The Winner Behind the Wager

blaise-pascal-happinessBorn into an upper-class French family on June 19, 1623, Blaise became one of the greatest intellectuals of his time.  He was an esteemed mathematician, physicist, writer, inventor and philosopher.   He taught himself geometry at the age of twelve and wrote a book on the geometry of cones when he was sixteen.

His concern over the long hours his tax collector father spent adding up revenues, motivated him to invent one of the first mechanical adding machines by the time he reached nineteen.   Initially called “calculators” they eventually came to be known as “Pascalines” and their technological principles were used for hundreds of years.

Possibly one of his most significant inventions was a horse carriage with multiple seats.  These carriages came to be widely used in moving people around Paris, perhaps establishing the very first form of mass transportation.

While he was renowned for his ground-breaking theories in mathematics and physics, he is also remembered for his significant contributions to philosophy and the defense of the Christian faith.  After his untimely death at the age of 39, numerous scraps of paper were found with his thoughts on the veracity of Christianity.  They were organized and published, and eventually titled, “Pensées” or “thoughts.”

This landmark book introduced “Pascal’s Wager,” a powerful philosophical argument concerning whether or not God exists.  He argued that by definition, an infinite God is beyond knowing by finite man.   Nevertheless, He either exists, or He does not exist.  Therefore, a wager must be made concerning His existence based on the potential consequences of His existence.

He argued if God does not exist, then how a person lives has no significance.  But if God does exist, then how a person lives will affect the consequences of this life, and especially the afterlife.  Accordingly, it is foolish to wager against the possibility of an eternal life of happiness, for the possibility of gaining little to nothing.

Therefore, Pascal’s Wager argues that the wisest decision a person can make is to believe in the existence of God!  This is the most reasonable wager, win or lose, because if you win, you gain all; if you lose, you lose little to nothing.   Conversely, if you wager against God’s existence, win or lose; you either win little to nothing, or you lose everything!

Pascal knew that many would struggle with a belief in God. He suggested they convince themselves of God’s existence, not by an increase in proofs of God, but by adopting a lifestyle befitting God.  He proposed this approach would often lead to a true faith in the existence of God!

Pascal’s Wager proposes that either by deliberate choice, or by neglect, every human being has already made a decision about the existence of God.  Ultimately, the way we live our lives determines how we have wagered.  So wager well.  You either have little to nothing to lose and everything to gain, or you have little to nothing to gain and everything to lose!

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