Pascal’s Wager: a communion meditation

Seventeenth-century Frenchman, Blaise Pascal, was an amazing man. In his short 39 years, he made major contributions to physics and mathematics and was one of the first two inventors of the mechanical calculator. Late in life, he also put forward a thought provoking argument known as Pascal’s Wager.

To quote Wikipedia, the Wager:

…posits that humans bet with their lives that God either exists or does not.

Pascal argues that a rational person should live as though God exists and seek to believe in God. If God does not actually exist, such a person will have only a finite loss (some pleasures, luxury, etc.), whereas they stand to receive infinite gains (as represented by eternity in Heaven) and avoid infinite losses (eternity in Hell).

In short, human beings have much more to gain by believing in God than they stand to lose by not believing.

Examining the argument more fully, it is reasonable to ask what are some of those “infinite gains” to which Pascal refers?  The complete list is extensive–stretching from Genesis to Revelation, but Jesus lays out several compelling examples in the Gospel of John’s detailed account of the Last Supper:

  • He is preparing a place for us in heaven (John 14:2)
  • He will return to take us to the place he has prepared (John 14:3)
  • He is the way, the truth and the life & no one comes to the Father except through him (John 14:6)
  • Jesus and God are one (John 14:9-11)
  • Those who believe in him will do the works he has been doing and more (John 14:12)
  • Ask for anything in my name and I will do it (John 14:13)
  • He will send the Holy Spirit (John 14:15-17 & 26)
  • Those who love Jesus are loved by God, too (John 14:21)
  • If you remain in me, you will bear much fruit (John 15:5)
  • In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world. (John 16:33)

Likewise, what are some of the “infinite losses”?  The Biblical descriptions of hell are definitely not pleasant!

  • A blazing furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth (Mt 13:50)
  • Eternal punishment (Mt 25:46)
  • Punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might (2 Thess 1:9)

When you weigh the differences between even a handful of examples of the “infinite gains” versus the “infinite losses”, I think any reasonable person would agree that to choose to live life outside of belief in Christ is a huge gamble indeed!

So in this communion time, remember the “infinite gains” Jesus offers not only to the Disciples, but to all who believe in him, and rejoice that you have such extraordinary promises to look forward to.

And if you are unsure in your belief or don’t believe at all, think long and hard about what you are forfeiting.  Pray, examine the scriptures and consult with your pastor.  Bold stock market investments, glitzy gaming venues and new business ventures can certainly rob you of money and pride, but stubborn disbelief in God risks your place in eternity.  Ultimately, don’t place your faith in Christ because you feel obligated by a brilliant dead guy’s argument.  Do it because he offers you hope and rest, grace and mercy, love and forgiveness and a place with him in eternity.


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