Pascal’s Wager for Those Who Believe in a Personal and Loving God

I have mixed feelings about Pascal’s Wager and wouldn’t use it in an apologetic argument unless I were involved in a discussion with a man or woman interested in the intellectual aspects of belief. A brief summary of the Wager is as follows:

Pascal’s Wager (or Pascal’s Gambit) is a suggestion posed by the French philosopher Blaise Pascal that even though the existence of God cannot be determined through reason, a person should “wager” as though God exists, because so living has potentially everything to gain, and certainly nothing to lose.

This proposal is based less upon a pure leap of faith and more upon the consequences that Pascal saw in the uncertainty of human reason. Quite properly in my opinion, some atheists — including Richard Dawkins as mentioned but not explained in the Wikipedia article — have claimed that sort of an argument can work in different directions than the one Pascal seems to have intended in his notes towards a general apologetics. Since they were just notes and since Pascal gave signs of being one of the most extraordinarily and profoundly intelligent thinkers in history, we should be cautious in assuming we know how, or even whether, he would have used his Wager in that book if he’d lived to write it.

In any case, the various aspects of the certainty and uncertainty of human knowledge need to be explored and those of good faith, if only faith in human moral integrity, need to explore matters from their perspective.

Yet, there’s a way in which Pascal’s wager can be extended in a direction quite uncomfortable for those who have a belief in a personal and loving God, as taught by orthodox Jews or Catholics or others with firm and specific theistic beliefs.

If you do believe in God as described by some orthodox form of Judaism or as described by some form of Christianity with strong beliefs, then it would seem your best bet would be to give yourself fully and entirely to Him. Don’t just bet what matters little. Don’t just push your pile of chips into the pot. Climb up on the table and sit in that pot with those chips. Put yourself fully and totally in play.

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