Pascal’s Wager

As most of my readers will know I love going into schools to talk to children, either through the medium of assemblies, or through question and answer sessions. I find the latter very challenging and have spent five sessions over the last two weeks meeting in a local secondary school with youngsters ranging from year 7 (11/12) to year 11 (15/16) and the range of questions has been wonderful rating from “why are you a Christian ?” to the standard “why does God allow suffering ?” This morning I answered questions on abortion, homosexuality, Heaven, Hell, the Just War theory, and the Trinity. BIG STUFF !

However it was a question on Wednesday that has stuck with me and it came from a year 7 pupil (remember that means he’s barely 12 if that) and he asked if I believed in Pascals Wager. This is a philosophical concept put forward as one of three arguments for believing, around starting to believe, in the existence of God. The final one of the three arguments is nicknamed Pascal’s Wager and it includes the justification of theism, pragmatism, infinity.

Blaise Pascal, a French philosopher , mathematician and physicist presented this theory during his life time (1623-1662 and basically it suggests tat humans can bet with their lives that God exists or doesn’t.

I don’t want to get into an argument about the relative merits of Pascals thinking, or even if he is right or wrong, BUT I do want to point out that this was a concept raised by a 12 year old boy. I looked at his teacher and she shook her head and said she didn’t understand what it was all about, so he wasn’t simply repeating his teacher.

And yet the questions I get in church are about “pews or not ?”, “which hymn book ?” “should we communicate by e-mail, letter or handwritten posters ?” “why do we have to pay our assessment ?’

It’s interesting that a 12 year old boy is trying to figure out who God is through philosophical argument whilst supposedly long in the tooth Christians are for more concerned about the mechanics of their Church. People in the world are struggling, suffering, dying and we are too often caught up with “should we have hot cross buns before lent ?” and “should we have colour in the church during lent ?”

Next week is Holy Week, the time when we remember the events between Palm Sunday and its procession into Jerusalem and Good Friday when we remember the crucifixion of Jesus. As Christians our focus should be more spiritual rather than physical. That’s not to fall into the trap of “being so heavenly minded that we’re of no earthly use” but it is to say that the spiritual matters of how we’re going to live out our discipleship of Jesus in Gods world should have a higher priority than they often do.

God calls us to wrestle with the heavenly dimension, study our scriptures, engage with him in prayer and meet him in the ordinary, and to lay to one side the trivialities of “who’s turn it is to wash the chapel tea towel”

As we enter Holy Week are you prepared to walk with Jesus and use this time to get to know him better, for after all if a 12 year old boy is prepared to, shouldn’t we ?

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