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Penn Gets a Bible

Main Point of Discussion: If we truly believe in Heaven and Hell, we absolutely MUST share our faith.

Vital Info Before You Get Started: (The following should help you contextualize this very popular issue so you can have a great discussion about it with your kids.)

  • Penn Jillette is an entertainer as well as an outspoken atheist. Despite his skepticism of God and Christians, Penn was able to look honestly at an encounter with a Christian and respect the individual.

  • If you don’t know much about Penn, he has recently stated that he may consider himself to be an Anarcho-capitalist as well as an adherent of Ayn Rand’s Objectivist philosophy, according to his Penn Says podcast. Being a religious skeptic, Penn had no problem taking the "Blasphemy Challenge" sponsored by the Rational Response Squad. By so doing, he publicly denies the existence of the Holy Spirit. Additionally, one of his car license plates reads "DOG ON" ("NO GOD" backward).

  • The discussion clip is taken from Penn’s v-log, recounting his response to an incident where a stranger approached him to give him a Bible.

  • Above all, don’t appear as if you have a “canned” discussion in your head and rattle off questions like a teacher giving a pop quiz—your kids get enough of that in school. This is a guide, primarily—not a verbatim script. Just familiarize yourself with the content here and start a conversation in the most natural, unforced way you know how.

Introducing the Clip:
I’m going to show you two clips of the same person. His name is Penn Jillette, and he’s part of the comedy duo known worldwide as Penn and Teller. This first clip is part of a movement sponsored by an atheistic group that tries to get as many ‘blasphemies of the Spirit’ as possible posted on the Internet. According to this group’s theory, by blaspheming the Holy Spirit – which the Bible says in an unpardonable sin – they are assuring themselves spots in hell. (Of course they don’t believe in God, the Holy Spirit, hell, etc., so it’s obviously a mockery of Christianity—and not an admittedly huge risk on their part!) Let’s take a quick look:

So given what we now know about Penn’s rejection and outright scorn for Christianity, let’s take a look at this next clip:

Three Simple Questions (with Answers You May Be Looking for):
    Q: What’s going on with Penn?
    A: He’s a staunch atheist—but with a twist: Unlike most atheists, Penn respects believers who care enough about fellow human beings to share spiritual things—especially when others’ eternal destinies are on the line.

    Q: How do you suppose we—as serious Christ-followers—should react to Penn’s video clips?
    A: We should pray for him—and be thankful for non-believers like him, who make it really easy for Christians to share their faith. As Penn notes, Christians should proselytize—if they truly believe their faith, they would share about God and heaven and sin and judgment. Not many atheists would say the same thing.

    Q: How can we move from healthy, Bible-based opinions about Penn’s views to actually living out those opinions?
    A: First, be fervent in prayer—because as staunchly convinced as Penn is that there is no God, God is the very one (probably the only one) who can change Penn’s heart. We should also take his advice in regard to how he described the Christian’s demeanor—polite, honest, not defensive, not pushy. May we all be the exact kind of Christian when we share our faith with others!

Where to Take It from Here:
Wherever it feels natural. If these questions lead to a longer discussion on the topic, wonderful! (There’s a guide just after this paragraph that helps you do just that.) If your kids are barely uttering grunts, don’t get discouraged—the next time it feels right, keep engaging them.

For Deeper Discussion: (If your kids seem into diving in deeper, the following discussion guide can help take you there.)

CLICK HERE if you want to look at a quick training article on small groups and drawing questions out of young people—you may find much of the information applicable as you go through this subject with your family members.

Transitional Statement:

As you can see, Penn’s reaction was not what we might have expected from someone who is so outspoken and even militant about his atheism. And even more perplexing was his positive description of the Gideon representative. (Parent- you may need to explain The Gideons and their calling But EVEN PENN knows Christians should be sharing their faith!

More Discussion Questions:

  1. HAVE ALL YOUR FAMILY MEMBERS ANSWER: Before we begin, everybody take a second to talk about a time when someone made you feel awkward.

  2. ASK A FEW FAMILY MEMBERS: If you knew a stranger was in danger or needed help, would you try to help them (even if you didn’t know them)? Why or why not?

  3. Read the following passage:

      2 Corinthians 4:13-16 (New Living Translation)
      But we continue to preach because we have the same kind of faith the psalmist had when he said, “I believed in God, so I spoke.” We know that God, who raised the Lord Jesus, will also raise us with Jesus and present us to himself together with you. All of this is for your benefit. And as God’s grace reaches more and more people, there will be great thanksgiving, and God will receive more and more glory.

      That is why we never give up. Though our bodies are dying, our spirits are being renewed every day.

  4. ASK A FEW FAMILY MEMBERS: What images come to mind when you hear the word ‘preach’?

  5. ASK A FEW FAMILY MEMBERS: Are there different ways to preach? If so, what are some examples? (Parents—answers you may be looking for: helping people in need, sharing your faith)

  6. ASK A FEW FAMILY MEMBERS: What was the Gideon’s motive in sharing a Bible with Penn?

  7. ASK A FEW FAMILY MEMBERS: Would you consider that ‘preaching’? Why or why not?

  8. ASK A FEW FAMILY MEMBERS: How would you define proselytizing? (Parent: you may need to help your younger family members with this… the dictionary states that proselytize means “to try to convert somebody to a religious faith or political doctrine”)

  9. ASK A FEW FAMILY MEMBERS: How can we balance being awkward or even offensive with the urgent nature of sharing the gospel?

  10. HAVE ALL YOUR FAMILY MEMBERS ANSWER: What are some specific ways this week we can approach our friends and family members who don’t know Jesus? (Parents—answers you may be looking for: giving them Bibles, sharing the gospel, inviting them to church, etc.)

Wrap Up:
One of the key takeaways with this video is the powerful impact just one person can make. Penn has obviously been offended by Christians in the past, but you also saw how the Gideon man made a positive impression as well. He was humble, compassionate, and most importantly he was authentic. I want to challenge each of us to pray for an opportunity to make an authentic connection with an unbeliever this week and take a chance to share the gospel. Take a moment and think of one or two people to whom God might be leading you to share your faith—then put your faith in action and share the love of Jesus with them.

Close in Prayer

Written by Lane Palmer

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