Before You – Pascal

Have you ever wondered if being a Christian even makes sense?  Is it even reasonable to have faith in an unseen God?  Maybe people around you have called you foolish for believing what you believe.  If this is the case, I assure you that you are not the first person to think this…not even close.  Today we are going to look at what one theologian has to say about the relationship between faith and reason.  Over the next few weeks we will be diving into some early church leaders and theologians in order to learn about the history of our faith.  Not only is this important for understanding where we come from but to see that discussions about faith have a rich and valuable history. 

The first theologian that we are going to take a look at is a man named Blaise Pascal.  If this name rings a bell to you that is probably because Pascal was much more than a theologian. Pascal was a French mathematician and physicist who is also known for Pascal’s triangle.  Born in 1623, Pascal wrote during a time period known as the post enlightenment era which was a large turn from religion to a more “secular age”.  During this time period there was a rise in what was called skepticism.  Skepticism was all about questioning what we can actually know.  For this reason, many people believed that to be a Christian was absolutely unreasonable. Pascal on the other hand, took a different approach. 

In order to argue for a positive relationship between faith and reason, Pascal coined what is now known as Pascal’s wager.  Essentially his argument was this: if you believe in God and you are wrong, then you at least lived a happy and moral life but there is no loss.  But if you believe in God and you are right, then you live eternity in heaven.  On the contrary, if you do not believe in God and you are right, then you gain nothing.  But if you are wrong then you face hell.  Pascal’s wager is entirely based on a gain and loss system. If you believe in God then you have everything to gain and nothing to lose if you are wrong.  However, if you do not believe in God you have nothing to gain and everything to lose if you are wrong.  

The thing about Pascal’s wager is that it does not actually prove the existence of God.  It only serves to show how it is reasonable and makes sense to believe in God.  What I like so much about Pascal is that he is not just a theologian. He is largely known for his work in math and physics.  In this time that we are living in, science and religion are often seen as in opposition.  In Pascal’s time we see the same thing.  However, Pascal used his knowledge in other fields to reason his way towards an understanding that believing in God makes more sense than to not too.  

I hope that this serves as encouragement to you in a doubtful world.  At the very least, let this provide you the confidence needed to express how believing in God makes sense.  To feel foolish because of your faith is not necessary.  One of the greatest multi subject minds in history made one of his greatest and longest lasting contributions about the subject of faith and reason.  So be bold in your faith and know that faith is completely reasonable.   

-Sean

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