"The Wager" for the Skeptic

Doubts. The Western World’s approach to learning has radically shifted over the past 300 years. The scientific method has been drilled into us. I must test a hypothesis with tangible experiments so that I can verify my conclusions with scientific data. Then, and only then, will I believe something to be true. The influence of René Descartes, Francis Bacon, and David Hume is now part of your intellectual DNA whether or not their names even register with you. And this type of empirical proof works well for physics, but not so much for metaphysics. After all, if I could put my lab coat on and verify resurrection of the dead through a documented study of experiments, I would have the “scientific” proof that the world wants. Or would I? Then resurrection would no longer be supernatural, because it would be natural. It would not be miraculous. So we would be left with saying “God does not exist” based on our “scientific” findings. It’s a lose-lose if we confine our thinking to experimental science.

Now Christians should endorse and promote good SCIENCE. What we need to reject is SCIENTISM, which is the belief that natural science is the only path to proof and therefore the only way to know truth. Each of us live our lives based on TRUST. Do you reject everything you ever learned in history? You weren’t there to see the Battle of Gettysburg or the arrival of the Mayflower. Why should you accept it? My birth certificate says I was born in Jasper, GA on September 20, 1983. But do I really know that? I can’t verify it empirically. Why do I believe it? Because I TRUST the document. And I TRUST my parents. Why? They have proven to be trustworthy in what I can verify. And so convincing someone who demands ABSOLUTE PROOF of God’s existence is difficult because he first has to acknowledge that most of our knowledge is based on TRUST and not “SCIENTIFIC PROOF.” Now we are not saying that Christianity is just choosing wishful thinking, believing in a fairy tale because it’s comforting with a “happily ever after.” No, there is a healthy amount of skepticism that’s necessary. We investigate. We look for evidence. We bring the evidence to the trial. But we do not have to pronounce a verdict that is beyond the slightest shadow of a doubt…only one that is beyond reasonable doubt.

Blaise Pascal once proposed a wager for the skeptic. He says that even if you still had doubts, why would you place your bets on God not existing? If it ends up that you’re right, you cease to exist and are rewarded with an eternity of nothing. And if you’re wrong, eternity will be spent in torment. On the other hand, if you wagered on God’s existence, being wrong would cost you nothing except the luxuries of the worldly life here. But if you’re right and have a true relationship with God through Jesus, then eternity will be a reward beyond our comprehension. An agnostic friend once asked me, “Caleb, what if you die and realize you were wrong about Christianity and all that you missed out on?” I roughly said, “Well, I would still have been able to live the best life possible here on this earth…a life of love, joy, morality, and devoted relationships.” Then I promptly asked him, “But what if you’re wrong?”  


To His Glory,

Caleb Cochran

Photo credit: C.K.H. via Foter.com / CC BY-ND