Alpha & Omega Ministries Apologetics Blog
Catholic Apologist Dr. Art Sippo Says: Calvinists Are Psychotics
02/07/2010 - James SwanWhen it comes to Martin Luther, there are a number of Roman Catholic apologists that become expert pop-psychologists. I don't recall Dr. Sippo being either a psychologist or a psychiatrist, yet he recently was able to make a clinical evaluation on a man who died hundreds of years ago, living in a different culture and country:
My charge that Luther was flagrantly psychotic when he wrote [The Bondage of the Will] is a clinical one. Luther makes a number of seriosuly[sic] disturbed remarks in this book. Among them, he actually says that the human mind is like a horse with an empty saddle and that either God or the Devil rides in it. This is clearly not the perception of a normal human mind. When I studied psychiatry in med school the professor told us "There are only 2 kinds of people who deny free will: psychotics and Calvinists." In my experience, there is only ONE kind of person. [source]
The tactic here employed is called psychohistory. This pseudo-science holds history can be understood by applying psychoanalysis to a historical figure. Those who have attempted to evaluate Luther via this method have come to a wide range of differing conclusions. For instance, Heinrich Denifle's approach was the "the pansexual interpretation of the Reformation." According to Denifle, Luther's psychosis was inherent lust, secret vices, an overpowering sex drive, and an opposition to celibacy. Immediately following Denifle were the works of Hartmann Grisar. Where Denifle wants you to despise Luther as a depraved sex maniac, Grisar wants you to pity him for being a psychopath.
Protestant historian Preserved Smith used Freudian analysis and theory, particularly the role of sex in personal development. For Smith, Luther was a product of an alcoholic parent, a sufferer of the Oedipus complex, an abused child, struggled with depression, had an infatuation with demonism, and had sexual repression. Smith then interprets these factors as the causes of some of Luther's central doctrines. The most famous of all the psychohistorians writing on Luther is Erik Erikson's book, Young Man Luther (1958). Erikson used a modified Freudian approach. He approached religious phenomena with prejudice: Freud argued that religious phenomena are to be understood on the model of the neurotic symptoms of the individual: hence, a materialistic outlook on religion. Freud saw religious concerns within an individual as reflecting something "wrong" in a human. Erickson does the same with his treatment of Luther.
All the attempts I've read applying psychohistory to Luther fail miserably, usually being pummeled by historians pointing out the selective use of history employed in their analysis. Some of the above sources were given to me as recommended reading by Dr. Sippo a few years ago, and I go in to greater detail here. Judge for yourself if these men produce a unified, historically verifiable understanding of Luther, or if they're... guessing. How can someone do psychology on a dead man from long ago? One cannot. Thus, the psychohistory method, while interesting, should not be one's main approach to learning about Martin Luther.
One thing Art Sippo doesn't tell you, is that while men like Denifle, Grisar, Smith, and Erikson used a similar approach in trying to understand Luther, none of them arrive at the same conclusions, or even minimize or maximize similar conclusions. So, even though Luther produced a large corpus of writings to draw analysis from, each of these psychohistorians arrive at different conclusions when digging for pychohistory facts. It simply isn't honest to pass off clinical evaluations on a man who lived during the sixteenth century as an apologetic argument, but we've come to expect such poor quality from Dr. Sippo.
As to Sippo's explanation of Luther's horse / saddle analogy, I've done a little work on this here. Luther doesn't say "the human mind is like a horse." He states:
In short, if we are under the god of this world, away from the work and Spirit of the true God, we are held captive to his will, as Paul says to Timothy [II Tim. 2:26], so that we cannot will anything but what he wills. For he is that strong man armed, who guards his own palace in such a way that those whom he possesses are in peace [Luke 11:21], so as to prevent them from stirring up any thought or feeling against him; otherwise, the kingdom of Satan being divided against itself would not stand [Luke 11:18], whereas Christ affirms that it does stand. And this we do readily and willingly, according to the nature of the will, which would not be a will if it were compelled; for compulsion is rather (so to say) "unwill." But if a Stronger One comes who overcomes him and takes us as His spoil, then through his Spirit we are again slaves and captives- though this is royal freedom- so that we readily will and do what he wills. Thus the human will is placed between the two like a beast of burden. If God rides it, it wills and goes where God wills, as the psalm says: "I am become as a beast [before thee] and I am always with thee" [Ps. 73:22 f.]. If Satan rides it, it wills and goes where Satan wills; nor can it choose to run to either of the two riders or to seek him out, but the riders themselves contend for the possession and control of it. [LW 33:65]
So if Luther was flagrantly psychotic, so must the authors of sacred scripture be by Sippo's standard. The overwhelming testimony of Scripture is that unregenerate man is enslaved to sin, here are but a few examples:
5 For those who are according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who are according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. 6 For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace, 7 because the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so, 8 and those who are in the flesh cannot please God.
31 So Jesus was saying to those Jews who had believed Him, "If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; 32 and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free." 33 They answered Him, "We are Abraham's descendants and have never yet been enslaved to anyone; how is it that You say, 'You will become free'?" 34 Jesus answered them, "Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is the slave of sin."
1 And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, 2 in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience.
Keep in mind, Dr. Art Sippo is a frequent participant on Patrick Madrid's Envoy forums, where in fact Sippo's words above were posted. This is the same Patrick Madrid who recently commented on "name calling" amongst Roman Catholics. Sippo has been spewing out insults for years, yet Madrid seems to care less. Since Art writes in service to Mother Church, then he's tolerated. It's probably the case Madrid didn't even see that Sippo is calling Calvinists psychotic. On the other hand, he's seen Dr. Sippo spew out far worse over the years, and really doesn't seem to care.