I thought I would share a discussion I had in my college forums once concerning Pascal’s Wager. I will briefly explain the gist of this philosophy.
Pascal’s logic is as follows: Matters of salvation are looked at as a type of wager. The stakes are high because we are gambling with eternity and our very souls. In theory, humanity cannot fully discover knowledge of God’s existence through their own ability to reason, therefor the most prudent thing to do is to live as though God exists. This is because we have more to gain that way.
Pascal suggests that there are only two outcomes: 1. should God exist then those who believe in Him will win infinitely (as signified by heaven), if God doesn’t exist then believers lose nothing except for some finite things (ex. excess pleasure in life, etc). 2. Should God exist those who do not believe will infinitely lose and go to Hell, if God doesn’t exist unbelievers lose nothing. When weighing the two options the possible outcome is simply better for those who believe.
The first time I interacted with Pascal’s Wager was in an entry level philosophy class during my undergrad program. Recently, it has come back up in one of my theology books. It is interesting how much my perspective of the topic has changed since my early college years. At the time, I remember being floored by the sheer logic behind it. Today, I have to say that I do not find Pascal’s Wager all too convincing an argument, nor do I believe that it has any place in evangelicalism.
I appreciate the philosophy for what it was in its time. Indeed, Pascal’s Wager was simply revolutionary during the 17th century. It paved the way for many other philosophies. Despite this, I think there is something very flawed about viewing belief in Christ as a mere wager. There are too many errors that aren’t taken into account.
For one, Pascal assumes Christian belief. His wager was built on the idea of Christianity. What if someone chooses to accept the wager but applies it to a different, false God? This could lead to greater sin and punishment.
Also, what about God’s role in granting someone true revelation in Christ? Is that not something He does based upon His will and not our own? Pascal’s Wager asserts that those who cannot believe should “endeavor” to do so. The “fake it until you make it” philosophy might work for someone who has doubts, yet still genuinely wants to believe in Christ for unselfish purposes. However, for someone who is merely attempting to force themselves to believe based on a wager, this could just bring more anger from God.
There is something very dishonest and inauthentic about believing based on odds and personal gains. It certainly isn’t based on love for God but only love and concern for the self. Again by accepting this wager and claiming false conversion, you could be leading yourself to a path of greater punishment.
Finally, the wager suggests that a believer will lose nothing of major importance if God does not exist. This is gravely wrong. The losses a Christian should be prepared to face are not something to be brushed off lightly. Many Christian martyrs lost their families, were tortured, and even lost their lives.
Have any of you come across Pascal’s Wager in your school years? What are your thoughts on this philosophy? Anyway, thanks for reading. Now, back to the books for me.
Featured photo courtesy of Pixabay.