Pascal's Wager

by Scott Huckaby

Blaise Pascal (1623-1662), was a French physicist, mathematician, and philosopher. He became known for his experiments with fluids in physics and his work in mathematics distinguished him as the "Father of Probability Theory". From 1658 until his death, Pascal worked on a defense of Christian faith.

Pascal's most known theological work is the Pensees, where he made his famous wager: "God is or He is not... Let us weigh the gain and the loss in wagering that God is. Let us estimate these two chances. If you gain, you gain all; if you lose, you lose nothing. Wager, then, without hesitation that He is.''

Either God exists or he doesn't. You can't avoid choosing, a refusal to choose has the same result as betting that God does not exist. The power of Pascal's wager is profound: reasonable men should bet on God's existence.

Indeed God blesses people with reasoning ability. He wants us to use this gift to know Him: "'Come now, and let us reason together,' says the Lord" (Isaiah 1:18). If our faith is not logical, there is a problem with it.



God Is Now

Loose Little

Gain Little


Gain Everything

Lose Everything

God Is Not Now

Lose Little

Gain Little


Lose Nothing

Gain Nothing

A common argument against Pascal's Wager is that it does not distinguish among the various gods of different religions. They say this clouds Pascal's argument since most religions claim their way is the only true way to heaven. But this modern contention fails to recognize the uniqueness of Christianity: all that must be done to have eternal life already has been done for you by Jesus Christ if you believe Him. All other religions require people to do something to earn salvation.

God exists & you believe

Since believing is the wager, it does come with some cost in the here and now. Jesus says we should "count the cost" (Luke 14:28) but He also said this cost is small, "For My yoke is easy and My burden is light" (Matthew 11:30). The eternal reward for believing far outweighs the price we pay in this world, Romans 8:18 and 2 Corinthians 4:17.

God does not exist & you believe

Detractors of Pascal's Wager say you do lose a lot in the here and now. This would have to be the case for them since they think that life in this world is all there is. The "Global Village Atheist" website put it this way: "What you have lost is the opportunity to live the one life you will ever have to the fullest and discover the wonders of the natural world unfettered by theology." What the person who wrote this doesn't know is, "the truth shall make you free" (John 8:32).

God exists & you do not believe

Wagering wrong has the severest of consequences. The Bible says in Revelation 20:10-14 that unbelievers will be cast into "the lake of fire and brimstone where... they will be tormented day and night forever and ever." All this penalty for living life however you chose in this world. It hardly seems worth the risk. The "Global Village Atheist" argues that even if God exists, it is unlikely that He would reward people "simply on the basis of their beliefs and not on how they live their lives." Thank God that salvation is not based on our own efforts since God's standard is perfection, James 2:10. We are saved by the grace of God, not anything we can do ourselves, Ephesians 2:8-9.

God does not exist & you do not believe

Since there is little to lose in this life by believing God, there is little to gain if God does not exist. The "Global Village Atheist" says "what you have gained is whatever gain arises from believing truly" but does not go on to say what this is. The truth is that you gain nothing but an attitude of "Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die!" (1 Corinthians 15:32).

Unbeliever "ethics"

Another objection to the obvious conclusion of Pascal's Wager is that "it is wrong to believe something simply because it might lead to pay dirt" making it "selfish gain" and a "sacrifice of integrity." But what gives unbelievers such high integrity? Every decision unbelievers make is due to selfishness. Even when they appear to be giving selflessly, God knows their true motivation which is often to be "seen by men." Jesus said the only reward such self-righteous people will receive is what ever adulation they can find in the world, Matthew 6:5.

Given the unbeliever's condition, the only way any one can come to Jesus is with an initial selfish motivation. But God changes the heart of those who sincerely seek Him (John 6:37, Ephesians 4:21-24). Sincerity can be faked before men for a time but eventually the false believers will be known by all (1 John 2:19). It is a healthy thing to fear eternal damnation, even if this begins with only a self-preservation motive (Proverbs 9:10, Matthew 10:28). God wants people to come to Him for salvation, He invites us to, "taste and see that the Lord is good" (Psalm 34:8).

If you need assurance of eternal life and find the logic in Pascal's Wager compelling, cry out to God, "Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!" (Mark 9:24). Then study God's Word for "faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God" (Romans 10:17). And know that "he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him" (Hebrews 11:6).