Pascal's Wager: Avoiding The Right Hell?


I’m hoping that I’ll be able to spend this weekend catching up on posts here at EU, but my schedule posting elsewhere on the net has been lamentably lax, too, the past few weeks; including at the site I migrated from, the Christian Cadre Journal.

I especially want to take a stab at this article posted up by my friend and colleague Bill Kesatie, on the propriety of Pascal’s Wager. I expect I’ll have more things to say against his evaluation than in favor of it, for reasons which will become more obvious the further you read down his admirably lengthy analysis. (I also expect I’ll be eventually reffing back to the “Argument from Salvation” that I posted up a few months ago as part of my thread on the importance of orthodox trinitarianism for universalism: in effect it’s a heavily expanded and modified version of Pascal’s Wager. I also stressed in all-caps, if I recall correctly, that I wouldn’t recommend people believe in God as a result of my own argument there! :wink: )

Be that as it may, I thought I’d post up a link to it here first; partly to remind myself that I want to stop off there and contribute this weekend, but also to give readers here a first crack at it. :smiley:


Interesting article,

I have had some sympathies with he ‘wrong God’ objection but my real objection is that any God worth his salt will know whether I truly believe in him or not. According to the Christian Bible it’s God’s job to give me real faith. There’s no point in me ‘trying’ to instill it in myself. So as far as I can see I am physically incapable of believing in God for the sake of the wager. I either really, truly DO believe it or I’m pretending to believe it. If the latter is true then surely I’ll wake up in hell as surely as if I openly rejected the wager?


I don’t know that your assumptions are accurate. Doesn’t one always have to decide whether to accept that what is presented to one is true(even if from God)? Our fallible nature always requires that we choose, no?


*"A letter to incite to the search after God.

And then to make people seek Him among the philosophers, sceptics, and dogmatists, who disquiet him who inquires of them."* Pensee 184

I think the Wager is abused when we think of it as an argument for faith in spite of the facts. Rather it is a reflection (pensee/thought) showing how valuable it would be if the Christian faith is true. It’s best used as an exhortation to seek and search for faith - not fake it. :slight_smile:


Hi Roofus,

The main thrust of my reply was less to do with ‘deciding for Christ’ so to speak than believing because of the wager. You either really become a Christian or you pretend to to win the wager. God should know the difference.


Oh, I don’t think Pascal meant that you could just “believe” without following Christ. Pascal was speaking of being aware of the limits of reason to solve the matter in some indubitable manner in which doubt wasn’t possible, but then choosing Christ while being aware of the potential consequences of each choice.


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…


Minor bump to remind myself I might want to actually write something on this instead of only introducing it as a topic… :mrgreen:

I really appreciate the discussion so far, though!