Debate with Dr Ted Ammon

This is the debate I did last week with Ted Ammon, a philosophy lecturer in Millsaps College, Jackson, Mississippi. It was very different from the Matt Dillahunty debate. In some ways I felt that Ted was not all that far from the kingdom….

further to the whole robust thing as well, I read the following this morning as I was preparing to preach – I thought it was more than co-incidental – “”I suspect that one of the complaints that Paul’s rivals had about his evangelistic style was that it was too blunt and confrontational. ‘That Paul!’ they were saying. ‘He presses Christianity on people too obviously. There’s no subtlety, no sophistication about his marketing techniques; he needs to go on a soft-sell training course. As it is, he puts off more people than he attracts. He has no discretion, no finesse!’ To use the world which I suspect they used (and which Paul mimics in verse11). ‘He persuades people’, they said – the Greek word sometimes has a pejorative tone; it can mean ‘cajoling’, ‘bullying’ or ‘browbeating’. And Paul in these verses says, ‘Maybe it is true; maybe I do ‘persuade’ people as you put it. But there is a reason for my uncompromising forthrightness. We must all appear before the judgement seat of Christ. Since then we know what it is to fear the Lord, we try to persuade men.”

8 thoughts on “Debate with Dr Ted Ammon

  1. It’s an excellent point re the imagined criticisms of Paul’s preaching.
    David, forgive the question. Did I take you up wrongly, or did you criticise those American street preachers on somewhat similar grounds?

  2. I am genuinely excited to discuss what you meant David about being born morally upright and also that we are all screwed up.

    I hear you quoting from scripture of not one being righteous (Rom 3:10). At the same time we can see scripture saying that “Noah was a righteous man” (Gen 6:9).

    So somehow in the who counsel of God we have to wrestle with this and come to some conclusion as to why there might be what at first glance appears to be a contradiction in scripture. If one is a biblical literalist one has to discount, one of these verses.

    So if a baby is born morally upright (and I don’t think dissimilarly to you about that) to what degree and what is it that results in it and us being righteous or unrighteous?

    Ammon did make a good point – if you can think of humans being inherently screwed up why cant you think of them being inherently good? Thinking rationally, surely both are equally valid presuppositions.

    I think there are a few things that come into play. Consider Paul and the reality being that he persecuted what were then called followers of The Way to death. And then he is faced with similar from others that want to kill him. Is this not the context in which he talks of none being righteous? Yet we know Noah to have been righteous.

    So to what degree is humanity inherently righteous or unrighteous? If we are born morally upright are we not righteous at that point? Then whatever unrighteousness we have comes about because something happens along the way (excuse pun)?

    I used to come from the presumption of us all being “sinners” that Christ died for. There is truth in that but as I study and think about the scriptures, I perceive the term “sinner” to be used as an insult by those that appeared to be righteous. So Jesus called a “friend of sinners” being an insult about Jesus. The so called “sinner” praying “lord have mercy” being a reference to the least likely culturally to be declared right in what he was doing in contrast to the pharisee appearing to be right. A culturally shocking thing for Jesus to say!

    Conversely, consider what Paul called the believers in the church in Corinth – “saints”. Ironically, there being law suits among them, on sleeping with his father’s wife etc.

    Given this, I have to conclude that terms such as sinner, saint righteous and unrighteous sometimes are used to literally talk about the moral position and sometimes used for rhetorical effect. Given that there is at least one example of a righteous man in scripture, it cannot literally be true generically that none are righteous.

    Which makes it interesting with what we do with such scripture verses and how we use terms like righteous or unrighteous and saint or sinner.

    1. I never said we were born morally upright. I said we are born moral beings – therefore culpable of both wrong and right. And it is true that none are righteous. At least according to Scripture – which is what I go by.

      1. What you said was “we are born instinctively moral”. OK I didn’t get the wording precisely right with what I mentioned about you having said about “being born morally upright”. I hear what you say about having said “we are born moral beings”.

        It is true that in Rom 3:10 that it is declared ‘There is no one righteous, not even one” with an allusion to Ps 14:1-3 and Ps 53:1-3; where none are seeking God and Eccles. 7:20 which says there is no-one on earth that is righteous. Yet Noah is counted as “a righteous man” (Gen 6:9). Elsewhere scripture says the Lord “hears the prayer of the righteous” (Prov 15:29), “The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective” (Ja 5:16) and “the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and his ears are attentive to their prayer” (1 Pet 3:12).

        I hear what you say about you going by scripture and being born instinctively moral.

        What interests me is how:
        – we may resolve what at first glance may appear to be contradiction in scripture.
        – to apply scripture if we are born instinctively moral.

      2. Yes I agree that there is no contradiction, However there can appear to be contradiction in scripture as mentioned and evidenced. It is interesting to me to how we might engage with those who would argue that there is a contradiction. Do you agree that it can be read to be a contradiction? I think i made a valid point about that.

        What you write about being made righteous by Christ (bearing in mind that we are deceived if we think we are without sin) is of course valid. It is interesting to me to ponder this in the light of Noah being declared righteous.

        You did talk of being born “good” (I checked in the video) by way of engagement with Ashley in the sense of being created in the image of God and you did, did you not talk of there being different degrees of good and bad in everyone?

        What does interest me then is what we do with this. I do agree with you that there are degrees of good and bad in everyone. Would you perceive that as being analogous to the righteousness and unrighteousness that scripture talks of or would you perceive there being differences?

        What comes to my mind is the incredible grace in that Christ has all his own needs met yet chooses to endure suffering for humanity’s sake because there is noone without sin. My mind goes to the beatitudes “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness for they will be filled” (Matt 5:6).

        So whatever degree of good or bad, whatever degree of righteousness or unrighteousness in us if we thirst for what is right, there is the hope of being filled, of being blessed, of God being with us with whatever challenges and difficulties we face.

        Pretty humbling, privileging, amazing and empowering wouldn’t you say?

        .

  3. OK< I got you wrong 🙂
    I've just been back and re-read it. …there's a lot, and I can't have paid proper attention before. Sorry!
    In fact, possibly the worst thing you said was that in some parts of the church there's a profound shallowness 🙂

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