Penn Jillette, of Penn and Teller, the performance duo that defies categorization (are they magicians? are they comedians?), is well-known for his incredulity at things religious. He and his sidekick Raymond Teller (think modern day incarnation of the silent Harpo Marx) have well documented antipathy to the Christian faith, particularly the authority of the Bible. (I’d send you to the link on youtube with their “comments” about it, but I think it might not pass the filter on your server.)
Anyhow, hat-tip to Kevin De Young who harvests this quote from a recent book by Kevin Harney. It’s a comment from Jillette about an encounter he had with someone trying to evangelize him with the Gospel.
This last week we’ve been immersing ourselves in what the Divines had to say about Scripture. I suspect we’ve all found ourselves hemming and hawing at least once when pressed on why we trust the Scriptures. We may have even cultivated a habit of avoiding the matter altogether. Perhaps Jillette’s comments below will serve to exorcise the ambivalence you might feel to having “a ready defense” (I Peter 3:16). Perhaps it will cataylze us all to begin the preparation of that defense with a rationale for our trust in the Bible.
He said, “I’m a businessman. I’m sane; I’m not crazy.” And he looked me right in the eye and did all this. And it was really wonderful. I believe he knew that I was an atheist.
But he was not defensive and he looked me right in the eyes and he was truly complimentary. It did not seem like empty flattery. He was really kind, and nice, and sane, and looked me in the eyes and talked to me. Then he gave me this Bible.
I’ve always said that I don’t respect people who don’t proselytize. I don’t respect that at all. If you believe that there’s a heaven and a hell, and people could be going to hell or not getting eternal life, and you think that it’s not really worth telling them this because it would make it socially awkward–and atheists who think people shouldn’t proselytize and who say just leave me along and keep your religion to yourself–how much do you have to hate somebody to not proselytize? How much do you have to hate somebody to believe everlasting life is possible and not tell them that?
I mean, if I believed, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that a truck was coming at you, and you didn’t believe that truck was bearing down on you, there is a certain point where I tackle you. And this is more important than that.
The video from which the above is taken can be found here. From where I sit having read this and now watched the unrehearsed video-blog comment, I’m, ironically, that much more encouraged to be more vocal and respectful in what I vocalize. May we all learn to be the kind of respectful but intentional evangelists he encountered that day. “How much do you have to hate somebody to believe everlasting life is possible and not tell them that?” You speak that truth and you show that in the Scripture, and then, as Dr Fulmer made comment last night, you pray that eyes would be opened by the Spirit.