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Logic 101 - Pascal's Wager

Q. I've heard Christians argue that if I don't believe in Christianity and I am wrong then I'm doomed. But, if Christians are wrong and there's no God or Christian faith then at least nobody gets hurt - like a divine insurance policy. Isn't that a fallacy in logic?

Answer:

Oops…Yes. This fallacy is called "Pascal's Wager." Many Christians (including me) are guilty of repeating this error in one form or another. My apologies.

17th Century Mathematician&Physicist

In the early 1600s Blaise Pascal, a French mathematician and physicist contemporaneous with Descartes, presented this philosophical argument. He directed it to those who were not convinced of God's existence through traditional arguments. It is an oddity because Pascal is well respected and became known as the father of modern probability theory (answers.com).

Pascal's Wager

In a nutshell the argument goes something like this: God is the safer bet. If you believe in God and are wrong you have lost nothing. If you don't believe in God and are wrong you will go to hell.

Some of the arguments presented against this logic are as follows:

1. It assumes there is only one God that someone would choose to follow - Jesus Christ. In an age of pluralism there are many gods. Which should you pick? Hindu? Islam? Judaism? Christianity?

2. It assumes that only the Christian God gets one into heaven. However, what about Islamic paradise? Other religions?

3. It assumes there is only one hell to avoid. What if a person believes in Christianity but ends up in some other religion's hell? How do we know which religion to choose?

4. What about alternatives? Maybe God rewards blonde, blue-eyed people and condemns humanitarians. Or maybe we have a deist god who doesn't care about us personally at all. How do we know?

Safer bet creates True Faith?

When presenting Biblical faith as an option, Christians must be careful not to assume that skeptics will decide God is the "safer bet" and become true believers in the process. While skeptics may become fearful of hell or desire life in heaven it doesn't mean they can make the jump to reasonable and solid faith in Christ.

Argued into Heaven?

True faith can come from serious study of the facts or evidences about Christianity (called "Apologetics") and through prayer. But, it is most important to remmember that faith is a gift of God and we are converted through the hearing of the Gospel. God calls us to faith - no one is "argued" into heaven. Consider this Scripture: "When the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord - and as many as had been appointed to eternal life believed" (Acts 14:28, NASB).

Numbers

In our quest to save loved ones from hell and to bring many to faith in Christ, we forget that we are dealing with real human beings and the sovereign choices of God. We have objectified people. We want "numbers." This is why many churches have altar calls but neglect discipleship. However, Jesus said, "Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations…" (Matthew 28:19). Disciples are "students" or "pupils," not the numbers of persons converted.

We do need to be ready to provide logical answers when skeptics challenge our faith (1 Peter 3:15). Yet we can't necessarily "win converts" by threatening hell or by making God the "safer bet." Our faith is not just another insurance policy.

There are excellent reasons and probabilities leading one to consider that Christianity is true, that Yeshua (Hebrew for "Jesus") is Lord of the universe, that the Bible is divinely inspired, and that heaven and hell are real places. To begin with, we suggest that everyone start doing their homework…

We recommend the following resources in your quest for truth.


Apologetics:


Book:

Ralph O. Muncaster, Examine the Evidence (Sisters, OR: Harvest House, 2004).

DVD:

"Does God Exist," debate between atheist Christopher Hitchens and philospher William Lane Craig. www.biola.edu.apologetics. 888.332.4652

Websites:

www.JohnAnkerberg.org

www.AlwaysBeReady.com





Authors Ken Emilio holds an M.A. in Biblical Studies from Louisiana Baptist University. Valorie earned the M.A. in History from UCLA focusing upon early church history.








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