Pascal’s Wager

I enjoy reading apologetics books. I truly believe that Peter was correct when he said we should “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.” (I Pet 3:15).

It is unfortunate, then, that one of the best known arguments for being a Christian is Pascal’s Wager. The short version of this is basically, “God is either real, or He isn’t. You have nothing to lose by believing in Him, and everything to lose if you don’t believe in Him and are wrong. Therefor, it is best to believe in Him.”

The problem is that I can make the exact same argument in favor of constantly fighting in hopes of achieving Valhalla, the land of the dead for fallen warriors in Norse mythology. Worse, even if you accept Pascal’s argument, you still don’t know whether you should believe in God as described by Judaism, Christianity, Islam, etc.

To be fair, Blaise Pascal was writing to a Christian audience that considered Christianity the only reasonable theistic belief system. Despite that, it is not a strong argument today. It also misses the point of Christianity, that we are to have a personal relationship with Jesus.

Suppose I tell you that I have a powerful buddy named Guido, and that you better live your life based on the assumption that if you hurt me, he’s going to come pound you. If you get into trouble a year later, having accepted the existence of Guido, he won’t come to court as a character witness for you. When asked about you, he’ll just say, “Who? Don’t know him.”

Accepting God as an operating principle is completely different from knowing Jesus. Being accepted as a child of God, adopted into his family, is completely different from saying, “Sure, God’s real.”

The value of Pascal’s wager is as a call to investigate the claims of Christ. It does nothing to convince a reasonable person that they are true.

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