Challenging Pascal’s Wager

Blaise Pascal (1623 – 1662) was a French mathematician, physicist, inventor, writer, and Christian philosopher. He invented the first digital calculator to help his father who worked on collecting taxes. Pascal wrote a work called “Pensées” which means “thoughts.” There are 13 sections in the document with 1 appendix. The famous “Pascal’s Wager” is found in Section III, Pensée 233.

Blaise Pascal did not believe that Christianity could be proved by reason, but he still offered this argument for why being a Christian is a “safer bet” to make.

Pascal’s Wager can be described in this way:
Pascal's Wager

In plain language:

  • For the Christian: If I’m right & God exists, then I get to go to Heaven and I have nothing to lose. If I’m wrong & God does not exist, I still have nothing to lose.
  • For the Atheist: If I’m right & God does not exist, I cease to exist and don’t gain much. If I’m wrong & God does exist, then I go to Hell and lose everything.

So What’s Wrong With That?

It’s not every day that you will see a Christian having an issue with this argument. I, myself, have used it before. However, I don’t find it to be the greatest of arguments now. Here’s why: This wager is not giving any reasonable explanation as to God’s existence and it does not prove that God exists. Also, numerous religions could use this argument for their deity, which gets us no closer to Jesus (though it would not be impossible to use this as a starting point to getting to arguments for why Jesus is God later on).

That being said, Pascal offered this wager in favour of the Christian God & that is how I intend to look at it. Pascal is essentially saying that Christianity is a safer choice than Atheism. I agree that Christianity is the more reasonable & more satisfying choice. I don’t agree that it is necessarily safer.

Paul’s Wager
Try telling the Apostle Paul that “Christianity is the good life! If it’s wrong in the end, who cares? We’re gone! Who cares if it’s a delusion?” Paul’s response can be found in 1 Corinthians 15:13-19 (specifically v. 19) “If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.” This comes from the same Paul who was single, broke, separated from his church, beaten with 39 lashes, imprisoned, shipwrecked 3 times, and bit by a snake.

The reason that Pascal’s Wager is so popular among Christians in the Western world is that they don’t see Christianity as a life of suffering. Try telling the numerous Christian missionaries who lost their lives while trying to spread the Gospel that they actually “lost nothing if it’s not true.” Western Christians have believed the lie that the psychological, relational, health, and wealth benefits of following Jesus far outweigh the call to take up your cross and follow Jesus (Luke 9:23). Even if you are reading this saying that you don’t believe in the “prosperity gospel,” I would ask if you take risks with your life, money, time, relationships, school, for Christ.

If the resurrection of Jesus never happened & Christianity is not true, I would not choose this life. There are other ways to maximize your pleasure on earth (though drunkards and gluttons are still to be pitied as well). Paul freely chose to take so many risks in his life serving Jesus that he suffered more every day than he would have chosen to suffer if he knew Christianity was false.

The chief end of man is to glorify God. If we are to live this way & magnify Jesus in hard places, it will cost us every day. We would have no hope of our future resurrection and eternity with Christ. We would not choose this if the resurrection of Jesus never happened. Why would I choose to deny myself of ordinary things and take risks with my life for Christ?

“Pascal’s Wager” cannot be true because “Paul’s Wager” is the truth of what Christians are called to. We do not choose a life of suffering if it’s all a lie & Jesus never rose from the dead. I do believe that Christianity is the rational, reasonable, and most satisfying choice. Through the suffering, we have reason for joy because Jesus rose again & our faith is not in vain.

God Bless,
Tyson Bradley