Groundless Faith or Let's Call It 'Non-Informed Faith' Cannot Save You!
|Can groundless faith save you? Pascal's wager.|
What is Groundless faith?For some time back, I highlighted about a French mathematician, philosopher and Christian apologetic, Blaise Pascal, and it's time I bring you to one of his most influential thoughts in the world of theology; Pascal's Wager (You can find this in the book, Pensees, thought number 233. Remember Pascal died at a young age of 39 in 1662).
So many Christians may not explain the reasons for their faith! When asked why (evidence and proof) they believe God exists or that Jesus died and rose, they simply say it is the best option they have. To some, this does not mean that they don't have the reasons or proof but simply cannot explain or express it (we will later come back to this).
But to some many more, they are simply betting, wagering, taking chance on a side that bears no risks (this is the main issue in this article). In other words, we are saying that we don't have the compelling truth and evidence that indeed God exists or that Jesus died for us and rose again, but given the options, it is better we just believe it that way.
And the question is; can such baseless thought and faith save us? Pascal says NO.
Reminder; why don't you first get yourself a glass of water or a cup of tea? I bet this article is long and needs your utmost attention. Well, welcome back.
The Pascal's WagerBack to his wager; Pascal asks us to decide to believe that God exists or does not exist the same way we do in betting or some other form of guessing or gambling!
In his thought, Pascal advises; "You must choose between if God exists and so believe in Him or if He does not exist and so you don't believe in Him. If you choose to believe that God exists, and later it is found that you were wrong (God does not exist), you shall have lost nothing (or at least shall have lost few resources and worldly pleasures for God). That's, lost nothing-gained nothing!
And if you choose to believe that God exists and it is later found you were indeed right (God indeed exists), you shall have lost nothing still and yet gain everything (heaven and eternal glory). That is, lost nothing-gained everything!
But if you choose to believe that God does not exist and later find that He actually exists, you shall have gained nothing during your denial or unbelief years yet you shall suffer eternal punishment in hell (big and eternal loss). That is, lost nothing-gained everlasting pain.
And if you choose to believe that God does not exist and later find you were right, you shall still gain nothing". That is, lost nothing-gained nothing.
NB: Where there is the word 'Lost', you can even put the word 'invested' so you understand it well and easily.
Think about the wagerIn other words, why should you risk choosing not to believe (a choice that costs you nothing) yet there is an equally another free option of choosing to believe that He exists? The first free choice has a possibility of you ending up in big trouble of eternal hell and fire but the second free option has no such terrible ending!
The first option has two possible endings; (Hell and gaining eternal pain or no hell and gaining completely nothing). The Second option has two possible endings too; (Heaven and gaining eternal happiness or no heaven at all and gain completely nothing).
In these two options, 'completely nothing' in either option can be cancelled out and we are left with heaven and hell in each respective option. Where do you go provided it costs nothing to make either choice? Simple, even to a fool!
Blaise Pascal says that since it is a MUST to wager (bet or make the choice), then a wise man or at least any sane mind should choose the latter option; to believe that God exists and run the chances of either ending up in heaven or nothing at all.
So is there a problem?
The problem with the above wager is that it is asking a Christian to bet on God's existence basing on the stakes involved and not on the compelling truth and evidence he finds within God's word.
And John Piper says that this kind of faith or belief cannot save you. For a person to be saved, he must have seen Jesus with his eyes of the heart and experienced the compelling truth and glory that indeed God came and died for his sin. And yes, not all have experienced such compelling truth and glory, including those that claim to be Christians! That is the problem.
Listen to John Piper write about such a baseless choice in his book, peculiar glory;
"But according to the Scriptures, such a choice is of no eternal value. It is not saving faith. It is a purely natural thing, not a supernatural thing. We are drawn to something that we do not know. We are hoping for an eternal extension and improvement of the happiness we have here in the things of this world (since we do not know God).
But saving faith is not like that. It is rooted in the sight and foretaste of happiness in supernatural reality—God himself. According to the Scriptures, living faith is created in the dead soul by the miracle of new birth. “Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God” (1 John 5:1). That’s how faith happens"
Had Blaise Pascal seen the same problem?Wait, don't think Blaise Pascal had not given you the same John Piper's advise! Let us read on through his thoughts and see;
"Who then will blame Christians for not being able to give a reason for their belief, since they profess a religion for which they cannot give a reason?
They declare, in expounding it to the world, that it is a foolishness, and then you complain that they do not prove it! If they proved it, they would not keep their word; it is in lacking proofs, that they are not lacking in sense.
"Yes, but although this excuses those who offer it as such, and takes away from them the blame of putting it forward without reason, it does not excuse those who receive it."
While writing about Blaise Pascal, John Piper uses another line of Pascal's thoughts to explain to us that our faith in God should not be baseless, but should be out of clear seeing and feeling and real experience of God's truth and glory as revealed in His word or the life of Jesus or of any true representative of God's righteousness and love (we will come back to this).
For now, let us examine the above Pascal's advise.
Pascal then defends Christians for not being able to explain to common people the reasons and proofs for their faith (in other words, it doesn't make Christians wrong if they can't prove or reason to completion the stand of their faith). You should have heard or read Blaise Pascal's thoughts 1-3 to understand why the Christian is right even when he can't prove what he believes (mathematical and intuitive minds);
"The difference between the mathematical and the intuitive mind.
—In the one the principles are palpable, but removed from ordinary use; so that for want of habit it is difficult to turn one's mind in that direction: but if one turns it thither ever so little, one sees the principles fully, and one must have a quite inaccurate mind who reasons wrongly from principles so plain that it is almost impossible they should escape notice.
But in the intuitive mind the principles are found in common use, and are before the eyes of everybody. One has only to look, and no effort is necessary; it is only a question of good eyesight, but it must be good, for the principles are so subtle and so numerous, that it is almost impossible but that some escape notice. Now the omission of one principle leads to error; thus one must have very clear sight to see all the principles, and in the next place an accurate mind not to draw false deductions from known principles.
All mathematicians would then be intuitive if they had clear sight, for they do not reason incorrectly from principles known to them; and intuitive minds would be mathematical if they could turn their eyes to the principles of mathematics to which they are unused".
In other words, Pascal is saying that Christians or believers have the intuitive mind. They can at one glance, without applying mathematical principles and first defining conditions and axioms, see the glory or the powerful saving grace of God in the numerous principles or puzzle presented to them. And yet they cannot explain this glory to a mathematical (not necessarily a scientist) mind that needs clarity of principles and meanings of axioms before it can make meaning out of it.
Congratulations, we are done with the first part (Christians should not be blamed for not proving their faith). That is only if they have it in the first place.
Christians unable to prove their well-grounded faith!And you ask; doesn't that defend baseless faith or non informed faith which we earlier said cannot save? No it does not, unless we don't consider Pascal's second clause; "Yes, but although this excuses those who offer it as such, and takes away from them the blame of putting it forward without reason, it does not excuse those who receive it."
I love this guy's writings! Actually, according to T. S Eliot, Pascal becomes the best writer for he well understood the world (worldly) and again the deity or theology and so intertwined two views together in a way no other contemporary scientist, philosopher or theologian would put it. Let's say, he had both the intuitive and mathematical minds.
In the above thought of his, Pascal says that even though Christians should be excused for not proving their faith to completion, those receiving faith cannot be excused. In other words, your faith (the one you receive, in other our case, the side you are betting on or wagering that God exists) should be having proof, facts, compelling experience of God's glory and truths found in his word or the life of Jesus or any true representative of His love and righteousness.
Quiet impressive! Isn't it? It means that even those who cannot explain or give mathematical reasons and proof for their faith actually have the proof, the truths, the compelling glory of God though they can't express it in mathematical principles to the man with mathematical minds. And this does not make them culprits, but we who can't see that glory. In Pascal's words,
"They (believers) declare, in expounding it to the world, that it is a foolishness, and then you (unbelievers) complain that they do not prove it! If they proved it, they would not keep their word; it is in lacking proofs, that they are not lacking in sense".
On failing to express our faith, John Piper wrote;
"Millions of people have come to a well-grounded confidence in the Bible and have not been able to find sufficient words to describe that experience. I do not even claim that the words I am using here are suff icient to do it justice. So let it be clear: the miracle of seeing “the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” through the Scriptures can happen to a person who never will be able to explain sufficiently why he trusts the Bible. His trust may be well-grounded without his knowing how it is."
What then should we wager or bet on?Of course, we should bet on the side that God exists and He died for our sins. And this should not be baseless or factsless or be based on chance as we began citing but on the real experience of God's glory and forgiveness revealed in His word.
And how do we see that glory?This is a big topic (We discussed how to tell God's will here briefly). But both Blaise Pascal and John Piper have some answer;
"Endeavour then to convince yourself, not by increase of proofs of God, but by the abatement of your passions. You would like to attain faith, and do not know the way; Learn of those who have been bound like you, and who now stake all their possessions.
These are people who know the way which you would follow, and who are cured of an ill of which you would be cured. Follow the way by which they began; by acting as if they believed, taking the holy water, having masses said, etc.
Now, what harm will befall you in taking this side? You will be faithful, honest, humble, grateful, generous, a sincere friend, truthful. Certainly you will not have those poisonous pleasures, glory and luxury; but will you not have others?
I will tell you that you will thereby gain in this life, and that, at each step you take on this road, you will see so great certainty of gain, so much nothingness in what you risk, that you will at last recognise that you have wagered for something certain and infinite, for which you have given nothing" - Blaise Pascal.
Pascal is saying that you don't have to prove it (God's truth and glory) mathematically or intellectually before you can believe it, but you need to pay attention to the abatement (lessening or made less strong) of your passions (worldly passions and pleasures) and then risk it all, and along the way, you will finally and increasingly find answers to all your doubts (through His word and forefathers who provide us honorable examples of such faith, I suppose).
And so John Piper summarizes our take;
"In order, therefore, for saving faith to come into being, God must grant repentance. “God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth” (2 Tim. 2:25). That is, he must make the spiritually dead come to life. “When we were dead in our trespasses, God made us alive together with Christ” (Eph. 2:5).
This new birth, “through the living and abiding word of God” (1 Pet. 1:23), gives the light of the knowledge of the glory of God. “God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (2 Cor. 4:6).
This supernaturally given, spiritual sight of the glory of God in Christ is the ground of saving faith. God is seen with the eyes of the heart as truly as the eyes of our head see the sun in the sky. And this sight of the glory of God in Christ compels us. It is no more resistible than the enjoyment of your favorite food is resistible when it is in your mouth. And so it is when God becomes your favorite, by the opening of your eyes to see his convincing and enthralling beauty. To see him as supreme in beauty is to desire him above all".
In other words, "Pursue the miracle of new birth by immersing yourself in the word of God through which the miracle of sight and certainty comes (1 Pet. 1:23)" (John Piper), NOT through looking up to mere humans (I hope you understood the context in which I suggested seeing God's glory through changed people) like Pope, saying masses, sacraments etc as the Catholic Blaise Pascal suggested.
Our God is only honored if we understand so well who He is and what He has gone for us. Our faith in Him should not be groundless but be based on real experience of his glory and truth and revealed in His word. Even though we can't (which we certainly can't, at least to the fullest) explain such truths and glory in our words of expression to others, we should be seeing it, feeling it, experiencing and living it ourselves. And to bet on God only because it is the best, no risky option available and not because of the love and compassion we have for the one that really died for us is just a wastage of time; it won't save.
And even though we may not have answers to all our doubts and questions at first, we find them along the way through intense fellowship with Him in all possible means provided through His word. It is when we are already in Him that we can see, feel and experience even more than we ever imagined seeing before stepping out of ourselves into Him. And this is a good counsel to every man, you inclusive.
Wagering; receiving Jesus ChristIs Jesus Christ your Lord and Savior already? I mean, do you believe that indeed God loves you so much that He sent His only son to die so you can find complete life in Him and only Him? If your answer is yes, congratulations and keep spreading that gospel to others and if your answer is no, then you have an opportunity to wager today. Yes, Wager on the side that God exists and see the compelling proof and evidence of His glory warm up your heart. May God help you see this glory and bring you to the real saving well grounded faith. God Bless You.
We are done.
God Bless You
Nemeyimana Nemvicx Vicent, CEO & Founder
The Complete You Ministry, We Believe In You