The man who built and embodied the Playboy empire, Hugh Hefner, has died at the age of 91.
Hefner founded the sexually explicit magazine in 1953 and passed away yesterday in his world-famous Playboy Mansion in L.A.
After 64 years reigning as the undisputed king of female exploitation in the entertainment industry, it comes as no surprise that his death has ignited a wave of mixed responses.
“My father lived an exceptional and impactful life as a media and cultural pioneer and a leading voice behind some of the most significant social and cultural movements of our time in advocating free speech, civil rights and sexual freedom,” said Hefner’s son, Cooper. “He defined a lifestyle and ethos that lie at the heart of the Playboy brand, one of the most recognizable and enduring in history.”
Of course, key influencers in the Christian realm have a different take on the “ethos” that Hefner defined, and several leaders have spoken out on his death, criticizing his hedonistic lifestyle.
“The death of any person is a tragedy. Hugh Hefner is no exception to that,” wrote Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission president Russell Moore on Twitter. “We can’t though w his obits call his life ‘success’ or ‘a dream.'”
But of particular note is ‘The Case for Christ’ author Lee Strobel’s response to the Playboy founder’s passing.
“Hugh Hefner dead at 91,” he tweeted. “I remember sharing the Gospel with him. He saw the significance of the Resurrection but had never checked the evidence.”
The atheist turned Christian apologist expounds upon his encounter with Hefner in an earlier interview with John Ankerberg.
On The John Ankerberg Show, the most-watched Christian worldview show in America, the host asked Strobel to give viewers insight into Hefner’s thoughts on the faith.
“I find it really interesting that you have got a chance to go and talk to Hugh Hefner at the Playboy Mansion, and you went and you talked to him and he made some interesting comments about the resurrection,” said Ankerberg. “I want you to slow it down and tell us that story.”
Reflecting on the rare chance to witness to a man in much need of Jesus, Strobel elaborated on his opportunity to discuss the evidence for Christ’s Resurrection with Hefner:
“Yeah. I had a chance to go to the Playboy Mansion, interview Hugh Hefner for a TV program that I was doing. And I asked him about the resurrection. And he seemed confused. And I said, ‘What about the evidence for the resurrection?’ and he said, ‘What are you talking about?’ And I said, ‘What do you do with the historical data that support the return of Jesus from the dead?’ And he said, ‘I have never heard this before.’ And I gave him a copy of my book The Case for Christ. And he was looking through the Table of Contents and said, ‘This is fascinating. Nobody has ever told me this before.’
And then he said something very interesting. He said, ‘If this is true, this trips a whole bunch of dominoes that have a wonderful effect.’ He said, ‘I am getting to be an old man. I wish it were true that there were eternal life.’ And I said, ‘You know what, look into the evidence yourself. Come to your own verdict. But I am telling you there is convincing, there is powerful, persuasive, compelling evidence that Jesus did return from the dead. And when He tells His followers they will spend eternity with Him, we can believe Him as a result.'”
While it’s unclear if Hefner ever delved further into the evidence presented by Strobel, the conversation certainly got his wheel’s turning on the “wonderful” domino effect such a Truth would imply.
In spite of the distasteful legacy of lust Hugh Hefner left behind, Strobel’s story is a compelling example of the type of witness we are to be to all of God’s people, whether it be a Playboy bunny or Pope Francis.
As punnily—but nonetheless truthfully—summed up by Moore:
“In the meantime, the Good Shepherd searches the thickets for his lost sheep. And sometimes for a lost rabbit, too.”