fulfillments of Messianic prophecy, and the evidences that Scripture gives us accurate records of Jesus' life, death, and resurrection.
First Objection to Apologetics
Some Christians object to apologetics on the grounds that we should believe by faith, not because of proofs and arguments. In reply, we acknowledge that faith is essential.
8 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:
9 Not of works, lest any man should boast.
According to this text, we are saved by grace through faith. How else, except by faith, could we receive the cardinal doctrines of Christianity as absolute truth, for they speak of things unseen—of things that remain unseen however many evidences we consider? How else, except by faith, could we come into a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, who also is unseen?
Faith is so important that without it, there is no possibility of finding God.
But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.
The writer of Hebrews means that if you want answers to the ultimate questions of life—who am I, why am I here, where did I come from, where am I going?—you will not find true and satisfying answers unless at the outset you are willing to accept two propositions:
- God exists.
- "He is a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him."
In other words, you must believe that the God who exists can be found. But notice that He can only be found by those who seek Him diligently.
And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart.
Someone who in an idle moment challenges God to reveal Himself, who says, "God, if you really exist, give me now some proof of your existence—let me hear your voice or send lightning to strike the tree over there," will surely find the heavens silent.
The requirement that we seek God diligently creates a huge difficulty.
10 As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one:
11 There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God.
12 They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one.
Nobody is a seeker after God. This truth is so important that it is stated three times verbatim: here in Romans 3, also in Psalm 14:1ff and Psalm 53:1ff. How then can anyone come to a knowledge of the truth? How then can anyone be saved from the judgment that God has pronounced on mankind?
We find the answer in the text quoted earlier.
8 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:
9 Not of works, lest any man should boast.
The meaning of these verses is that we can do nothing whatever to save ourselves. Our good works are of no value in getting us to heaven. We are impotent even to manufacture the faith that God requires, for as we learned in Romans 3 and elsewhere, none of us by nature has enough faith to seek after Him diligently. Yet it says here that we can be saved and that we can be saved through faith. Where does this faith come from? The verse goes on to say that this faith acceptable to God is part of the gift of salvation. God overcomes our deficiency of faith by giving us the faith that we need.
The essential role of faith in salvation does not eliminate a role for knowledge based on evidences. The best way to understand the relationship between faith and knowledge is to imagine that you are standing in a deep forest on a dark night, when thick clouds hide the moon and stars. You are lost, without any sense of which direction to go. Yet off in the distance you see a very dim light, a mere pinprick of radiance penetrating the gloom. If you walk toward the light, it becomes slowly brighter. After a while it becomes a distinct spot, then an emitter of beams in all directions. Then you see the source of the light, the doorway of a house nestled in a far clearing. When at last you reach the house and cross the threshold, the light once so dim that you might have overlooked it becomes so dazzling that it drives away all darkness.
The darkness represents ignorance of the things of God. The light represents knowledge based on logic and evidence. Walking toward the light represents faith. The principle illustrated by this figure is very simple. If you step out on faith in the direction shown by what you already know, God will give you more knowledge until eventually—not in this world, but in the world to come—your knowledge is complete.
Scripture agrees that seeking God is like walking along a path that gets brighter and brighter.
But the path of the just is as the shining light, that shineth more and more unto the perfect day.
The same principle is true for seeking God’s will. So, this is a good verse to meditate on when you are uncertain about the direction God wants you to take. See to it that you are among the "just"—in other words, that you are walking by faith according to His will already revealed to you—and He will make your way clearer day by day.
If any lost person seeks the truth by faith, he will, sooner or later, come to the truth in Jesus.
Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.
He will discover that Jesus is the way to God, that the truth about the character and purposes of God lies revealed in Jesus, and that through Jesus he can have life forever.
The main point of our story about the man moving from darkness to light is that faith and knowledge complement each other.
- Knowledge strengthens faith. As the seeker in the darkness sees more light, he walks forward with greater confidence. Of this we could cite many examples. When the disciples saw the risen Christ, did the knowledge that He was alive weaken their faith in God? No, it strengthened their faith, just as the study of Christian evidences will strengthen your faith.
- Faith leads to knowledge. As the seeker in darkness moved onward by faith toward the light, the light shone ever brighter. Likewise, if by faith you take steps of obedience to God, He will reward your faith by revealing Himself more fully to you. You can easily put this principle to the test. Just develop a burden for a lost soul. Pray for that soul and implore God for a chance to share the gospel with that soul. If you pray sincerely and with faith, God will create the opportunity you desire, perhaps out of circumstances that could not be mere coincidence. In response to your faith, He will show His supernatural hand, thus confirming that He is real.
In answer to the objection that the study of evidences improperly minimizes faith, let me add one more reply. If we deny the value of evidences, we create the impression that Christianity has only faith to recommend it, and that the evidences do not particularly support it: in other words, that if we make the hard-headed choice to believe only what we can verify with our five senses, we must become atheists. In fact, the atheist also relies upon faith, and his faith is irrational to the point of being absurd. For example, he believes that the vast, intricately structured universe stretching to an unfathomable distance beyond our view arose willy-nilly, by mere chance— that in a moment, all this complex system of matter and energy sprang from nothing.
Second Objection to Apologetics
Some Christians argue that rather than using apologetics to deal with intellectual objections to Christianity, we should counter them by simply calling for an implicit faith in the Bible. "God said it. I believe it. That settles it." This line of argument is not without truth or merit. Indeed, we should never put ourselves in the foolish position of doubting God. It was by doubting and then disobeying God that Eve brought sin into the world. And just as we should not doubt God, neither should we try to argue with Him.
But to demand an unquestioning faith in God's Word is a poor defense of Christianity. It is easily swept aside by an objection. The skeptic can say, "Sure, if God appeared and spoke to us, it would only make sense to believe Him, but how do we know that the Bible comes from God?" Indeed, how do we know that the Bible is God's Word? Do we accept it by blind faith, unsupported by any reasons? Christians holding the position known as fideism say, yes. Fideism sounds spiritual, but it is fraught with problems.
- It is not self-consistent. Upon examining any fideist, we discover that he too has his reasons for believing the Bible. His reasons may be either strong or weak. A weak reason is that one's parents believe it or one's church believes it. A strong reason, which is often the real foundation for the faith of a fideist, is an experiential knowledge of God, a knowledge resting on His deliverance from sin, His practical guidance, His provision of needs, and His answers to prayer. These are among the evidences recognized as important by apologetics.
- It limits God. God works in more than one way. He brings some people to salvation through an emotional evangelistic sermon. He brings others through apologetics.
- It may be proud. What is the man really saying who affirms, "God said it, I believe it, that settles it"? If he is congratulating himself for being more spiritual than those who examine the evidences for Biblical religion, he has fallen into pride.
- It is out of line with God's will. God by no means wishes to deny faith a foundation in evidences, for three reasons:
- As we showed earlier, knowledge based on evidences strengthens faith. Because He is a merciful God, He helps us believe. He does not demand that we believe blindly, contrary to the evidences. He does not require intellectual suicide. Rather, because He loves us, He makes faith easy, by giving it a boost with strong evidences in its favor.
- One reason He does this is that He wants faith and love to be an expression of the whole man, including his mind. "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" (Matt. 22:37). God wants our love to be enhanced by confidence that He is real. The alternative would be to love Him despite serious misgivings as to whether love's object even exists. That kind of love could not have much depth or fervency.
- We live in a world full of deceptions. Many children are taught by their parents and religious leaders that the Book of Mormon is the Word of God, or that the Koran is the Word of God. Many books other than the Bible claim to be divine in origin. Evidences are an important tool for distinguishing between true religion and false religion. They help us fulfill the Biblical instruction to "try the spirits."
1 Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world.
2 Hereby know ye the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God:
3 And every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God: and this is that spirit of antichrist, whereof ye have heard that it should come; and even now already is it in the world.
1 John 4:1-3
Primary Evidences of Christianity
The answer to the last question logically leads us to another question, the most fundamental of all. How do we know that Jesus was really the Christ, the Son of God? We know by the study of Christian evidences. These establish beyond any reasonable doubt that God is real and that Christ is His Son and our Savior. A list of the primary evidences shows the scope of apologetics:
- There is no reasonable doubt that the universe is the work of a divine Creator. Everything in the vast universe around us could not have sprung out of nothing. The beautiful structures we see everywhere in nature could not have been the product of mere chance.
- The testimony of conscience leaves no reasonable doubt that we were made by a righteous God.
- From our experience in the world, we learn that obeying conscience gives happiness. Thus, there is no reasonable doubt that our Creator wants us to be happy, and if He wishes us to be happy, there is no reasonable doubt that He is a God of love.
- There is no reasonable doubt that Jesus Christ fulfilled the long list of Messianic prophecies in the Old Testament. These specify the time of His coming, His name, lineage, and birthplace, as well as many details of His life, ministry, and death, including His death on a cross.
- There is no reasonable doubt that Jesus was unique in both wisdom and character. None other before or since has equaled His compassion for the most unlovely of men. None other, except under His influence, has taught, "Love your enemies."
- There is no reasonable doubt that Jesus performed miracles. In historical records left by His enemies, they call Him a sorcerer.
- There is no reasonable doubt that Jesus rose from the dead. Many of His followers were so convinced of His resurrection that they accepted a martyr's death rather than deny it.
- There is no reasonable doubt that the church which Jesus founded has fulfilled His prediction that it would grow to be the largest plant in the garden—that is, until it became the dominant world religion.
- There is no reasonable doubt that Jesus has saved me from my sins and transformed my life, just as He has saved and transformed the lives of countless others.
- There is no reasonable doubt that Jesus walks with me every day, guides every step, provides every need, and answers every prayer according to His will. I know it as a fact. I could no more doubt it than I could doubt sunshine or rain.
Many of these evidences require us to compare Scripture with facts taken either from history or science. Far from being pointless or improper, such a study is strongly commended by Scripture. Notice what Luke says about the those in Berea who carefully examined the claims of Christ.
10 And the brethren immediately sent away Paul and Silas by night unto Berea: who coming thither went into the synagogue of the Jews.
11 These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so.
Luke calls them "noble."
In closing, we will point out that apologetics is unique to Christianity. No other religion appeals to logic and evidence in its own defense. A child going to a Mormon school does not study a defense of Mormonism. A child going to a Muslim school does not study a defense of Islam. Other religions never encourage their adherents to investigate deeply whether they are true. Nor do they ever use any manner of apologetics in their efforts to win converts. The reason is obvious. These false religions do not stand up to scrutiny. They fear being exposed for what they are—a clever system of lies. Therefore, they demand unreasoning faith in their teachings and unquestioning obedience to their teachers.
But Christianity is different. It welcomes examination. Why? It is confident that it offers truth.
© 2007, 2012 Stanley Edgar Rickard (Ed Rickard, the author). All rights reserved.