Pascal’s Wager and Inerrancy

Yesterday morning at church, I heard two different ideas expressed at the pulpit that I do not find particularly appealing. As they are likely things you have heard, I wanted to take a moment to address them. I love my pastor, and even when I disagree with either his content or his approach, he is often more right than wrong, more humble than prideful, and a preacher of more truths than falsities.

My first disagreement was when my preacher used Pascal’s Wager (in everything but name) as a recommended method of evangelism. While he did not say you should do this all the time, he did tell a story about a successful use of this method in a way that made it sound as if the wager should be normative for evangelism. For those of you who don’t want to read the link, Pascal’s Wager argues that an individual should believe in God because there is nothing to lose. You could gain eternal salvation if you are right, but lose nothing if you are wrong. My problem with using this argument is that faith and right belief ought to be ordered around actually believing and actually having faith, and not simply attempting to live by certain standards. On top of that, the wager primarily argues for Christian belief based on fear of hell, and not on the love of God, which seems antithetical to the loving Jesus of the New Testament.

The second disagreement I had with my pastor was when he argued against the phrase ‘The Bible contains the word of God,’ as particularly opposed to the idea that the Bible is the word of God. The distinction here would be that in the former, some parts of the Bible are the word of God and some parts are not, while the latter states that the Bible is entirely and exclusively the word of God. While I do not have much of an aversion to the phrase – after all, my Bible includes margins which were likely not God-inspired – it was what he said next with which I disagreed. He proceeded to say that if the Bible says it is the Word of God, which it does, then every piece of it must be correct. While I do affirm that the Bible is the word of God, it seems odd to place this restriction from a claim found in one place in Scripture. If we are to admit that there are parts of the Bible which are false, then it seems as though the statement that the collected Scriptures are all God-breathed may be one of the false statements, added by men later on. If that statement, which is what much of this canonicity argument relies upon, is false, then there may be some books or passages which are God-inspired and others which are of human origin. It does not make sense to say that the Bible is either 100% or 0%, as it could very well be only partly correct.

Both of those points were anecdotal to my pastor’s point, which was a good one about trusting in Christ like the crippled man at the fountain. My intention here is not to nitpick for the sake of nitpicking, but rather to consistently and constantly weigh statements against truth.

Christ Abide.

  1. When I say the Bible contains the word of God, but is not itself the word of God, I usually (in my head) am referring to the strange but common belief that the Bible was dictated by God all at once, that the authors were possessed by the Holy Spirit in a form of automatic handwriting, and other such little impossible nonsense such as the writer of Ezra having Romans in mind.

    So really, I personally am honoring its status as a collected text, inspired and protected by God yes, but dismissing people who seem to think of it as one big block of continuous thought and not the varied tapestry it is.

    Which is of course not to say that I think the Bible has no unity. But the unity and variety of the Bible should be held in moderation against each other.

    • That is a good nuance to bring to the discussion. I wouldn’t disagree. After all the Gospels are extraordinary evidence for diversity within unity.

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