Have you ever heard the phrase, “Better to be safe than sorry”?
This phrase is often applied to everything from wearing a seat belt in the car, a helmet on a bike, to throwing away milk that has a slightly sour smell.
It’s a casual concept used often throughout our daily lives.
But could there be wisdom in applying it to something of far more importance, perhaps even eternal?
The French philosopher Blaise Pascal seemed to think so.
Known today as ‘Pascal’s Wager,’ he famously posited that we humans bet on God’s existence with our eternal lives, and because the stakes are eternal, we should believe in God.
This formulation is based on a consideration of all possible realities and outcomes.
First, God either exists or He doesn’t.
If He exists and you believe, you’ll spend eternity in Heaven.
But if He exists and you don’t believe, you will spend eternity in Hell.
On the other hand, if He doesn’t exist, it doesn’t matter if you believe or not – you end up in the same place with no eternal afterlife at all.
Therefore, there is no risk at all in believing in God, but an eternity of risk if you don’t.
Thus, in essence, when it comes to questions of our eternal fate, it is better to be safe than sorry.
Pascal’s Wager is expressed by many Christian apologists in an effort to make our belief in an omnipotent Creator more rational and logical to skeptics.
When speaking with an atheist who believes there is no afterlife, an apologist will say something like, “If you are right, then nothing happens when we die. But if the Bible is right, then your disbelief will take you to Hell.”
This is a fantastic logical argument, and it implores an atheist to re-evaluate their sincerity in believing that nothing awaits us after death.
The hope for any Christian who presents “the wager” is to compel the atheist to seriously consider their position, given the potential consequences, and that they’ll genuinely seek and find the Truth of Christ.
But is this method appropriate for Christians to use when spreading the Gospel?
The fact is, Pascal’s Wager is not the same as the “Good News” of the Gospel.
The gospel, or “good news,” is the Christian message that God sent his only begotten Son, Jesus Christ, to die on the cross for our sins so that we can be saved from eternal damnation.
All we must do to accept this gift of salvation is acknowledge and repent of our sins, believe that Christ died for us, and accept Him as our Savior.
Rather than focusing on developing a personal relationship with the Creator, Pascal’s Wager risks turning the question of belief into an insurance policy needed merely in case their worldview is incorrect.
So while explaining Pascal’s Wager can be a great way to start a philosophical conversation with an atheist and bring them to a point where they are genuinely concerned about knowing the truth, it can’t be where our evangelism ends.
A proper use of the wager in evangelism would be to apply it with a gospel presentation, such as the commonly used ‘Roman’s Road’ approach:
Romans 3:23 says we have all sinned.
Romans 6:23 says that the wages of that sin is death.
Romans 5:28 says that because we are sinners, Christ died for us.
John 3:16 says that God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son so that anyone who believes in him shall be saved.
Romans 10:9-10 says that we need to confess with our mouths and believe with our hearts that Christ died for us and was raised from the dead, proving that He is God.
Romans 10:13 says that anyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.
Ephesians 2:8-9 says that we are saved by God’s grace through our faith, not because of any work that we can do. This is a gift from God, and no matter how good of a person you think you are, you are still a sinner destined for Hell unless you accept God’s gift for you.
The gift of eternal life is free, but the wages, or cost, of sin is eternal death. Is betting on your eternity by rejecting Jesus Christ a gamble you’re willing to make?
You see? Pascal’s Wager can easily be used in conjunction with the Roman’s Road and help tie a nice rational bow around the ultimate message of hope and faith.
Relying on Pascal’s Wager alone leaves out too much about the Truth of a relationship with Christ and what that truly means. However, it can be a powerful closing argument when used with Scripture.
The gospel and scripture should always be the focus of our evangelism as Christians.
The wager requires the gospel, not the other way around. That is the most appropriate application of Pascal’s Wager.
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