What is Pascal's wager?

Blaise Pascal was a man who liked to have a fling on the horses or whatever they did back in the seventeenth century. As we know there are two kinds of gambling, one entirely based on chance like the roll of a dice and others where there is some skill involved; playing poker.

Being a mathematician Pascal was intrigued by the subject of probability; what are the chances of rolling a three on the dice? Why, one in six of course is the answer.

Ultimately he became the father of what is now known as probability theory. Today he would have been an actuary.

Blaise Pascal

Being a Christian he also applied his mathematical mind to his faith, proposing what became known as Pascal’s Wager. He recognised that in all of us there remains some niggling doubt that God actually exists when we finally make the decision to take the plunge and open the door to Christ.

Am I about to take a step into the darkness of stupidity? Perhaps indifference to God would be more appropriate. But atheism makes little sense to many scientists; to them the probability that the Universe came about entirely by chance is utterly remote. They see the hand of creator behind it all.

That would be entirely contrary to Newton’s third law of thermodynamics; without a creator, things move from organised to chaos not vice versa.

What is Pascals wager?

Pascal’s Wager works like this. If God really doesn’t exist, as Richard Dawkins suggests, then Blaise argues that there is little lost by taking that step of faith into the dark and inviting Christ into your life. Perhaps you may lose a bit of face if you told a few of your skeptical friends.

But we all make decisions and looking back realise what fools we were, so there’s little lost Pascal would argue in taking the plunge into a life of faith.

Broad beans

Such a decision comes back to haunt me personally; as a teenager I was given old, horrible, starchy broad beans to eat. And forced to swallow them despite my protestations. I made a vow that they would never again cross my lips, one that I kept for over fifty years.

Young broad beans in pods

Then unwittingly I was offered a dish of young, freshly-picked broad beans, not knowing what they were. What a fool I had been for over half a century missing out on this wonderful legume. How wrong we can indeed be.

But let us go back to Pascal’s Wager. He argues there is little to be lost if unsure in making the choice to believe in Christ and follow Him and it turns out that the atheists were right; there is no God.

But if He does exist there is so much more to be gained that otherwise we would have lost out on.

As CS Lewis describes we will be surprised by joy, experience peace in difficult circumstances quite beyond our understanding and forgiveness of our sin; and eternal life. There is so much to be gained and little to be lost from having an honest look at Christ.

Solar farm

west facing 2.5kW panels

Pascal’s Wager can be applied to many situations where we are unsure, when there is little to be lost and potentially so much to be gained.

For example perhaps you are unsure whether your should spend say R200,000 on building a solar farm on your roof. It's a lot of money the skeptic in you argues; it is a gamble.

Pascal would wager that no, it is not a gamble; there is little to be lost in putting in a solar generator if you can afford it. Even if Eskom comes right next week you will still have free electricity in five years, having paid off the debt.

But if Eskom does not come right, as it probably won’t, there is potentially so much more to be gained.

Should you buy an avocado tree?

Avocado Hass two generations

Pascal’s Wager can be applied to any of the decisions we have to make where there is little to be lost, but potentially so much more to be gained. You could apply it for example whether to plant an avocado tree in your garden as I did four years ago. R150 was spent on the sapling and the sweat off my brow to dig a square hole one metre deep.

Last year the gain was 7 avos. This morning I counted about a hundred; so much more.

But Pascal applied his wager to weightier matters; taking the profound step of opening the door and letting Christ in. There is little to be lost, he argued but so much to be gained in this life as all people of deep faith will attest; and the next has yet to begin. But perhaps first there must be a night of fire. What started out as the worst of times ends up being the very best.

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Night of fire


Our newsletter is entitled "create a cyan zone" at your home, preserving both yourself and Mother Earth for future generations; and your family too, of course. We promise not to spam you with daily emails promoting various products. You may get an occasional nudge to buy one of my books.

Here are the back issues.

  • Lifestyle and ideal body weight
  • What are ultra-processed foods?
  • Investing in long-term health
  • Diseases from plastic exposure
  • Intensive lifestyle management for obesity has limited value
  • A world largely devoid of Parkinson's Disease
  • The impact of friendly bacteria in the tum on the prevention of cancer
  • There's a hole in the bucket
  • Everyone is talking about weight loss drugs
  • Pull the sweet tooth
  • If you suffer from heartburn plant a susu
  • Refined maize meal and stunting
  • Should agriculture and industry get priority for water and electricity?
  • Nature is calling
  • Mill your own flour
  • Bake your own sourdough bread
  • Microplastics from our water
  • Alternative types of water storage
  • Wear your clothes out
  • Comfort foods
  • Create a bee-friendly environment
  • Go to bed slightly hungry
  • Keep bees
  • Blue zone folk are religious
  • Reduce plastic waste
  • Family is important
  • What can go in compost?
  • Grow broad beans for longevity
  • Harvest and store sunshine
  • Blue zone exercise
  • Harvest and store your rainwater
  • Create a cyan zone at your home

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