Front Page: spring 1991
PLAYING THE ODDS
"If I am right and you are wrong...." How many times have bibliolaters
said this to skeptics after all rational efforts to defend the Bible have failed?
What they are saying is that one should believe the Bible in order to be on
the safe side, just it case it really is God's inspired word. This argument, if
that is what they intend it to be, is merely a variation of Pascal's wager, a
theistic argument made famous by the French philosopher Blaise Pascal. "If
you gain, you gain all," Pascal argued. "If you lose, you lose nothing.
Wager, then, without hesitation that He is."
Aside from the obvious fact that one cannot believe--sincerely believe--a
thing just to be on the safe side, the absurdity of Pascal's wager is seen in
the utter impossibility of practicing it. One should believe in God just in
case God really does exist. Okay, what next? After one wagers on God's
existence, what religion does he choose to practice his faith in God? Does he
become a Christian or a Moslem? A Zoroastrian or a Hindu? If he chooses
Christianity, how does he deal with the possibility that Zoroastrianism may be
God's true religion? If he chooses Christianity, what brand of it does he
select? If he becomes a Methodist, how does he deal with the possibility that
Catholicism may be the true religion? To meet the requirements of Pascal's
wager, one would have to simultaneously become a believer in all religions in
the world, and this would be utterly impossible, since many religions forbid
belief in others.
What does one lose if he accepts Pascal's wager? Pascal said, "You lose
nothing," but this is a questionable premise at best. In Atheism: The Case
Against God, George H. Smith exposed the fallacies in Pascal's wager. On the
subject of what one loses by making the wager, he said this:
What have we got to lose? Intellectual integrity, self-esteem, and
a passionate, rewarding life for starters. In short, everything that
makes life worth living. Far from being a safe bet, Pascal's wager
requires the wager of one's life and happiness (Prometheus Books,
1979, p. 184).
Bibliolaters are apparently willing to risk their lives and happiness on the
probability that they have made all the correct choices. They think they
have made the right decisions in choosing theism over atheism, Christianity
over all other religions, their particular brand of Christianity over all the
options available to them, and finally the correct variations in doctrines that
exist within the churches selected. But what are the odds that any given
Christian has made all the right decisions in his journey through the religious
maze that led him to where he is now? This is a question that deserves far
more thought than most Christians give it.
While considering this, they might also think about how the odds are
stacked against the Bible's being what they believe it is. The doctrine of
verbal inspiration logically requires one to believe that every detail written in
the Bible, whether historical, geographical, scientific, or chronological, must
be factually true. The existence of just one mistake of any kind, no matter
how trivial or insignificant, tears the foundation completely from under the
doctrine of verbal inspiration. This is a premise we don't even need to de-
fend, because inerrancy believers agree that it is true.
What then are the odds that the Bible is the perfectly harmonious and
consistent work it would have to be for the doctrine of verbal inspiration to
be true? In his Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties, Gleason Archer, the chief
apostle of the inerrancy doctrine, discussed over 2,100 specific cases of
"alleged" Bible (See ODDS, p. 12) contradictions and discrepancies. Even at
that, he did not deal with all that have been identified, but 2,100 is more
than enough to make a point inerrancy believers should contemplate. To
explain away what they consider to be only "alleged" contradictions in the
Bible, Archer and his inerrancy cohorts have resorted to all kinds of far-
fetched, how-it-could-have-been scenarios of the sort we have analyzed in
this and past issues. For the inerrancy doctrine to be true, they must be
right in all of their far-fetched explanations--every one of them. If they are
wrong in just one--only one--the foundation of the inerrancy doctrine col-
What are the odds that they are right in everything--all 2,000+ "explana-
tions"? If bibliolaters want to play the odds, as their high regard of Pascal's
wager would indicate, they should think about this.