Friday, 30 October 2020

On the Fence: An Illogical Walk With God?


I was reorganizing my library recently to make room for more shelves for which to accommodate the addition of still more books. As a confessed bookworm and bibliophile, this is a nice problem to have.

One of the books that I stumbled across in this process was an old Bible School philosophy textbook on the subject of logical thinking. Like many of my books, it is well-worn and marked up, a sign of my habit of regularly reading with pen in hand.

In skimming through the book I again stumbled across an old long forgotten, somewhat evangelistic, argument designed to motivate people to make a decision for belief in God. It was developed by a French mathematician by the name of Blaise Pascal. Perhaps you’ve also come across it before. It states simply:

“If God exists, I have everything to gain by believing in him. And if God does not exist, I have nothing to lose by believing in him. Either God does exist or he does not exist. Therefore, I have everything to gain or nothing to lose by believing in God.”

Unlike the atheist who claims not to believe in God, the agnostic says, “I don’t know if God exists or not.” For many, that is the dilemma when it comes to matters of religion and/or faith. They’re agnostics. Does God exist? Does God not exist?  Many are on the fence, but do they really need to be? Perhaps not, at least not if we borrow Pascal’s logic-based argument. To quote the book further,

“The major premise simply spells out the implications that, if he exists, you had better be on his side, and if he doesn’t, it doesn’t matter - there is no judgment. The minor premise is key here because it narrows the field of possibilities to these two: either God exists or he doesn’t. There are no third alternatives. That backs the person into a corner where he has to admit that belief in God is the reasonable and safest road to take, no matter what. Notice, though, that the conjunction in the conclusion has to be an or. To make it an and you would have to affirm that God both exists and does not exist at the same time. It might sound better, but it is logically impossible.”

Oh, the dilemma! However, even Jesus used the form of a dilemma in speaking with the people of his day. Remember when his critics asked him, “By what authority are you doing these things,” and, “who gave you authority to do this?” Jesus answered, “I will ask you one question. Answer me, and I will tell you by what authority I am doing these things. John’s baptism - was it from heaven or from men? Tell me!”

Again, oh, the dilemma! You know the rest of the story. They discussed it among themselves and came to the conclusion, if we say this, then he will say that. But if on the other hand, we say that, then he will say this. Ultimately they chickened out because they were afraid of the people, who apparently had different views about Jesus, and so they said, “We don’t know.” (Mark 11:27-33)

Taken one step further, let me leave you with three questions:

1. Do we also sometimes chicken out for fear of what others might think?

2. Why do we Christians sometimes also find ourselves on that same fence?

3. Can Christians sometimes also be agnostic? Why or why not? 

Note to self: If I am really honest with myself, I would have to admit that I’ve been there too. Illogical? Perhaps, but if so, then maybe skimming through an old logical thinking textbook wasn’t a bad idea after all. Hmm. 

So, forget the fence. It doesn’t look very sturdy or safe. Besides, who cares what others think? What have we got to lose? “I have everything to gain or nothing to lose by believing in God.” Joshua of old put it this way, “Choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve ... but as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord” (Joshua 24:15). Made your choice yet?

Peace and blessings friends. God is good.

Photo Source: I found this pasted on the inside of an old Bible. I’ve long since forgotten where I originally got it from.

Quote Source: Come, Let Us Reason: An Introduction to Logical Thinking, p.69

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