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Creation 30(1):49, December 2007

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Pascal’s wager

by

Blaise Pascal
Blaise Pascal by Augustin Pajou, Wikipedia

Would you love to share the Gospel message with someone, particularly the gospel in creation, but they won’t give you the time of day? They feel it unnecessary or unimportant to spend the time discussing the topic? Try getting them to consider Pascal’s Wager.

Blaise Pascal1 is the 17th century scientist and Christian who was recognized in having the unit of pressure named after him, the pascal.2 Atmospheric pressure in weather reports is often reported in kilopascals. Blaise, as with many thinkers of his era, was also a philosopher and theologian. Pascal’s Wager, which he used as a ‘proof’ of God,3 is often used when illustrating decision theory,4 particularly minimizing your losses. While Pascal’s Wager really doesn’t even come close to ‘proving God’, it can be useful to get someone to consider the importance of investigating the reality of the Creator’s existence.

So what is Pascal’s Wager? Pascal proposed that there are one of two truths in the universe, and one of two ways to live in relation to those truths.

The Truths: Either God exists, or God doesn’t exist.

The ways to live: You can live as if God exists, or you can live as if God doesn’t exist.

Combining these we have the following conclusions:

  1. If God doesn’t exist, and you live as though He doesn’t exist, you have no losses.5
  2. If God doesn’t exist, and you live as though He does, you have no losses but gain the advantages of a better life.
  3. If God does exist, and you live as though He doesn’t, you lose big time.
  4. If God does exist, and you live as though He does, you have no losses and gain everything.

Now living as though God exists involves far more than just acknowledging that He exists (‘even the demons believe and trembleJames 2:19). It must involve a recognition of the need for God’s forgiveness in Jesus Christ. By using Pascal’s Wager you can help your friend see that they are gambling with their eternal life. If they really want to minimize their losses, it is worth their while to give you the time to share with them about the reality of the Creator-God and the need to be saved from sin’s consequences in the coming judgment.

Pascal’s table

References and notes

  1. Lamont, A., Great creation scientist, Blaise Pascal (1623–1662) Creation 20(1):38–39, 1997; <creation.com/pascal>. Return to text.
  2. One pascal (Pa) is equivalent to a force of one newton (N) applied to an area of 1m2. Return to text.
  3. Stumpf, S. E., Socrates to Sartre: A History of Philosophy, 6th edition, McGraw Hill, Sydney, 1999. Return to text.
  4. For instance: Jeffrey, R.C., The Logic of Decision, 2nd edition, The University of Chicago Press, Chicago, 1990. Return to text.
  5. Actually, living life as if God does not exist, and so lacking moral absolutes, causes huge loss. See Cardno, S., The creation basis for morality, Creation 24(3):44–47, 2002 and <creation.com/morality>. Return to text.