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Pascal's Wager frames the discussion in terms of the possible benefits and costs of betting that God does or does not exist. In this sense, if one bets that God exists and He actually does, the reward for the wagerer would begin either immediately upon death or on judgement day with the resurrection of the dead (depending on which afterlife theology turns out to be true). In any case, notice that there is no explicit expectancy of extraordinary rewards in this life (before death), at least not in the standard formulation of the wager.

But what if we make the wager a bit stronger and specific? What if instead of wagering that Christianity is true (in a general sense), we wager that continuationism specifically is true?

I posit that this is a stronger version of the wager because it would require not only committing oneself to the belief that Christianity is true, but also that a continuationist version of Christianity is true.

I foresee three possible outcomes for this wager:

  1. If continuationism is true and the wager works, then one would get to experience a continuationist version of Christianity in this life (no need to wait until death in order to confirm whether Christianity was actually true or not).
  2. If continuationism is true and the wager doesn't work, this would indicate that the wager was not performed correctly (depending on the actual details of the specific version of continuationism that is true).
  3. If continuationism is false, then the wager should not work (unless some kind of demonic counterfeit version of continuationism is experienced, but at least this would confirm that the supernatural is true).

Additionally, there is always the option of falling back on a traditional version of Pascal's wager and settling for a cessationist version of Christianity (if the wagerer is willing to do so, of course).

Has anyone come up with this modified version of Pascal's wager (or anything similar) already?
Is there a name for it in the Christian literature?


Note: In order to avoid semantic misunderstandings (my apologies for being unclear), when I claim that I'm proposing a stronger version of Pascal's wager, by stronger I meant to say that my modified version demands a stronger epistemic commitment from the wagerer, because the wagerer not only has to commit themselves to believe that the Christian God exists, but also that the Christian God continues to operate and manifest in ways documented in the Book of Acts (aka continuationism). It's a more risky gamble (the odds of being right diminish as we add more constraints), but the rewards in this life could be greater if continuationism turns out to be true and the wager to work.

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  • @NigelJ - You rebut arguments, not wagers. The main point of the OP is not to make an argument that could be rebutted, but to present a modified wager and ask for existing references that match this description. The only "argument" that I make is that my wager is stronger, but Anne misunderstood what I meant by "stronger" (which is probably my fault because I was unclear as to what I meant), so I added a note at the bottom to clear up the confusion.
    – user50422
    Sep 9, 2022 at 15:18

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Blaise Pascal (1623 - 1662) was a Frenchman who had what he described as "a definitive conversion" in 1654, to Christian faith. He wrote his conversion experience on a piece of parchment which was sewn into his coat, so profound was it. It is alleged that a mystical vision was involved. Perhaps that, and what he later wrote about how to understand faith and conversion might cause some to link that to belief in 'continuationism' - that miraculous gifts of the Spirit did not cease with the death of the last Apostle.

Pascal was convinced that reason could only take one so far. Faith must come as a gift of God's grace. Science and reason might get one close to faith, but it could not actually bring anyone to faith. Only God can do that. That, in itself does not support continuationism. Most Reformed Protestants would agree entirely with what Pascal said there, yet they are mainly cessasionists. Further, many Christians who have themselves had visionary or miraculous experiences remain as cessasionists. There is much misunderstanding about various beliefs in Christianity regarding the miraculous gifts of the Spirit the Apostles had, and works of the Spirit globally throughout the centuries. But this is not the place to delve into that. Suffice to say that the "three possible outcomes for this wager" involve some misunderstandings, such as that one.

Another misunderstanding is what Pascal's Wager actually is. He wrote that God can be known through Jesus Christ by an act of faith, itself given by God. Man's need for God is made evident by his misery apart from God, who may only be known by faith. However, there is plenty of evidence to support belief - fulfilled prophecies, miracles, the witness of history, the self-authentication of Scripture etc. He wrote that,

"We come to know the truth not only by reason, but still more so through our hearts... The heart has its reasons, which the reason does not know."

It might not be surprising, therefore, that people who do not have that kind of faith but who are keenly interested in "experiencing the supernatural" would home in on Pascale as a champion of continuationism. It would not be surprising either that those who disdain the idea of God and Christ, and faith in God, should latch on to a modern distortion of what has commonly become known as "Pascale's Wager". The popular sound-bite version has been simplified by objectors, to avoid its real issues. Those are side-stepped in order to present Pascale as being not much better than an unbeliever, or to view the matter of God's existence as an unresolved question, best settled by a gamble - safer to place your 'bet' on God existing so that, if he does, you'll benefit if that turns out to be the truth, whereas if you dismiss the idea of God, it will be the worse for you when you discover he's real.

Unfortunately, all the foregoing means that what this question presents is really a weaker form of Pascal's Wager, not a stronger one, because the matter of continuationism is a spiritual cul-de-sac here. Pascal's conversion to faith in God, through Christ, whether bound up with a vision or not, cannot be used as a case to argue for continuationism. Most cessasionists would embrace Pascale as their spiritual brother, and say "Amen" to what he wrote about faith being a gift from God etc.

There have been various variations on Pascale's Wager, but I have never heard of one linking it to continuationism, let alone seeking to so modify it that continuationism becomes the basis of the 'wager'. But my lack of knowing that proves nothing. If someone has heard of a similar theory, their answer would be interesting to read.

Source for much of the above, https://www.blogos.org/churchhistory/blaise-pascal.php

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  • Interesting thoughts. Regarding because the matter of continuationism is a spiritual cul-de-sac here, could you please elaborate more on this? How do you come to this conclusion?
    – user50422
    Sep 8, 2022 at 19:53
  • @SpiritRealmInvestigator Fair question. It's because going down that road won't either contribute to nor detract from what Pascale stated. You can explore it all round but Pascale's faith in God depended on God himself giving him requisite faith, and that is what most cessationists also believe.
    – Anne
    Sep 8, 2022 at 20:04
  • Pascal's wager, in its simplest presentation, doesn't include the experience of God giving you the gift of faith in Himself. Pascal's wager is only about analyzing the pros and cons of betting on God's existence/inexistence in each scenario (no gifts of faith). That said, you could hypothesize about a modified version of Pascal's wager in which you include the experience of the "gift of faith" from God. This modified version would be something like this: if you bet on Christianity, God will give you (eventually) the gift of faith (possibly in supernatural fashion, as in Pascal's testimony).
    – user50422
    Sep 8, 2022 at 21:59
  • (Which would be closer to my own modified version that incorporates continuationism.)
    – user50422
    Sep 8, 2022 at 21:59
  • Pascal's conversion to faith in God, through Christ, whether bound up with a vision or not, cannot be used as a case to argue for continuationism - I never used that to argue for continuationism. I didn't even mention it in the OP, so I fail to see the relevance of this point. That said, Pascal's conversion experience is definitely consistent with continuanism being true (there is no contradiction).
    – user50422
    Sep 9, 2022 at 14:33

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