“AN UN-LOSEABLE WAGER”
…from a letter to an agnostic friend
…”I’m heartened to hear you’re becoming bit more interested in spiritual matters. I’ve always considered agnosticism to be a pretty honest position. I think the word means ‘without knowledge’. One simply says, ‘I just don’t know!’ You were interested in my journey, and it is interesting how it all came about…I think I discovered that it’s not only the MIND that comes to conclusions in spiritual things but also very much the HEART. The only way I can describe what happened to me is by comparing it to the ‘gut’ feeling you might have regarding, say, someone beating a child….you know it’s wrong, just as you know goodness, compassion, etc. are right! I think, if it ever does come to you, it will be that sort of knowledge, if this makes sense to you. Certainly, I had the intellectual hurdles any thinking person would have (even a ‘low-rent, no-frills’ one like me) but in the final analysis, it just came to be there, as though somehow ‘planted’ in me! I had finally come to believe in a Higher Power, but JESUS was the ’sticking point’. I prayed for years, simply for finding the truth of it. C. S. Lewis ‘popped the intellectual bubble’, and prayer seems to have done the rest, for I just woke up one morning BELIEVING! And, as far as logic is concerned:I can really understand and empathize with unbelievers, having been one for so many years. Those who look at Christianity, explore it, and find it a load of poop, I can understand. Those who don’t look and explore I think are foolish. We spend such a short time in this rather mad scramble here on earth. Fears of terrorism, nuclear annihilation, the ravages of old age, even if we survive the rest…STILL, all of it just a fly-speck on the great page of time…then someone comes along and says, ‘You know, there just may be a whole congenial eternity available, one of incomparable joy, unceasing , beyond any earthly imaginings’. Why not check it out?” So many folks say, in effect, ‘No, I’m not interested, at least not right now, and maybe I think Lewis put it very well in one of his books, “God in the Dock, Man or Rabbit”:
“Here is a door, behind which, according to some people, the secret of the universe is waiting for you. Either that’s true, or it isn’t. And if it isn’t, then what the door really conceals is simply the greatest fraud, the most colossal ’sell’ on record. Isn’t it obviously the job of every man (that is a man, and not a rabbit) to try to find out which, and then to devote his full energies to serving this tremendous secret or to exposing and destroying this gigantic humbug?”
So, if God exists and loves His creation, might he not look more kindly on one who really explored, searched his or her heart and soul, and found Christianity (or, for that matter, belief in GOD, HIMSELF) wanting, than on one who just dismissed it all out of hand? I guess that’s my real hope: that you’ll really explore it. Your books on comparative religions will likely treat all the prophets and ‘founders’ of the various faiths fairly and equally with many comparisons and similarities. The one difference they may ignore is that the centerpiece of only one of the major religions claimed to be the Son of God! THAT’S the touchstone, I guess you’d say…the very heart and guts of the faith. Either He is or He isn’t. Nothing in-between. No ‘good man’, no ‘wise prophet’, none of that. The real deal or a nut (or a con-man of the first and worst order). Lewis explores these three possibilities in the book, “Mere Christianity” I gave you, and I have with my own humble skills presumed to elaborate on these options in a piece called “Christ, the Con Man”. I’m putting it out as a “blog” on the internet. If you’re interested, I’m sure K. Will let you know how to call, e-mail me, or whatever, and I’ll Mail you a copy, since you no longer have internet. FINALLY, A ‘WAGER’:
There’s something called ‘Pascal’s Wager’ (Pascal was a French Christian philosopher-apologist from a few centuries back, who in his less-esoteric moments seemed to reduce the whole thing to rather mundane, even coldly logical propositions, etc.). I can’t find his book right now, and I can only barely paraphrase some of it, but I’ll try. We, all the time, are making “bets” in life…we buy life insurance hoping to live, but “betting” (putting our money down) that we’re going to die. Our judgements and decisions are much like bets…we take a trip ‘betting’ that we’ll reach our destination, despite obvious risks of mechanical failure, drunk drivers, etc. SO…Let us say, if you, as an un-believer, and I, as a Christian, were to make a wager concerning Christianity, eternity, etc., I have ‘all the cards’, so to speak. I didn’t become a Christian because of a ‘bet’ per se…never thought of it…but I NOW can’t LOSE this wager! If I’m wrong in betting my future on belief in God and Christianity I’ll suffer no loss…since there’s nothing after death, I wouldn’t even know I was wrong! YOU were RIGHT, but of course gain nothing. You won’t even be aware you’ve won a pyrrhic, useless victory. We won’t exist. Score: even. If I’M right and YOU are wrong, well, I have a blissful eternity ahead of me. You have at best the unhappy realization that you’ve given up that eternity, and at worst…well, who knows what ‘hell’ might be, really? I don’t imagine it’s a ton of chuckles. Score: me, plus one… you, a BIG minus-one! I can’t really lose anything, and you can’t really win anything. How bleak! If you win, you (as my dad, sadly, used to say) will just ‘die and lay there like an old horse’…there will be nothing. If you lose, you’ve given up paradise for some sort of eternal damnation. NOW: before you make any snap conclusion that this is reducing faith to a mere wager…not so. It’s merely an apologist’s attempt to encourage someone to do what he considers the obvious: EXPLORE the possibility that there’s something there! Eternity is far too important a consideration! I can’t say what you’ll find in your searching. I only hope and pray you WILL search! I personally believe that if someone TRULY seeks the answers, they will, in time, reveal themselves. (I didn’t know when I started this I’d be doing a “War and Peace” on you….sorry.) JEPS: I purposely left your name out of the salutation as well as any really personal references so I can perhaps use this or excerpts on my blog site…there are thoughts that might just apply to some thinking, seeking folks…I can at least hope so.