So What's the Difference?: A Look at 20 Worldviews, Faiths and Religions and How They Compare to Christianity

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So What’s the Difference has been revised and updated for the 21st Century to help Christians better understand their own beliefs. A classic first released in 1967, this revision takes a current look at the answer to the question, How does orthodox biblical Christianity differ from other faiths?  In a straightforward, objective comparison, Fritz Ridenour explores and explains the basic tenets of 20 worldviews, religions and faiths, including Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Christian ...

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Overview

So What’s the Difference has been revised and updated for the 21st Century to help Christians better understand their own beliefs. A classic first released in 1967, this revision takes a current look at the answer to the question, How does orthodox biblical Christianity differ from other faiths?  In a straightforward, objective comparison, Fritz Ridenour explores and explains the basic tenets of 20 worldviews, religions and faiths, including Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Christian Science, New Age and Mormonism. 

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780830718986
  • Publisher: Gospel Light Publications
  • Publication date: 3/2/2001
  • Pages: 256
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.50 (h) x 0.63 (d)

Meet the Author

FRITZ RIDENOUR is a favorite writer of readers around the world, with more than four million copies of his books in circulation. His books include How to Be a Christian Without Being Religious and How to Be a Christian and Still Enjoy Life. Ridenour and his wife Jackie, live in Santa Barbara, California. They have three children and ten grandchildren.

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Read an Excerpt

So What's the Difference?


By FRITZ RIDENOUR

Regal

Copyright © 2001 Fritz Ridenour
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0830718982


Biblical Christianity

A Plumb Line for Comparing Faiths

Biblical Christianity. What does that mean? Can you be a Christian and not be biblical? Are there brands of Christianity that are unbiblical? And what does it mean to have a plumb line for comparing faiths? Some defining of terms is definitely in order.

Biblical. Whatever their tradition or denomination, most who answer to the name of Christian claim in some sense to be biblical. For this book's purposes, "biblical" means that the Christian believer searches seriously and carefully for the meaning of the Bible on its own terms, not changing its meaning to fit the times. Biblical Christians approach the Bible with reverence and respect, because they believe it is true and authoritative-that it contains God's very words.

As early as the second century and even late in the first, Christians saw the need for separating right (true) Christian belief from various kinds of subtle heresies that began to creep in. Webster defines heresy as "an opinion held in opposition to the commonly received doctrine and tending to promote division or dissension." Christianity has always had its foes, but no enemy has been more dangerous than the heretics within who have held opinions in opposition to the commonly received truths on which Christianity was founded.These common truths are contained in the New Testament, the books and epistles that came to be recognized as God's inspired-and final-words on what Christianity really is.

From the gnosticism of the first and second centuries to the liberalism of the present day, biblical Christians-the Body of Christ-have had to guard against heresy as well as against being too quick to judge other Christians with differing viewpoints. Biblical Christianity is like a huge tent or canopy that covers a myriad of churches, denominations and groups, all of which have beliefs or interpretations of Scripture they prefer to emphasize. But what draws all of these groups together are basic biblical doctrines that center around this plain and simple teaching:

Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures ... he was buried ... he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures (1 Cor. 15:3,4).

Obviously, there is a lot more to Christianity than what is said in these two verses, but we find here a plumb line for measuring the difference between biblical Christianity and other faiths.

Plumb line. A plumb line-a string with a pointed weight on the end-is still used today by masons to make sure they lay a brick wall straight and true. In a short little book tucked among the minor prophets of the Old Testament, God told Amos, "Look, I am setting a plumb line among my people" (Amos 7:8).

As the Holy Spirit directed Amos's thoughts, the analogy of a plumb line came to his mind and he referred to this familiar tool to tell the Israelite people what God wanted them to know-that God would measure them by His standards, His Word, and no other.

In the same way, God's Word will be the plumb line used in this book to define the differences between the basic truths on which Christianity was founded and what other faiths believe. We will explore the teachings of the Bible on three key points, all contained in capsule form in 1 Corinthians 15:3,4:

• The person and work of Christ-who He is and what He did for US.

• Mankind's major problem-all of us are sinners in rebellion against God and in need of a Savior.

• The truth and reliability of the Bible-divine inspiration of Scripture.

Christ Died

By definition, the backbone of Christianity is Christ. There are two key issues concerning Jesus Christ: who He is and what He did.

1. Who is He? Only a man? God disguised as a man? Or was He someone uniquely different?

2. What did He do? Teach us how to live? Die for our sins? Both?

All biblical Christians subscribing to the Nicene Creed agree on Christ's deity. Following are some of the key questions that people often raise about Jesus Christ.

Was Jesus really God, or was He a great teacher and nothing more than that?

While the Bible does not use the exact words "Jesus is God," the biblical record clearly and frequently teaches that Jesus Christ is, in fact, God. For example, John 1:1 refers to Christ as the Word (Logos) and tells us that "in the beginning was the Word ... and the Word was God." John 1:14 testifies that "the Word [God] became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, ... full of grace and truth."

Of primary importance is what Jesus said about Himself. On several occasions, He claimed to be equal with God. See, for example, John 10:30: "I and the Father are one." On another occasion Jesus told Philip and some of the other disciples that because they had seen Him they had seen the Father (see John 14:9).

In addition, Jesus frequently referred to Himself as God. In John 8:58, Jesus told the Pharisees, "I tell you the truth, before Abraham was born, I am!" The Pharisees, being excellent Bible students, knew that in Exodus 3:14 God had said to Moses, "This is what you are to say to the Israelites: `I AM has sent me to you.'" The Pharisees knew that Jesus was claiming to be the God of Israel. They picked up stones and would have tried to kill Him, but He slipped away.

Jesus also claimed to be God in important conversations with His own disciples. For example, before being arrested on the night of the Last Supper, Jesus told His disciples, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really knew me, you would know my Father as well."

Philip then asked, "Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us." Jesus' reply was a clear claim of divinity and equality with God: "Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father" (see John 14:5-9; see also 20:24-29).

In summary, if Jesus Christ was not who He claimed to be (God), but only a man, then Christianity is a fraud and Jesus would have to be a liar or a lunatic. As C. S. Lewis said, "He leaves us no other alternative. He did not intend to."

Did Jesus' virgin birth actually happen?

According to the Bible, the virgin Mary gave birth to Jesus. People with an atheistic or naturalistic worldview scoff at this story because they cannot accept miracles or the supernatural. Other people object to the doctrine of the virgin birth on the grounds that it is similar to another legend, like pagan (polytheistic) stories of heroes who were half god, half man. But there is an enormous difference between the pagan worldview and the biblical. In all pagan stories of this kind, there is gross physical cohabitation of a god with a human being. In the Scripture account, Mary is simply informed, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God" (Luke 1:35). There is no suggestion that Jesus is half God and half man.

According to theologian Wayne Grudem, "The virgin birth made possible the uniting of full deity and full humanity in one person." Jesus could have descended from heaven as a fully grown man, but that would have made it very hard for us to see how He could be just as human as we are. Or, He could have been born of two human parents, but that would have made it hard for us to see that He was truly God.

Instead, writes Grudem, "God, in His wisdom, ordained a combination of human and divine influence in the birth of Christ, so that His full humanity would be evident to us from the fact of His ordinary human birth from a human mother, and His full deity would be evident from the fact of His conception in Mary's womb by the powerful work of the Holy Spirit."

Does the Trinity make three gods?

Even though the Bible never uses the word "trinity," Christians teach the doctrine of the Trinity, namely, the one eternal and living God, always existing as God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. This leads some religions to reject the Trinity on the grounds that it sounds like Christians worship three gods, not one. It is true that Deuteronomy 6:4 states, "The Lord our God, the Lord is one." But it is also true that the Old Testament uses the plural form elohim for the word "God" 2,346 times. (See, for example, Gen. 1:26; 11:7.)

The New Testament also clearly states that "God is one" (see Gal. 3:20), yet here again is abundant evidence that the unity of God, His oneness, involves three "persons." For example, as Matthew describes Jesus' baptism, He speaks of Jesus coming up out of the water, the heavens opening, the Spirit of God descending like a dove and a voice from heaven (God the Father) saying, "This is my Son, whom I love" (see Matt. 3:13-17).

One of the strongest reasons that many critics reject the doctrine of the Trinity is that it makes Christ co-equal with God the Father. The Trinity is the particular target of critics in religions like Judaism and Islam, and in cults such as Unitarianism, Jehovah's Witnesses and Mormonism. All of these groups reduce Christ to a created being who is "second-in-command" at best or just another teacher on the same par with Buddha, Krishna or Moses.

But we have already seen that Jesus frequently referred to Himself as God. In addition, the rest of the New Testament fully concurs that the Son, Jesus Christ, is the God-man who was perfectly human and perfectly divine. He was one person having two distinct and separate natures. (See, for example, John 1:1-4 and Phil. 2:5-7.)

As for the Holy Spirit, Scripture clearly teaches that He enjoys the same interrelationship with the Father that Jesus does. In Matthew 28:19, the Holy Spirit is clearly made equal with the Father and the Son when Jesus commands the disciples to go and teach all nations "baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit."

When Jesus was preparing His disciples for His death and resurrection, He told them He was going to send a Comforter, whom he identified as the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Truth who would live with them and be in them (see John 14:15-26). Also, Jesus' continued activity after His ascension, through the promised Holy Spirit, is the central theme of the entire book of Acts.

Despite the many Scripture passages that clearly describe how the oneness of God includes three Persons-the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit-the Trinity remains one of the most difficult concepts for Christians to understand or explain to other people. How three persons can be one God called the Trinity is a puzzle to natural reasoning. If you try to see God your creator in natural or creaturelike terms, then you want to believe He is some kind of infinitely powerful person who is THE BOSS. If He is such a gigantic, all-powerful person, then how in the world could He be three big persons or even three smaller persons at once?

However, one question we might ask is, If God is supernatural-beyond nature-why must He be understood only in natural terms? The biblical believer accepts the mystery of God's greatness, realizing that the real point is that God is not the "Big Fella" upstairs. As Wayne Grudem points out, "The Trinity is a kind of existence far different from anything we have experienced." We should not be surprised, then, that in the Trinity there is an element of mystery that defies any human analysis or understanding, because we are only human and God is God.

Did Christ actually rise from the dead?

Biblical Christians say He did. The significance of this event in the biblical, historic Christian faith cannot be overestimated. It is absolutely nonnegotiable. Biblical Christians claim that by conquering death, Jesus Christ proved He was God. Furthermore, He ensured that all who believe in Him will have eternal life (see John 11:25,26), and He lives today as our mediator (see 1 Tim. 2:5) and our high priest (see Heb. 4:14-16). For Resurrection accounts, see Matthew 28:1-10; Mark 16:18; Luke 24:1-42; John 20 and 21.

The doctrine of the Resurrection is the foundation on which Christianity rests. As Paul wrote, "And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins" (1 Cor. 15:17).

Dr. Wilbur M. Smith, well-known American Bible scholar, comments in Baker's Dictionary of Theology that the Resurrection doctrine teaches "the absolute uniqueness and the supernaturalness of the person of Jesus Christ, and the particular hope which he has brought to men.... Remove the truth of resurrection from the New Testament and its whole doctrinal structure collapses, and hope vanishes."

If the Christian's hope is in a dead Christ who was martyred because He threatened the existing religious establishment, then the Christian is in the same boat with the Muslim, the Buddhist and the follower of Confucius. Mohammed is dead. Buddha is dead. Confucius is dead. But the Bible affirms that Christ is alive; and because He lives, the Christian will live also, eternally.

Because the Resurrection falls into the same supernatural category as the Trinity, many doubt that Christ actually did rise from the dead. Some theorize that He never really died but that He just passed out and was awakened later by His disciples. Or possibly the women went to the wrong tomb and found it empty. Another theory says that either His friends or His enemies stole the body.

As one Bible scholar has said, none of the "standard" explanations can account for the total change that occurred in Jesus' followers after they found the empty tomb. And as for His postresurrection appearances-to as many as 500 people at a time (see 1 Cor. 15:6)-they were far more than just a spiritual presence or apparition. Instead, "history, theology, and experience combine to show that the glorious fact is that Christ did rise from the dead" (see 1 Cor. 15:20, Phillips).

(Continues...)



Excerpted from So What's the Difference? by FRITZ RIDENOUR Copyright © 2001 by Fritz Ridenour
Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 20 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 20 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 17, 2002

    Not even worthy of one star

    I was very disturbed by this authors views and descriptions of other religions. I do not feel that this book is showing accurate information about the religions in this book. I suggest that you look at The World's Religions: Our Great Wisdom Traditions by Huston Smith. Which contains a much richer and non-biased view of other religions.

    4 out of 7 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 6, 2009

    Wow! I should have read more of it before I bought it.

    The book said it was comparing christianity to other world religions which is fair enough.However as a Catholic I found it very strange that the authors compared Christianity to Catholics and the Orthodox. Catholics and Orthodox are Christians in fact they were Christians 1500 years before the Reformation. The author either does not know history or has an axe to grind with the historic Church.

    2 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 7, 2007

    So What's the Difference?: A Look at 20 Worldviews, Faiths and How They Compare to Christianity

    It really was! I even looked some of it up, and it's 100% accurate. And the author made it so that it was actually interesting to read, not some boring lecture! He made very logical and smart points and observations--this book an excellent read and, most importantly, accurate.

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 1, 2004

    Very one sided

    This book is more about Christianity than the other religions. The title tells you that this book concentrates on comparing to Christianity, and that is all you get out of it: a narrow Christian viewpoint from the author with lots of criticism.

    2 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 9, 2002

    outstanding book

    The aurthor does a good job on exsplaining the differences between the christon religon and other religons on what they belive in and how they veiw GOD THE FATHER.

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 11, 2001

    Straightforward, understandable comparison of Religions from Christian perspective

    I always wondered the answer to the question this book approaches. Mr. Ridenour does a fantastic job of explaining these differences from a clearly Christian perspective. He starts with a clear identification of the Baseline for comparison (that is Protestant Christianity). He then proceeds to distinguish that baseline from Catholism, then on to other major world religions. I think every high school student should read this book before college. If you've missed that mark, go ahead and read it now!

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 13, 2012

    Very cursory overview with an evangelical bias

    If you want a brief overview and don't mind an evangelical bias, this is an appropriate book. As a Catholic, I found the chapter on Catholicism to be very superficial and at times erroneous (both in what the author put in and what he left out). I was left wondering if he was accurate about the other religions he wrote about.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 17, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    A Starting Point In Defining Differences

    I borrowed this volume from a friend. I must admit that I read it with specific interests, and so only focused on Chapters 1, 8, and 10. This gives the reader an overview of evangelical Protestant Christianity in the mind of the author (which all other groups will be compared against), an overview of what makes a "cult" in the terminology of the book, and Mormonism (one of three cults given major review).

    The reading is fairly easy. For its intent, illuminating some of the major differences between evangelical protestants (the major audience if the book) and "competing" ideologies, it does a good job. Most of the differences receive only cursory notice, just enough to allow the reader to appreciate the differences, but not enough to say one fully grasps both sides of the spectrum (and all that is between).

    I would have liked to see more information on the "whys" of cult growth, especially Mormonism. There is an unfortunate number of people in our culture leaving Protestant communities for Mormonism. Rather than just indicate the differences, which is more a defensive maneuver for the Church, I would have liked to see how we counter/approach the issues that pull people toward these groups. It is not enough to defend ourselves from error, we must learn how to encounter our world (especially those with competing beliefs) in a way that is loving, compassionate and peace-making.

    I'll briefly cover those chapters I looked at more deeply:

    Chapter 1 addresses the beliefs of "Biblical Christianity". It is clear from the beginning that this will largely be based on view Old and New Testaments as together making up inspired Scripture, and providing full and complete revelation. This is foundational for some of the statements that will be made later. Emphasis is placed on recognition of Jesus as both man and God, dying and rising again as a unique expression of God's will to address mankind's sinful condition.

    Then, having addressed the Trinity and man's fallen condition, he covers the validity and importance of scripture. The view lacks nuance, painting inspiration with broad strokes lacking any distinction between Old and New Testament in quotations from the New Testament about scripture's value. The formation of canon is covered, but without much discussion of canon closure - something I was wishing was addressed more directly having read chapter 10. The accuracy of scripture in comparison toarchaeological evidence is expressed in glowing terms, and the unity of Scripture's worldview is proclaimed.

    Of course, this demands one address the many different variations of Christian expression through denominations and major branches. This is the subject of the first part of the book (which I did not have opportunity to read in depth). The information related to this in chapter 1 is a brief non-specific historical explanation of the development of the Catholic church, the Eastern Orthodox church, and Protestant denominations.

    Chapter 8 covers the use of "cult" to describe groups that practice or teach in a way differentiated from the orthodox practice. Five major characteristics of cults are given.

    For more of this review, go to http://sphodra.wordpress.com/2009/05/17/review-of-so-whats-the-difference/.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 7, 2007

    So What's the Difference?: A Look at 20 Worldviews, Faiths and How They Compare to Christianity

    This book explains all religions very well, and I found it extremely interesting to read. I'm thirteen and know someone who's an atheist, and this book really gave me some great things to tell her. She said, ''It doesn't really matter if I have a religion or not, they're all relatively the same,'' and even though I knew what a load of bull that was when she said that to me, I was shocked into silence. I knew the basics of most religions, but I didn't know enough to actually talk to her about it. So this book really gave me some things to tell her!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 7, 2007

    So What's the Difference?: A Look at 20 Worldviews, Faiths and How They Compare to Christianity

    I find it funny that people in school, college or whatever say that I should be tolerant of every religion, that everyone has their own opinion, that I shouldn't tell people what to think and what to do---but my answer to that is, ''Why are you telling me what to think? Why are you being so intolerant of me? I have my own opinion about this matter, you know--stop telling me what to do.'' They even said that all religions are equally righteous and honorable! I almost laughed right in their face! This was after I read this book, so I had some interesting things to tell them...that made them stop bugging me about it. This was a great book.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 7, 2012

    Great read

    Great learning tool. Used as a study guide at church. Very informative.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 20, 2010

    Religious comparisons

    Interesting book comparing major elements of major religious denominations and religions.

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  • Posted November 14, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    Disturbing

    This book is a one sided (Christian) point of view. It tried to give the impression that it was being fair and balanced all the while it gave a somewhat accurate and vague view of other faiths while still saying that they were false. The truth is that this book was written by a Christian minister with an agenda to put people off of even looking at anything other than Christianity. I would not suggest this book to anyone that is looking for fact and fairness. However if you are a Christian trying to reaffirm what you already hold to be true then this book is for you!

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 2, 2007

    Inaccurate Scholarship

    As a devout biblical Christian and Divinity School student, I was surprised by the inaccurate scholarship represented in the book. Ridenour¿s purpose for writing the book is good, but unfortunately his research and analysis of the religions he writes about show a strong bias. Many of the secondary sources Ridenour uses include a particular slant or agenda, rather than more balanced scholarship. He does use some primary documents from the various religions he speaks of, which is important and valuable. However, as a biblical and religion scholar myself, I found that he seems to approach those writings from his own specific perspective and with the purpose of proving those writings to be `unchristian.¿ One example is his review of Christian Science, which leaves one with a false picture of the religion that Mary Baker Eddy established. Ridenour claims Christian Science is a mind science and not biblically based. However, Christian Science is a Christian denomination, and the basis of the religion is Jesus¿ teachings and healing work. I appreciated his use of Biblical citations in explaining his understanding of Christianity, but I would not recommend this book to anyone trying to understand Christianity and the broad range of Christian denominations, especially if they are trying to evaluate their own.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 13, 2007

    It was actually very good

    The author made some very good points that I never would have thought of, but seemed so obvious once he stated them. He did an extremely good job explaining other religions, though didn't go into too much depth--that's good, because I would have gotten really bored if he did. So, yeah, he explained all the important things about other religions, then explained how different it was from Christianity. Overall, 'So, what's the difference?' was very well and smartly written, and is well worth reading.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 16, 2005

    Biased but worthwhile

    As others have said, this book is biased towards Protestant Christianity, but it does have a concise summary of other religions and is easy to read. I am Catholic and I certainly noticed the author's bias, but it did not really bother me. I would still recommend the book with the caveat that it is biased.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 12, 2005

    Agree to Disagree

    This book does exactly what it states -- compares the major world religions to Christianity. The author states clearly his objective from the beginning of the book. Each major religion's history and practices are described, though not in great depth, then followed by a brief summary of how it differs from Christianity. This is a useful book if you want to better understand those with beliefs different from you own.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 20, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted April 18, 2012

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted January 16, 2012

    No text was provided for this review.

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