Sunday, April 22, 2007

Response to artsippo on Envoy

A Roman Catholic Apologist by the name of Art Sippo recently provided the following comments on the internet:

Years ago, John Gerstner recommended that I read the anti-Catholic chapters in Hodge's Systematic theology to see why Catholicism was wrong. I wrote back to him with a brief critique.First of all, Hodge basically ignored historic Christian teaching and concentrated on "modern" biblical exegesis (the literal-historical method) without really explain why we should choose that over the more comprehensive Scholastic approach found in the Quadriga method. He made a big deal about the Bible but ignored the Regula Fidei that was used to interpret it.He also made a silly comment. He said in his anti-Catholic chapter that there were too few documents from the first 3 centuries AD to draw any conclusions on matters of doctrine but in his chapter on Scripture he claimed that the Fathers in that period all bore definitive witness to the sufficiency of Scripture. He also said that you could that pagan authors from that time also bore witness to the importance of Scripture.So in one chapter he says that the Fathers and PAGAN authors gave sufficient evidence for Scripture but in another he denied that there were sufficient Patristic writings from this period to prove anything! I pointed this out to Gerstner. Hodge contradicted himself and gave more weight to PAGAN authors than to Christian ones!Anyone with a smattering of Patristic info (and Schaff was the editor of the Edinburgh edition of the Fathers that you see everywhere) could tell you that there was a broad consensus among the Fathers on many things including the substantial presence of Christ in the Eucharist, Baptismal regeneration, the necessity of baptism for salvation, the Apostolic origin and authority of the Episcopate and the three-fold ministry, weekly celebration of the Eucharist on Sunday, and a number of other "Catholic" distinctives.Hodge also made the point that Catholics could not be real Americans because they owed an allegiance to a foreign prince. He was a shameless jingoistic American and was proud of political prejudices against Catholics. It is ironic how things have changed and now all people of faith are being excluded from participation in the political process because of their religious beliefs. Modern Protestants like Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson, Jay Sekulow, and others are saying the EXACT OPPOSITE of what Hodge was about the American government and Christianity.Gerstner had no response to my analysis. He just changed the subject. That was his usual tactic.ArtOmnes semper - ad Jesum, per Mariam, cum Petro!

I respond:

It is interesting to note that the critique of the relevant portion of Hodge's Systematic Theology is not presented. Instead, much of what is presented is a personal attack.

Before the personal attack, however, Mr. Sippo argued that Hodge's analysis of the Scripture was incomplete because Hodge used only exegesis and not Roman Catholic tradition in the interpretation. I'm sure that Hodge would be delighted at this recommendation. If any of you, gentle readers, are anti-Calvinists considering whether to read Hodge, this criticism by one of his enemies should encourage you to do so. Hodge's Sola Scriptura position is unwittingly affirmed by his adversary.

The second criticism that Mr. Sippo presents is an extrordinarily rookie mistake. Mr. Sippo noted that Hodge says there are two few documents from before the fourth centuries to get any firm idea of what the universal doctrines of the early church were. Mr. Sippo then noted that Hodge also asserted that looking at the patristic and even pagan writers of that period, we can see that they all asserted the sufficiency of Scripture.

Mr. Sippo's rookie mistake was in failing to recognize an alternative argument. One can consistently say that we have two few samples to have definitive knowledge about the characteristics of a population, but we can also describe the characteristics of the sample. And this is what Hodge did.

Hodge pulled the rug from under all the Roman Catholic arguments two ways: first the amount of evidence is insufficient to prove their point, and second the content of the evidence contradicts their point.

Mr. Sippo fails to realize this is a one-two punch and instead seems to mistakenly conclude that Hodge feels as though the sufficiency of Scripture is positively proved from the patristics and pagans.

Mr. Sippo's claim that Hodge gave more weight to pagan than Christian writers shows how little Mr. Sippo was able to follow Hodge's analysis. Although Hodge was not seeking to prove the sufficiency of Scripture from Tradition, Hodge's rebuttal shows the united testimony of both Christians and their enemies as to what Christians believed, and that this united testimony is contrary to the claims of the Vatican.

After this blundering attempt to point out an error in Hodge, Mr. Sippo makes the inane claim that anyone with a smattering of knowledge would agree with the standard Roman Catholic line that various Roman Catholic dogmas are taught by the early church fathers. Hodge's two points remain: there are not enough samples to have knowledge of the cross-section of Christianity at that time, and - at least with some of the issues - the evidence that does exist is actually different from what the Roman Catholics claim.

Apparently to reinforce the point that Hodge must be foolish for denying the obvious truths of Rome, Mr. Sippo attempts to smear Hodge as a jingoist. This strategy immediately backfires.

Mr. Sippo points out Hodge's argument that Catholics could not be real Americans because they owed allegiance to a foreign prince. Mr. Sippo seems to have forgotten that in Hodge's day the pope was not just the purported "shepherd of shepherds" and "pontificus maximus" but also a civil authority with a state that he governed.

Hodge's argument is simply: if you owe allegiance to the head of the Roman State and claim to have allegiance to (any of) the United States, you have divided loyalties. It is a simple political reality, and it is the reason that many countries - the United States included - are unwilling to permit people to hold dual citizenship.

Mr. Sippo recognizes that the situation has changed, but not HOW it has changed. The pope has lost his worldly authority.

Finally, Mr. Sippo notes that Gerstner did not respond to his criticism. One wonders whether Gerstner even read Mr. Sippo's letter a second time before discarding it. It is a vapid criticism that only serves to enhance Hodge and Hodge's excellent systematic theology in the minds of those who love the Word of God and who reasonably consider the arguments presented.

Praise be to the One Shepherd,


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