I’m very happy this topic has been posted.
A couple weeks ago I started writing something about Pascal’s Wager and, to show where I intended to go with it was going to call it something like
The uselessness of Pascal’s wager in Universalism: or
Pascal’s wager: useless to Universalism: or
Pascal’s wager: no place in UR
The words of Pascal have been paraphrased in many ways; here are just a few…
– the argument that it is in one’s own best interest to behave as if God exists, since the possibility of eternal punishment in hell outweighs any advantage of believing otherwise.
– An argument according to which belief in God is rational whether or not God exists, since falsely believing that God exists leads to no harm whereas falsely believing that God does not exist may lead to eternal damnation.
– “If you believe in God and turn out to be incorrect,you have lost nothing–but if you don’t believe in God and turn out to be incorrect, you will go to hell. Therefore it is foolish to be an atheist.”
– "It makes more sense to believe in God than to not believe. If you believe, and God exists, you will be rewarded in the afterlife. If you do not believe, and He exists, you will be punished for your disbelief. If He does not exist, you have lost nothing either way. "
While some have seen this wager as an apologetic for God’s existence, it really sounds more like an argument for belief. More accurately, as an excuse (if you will) for belief. And it seems that’s how Pascal intended it originally. As I’ve heard it told, his friends were hounding him to abandon his heavenly pursuits and come party with them. To get them off his back (so to speak) he offered that if it turned out he was right and they were wrong, they’d be a lot worse off than he. (Not sure if this historical angle is true or not) That seems to me less apologetic and more like fire insurance or maybe Vegas.
But for Pascal, it seems the weight of his wager rested on the reality of eternal separation from God, something I no longer believe in since embracing Universal Reconciliation. This means that Pascal’s wager is no longer in play for me. Given that ALL will (eventually) come to reconciliation with God, the great “loss” that Pascal foretells does not happen. At least not the way he imagined. If the refining horrors of hell are considered “loss” then of course it could work.
There is however a way of formulating something like Pascal’s Wager which could be turned back against the belief in UR. If I said something like:
“I believe God will eventually save all; you believe some will be lost for eternity.
If I am right and you are wrong, then you, the one who has it wrong “wins” –
whereas if you are right and I am wrong, I have a much greater chance of ‘losing’”
Seen that way, it readily becomes apparent why I’m thinking Pascal’s wager is best left as a historic discussion only and not incorporated into our UR thought. (not that I think anyone is calling for that) And besides, the kind of belief he was talking about was inner conviction – not mere outward conformity.
Besides, I think MacDonald has addressed the idea that belief in UR is NOT something to be presented before the entire Gospel story so as not to minimize the reality of sin and it’s consequences.
My $ .02 worth…