Thursday, December 22, 2011

Steve Jobs, Christopher Hitchens and Pascal's Wager



  1. "God is, or He is not"
  2. A Game is being played... where heads or tails will turn up.
  3. According to reason, you can defend neither of the propositions.
  4. You must wager. (It's not optional.)
  5. 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.
  6. Wager, then, without hesitation that He is. (...) There is here an infinity of an infinitely happy life to gain, a chance of gain against a finite number of chances of loss, and what you stake is finite. And so our proposition is of infinite force, when there is the finite to stake in a game where there are equal risks of gain and of loss, and the infinite to gain.  ( Pensées, part III):

Much is said when a noted celebrity dies. And a lot is said when a celebrity has spent a life denying God's existence dies, especially by Christians who hold out hope for salvation. When Steve Jobs died he was remembered for being born into Lutheran home but as an adult became a Buddhist. Yes, many people have benefited from Jobs technical visions. When atheist Christopher Hitchens died, author of your god is not great, people reminisced over how well he 'knew' the Gospel because, after all, he grew up in the Church of England. And for both, I read blogs on how maybe, just maybe while in the very last moments of their life, they realized Jesus was real and they accepted Him as Lord & Savior. I am simplifying some of these sentiments. But the crux of the issue is our desire that we can live our life as we please and then at the very last we hedge our bets and say some prayer just in case they were wrong along. Isn't this the hope we have for all of our lost friends? 

Let's be clear, true repentance can happen on a death bed. A soul sees his life in the rear view mirror and understand that what follows after death should be hell. They know the only escape is to realize they cannot enter on their own merit but accepting Jesus' death upon the cross as a propitiation, in its fullest meaning which is to satisfy God's wrath, can they go to heaven. My most effective moments in ministry has been to the dying. They know death is eminent and they know life is eternal. I share the Good News of Christ and they receive it with joy because they understand their guilt. But I feel too many of my Christian friends see salvation as Pascal's wager, a bet to made just in case I am wrong.

Many will ask, "What about the thief on the cross?" (Luke 23:39-43) Well, what about him? He was a criminal sentenced to death! He knew what was coming and when it came he understood that he justly deserve to be crucified. (Lk. 23: 41) He did not ask to be removed from the cross and saved some pain. He recognized who Jesus was. (Lk. 23:41) He asked for mercy. (Lk. 23:42) He did not command Jesus to save him from what he deserved. He even rebuked his friend in his insolence. He truly was sorry for his condition. That's repentance. Waiting to the end to make an act of contrition is not the same for being sorry over one's sins.

After his death, many will read your god is not great and be influenced by it. God knows that. Many will download sermons onto their iPod. God knows that too. But He also knows whom his elect are. (Eph. 1:5) There is no chance throwing of the dice. We, Christians, do a disservice putting out a hope that there is always an act we can do at the very last to save ourselves. After all, we will never know if we will be in a fatal car accident or struggling for breath during that massive heart attack. We all die. And so we all must repent for it is this life we have only one chance to come to Christ on bended knee!

Yes, Hitchens knew the foolishness of Pascal's Wager