Alpha & Omega Ministries Apologetics Blog
Art Sippo Responds in His Inimitable Fashion (With Updates)
07/02/2008 - James WhiteMy history with Art Sippo is long indeed, and I will not rehearse it all here. A quick search of this website will produce all the documentation needed. Yesterday I posted a challenge to Art Sippo to back up his allegations which he posted with these words:
For example, the sad and confused Mr. White claimed in the 1980s and early 1990s that the aorist verb form in Greek referred to a past completed action that could not be repeated. He wrote it in his silly little diatribes and said it openly during debates.I realize that Sippo spends most of his on-line time posting at Envoy or writing pulp fiction, so I wanted to make sure he was aware of my challenge. Remember, you can't post URLs to aomin.org at Envoy, as they are filtered out. So, I sent the article to him directly. His reply was classic Sippo. Remember, I had said nothing about the man, he posted the above diatribe on his own. So, when challenged, his response e-mail begins, "I am so sick and tired of your trying to pick fights and insult people.If you had a smattering of Christian virtue, you would preach to your little choir and leave us real Christians alone." Ah, you gotta love Art! Angel Contreras captured his empty bluster perfectly in the image to the right, an image that, not overly surprisingly, Sippo likes.
Indeed the aorist MAY have such force in some ATTIC Greek. But if you pick up and good textbook of Koine Greek, you will earn that the aorist in KOINE is used for "the simple past tense." In fact, Moses Da Silva in his short primer of Greek for pastors makes the point that the use of the aorist has "no sermonic importance." Yet Mr. White made a big point of (mis)using the aorist in his apologetics.
i confronted him about this three years ago and now James denies that he EVER made such claims for the aorist. Shades of George Orwell's Ministry of Truth from 1984. "We are at war with Eastasia. We have always been at war with Eastasia."
This is why I have no respect for such people. I have been around too long and seen them disgrace themselves too many time to take their alleged Christian profession seriously. These people preach that men are totally depraved and then strive to go out and act abominably as if to prove it. They act in a manner that is beneath that of a cultured atheist.
And it is because I do not pretend that they are anything but liars, hypocrites, and poltroons that they vilify me.
Art provided three URLs to back up his vague claim, two to my own blog (here and here), and one to an article by Mark Brumley from the September, 1991 This Rock magazine. He then opined, "I am sorry, but your views are not valid and clearly are not shared by native Greek speakers. And in any case, you lack the integrity to admit when you have a mistake and that in itself is clear proof of the infernal master whom you serve."
This blog entry is the first "dual" entry I've done; that is, I am providing the written documentation in this blog entry, and I am including a YouTube video explanation as well. The two will compliment each other. Below I provide the relevant portions of the two blog entries Sippo cited, along with the relevant portion of Brumley's article. As I will explain in the video, Sippo did exactly what I predicted: he has demonstrated, once again, his utter incapacity in the biblical languages, a shortcoming he shares with 98% of his fellow Roman Catholic apologists. He clearly does not know (or even care to take the time to learn) the difference between a syntactical observation concerning the relationship of aorist participles to finite verbs, and a direct claim that the aorist tense, alone and without reference to context, carries the meaning of the perfect (which it does not). Further, he does not even understand the arguments made against his own position, and surely, something everyone who has ever dealt with Sippo knows, he lacks the integrity to accurately represent the people he so vociferously, and personally, attacks.
Specifically, remember Sippo's claim, "Mr. White claimed in the 1980s and early 1990s that the aorist verb form in Greek referred to a past completed action that could not be repeated." You will not find anything even close to this in the blog articles he cited, and you will only find Mark Brumley wrongly assuming this in the article cited as well. Sippo has, again, when publicly challenged, failed and collapsed. Let's look at all references to the aorist in the blog articles he referred to:
The second issue is how we should understand the phrase οὐ μὴ λογίσηται κύριος ἁμαρτίαν, "the Lord will not impute sin." Commentaries, even the best, are almost silent in discussing this issue. Often Old Testament citations are passed over unless there is a reason to go into some discussion of their text. It is taken almost as a given that the writer uses the form of the Septuagint as a default text, and only if there is an alteration is much attention devoted to the grammar and syntax of the citation. But at this point we wish to suggest that something important must be noted in the syntax of the passage.
οὐ μὴ λογίσηται (ou me logisetai) is an aorist subjunctive of strong denial, sometimes called the emphatic negation subjunctive. The aorist subjunctive is the strongest form of denial. Given the base meaning of the subjunctive, the aorist subjunctive denies the possibility of a future event. That is, it denies potentiality, saying something simply cannot and will not be. The aorist subjunctive is used primarily in the sayings of Jesus (John 6:37, 10:28, 11:26) and in quotations from the Septuagint, such as here. It is often soteriologically significant. That is, Jesus twice denies He will ever fail in His work of salvation by using the aorist subjunctive (John 6:37, 10:28), and other passages such as Hebrews 13:5 fall into the same category.
Now if we take the classic meaning of the aorist subjunctive in this passage we have the nature of the blessing being defined as the denial of the possibility of the imputation of sin to the believer. Now the immediate question that arises is, "Does this refer solely to past sins, so that what is being said is that God will not impute past sins to one who has been forgiven?" Or, is there something more here? Is the aorist subjunctive saying this blessedness is found in the non-imputation of sin ever? That is, do we have warrant, in the grammar or in the context, to say that the aorist subjunctive is here referring to the denial of the possibility of there ever being imputation of sin?
On the basis of the strict grammar itself, the issue could not be decided, for the question is not about what the aorist subjunctive indicates, but it is about the meaning of the word "sin" and whether that is referring to past sin only or all a person's sin. In either case, that sin cannot, in any fashion, be imputed to the believer.
The reader should note this section is taken from my book, The God Who Justifies, pp. 218-219. This is a work that has not only been endorsed by many leading scholars, but is used in classrooms across the nation. The careful and knowledgeable reader has already seen Sippo's error here. Nowhere do I even come close to saying what Sippo has alleged in these words. In fact, I address here the aorist subjunctive of strong denial and its relationship to future events. Ironically, I had once raised this question of syntax with Daniel Wallace, well known as a leading Greek grammarian. What is more, I plainly stated, "On the basis of the strict grammar itself, the issue could not be decided...." So, I never addressed what Sippo said I did in this entry, never made the claims he did, and I would challenge Sippo to even make the attempt to understand the argument being put forth and respond to it. I do not believe he is capable of so doing.
Hence, the first of three offered sources of documentation by Sippo fails completely. Strike one.
Next, the second blog article he cited contains the portion from The God Who Justifies on the very text I predicted Sippo was misunderstanding, Romans 5:1:
The NET and NIV both render the aorist participle, dikaiothentes (Δικαιωθέντες) as "since we have," with the NIV choosing "been justified by faith" and the NET going with "been declared righteous by faith." The NASB's "having been justified by faith" is only slightly more literal. In each of these translations, we see one of the key elements of the passage: the declaration of justification is in the past. That is, the aorist participle, syntactically speaking, refers to an action that is antecedent to the action of the main verb, here echomen (ἔχομεν).(1) As Fitzmyer observed,This section can be found on pp. 236-237 of The God Who Justifies. Once again, Sippo shows himself to be in error. Nothing in this text comes close to fulfilling his needed documentation, except, perhaps, the words of Joseph Fitzmyer of the Pontifical Institute in Rome! Is it possible Sippo cares so little about accuracy that he did not bother to read the citation? It is quite possible. In any case, what I said was that an aorist participle in the text syntactically refers to an action "antecedent to the action of the main verb." Would Sippo like to challenge this? He is clearly not capable of so doing. But nothing in my words comes close to substantiating his false accusations. The second of his sources falls, Sippo swings and misses. Strike two.
now that we are justified through faith. Lit., justified from faith, expressed by the aor. pass. ptc., which connotes the once-for-all action of Christ Jesus on behalf of humanity. What is stated at the beginning of this verse is a summation of the latter section of part A, especially 3:22-26.(2)The relationship between justification and having peace is clear: because we have been justified through faith as an action in the past, we now have, as a present possession, peace (εἰρήνην) with God.
The final source Sippo cites is from Roman Catholic writer Mark Brumley, formerly a staff apologist with Catholic Answers. Brumley is attempting to respond to my presentation, probably from the debate with Fr. Mitch Pacwa in San Diego in January of 1991 (the video tapes of this debate have been locked away now for seventeen years by Roman Catholic Scott Butler, who does not want anyone seeing them. I once again call for Scott Butler to publish and distribute the video tapes of my debates in San Diego in 1991, just as we have done for all of my Roman Catholic opponents when we have been in control of the taping). Here are his words:
ROMANS 5:1 ("Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through Jesus Christ") is often cited in defense of the Reformed view that justification is a once for all declaration by God; justification can neither be increased nor lost. Paul’s use of the aorist tense in Greek ("we have been justified") supposedly demonstrates that justification is exclusively a "past, completed act" which confers a state of justification unalterable by a subsequent act of the believer.Once again we note that Brumley has not accurately represented my claims (and, ironically, by pointing to my published works, Sippo has inadvertently helped to document this). Of course, as is par for the course for Roman Catholic apologists, Brumley does not cite me directly, and does not use my name. We have seen this over and over again. So we are left with his claim that this "Reformed" person is claiming that the "use of the aorist in Greek supposedly demonstrates that justification is exclusively a past, completed act which confers a state of justification unalterable by a subsequent act of the believer." But where have I ever made such a claim? It seems Brumley is isolating part of the following statement from the 1991 debate and missing the point: "Justification is a once-for-all action. Since it is based upon the completed work of Christ, it cannot be 'undone' or destroyed by the actions of man. We look back upon our justification, as Paul said in Romans 5:1." Notice I did not claim that the aorist in Romans 5:1 does anything more than demonstrate that the divine act of justification by faith is in the past, and it brings about our present state of possessing peace with God. I never said "the aorist of Romans 5:1 means justification is a once-for-all action." While justification is a once-for-all action, the evidence I have presented of this has never been grounded on any false claims about the aorist in Romans 5:1. Any semi-fair reading of my books or debates proves this. Of course, that's the problem. Art Sippo can no more fairly read something written by a "Prot" than the Arizona Cardinals can win the Super Bowl. Hence his repeated error. Strike three, Art, you're out.
Why won’t this argument work? Because the aorist doesn’t function the way the Reformed argument presupposes.
Although the Bible speaks in Romans 5:1 of justification as a "past, completed act," this doesn’t mean it can’t be altered, for better or worse, by what we do. To say an act has been completed needn’t imply that no further development or change is possible.
So here again we have Rome's apologists demonstrated to be inaccurate and untruthful in their claims. Remember, a widely used Roman Catholic apologetics website says of Sippo,
Art Sippo is one of the most knowledgeable Catholic apologists on the internet today. His breadth and depth of knowledge are virtually unmatched among active e-pologists. His specialty involves issues surrounding the Reformation. The Legate is very proud to host Dr. Sippo's material. We know that our visitors will be enlightened and edified by reading his postings.Once again Sippo is proven to be a peddler of half-truths and outright lies. I call upon the Roman Catholic apologetics community to speak up clearly in repudiating not only his outrageous behavior, but his documented errors as well.
Update 7/3 AM
What does a person do when their public statements have been shown to be utterly false? Well, that depends on the person, obviously. Over the years my experience with Art Sippo is simple: he refuses to even acknowledge his error; he changes the subject, and to cover his tracks, accuses you, and anyone near you, of everything he himself is engaged in doing. It's a true Sippoism. In the preceding material I demonstrated that Art Sippo lied when he publicly posted accusations regarding what I allegedly said in the 1980s and 1990s. I demonstrated that the man simply doesn't possess enough training in the field to even understand the statements I made, let alone mishandle them as he did. So how does he reply? Does he acknowledge he can't even remember Moises Silva's name correctly? Of course not! Art Sippo is nigh unto infallible, at least in his own thinking. So, true to his record, Sippo changes the subject:
Poor James. After I literally destroyed him in our debate, he started telling all kinds of lies about what actually happened. It also became apparent that he had paranoid delusions that the moderator (Pat Madrid) and I were mocking him behind his back which was not true. These latter were so bizarre that I considered them to be ideas of reference and the sign of serious psychopathology.I have, of course, never said that Madrid joined Sippo in his behavior. Madrid did not control Sippo, just as he did not control Gerry Matatics in our first debate in Long Beach in 1990. I do not have a high view of Patrick's moderating skills. But it is yet another lie on Sippo's part that I have ever said Madrid did anything even slightly similar to Sippo in sitting on his table and swinging his legs back and forth and making mocking hand gestures while I was speaking. Due to the arrangement on the stage, the other person was plainly visible to the speaker at the podium. I would demand Sippo back up his claim, but, we have already seen that he is incapable of speaking truthfully or documenting his allegations. But let it be plainly stated: I deeply disagree with Patrick Madrid. I think his cheap shot in the veneration debate was reprehensible. But Madrid is light years beyond Sippo as a speaker and debater. Madrid can control his temper and his words, and he has never, ever behaved like Art Sippo in my presence. It is a lie to say otherwise.
The one thing that James will not admit is that after the debate he was rude and obnoxious. He knew he had been bested and was a sore looser. James refused to shake my hand, told me I was under the wrath of God and accused me of perfidy for insisting that we use the standard debate format instead of allowing him to do it his own way (which had him going first and last- the two strongest points in the debate). James seemed so psychologically disturbed that I advised him as a medical doctor to seek professional help out of concern for his sanity. Sadly, James would not take my advice.
I hope that James is VERY careful about what kind of insults and slanders against me that he puts on the web. I am a private person, not a public figure and the libel laws do not take such things lightly. I would be quite happy to take him to court in a libel suit and make a fool out of him. With his loud mouth, phony degree and bad temper, he would be a laughing stock.
Besides, James 2:24 still sits there accusing all Protestants of being hypocrites and frauds. All of them can tap dance around about pagan Greek grammar. The word of God LITERALLY condemns Protestantism as false religion. Nothing more needs to be said.
We should also notice the sentence, "All of them can tap dance around about pagan Greek grammar." In a later post Sippo said to another Catholic, "All the esoteric Greek grammar rules are insignificant compared to the primary rule 'Love one another as I have loved you.'" We need to translate this from Sippospeak to plain ol' English. Let me take a shot at it. "Yes, I lied about White, and I can no more defend what I said about aorists than I can grow a third arm, but for now, let's just call that stuff 'esoteric Greek grammar rules' and please immediately forget that I'm the one who claimed to know them well enough to prove White wrong."
So another episode of "Life with Art" closes as it has so many times in the past: Sippo is documented to be untruthful, but his response is to bluster, insult, threaten, and in general do all he can to assure his very small cadre of followers that despite the documentation he truly is right.
One final observation. Sippo claims to have "destroyed" me in the debate in 1991. Now, who on earth had heard of me in 1991? Almost no one. No one would argue that the reach of Alpha and Omega Ministries has grown immensely since 1991. With the advent of the Internet, webcasts, YouTube, etc., we reach an audience thousands of times larger than in 1991. And remember, there is only a partial recording of that debate. So, logically, rationally, wouldn't it serve Art Sippo's professed purposes much, much more now to have a video recorded, live-streamed, public debate against me, so that when he once again "destroys" me, the impact would be a thousand times greater than in 1991? I mean, if he really means it, if he really thinks that is true, wouldn't it logically follow that he would be pounding on my door for another opportunity to spread the wonderful truth of "Trent Interpreted in Light of NT Wright with a Major Romanist Spin"? Of course! But for some odd reason, Art isn't pounding on my door. In fact, the last time I said I'd come right to his own back yard and debate him on the only topic he said he would debate on...he said I was just too mean! Spend twenty minutes reading this man's work and then talk to me about "mean." I know Sippo will not hear what I'm saying, but I can hope just a few of those mesmerized by his bluster will.
P.S. Sippo, knowing that even the moderators of the Envoy forum would not allow him to post such ridiculous invective, went to his own blog to post this. Remember his original charge, the documentation of his refutation, and then this. This is how Art Sippo responds when his lies are exposed. He tried to offer documentation, and failed, as we have shown. So, he posts the following:
Pcoma, ol' buddy, you need to get real. We were all there at the debate. We heard you. You not only mentioned this particular matter in several speeches which are on tape. You also put it in your books and on your website.It would seem to follow, at least out here in the real world, that if I did these things, Sippo could document them. He doesn't even try. Why? Because he can't. His assertions are only true in the mythical, warped world of Art Sippo. They are not true out here where X cannot be X and not-X at the same time and in the same way. Couple this with the virulent personal insults sprinkled amongst his protestations of how Christ-like and kind he is, and you have a clear picture of the depths to which dedication to false religion can take you.