You’ve bet your life, and right now you are playing out your hand. In fact, with every day that passes you “up the ante,” having invested another 24 hours in your wager. The problem is that the bet is for your spiritual and eternal life.
Let me explain.
Blaise Pascal (1623-1662) was a French scientist and mathematician who has been credited with developing ground-breaking theories in fields ranging from geometry to economics. He was a genius of the highest magnitude, and the world suffered a huge loss when he died at the young age of 39.
Like many scientists of his day, Pascal was a Christian who believed his research should uncover the wonders of God’s creation. For the religiously-oriented, perhaps Pascal’s greatest writing was his “wager” that applied probability theory — a type of mathematics — to Christianity.
The essence of Pascal’s Wager, found in his book “Pensées,” stems from a mathematical position known as “decision under uncertainty.” While quite lengthy, it can be summarized this way:
Let’s say the theological arguments for the truth of Christianity do not persuade you. Let’s assume that the Bible and Christian theology do not convince you to believe that Jesus was God Himself, died and rose again so that through faith in Him you have eternal life. They certainly can persuade you, but let’s just say they don’t.
Pascal argued that you should believe because it is mathematically and logically intelligent to do so! He explained that “either God exists or he does not,” therefore, in essence you must “bet” one way or another. Whether you make a deliberate choice or not doesn’t matter; your “bet” becomes obvious as your life plays out. (For Pascal, “God” was clearly the Christian triune God.)
So, Pascal said, consider the implications of your wager. There you are at the end of your life. You placed your bet and now you’re on your deathbed. If God does not exist and you chose not to believe in Him, then you came out even. Nothing ventured, nothing gained or lost.
If God does not exist and you chose to believe in Him, then you at least lived a life focused on spiritual peace and joy while trying to emulate the high moral teachings of Jesus; there is substantial benefit to such a well-lived life.
Continuing, if God does exist and you chose to believe in Him, then you will be welcomed into the kingdom of Heaven; you will have eternal life with God. But, if God exists and you chose not to believe in Him, then you have lost eternal life; you bet your life on God not existing and you blew it.
In Pascal’s writings found after his death, he essentially said this: By believing in God you place a wager, and, “if you win, you win everything; if you lose, you lose nothing. Do not hesitate, then; gamble on His existence.” (And remember, you never know when the dealer will call your hand.)
Pascal bet his life on God. What about you?
Think about it. After all, it’s the wager of your life.
The Rev. Dr. Bob LeFavi, installed member of the Society of Ordained Scientists, is pastor at Bethel Lutheran Church, Springfield.