Alpha & Omega Ministries Apologetics Blog
Could It Get Any Loonier? The Rutland/Sippo Meltdown Continues
06/13/2005 - James WhiteThere are times when you start to get worried that someone is going to become suspicious that you are actually paying these folks to act the way they do. I just arrived home from Newark to find the Rutland/Sippo topic not only continuing, but getting even farther off into flights of fancy. Yes, I know, at some point it will get just too silly to even bother with any longer, but for now, it gives you an insight into how folks can manhandle the truths of the Bible and history, since they play so fast and loose with the truths of everyday life (even when others have documentation and video!).
Where to begin? Well, let's start with the claim by Art Sippo that Bill Rutland was kept in the dark about the format of the debate until the week before, and that we were going to have very short opening statements of ten minutes, with a 90 minute cross-examination marathon. I asked that Bill Rutland repudiate this falsehood. While correcting some minor elements, he has instead given Sippo the "pass" in the following post. Rutland writes:
What James fails to mention these e-mails took place over a period of about thee years. White has used this same statement to claim that I “perused” Mr. Arnzin. We entered into a discussion about debating well before the 2004 Great Debate. The truth is that Mr. Arnzin approached me about the 2005 debate.Let the truth begin:
As to the debate format I was asked back in December to participate in the debate. At that time I accepted and asked Mr. Arnzin (Mr. White’s contact man) for the format as I needed to prepare. He phoned me that he would have to get with James on it. As I recall I asked about four separate times by e-mail and by phone. It was not until April 8th 2005 that I finally received a format. It included a 25 minute opening statement, one 8 minute rebuttal, a full hour of cross-examination and a 7 minute closing statement.
I objected to Mr. Arnzen on April 11th and sent Mr. Arnzen A request that we change the format to include two rebuttals and a 30 minute cross-examination. On April 21st I heard back from Mr. Arzin saying that he was forwarding the request to James. The same day I got an e-mail from James absolutely refusing to budge. I responded that as a co-debater I had a right to the format input. I thought the format was unfair to me and I did not like being jerked around as well as the nasty tone of James’ e-mails. Because he was unwilling to compromise I played the only card I had which was refusing to debate unless some compromise was reached. It was not until April 26th that we reached a compromise.
Any information that Dr. Sippo got about these exchanges he got from me. If the chronology that he gave was incorrect the blame is completely mine and Mr. White owes Art an apology. Otherwise Art’s comments were right on the money.
1) Mr. Arnzen sent me all the e-mails Mr. Rutland had sent him. Let me quote some of them: October 10, 2004, Rutland writes: "While watching the last presidential debate, I was impressed with the format (except for the prohibition of the candidates interacting directly with each other). I thought that it would be fascinating to do a Catholic/Protestant debate with a similar format where the audience would provide the questions, but with some opportunity for the debate participants to interact with each other. Would you be interested in working with me in putting something like this together? If you want to get James to represent the Protestant side that would be fine with me as I would look forward to debating him." Ironic that he would refer to the interaction portion, which he then wanted to cut down, but this certainly sounds to me like Mr. Rutland was pursuing an opportunity to participate in the debates.
Then we have May 26, 2004: "As I know you are now preparing for the Great Debate X, I would be honored if you would consider me as a debate participant next year. I am having a debate on the doctrine of Justification next month, June 26. My opponent is a gentleman named Dr. Richard Howe. Dr. Howe is an Evangelical Protestant formerly on staff with Southern Evangelical Seminary and currently teaches philosophy at the University of Arkansas. If you would like a copy of this debate just let me know (gratis of course)." Once again, that sure sounds like Mr. Rutland was pursuing Mr. Arnzen, doesn't it? Likewise, when he was informed that Gary Michuta had been invited last year, he wrote, "To say that I wasn't a bit saddened by the loss of the opportunity to debate James on this issue would be less than honest, but you made the correct and honorable decision. I hope that you will keep me in mind for any future endeavors." And so on and so forth. Now, the fact is Mr. Rutland pursued Chris Arnzen to be involved in the debate. Why mention this? Because the debate format has not changed over the course of the past years. Rutland was asking to be involved in a debate series, and he never added the caveat "I've never bothered to watch any of the debates so I will want to change the format." He was invited to debate on the very same grounds as the other Roman Catholic debaters, so, for Sippo to claim otherwise remains a lie, does it not?
2) Rutland asked for more time (and received it, I might add, though this did not aid his position in the end) than any other Roman Catholic apologist has ever received. When Chris Arnzen (please note the proper spelling) first contacted me about this, I recall being out of town---either in London, or later, when I was in Oklahoma City for the Wilkin debate (one of my e-mails on the subject is dated 4/22 in my archives, and that is the date of the debate). In any case, Sippo made it appear as if we had kept information from Rutland: but since we had not changed the debate format one iota, there was nothing secret about it. Every single person who had taken the time to actually view the debates would have known exactly how it was run. It is simply a lie to say Rutland was kept from having the information, since it was public information to begin with!
3) I wrote to Mr. Rutland and informed him that we had been using the same format for years, and that he was asking for more "speech" time than anyone else has ever had, and that at the expense of the portion of the debate the audiences have always found most telling and which, ironically, he himself had noted as so important in his e-mail from 2004, the cross-examination. I found his threat to pull out and cost others thousands of dollars childish and petulant.
Thankfully, others have already pointed out that Rutland's assertion that the format, used in previous years, was "unfair" to him simply makes no sense. How is it "unfair"? Rutland claimed he needed more time to present his views on this "complicated" topic. So a defense of 841/1260 is harder than Michuta's job of defending the Apocrypha? Pacwa's job of defending the priesthood from the New Testament? Madrid's job of defending the veneration of saints and angels? Stravinskas' job of defending purgatory? Hardly! There was nothing "unfair" about the debate format---it is a tested and tried format that we have been using for years. If Rutland had taken the time to do his homework, he would have known that. And I just ask the reader to consider what it means that to offer him the exact same debate format we have used for years is interpreted by Rutland as being "jerked around."
Now, let's look at Rutland's final statement, "Otherwise Art’s comments were right on the money." Were they? Let's lay them out:
Sippo: Rutland was kept in the dark till a week before the debate. Lie.
Sippo: The debate format sent to him had short ten minute opening statements. Lie.
Sippo: The debate format sent to him had 90 minutes of cross-examination. Lie.
So, that pretty much leaves the word "the" in Sippo's original claim to be "right on the money," with every factual statement proven to be a falsehood. And I owe Sippo an apology for exactly what? Which part of his falsehood-ridden character assassination is my fault again? Once again, I am simply left in amazement at this kind of behavior, I truly am.
Now, you may note that this response was posted at Envoy, not at the Catholic Answers Forums, where Rutland posted his "take" on the debate. In fact, I received a note from one of the moderators of the Catholic Answers Forums apologizing that the thread had been allowed in the first place (the first entry had begun, "Have any of you ever been to mr. ANTI-Catholic James White website. It's sickening! The man absolutley despises Catholicism.") and indicating that it had been deleted (which, I would assume, deleted Rutland's response as well). In any case, immediately after Rutland posted this defense of Sippo's falsehoods, another user, "Uncertaindrummer," accepted it at face value, exercised absolutely no critical thought, and opined, "This just continues to show that James White is a sneaky, vicious anti-Catholic with no real desire to save souls, but to win arguments..."
Now, after Rutland posted his remarks, Sippo commented as well:
I appreciate Bill weighing on this matter in my defence. I was working from memory and I did not recall the details exactly but you can see that the substance of what I was saying was correct. The exact format was being keep under wraps and it took repeated inquiries before Bill was able to get it. When it finally was revealed, he objected and they came up with the format that was actually used. Nevertheless I apologize for getting the fine details wrong.Once again one is left almost stammering at the thought process that allows one to go from the previous day's pure falsehood to merely missing the "fine details." There was no secrecy---nothing had changed in years! April is not June; 25 minutes is not ten; one hour is not ninety minutes, etc. Remember, Sippo spoke of White's "pre-debate antics." Yet, every single thing he accused me of was a lie. And the best he can do, upon the documentation thereof, is, "I apologize for getting the fine details wrong." Amazing, simply amazing. And you wonder how folks like Sippo can turn the church fathers and the biblical text on its head? Same mental process: facts are pliable, malleable items that can be made to fit Mother Church's service, no matter what that means.
I imagine Rutland will attempt to respond to the refutation of his claims regarding the debate as well. I can only hope he will do so without further decimating his credibility, especially in making comments about things that will soon appear on DVD for everyone to examine. So I will await that posting, wherever it appears.
Finally, someone asked Art Sippo if he had, in fact, left our debate during my presentation. He says he did not. I say he did. I say he used the restroom and got himself a Coke as well. And it seems that is how Madrid recalled it as well, for he wrote back on May 26th on his blog,
Item: Another way Sippo didn’t follow debate etiquette was by leaving the dais and going to the bathroom . . . during one of White’s periods to speak.Earlier Madrid had confirmed Sippo's sitting upon his desk swinging his legs, and he dismissed this as merely representative of "how Art was feeling that day." So, if I produced a Glock and dispatched my opponent, I could dismiss this as simply being representative of how I was "feeling" that day? Odd, I doubt I'd get away with that. Anyway, let me add another incident from the debate. During the very rigid cross-examination we stood behind podiums that were placed in front of our desks (which is why Sippo could step back and sit on his desk and swing his legs and make faces and gestures to the audience). At one point he asked a question that had as its basis a number of false presuppositions, which I pointed out. When it came time for him to respond, he came back to the podium and began, "Well, of course, no Protestant can answer that question anyway..." and went on to comment without even bothering to respond to what I had actually said. This was his attitude throughout. Now, what would fit with this kind of behavior---my recollection of Sippo's trip to the Coke machine (the door was to my right...I can remember hearing the Coke machine sound as the can came tumbling down) or his claim to have been intently listening to a presentation for which he hasn't the first shred of respect and refers to dismissively all the time as the mere rantings of a "prot"? And as to just "having" to go, somehow I have managed to take care of the needs of nature so that I did not have to miss a word any of my opponents have ever said in fifty six debates so far. I'd think Sippo, an M.D., would be able to do the same thing.
Item: As moderator, I could have done a more rigorous job of corralling Sippo, such as not letting him go to the bathroom during White’s remarks, but then, human physiology is what it is, and when the body imposes certain demands, one sometimes must accede to them, no matter what may be happening. Let he who is without physiological demands cast the first stone.