Document Type


Publication Date

Spring 2000


Business Administration


Blaise Pascal, Soren Kierkegaard, Robert Merrihew Adams, God, proof, faith and reason, Christian ethics


Over three centuries after the publication of the Wager the sense of shock and dismay that meets Blaise Pascal's unorthodox tool of apologetics is matched only by attempts to reinterpret and reconstruct it or by out of hand dismissal of Pascal's claim to be Christian.This essay attempts to take a close and holistic look at the Wager - its premises and claims, as well as some attempts at reinterpretation. Do the reinterpretations stretch the integrity of the model or are they successful endeavors to push out the boundaries? We offer a tentative suggestion for conceptual and statistical extension of the Wager on its own terms, remaining faithful to its original construct. Any metaphysically - and epistemologically-consistent system has this­ worldly implications in the structure of values and ethics it enjoins. To obtain full appreciation of Blaise Pascal's theological and ethical teaching, we comparatively examine Pascal's value structure by studying the similarities and differences that surface between the implied ethics of the Wager, a more ­fully developed explicit value structure derived from Pascal's own Pensees, and the ethical dimensions prescribed by a system of Christian-theistic ethics. Not only does this help us to place the Wager in a context more faithful to Pascal's entire system of thought, but, in doing so, this method of pro­ceeding may go some distance in mitigating long-standing evangelical angst. The primary criticism of the Wager has been that it enjoins faith on purely rationalistic grounds. Therefore we examine Pascal's use of reason in this apologetic tool, we draw some comparisons with the use of reason by the Puritans of his century and we scrutinize the Wager -its entire philo­sophical foundations-through the grid of the presuppositional apologetic pioneered by Cornelius Van Til.

Source Publication Title

Westminster Theological Journal


Westminster Theological Seminary





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