David A. Penner Biography

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David A. Penner

Thoracic surgeon and Wheaton alumnus Dr. David Penner '51 relished lively debate and thoughtful deliberation. He loved to thrash out any and all issues, but especially those to which he could relate his personal Christian faith. And he firmly believed that the rigors of exposing one's position to challenge—whether in casual conversation or formal debate—would lead to a more examined, stronger faith and life.

At the dinner table or on family outings with his five children, Dr. Penner would frequently use reason and invigorating discussions to teach and to guide them. On a casual evening, he would often, with a twinkle in his eye, ask his children, "What controversial subject can we discuss tonight?" After his death in 1988, his family decided that establishing an annual debate series would be a meaningful way to honor his memory.

The Penner Debate at Wheaton College is a forum that allows speakers to tackle controversial ethical issues that have an impact on the Christian community, and in doing so perpetuates Dr. Penner's trademark concern that reflection on difficult issues should be encouraged rather than avoided. Using a point-counter-point format, which best represents Dr. Penner's style, the debates clarify and distill ethical themes and stances. Unexamined precept positions, blind spots, and hidden prejudices can be scrutinized and pruned.

The Penner Foundation sustains this legacy of intelligent, robust debate, which not only enriches the people privileged to attend the forums, but also strengthens the church and academia at large by contributing to Christian ethical thought and understanding.

The Foundation sees debate as a fundamental method to challenge, change, or reinforce convictions regarding ethical issues. We hope that these debates will spark continuing discussion in dorm rooms, classrooms, and churches about how one's faith is lived out for the glory of Christ and the advancement of His kingdom. Furthermore, the Foundation seeks to clarify ideologies from various perspectives by:

  • sponsoring regular debates with outstanding scholars, experts in their field
  • producing and distributing video of the Penner Debates to member institutions of the Council of Christian Colleges and Universities (CCCU) and to the public through the Center for Applied Christian Ethics (CACE)
  • maintaining a homepage with relevant media excerpts at Wheaton's Center for Applied Christian Ethics website (christianethics.org)

The Penner Foundation is a nonprofit organization providing funding to Wheaton College for public debates in the area of ethics in loving memory of David A. Penner. Inquiries, suggestions, and financial contributions are welcome. Please contact Jonathan Penner at: 121 W. Union Avenue Wheaton, IL 60187. Phone (630) 682-3359.

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