Thursday, March 3, 2011

Pascal's Wager: A Bad Bet

The argument in apologetics known as Pascals Wager is the idea that says that belief and submission to God is preferred, because it is better to be obedient in case God does truly exist. It is the belief that obedience to God based on the chance that He does exist is preferred, rather than being faced with the consequences of non-obedience. Simply put, it is the old saying "better safe than sorry" being applied to your spiritual life.

Pascal described the idea like this, "If God does not exist, then you neither gain nor lose anything from belief or disbelief. In either case, you just die and that's the end. However, if you choose to believe in God, and you are right, then the reward is infinite: Eternal bliss in heaven. On the other hand, if you choose not to believe in God, and you're wrong, your pay off is negative infinity: Eternal suffering in hell."

Without first giving this idea much consideration, this seems like a logical argument. However, I do not blame the atheist for rejecting this argument based on faulty logic. I can say this because as a Christian, I myself believe it to be faulty logic. I want to take a moment and think about a few things in regards to Pascal's Wager and attempt to show you why a Christian should not be a subscriber to it.

THERE'S NO SUCH THING AS A CASUAL CHRISTIAN

First, the theory of, "better safe than sorry" has no room in a Christians life because there is no such thing as a Christian who is not 100% dedicated to the cause of Christ. Jesus said in Revelation 3:16, "So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth." We cannot be "mediocre" in our commitment to Christ and expect Him to still accept us. 

With enough time, the person who subscribes to the concept of Pascal's Wager gains an attitude of apathy and cultivates contempt. It is inevitable that these feelings will creep in, because the subscriber has taken the "easy way out" in regards to their salvation, putting as little work into it as possible. When apathy is introduced into the Lord's church, what follows is always and without exception a careless attitude toward the work Jesus has commanded us all to do. This includes the very charge given to Christians everywhere, the charge to spread the Gospel  (Matthew 28:19). Before too long the work of the church will have completely halted, and the subscriber of Pascal's Wager finds themselves living just as the world, and Satan, would have them to. 

IT DOES NOT PROMOTE RESEARCH OR STUDY

Second, it does not promote the healthy practice of research and studying to ensure your beliefs are logical and reasonable. Rather, if we just believe in God based on the chance that He may exist, and we don't want to be punished, then we haven't done enough research to convince ourselves either way regarding His existence. It is unlikely then that we would study to find out what God wants from us. If we don't care enough about the question of God's existence to make a definitive answer, then we are not going to care enough to ask what He expects from us. 

Pascal's Wager is found lacking because it does not ask, nor does it answer, the question of which god to believe in. By being a subscriber to Pascal's Wager, you choose to believe in a god, but which one? Will it be the God of the Bible, or perhaps the god of Islam? Or how about one the Hindu gods, of which there are literally thousands? In order to subscribe to Pascal's Wager you must accept belief in one god based on the risk of punishment. However, this choice necessitates the rejection of any other god who commands your commitment based on the threat of punishment. This is because they all forbid worshiping any other god.

YOU MUST BE CONVICTED

In conclusion, Pascal's Wager should not be considered a viable option to anyone who considers the Christian faith. It is based on faulty logic that does nothing to narrow down your choice of which god to believe in, nor does it promote an attitude that would lead one to study which god to worship. To worship just one god, based solely on the idea of Pascals Wager does nothing to ease one's mind against the threat of eternal punishment. More study and research should be done in order to come to the logical conclusion. This idea is not promoted by Pascal's Wager. The Christian should reject Pascal's Wager because we are not like Agrippa who told the Apostle Paul, "Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian" (Acts 26:28).

The God of the Bible gave man the gift of free will. He expects each one of us to come to a conclusion regarding His existence based on evidence that He has provided us. You have the choice to either accept the evidence and believe in Him, or reject Him. However, if you choose to believe and become a Christian, God demands 100% of your dedication, 100% of the time. Luke 9:23 says, "Then He said to them all, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me" (emphasis mine). We must crucify our worldly desires so that we may be wholly and completely His (Galatians 5:24). Jesus said that if any are luke warm, He will spit them out (Revelation 3:16).

The concept of Pascal's Wager has no place in the life of a Christian. Either you are a convictedrepentant Christian or you are not. There is no middle ground.

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