Friday, April 30, 2010

Let's call it...Faithful Friday

This is a re-post from October 2008. I don't normally post today, but I'm feeling lead to put it up again. Have a terrific weekend!

Over the 18 months of managing the website (sorry, no longer up), I received a number of interesting emails from both atheist and agnostics. For me, it's easier to relate and respond to the agnostics, because I've been where they are spiritually at a point in my own life. The arrogance of atheists, however, really bothers me (I know, that's not very Christ like…I'm working on it). I had a conversation of the atheist variety this past weekend.

Atheists always want to bring up Pascal's Wager in discussions. Of course, the lack of scientific evidence is also a popular point for atheists, but responding to the point that there is no proof God exists is too easy…"Prove He doesn't exist." I think Thomas Aquinas covered this best almost 800 years ago in Summa Theologica.

So what is Pascal's Wager? Here's a quick refresher for you:

Blaise Pascal was a famous French mathematician, physicist and religious philosopher in the mid-1660's. People my age probably remember the computer programming language named after him in the late 70's and early 80's (and the only subject in college I made a D, thanks Blaise). Needless to say, he was a pretty smart fellow. His philosophy, however, took on a very rigid, structured matrix that didn't allow for more pliable principles and concepts.

In his Wager, Pascal attempts to provide an analytical process for a person to evaluate options in regarding belief in God. This is often misinterpreted as simply believing in God or not. As Pascal sets it out, the options are two: live as if God exists, or live as if God does not exist. There is no third possibility.

Therefore, we are faced with the following possibilities:

You live as though God exists (in obedience to His Word).
*If God exists, you go to heaven: your gain is infinite (best case).
*If God does not exist, you gain nothing & lose nothing.

You live as though God does not exist.
*If God exists, you go to hell: your loss is infinite (ouch, not good).
*If God does not exist, you gain nothing & lose nothing (no time to gloat either).

With these possibilities, and the principles of statistics, Pascal attempted to demonstrate that the only prudent course of action is to live as if God exists. Now that's a nutshell version of the Pascal's Wager, but if you want more detailed information, click on the link above. For those mathematically challenged, like me, best leave it here...just trust me.

Atheist, for some reason, rally around the Wager as the only possible explanation a rational person could believe in a 'fantasy' like God. When backed into a corner during a heated debate on God, it will come flying from an atheist out of no where…"You're just hedging Pascal's Wager on heaven and hell!" Then you'll get a 'top-that' look in their mind that surely closes the deal…well, not quite.

You see, my belief in God has little, if anything, to do with the fear of going to hell. Besides, you can't base your commitment to God on just logic. He wants your love willingly and true. God knows your heart, so you can't bluff or hedge your way into heaven.

I love God because He is gracious enough, merciful enough to love me…yes me. That still blows my mind! The Creator of all that is, all that was, and all that ever will be cares about the most insignificant creation He made…me. Wow!

And how do I know? Because I talk to Him every day. I feel His presence in my life every day. I have His word that has stood the test of thousands of years to read from daily. I don't need the logic of Mr. Pascal and his mathematical equation to tell me to put my faith in God. Jesus took care of that long before Blaise…Hey, maybe we need a programming language based on His teachings.

It would at least be crash-proof.

May God bless you today in your walk with Him.


David said...

As a Pascal programmer - and a few others - I am a pretty logical guy.

The wager makes sense if you believe in Hell, as you stated. It's application can't be used for anything else.

Here is my rational for believing in God. I will use some pseudo "code" to make my point.

If God exists {
Then He should do something
} Else {
There is no point in believing God

The question is often asked, what should God do to prove that He exists? But it is the wrong question.

If God does everything your way {
Then God is not all powerful
} Else {
God is all powerful doing everything according to his Word.

If we read his word, then we will know His character, His ways, and the fruit of the lifestyle of the truly faithful.

Too often, even for Christians, we speak of faith as a mystery. But Paul said that the mystery was revealed. Is it possible we want to know the workings of the mystery on our own terms without knowing and understanding God? That seems to be the case.

I find that most atheists have been disappointed by religion and blame that on God. They have not read his Word, and the few that have intellectualize the scriptures. It makes them look foolish because God must be known, not intellectualized. God is the one that gives revelation from His word.

Therefore; I conclude, that God is relational, and not rational. One must come to know Him by His rules, and amazingly, for sincere seekers, He is gracious to respond.

God is willing to do many things for those that humbly ask. For those that demand, God sits and waits. And trust me, He is in no hurry.

I have never seen a sincere seeker not connect with God. I have seen many that claim to know God, but do not. And worse, there are those that want o believe and won't until God does it their way.

Burkulater said...

Forcing oneself to "love" God for fear of hell isn't much like loving, if you ask me. While there are plenty of intellectual arguments for the existence of God, there must be a personal aspect to belief beyond those arguments simply making sense. Someone could have argued why I'd be better off with my husband before I married him, and while those arguments may have made sense, and while I may have agreed with them, loving my husband came with a personal relationship with him...same with God. So, I'm with you, Tony. Good post. Reminds me a bit of what Matt was talking about the other day.

Anonymous said...

Kind of makes me nostalgic. I feel like pulling out my well worn "Programming in Pascal" text book.

Chris Denning said...

The problem for most atheists is not that they don't believe in God, but they don't want Him.