How Much Do You Have to Hate Someone not to Proselytize?

I’m reading The Trellis and the Vine.  In it the authors, Colin Marshall and Tony Payne state, “The Christian without a missionary heart is an anomaly” (p. 52).  They continue in the same vein,

We have to conclude that a Christian with no passion for the lost is in serious need of self-examination and repentance.  Even the atheists have worked this out.  Penn Jillette is an avowed and vocal atheist, and one-half of the famous comic-illusionist act Penn and Teller.  He was evangelized by a polite and impressive man, and had this to say about the experience: 

I’ve always said, you know, 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 hell, and people could be going to hell, or not getting eternal life or whatever, and you think that, well, it’s not really worth telling them because it would make it socially awkward . . . How much do you have to hate somebody to not proselytize?  How much do you have to hate somebody to believe that everlasting life is possible and not tell them that?  I mean, if I believed beyond a shadow of a doubt that a truck was coming at you, and you didn’t believe it, and that truck was bearing down on you, there is a certain point where I tackle you.  And this is more important than that . . . (Marshall and Payne, The Trellis and the Vine, 52-3).

You can watch the video clip below.  As Christians, I hope we love people enough to share the good news with them and don’t hate them enough to not warn them about their destiny apart from Christ.


8 thoughts on “How Much Do You Have to Hate Someone not to Proselytize?

  1. It’s good to point out this video. Penn has hit the matter head on.

    But I would argue that he doesn’t go far enough. The fact of the matter is that NO ONE follows the Bible.

    Not even the most zealous fundamentalists follow the Bible. If the Bible is literally true in it’s teaching, then (by implication) everyone who is not exhausting themselves all of the time to rescue people from an eternal hell… such a person has “blood on their hands”.

    The fact of the matter is that NO ONE is a bible-believing Christian. If literalism is true, then EVERYONE (not just most) on this planet is going to hell.

    And now that the understanding of the human condition has arrived (, we can finally be honest about this.

    It’s time to ditch fundamentalism and start understanding ourselves.


  2. Hey Doug,

    Thanks for your reply.

    Ultimately though, whether or not salvation is “by works” or “by faith” (and millions of Christians and denominations everywhere disagree on what either phrase even means), it matters little.

    The whole point though is that Penn is just being honest.

    Doug, you don’t believe in a literal hell. Whether or not you’re “saved” (whatever that means), the fact of the matter is that you don’t really believe in what you say you do (hence why you’re not exhausting yourself all the time to tell every available person at every available moment about the “saving grace of Christ”).

    Doug, if we are to take Paul literally, the reality is that, if we do not evangelize to every single person we encounter, we have “blood on our hands” (as Paul implied).

    Although I totally understand where you are at (and all the cognitive dissonance that goes along with it), you should stop pretending that you believe in a literal hell.

    Either you’re deluding yourself that you actually do believe it, or you’re absolutely heartless (and hate others, as Penn says) for not spending every waking moment trying to save people from eternal, un-ending torture.

    The doctrine of hell has had it’s uses (to keep us from containing our “upset” state, as discussed more at, and I definitely do NOT fault you for taking such a view (as the reality of evil is obvious).

    But now we can understand ourselves, and we can stop pretending that we believe in something that we really don’t.


  3. Jonathan,

    Three things in response.

    First, the question about whether salvation is by work of faith matters a great deal. In fact, one’s eternal destiny depends on this. Salvation is always by faith. Sola Fide is central to the Bible’s teaching. Read Ephesians 2:8-9. If you don’t know that the Bible teaches this, then you don’t know much about the Bible at all which makes me wonder why you have such an agenda against it.

    Second, you’ve set up a false dichotomy. I don’t know what social issues matter to you. Maybe it’s abortion or poverty or homelessness. Whichever side of the argument your on any of these issues is immaterial to my point. Let’s say you are very concerned about poverty. To take your line of thinking your are either telling everybody about poverty and fighting it at every moment of your really don’t believe that poverty is a problem. I would also add that you really have no idea how I spend my time.

    Third, you said, “if we are to take Paul literally, the reality is that, if we do not evangelize to every single person we encounter, we have ‘blood on our hands’ (as Paul implied).” Paul did not spend every waking moment evangelizing. He spent at least a year teaching Christians in Antioch. Read Acts 11:26. So does Paul not believe in a literal hell?

    Jonathan, until you can evidence that you understand what you’re refuting (the Bible and Christian mission, in this instance), your comments lack even a modicum of intellectual gravitas.

  4. Hey Doug,

    Thanks again for your response. And believe me, I totally understand where you are at. I myself have seriously wrestled with scripture for the past 15 years.

    In regards to salvation being “by faith”, yes I understand the doctrine, and yes, I understand all the verses that are cited to support that doctrine. But I also understand the arminians and the verses that they cite (and they too have a compelling argument for their stance).

    But whether or not salvation is by faith or by works (and I underline again that ALL CHRISTIANS EVERYWHERE disagree as to what these terms EVEN MEAN), ultimately, in regards to this discussion, it matters little.

    My whole point is that, if you truly believe in a place where everyone who doesn’t believe as you do is going to be eternally tortured after their death, you have gotten yourself into a position that, practically speaking, is totally impossible to live consistently with.

    In order to live consistently with this doctrine, you would have to be in a constant state of alarm all the time warning every single person that you could possibly come into contact with. In fact, in light of such a doctrine, going to the trouble of having a family and trying to live a “normal” life is completely at odds with this doctrine. In order to live consistently with this doctrine and live a “normal” life and raise a family, you have to put up with massive loads of cognitive dissonance.

    My point is this: The doctrine of eternal punishment in a lake of fire is so extreme… and the stakes are so incredibly high… that the mind would have to collapse into a state of constant alarm and exhaustion. This doctrine, if carefully thought about, will refute itself, just by virtue of it’s practical untenability.

    You said, “So does Paul not believe in a literal hell?”

    I would say that, yes, even Paul himself was setting up a doctrine that he could not live consistently with.

    Now, before the actual biological explanation of the human condition (and why we are so capable of “evil”), it wasn’t safe to expose these things (because these doctrines have had great use value in containing the “upset” state of man).

    But now that we understand ourselves (, the use value of these “cognitive dissonance-inducing” doctrines have come to an end.

    And I hope that one day you yourself will be able to objectively evaluate this doctrine (and see it’s untenability for what it is).


  5. Jonathan,

    Your evaluation of one’s belief in a literal hell and one’s evangelistic activity is laughable and deficient.

    It is laughable because it becomes the downfall of your own enlightened and oh-so insightful view of the human condition. Based on your logic unless you are telling every Wal-Mart cashier and every waiter or waitress about your view of the human condition you really don’t believe it.

    It is deficient because it does not rightly account for even how Jesus did evangelism. A person’s life is never monolothic; including a Christian’s life. At the same time, I would affirm that evangelistic fervor is not where it ought to be in Christendom.

    One final statement. You are dealing with questions of origin and meaning. You are not providing anything new and or tranformational to the discussion. It is arrogant and naive to claim you are. The Bible (in Genesis 1-11) and Jesus (in His perfect life and redemptive work) already gave us answers to these questions and how to solve the problem of shame and guilt. Biology is insufficient to give us answers to origins and meaning. Jesus is all-sufficient.

    I urge you to understand that salvation by faith alone in Christ alone is the only way to heaven. I’m less concerned about how conversant you are with both sides of the discussion (Arminianism vs. Calvinism) as much as I am that you embrace what Jesus plainly taught about the human condition which is that we are sinners (Romans 3:23) and that sin’s penalty is death (Romans 6:23). Jesus is the only cure for this cancer of the soul (John 14:6; Acts 4:12; Romans 5:8). Place your trust in Christ and you will be saved (Ephesians 2:8-9).

  6. Doug,

    You said,

    “Based on your logic unless you are telling every Wal-Mart cashier and every waiter or waitress about your view of the human condition you really don’t believe it”

    No Doug, because my view does not entail eternal, endless torment and torture, like yours does. I understand why you are doing this, but that’s a straw man.

    I understand your predicament Doug… I understand why you have to just call my view “laughable” without actually comprehending it. I understand that any pastor will be faced with massive conflicts of interest when confronted with the truth (salary, prestige, etc).

    But I encourage you to wake up to the reality that Penn here is hinting at. Penn is just being honest.

    You said, “A person’s life is never monolothic; including a Christian’s life.”

    But if you were to come across a burning building, all of a sudden your life would become “monolithic”. Why? Because the circumstances would demand it. And if you don’t realize the logical outcome that your “unending torture” view demands, you’re not living consistently with it.

    No one in history has lived consistently with this doctrine, not even the founders of the religions who started it.

    Penn is just being honest. I would encourage you to do the same.


  7. Jonathan,

    This will be my final rejoinder.

    Your view is not threatning to me. I have not lost a wink of sleep over it. To think that you are contributing something new, something that Christians have never had to wrestle with or answer is the height of folly. I fully understand the the thrust of Penn’s statement. I have conceded his point. But the “no evangelism no genuine belief in a literal hell” premise is faulty. A faulty premise leads to a faulty argument.

    I prayed for you a short while ago. I prayed for Acts 26:18 to be your experience, “to open their eyes, so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me [Christ].”

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