Blaise Pascal was a French mathematician, physicist, and by all means, a man of God. He was a smart man of God. Supposedly, he was a child prodigy in the area of natural and applied sciences. He was also quite good at math. For example, he helped create two major new areas of research and he also wrote a treatise on the subject of projective geometry. He did all this by the age of sixteen! When I was sixteen, I was too busy popping pimples on my face and trying to make the varsity baseball team. Not so with Blaise! What a cool name by the way. “Blaaaise”… sort of like “Blaze!” Love it! Maybe later on, if my wifey and I have a son and my wifey still doesn’t like the name “Barnabas,” we’ll maybe name the kid “Blaise.”
Anyways, later on… Blaise abandoned his scientific work and devoted himself to philosophy and theology. I’ve read one of his theological and devotional works entitled, Pensées. Good stuff! It was too deep for me at times, but I remember thinking… “Wow! What a great and incomprehensible piece of work!” He did have a religious conversion due to sickness and to a near-death experience. He had a lot of pain in his body which disabled him. His head ached and his bowels burned… his legs and feet were continually cold. All of this made Blaise moody and irritable, but prepared him to desire another reality if you know what I mean. In October 1654, Blaise was involved in an accident crossing over a bridge. For some reason, the horses got spooked and ran off the bridge. In the end, the horses plunged into the water and the carriage that Blaise was in nearly followed them. Fortunately, the reins broke and the coach hung halfway over the edge. Pascal came out of this unscathed, but it did leave an indelible mark on his mind about death, life, and the realities of life after death. On 23 November 1654, between 10:30 and 12:30 at night, Pascal had an intense religious vision and immediately recorded the experience in a brief note to himself which began: “Fire. God of Abraham, God of Isaac, God of Jacob, not of the philosophers and the scholars…” and concluded by quoting Psalm 119:16: “I will not forget thy word. Amen.” He wrote this down and always carried it with him wherever he went. This piece is now known as the Memorial.
For me, one of the things that I really like about Blaise was his depth in thinking about life, death, and the realities of another world. Blaise often approached the existence of God by asking us instead to assume the point of view of the gambler at a poker table. Every gambler, he says, takes a certain risk for an uncertain gain. If there are as many chances on one side as on the other, you are playing for the same odds. And in that case the certainty of what you are risking is equal to the uncertainty of what you may win. Now to apply this to our lives, what a person are wagering or what a person is riaking is his or her eternal life and happiness as compared with his or her finite life and unhappiness. To say that there is an eternal life is a way of affirming the existence of God. But how do we know that God exists? We simply do not know. The issue, then, is a matter of a wager. There are four possible outcomes to the wager, which have radically different consequences. Blaise says this…
1. If God exists, and we believe in Him, then our reward will be infinitely great.
2. If God exists, and we do not believe in Him, then we will lose out on this reward.
3. If God does not exist, and we believe in Him, then we’ve gained or lost nothing.
4. If God does not exist, and we do not believe in Him, then we’ve gained or lost nothing.
Why risk or put a unnecessary wager on a lose/lose situation. Why not go “all in” in something you know can give you incredible reward and return. If God doesn’t exist and I was completely wrong about my faith… what have I lost? To live as a believer involves incredible sacrifice but in the end, you’ve lost time, maybe resources, or pride… but what does all that matter if God didn’t exist after all?! You’d be in oblivion and you wouldn’t know it anyways or you’d have reincarnated as a bug and that’s that. Game over.
Now, let’s say that God doesn’t exist and I didn’t live for Him. Then you’ve played your cards decently… you’ve gained nothing because after you die, you become nothing. But you’ve also won nothing… because you’re still nothing and that’s that. Game over.
But let’s say that God does exist… and you didn’t live for Him. You’re in “deep kimchi” then. You’ve calculated your life all wrong and you’ve lived for all the wrong things. Not to mention that your future, your eternal future looks incredibly dim. Game is really over and you’ll have to deal with your eternal debt!
On the other hand, let’s say that God does exist… and let’s say you’ve lived for God and love God and believe in God… in the end, you’ve won and you’ve gained everything. I don’t know about you, but I’m going “all-in” with Jesus!