What Pascal’s Wager is, considered as a wager.

 To understand Pascal’s wager, we need to understand it as a bet. First of all, a wager does not consist in knowledge of probabilities or likely outcomes. Wagers do not come into being even when every probability is known, and one does not need knowledge of probability to bet. A wager consists in putting something on the table. What does this mean? We take something of our own, which is valued both by ourselves and by another, and we renounce all claims to it, perhaps forever.

 

What is Pascal’s wager then? A call to action as opposed to knowledge. What kind of action? An action where something is placed outside of our control, perhaps forever, and into the hands of another. Pascal’s wager cannot be a “theistic argument” then, for such arguments consist in making something known, not in doing something. Neither can Pascal’s wager be a call to simply believe in God as belief is commonly understood. The idea of belief does not include the idea of renouncing possession of something, but a wager does. We can believe something and still think to ourselves that we could believe the opposite if we get other evidence. But we cannot wager that way. We have to give up control of something and then wait for the moment of decision.

 

When is the moment of decision for this wager? After death. I we win, all sides admit that we receive an infinite reward. This infinite reward is usually what captivates the attention of probability theorists, but we pass over the reward itself to ask about a prior question. If we win, then the house gives us an infinite reward. The house here is, of course, God. So our whole wager, therefore, is a wager with God. And here is the all important moment of the argument. We can only wager with something valued by both ourselves and the house, so what can we place on the table that God wants to have?

 

In one sense, of course, the answer is that we have nothing to place on the table. Even according the premises of the argument so far, God is in possession of an infinite good, and therefore could not stand to gain anything by our wager. In order to solve this problem, we have to remember one of the unique aspects of this particular wager, namely that God is both the one we are wagering with, and the reward of the wager. So to win the bet means to be taken by the house, because we bet with God in the hope that he will grant us to dwell with him. In order to win this bet, therefore, we have to put on the table what we want the house to take up. But we want the house to take our life into eternity. Pascal’s wager, then, is nothing other than a call to give one’s entire life over to God, body and soul, knowledge and affections, renouncing all claims to it both now and forever.

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