You stroll casually into the Vegas Casino. The bright lights…the banging and rattling of loose change and mechanical slot machines is joined by the general murmur of the folks at the tables.
“Place your bets, please.”
Your eye is drawn to the roulette table. A few people are standing there, placing chips on the green felt table covered with numbers set in red and black squares. They are trying to work out the odds that they can predict what the ball will do…which slot will it land on? Which number will win them the most financial return?
Crazy as it may seem…people play this game with their own money. Personally I’m just a bit more conservative (or tight…I’m a Scot) with the little money I have! But the lure of winning big bucks by predicting the right number and the right colour is intoxicating to so many.
Now – I don’t want to stress us out. I don’t want to worry you. But in a very real sense…ever since the day we were born…a very important game has been in progress. Chips are being placed…decisions made. But the game is NOT roulette and the stakes are much higher than cash. The stakes are MUCH higher. The game is about my own, personal future.
We can’t opt out of the game…we can’t withdraw to a safe place and protect our winnings. No – there’s a single…ultimate roll of the wheel facing every single human being who has lived…is living…and will ever live on this planet. That includes us.
The good news is that the odds are pretty favourable for us on this particular bet. Much safer than the average Vegas Casino, I suspect. The odds are 50:50 on this ultimate bet. There are only two squares on the green felt table. And each square has some words written within it.
Some will say – ah, I’m not interested in this game. I’m walking away from this table. Religion is not my thing. I’m a scientist, don’t you know. I only think about important questions. Others say – ah, there’s not enough evidence for God. When I reach the pearly gates…if he’s there…ill say, “Not enough evidence, sir!”
The dealer smiles.
Your stakes are already on the table – you cannot withdraw them. There is no opting out. You might claim that this question is unimportant…you might grumble about having to make the choice…but your future hinges on the right choice anyway. The dealer calmly places your chips in the “God does NOT exist” box…and prepares to spin the wheel. Hang on – are you sure? You’ve still got time to move the chips to the other box if you want to?
Okay – this is just a bit of fun. But my point is a serious one. You and I are making a gamble with our lives right now. Based on our answer to the God question. So how should we place our bet in life…since we find ourselves alive anyway? What is the most sensible choice?
Here’s a thought. How about making the choice that guarantees us maximum happiness? That will deliver the maximum benefit to us at the end of the game. Yea – I know the aim of gambling is to predict the outcome…making us a winner. But that’s not what I am talking about. I am saying – choose the square that will deliver maximum happiness WHATEVER the outcome on the spin of the wheel. Make sense?
So which of the two squares delivers us maximum happiness whatever the outcome to the God question?
If we place our chips here and the spin of the wheel results in the truth that – actually yes, God DOES exist – then this is great. The Bible says we have the opportunity to gain eternal life and eternal happiness. However – if it transpires that God does NOT exist…then in this bet…our life will end in oblivion anyway so we have lost nothing.
If we place our chips here, but it transpires that God DOES exist…then we have suffered unimaginable loss. We have lost eternity. But if it transpires that God does NOT exist anyway…then we have gained nothing again and oblivion beckons.
It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know which square will result in the maximum happiness for us. It’s the “God exists” square. It’s actually the only choice that leads to happiness and a future, full stop! The odds are 50:50…the dealer is looking at us.
Which square do you place your chips?
I’d recommend the “God exists” square. But it’s up to you.
Ok – cross your fingers – now spin the wheel.
What I’ve just done…is given you a simple version of a thought experiment from the Physicist Blaise Pascal – called “Pascal’s Wager”.
Pascal lived in the 17th century and made enormous contributions to the development of geometry, probability theory, economics and social science. He was also a Christian philosopher. And what he was saying with his famous Wager was simple.
Even if we didn’t have the Bible with all of its recorded guidance, even if we didn’t have 1500 years of Christian church history following the death and resurrection of Christ. (all this evidence weighs the odds heavily in one direction). Even if we had none of that Christian history. As human beings…it would STILL make more sense to build our lives around the decision that “God exists” rather than choosing to live as if “God DOESN’T exist”. Logically…Pascal points out that Theism just makes sense.
So where are your chips placed?