Today we continue with chapter eight of Read Along with Apologetics315, a weekly chapter-by-chapter study through Christian Apologetics: A Comprehensive Case for Biblical Christianity by Douglas Groothuis. Please leave a comment on your reading below. This is where you can interact with others reading the book, ask questions, or add your own thoughts. Click below for the audio intro, chapter 8 study questions PDF, and summary:
Chapter Eight: Faith, Risk and Rationality: Prudential Incentives to Christian Faith
In this chapter, the Groothuis points out that although the truth claims of Christianity can be argued for in a rational and robust way, many show no interest whatsoever in these issues. As he puts it, “The best arguments concerning the greatest issues, if left unheeded, do no good.” The world is awash with a vast number of spiritual options, so playing the “prudence card” is not unwarranted. Prudence has to do with personal benefit and/or detriment concerning matter of belief.
The author references Blaise Pascal’s writing along this theme, exploring the “wager” argument that Pascal made popular. The emphasis here is on utilizing the prudential concerns inherent within the Christian worldview and using them to arouse the apathetic and indifferent to a quest for truth. Groothuis also compares the prudential aspects of other religions and points out that Christianity is the most prudentially “charged” worldview, and thus, all things being equal, should be the first candidate for rational examination.
I should be much more afraid of being mistaken and then finding out that Christianity is true than of being mistaken in believing it to be true. (Pascal, Pensées, 387/241, p. 143; in Christian Apologetics, p. 155)
…not to believe in Christianity, either as a committed unbeliever or as an agnostic, means to forfeit the benefits promised only to the believer (eternal life), should Christianity be true. Deciding not to choose has the same result as not believing in God. (Christian Apologetics, p. 159)
If Christianity is true, the prudential benefits for believing (eternal life) far exceed those offered by believing in atheism or any other worldview (finite pleasures). The prudential detriments of not believing if Christianity is true (loss of eternal life; gaining of hell) also far outweigh the detriments of not believing atheism or another other worldview if the non-Christian view is true (loss of some finite pleasures). Pascal is right to affirm that eternal bliss outweighs any finite good, and eternal loss is far worse than mere extinction. (Christian Apologetics, p. 161)
A prudential consideration of the Christian truth claim can, when offered wisely, invoke a healthy self-interest that encourages unbelievers to inquire into Christianity. (Christian Apologetics, p. 167)
- How have you heard Pascal’s “wager” argument downplayed?
- What practical things can the “seeker” do to put himself in the position to receive faith?
- What apologetic role does is played by emphasizing the prudential?
Chapter Nine: In Defense of Theistic Arguments