Know why you believe what you believe. What seems to be such a simple statement can bring about complicated implications. In order to know the why, we must also know the what; and in order to know the what, we must also know the why. Everyone believes something. An atheist believes, though it be in nothing. That in and of itself is an absolute. A theist believes in a divine being. A Muslim believes in Allah. A Christian believes in the triune Godhead of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Each of these faiths believes for a reason.
The goal of this post is a push against the notion of making God a “just-in-case” for your life. What I mean by this is that some people claim that if it is possible that heaven and hell may exist, then it is wise to side on heaven in order to gain all the benefits and avoid the consequences of hell. Blaise Pascal, a mathematician in the 1600s contemplated this exact scenario and came up with what is now known as “Pascal’s Wager.” One man summarizes it: “The gist of the Wager is that, according to Pascal, one cannot come to the knowledge of God’s existence through reason alone, so the wise thing to do is to live your life as if God does exist because such a life has everything to gain and nothing to lose. If we live as though God exists, and He does indeed exist, we have gained heaven. If He doesn’t exist, we have lost nothing. If, on the other hand, we live as though God does not exist and He really does exist, we have gained hell and punishment and have lost heaven and bliss. If one weighs the options, clearly the rational choice to live as if God exists is the better of the possible choices.”
Issues With the Wager
The issues with Pascal’s wager are many, but summarized below.
- God is not meant to be a “just-in-case” for us, but rather our firm foundation upon which we have unshakeable faith. The wager places God outside of the place of totality in our lives and into a place of a genie in a bottle that we summon when we need Him.
- God is not meant to be subservient to us, but we are to be subservient to God. The argument at hand claims a God that serves man.
- Salvation is not ultimately for us, but for God and His glory. To learn of this, read through the Exodus account of why God hardens Pharaoh’s heart. By aligning with Pascal, we would claim that God exists to meet our needs alone.
- We are created in God’s image, but we attempt to make God in our image. The wager creates a God that reflects our desires.
- Belief is to be by faith, not by chance.
- The wager places God in the position of “if” when He should be in the position of “is.” By this, I mean that God is meant to be sure in our lives, as will be further explained below.
Eliminating the Wager
We must build on this last statement that belief is to be by faith, not by chance. As Paul writes to the Ephesians, “For by grace you have been saved through faith” (Ephesians 2:8, ESV). Notice the last two words, “through faith.” Faith is defined by the writer of Hebrews, “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen (Hebrews 11:1, ESV). Faith is rooted in hope and conviction. Faith is assurance. Faith does not act on a “just-in-case” but on sure hopes and convictions.
I encourage you to read through the letter of Galatians and count the times that Paul states “through faith” or “by faith.” You will be surprised to see how faith is inextricably linked to our salvation and belief in the almighty God.
We must eliminate Pascal’s wager as a reason to believe in God for it is a belief that makes God serve man and that alters faith into mere chance. It not only robs faith of its essence, but makes faith null and void. Pascal’s wager makes God an “if” when He remains an “is.” Is your belief rooted in faith or in chance?