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Sunday, January 11, 2009

The Wager

For the living know that they will die, but the dead don't know anything...neither have they any more reward. Ecclesiastics 9:5

Today my friend's brother died. When I typed that sentence some of you were tempted to offer condolences. Some might have even been a bit shocked that I would begin a blog on such a blunt and ominous note. Why? Why is death sad? Why should it matter?

My friend's brother was just 20 years old. To everyone's knowledge he was completely healthy, strong, and athletic and now he's dead. 'Oh he was so young', some of you are tempted to say. We don't like that do we? We don't like hearing about young people dying. I pose the question why?

Approximately 5 hours ago at the time I write this post this young man was alive. He was playing one of his favorite sports when he collapsed. We don't understand how things like this can happen. We don't understand the suddenness of it all. Intellectually we know that we all are going to die. If you are alive now you know that you are going to die one day. That's a sad fact. Death is unfortunately something we all have to live with.

My question right now is what does the agnostic say to the family of my friend? What can the skeptic offer? At the very most he can mumble a half-hearted "I'm sorry". Friends, when your son just died inexplicably "I'm sorry" just doesn't cut it. The skeptic is ill-prepared to offer an explanation for why this event took place. He may try to rationalize it by saying that all life began, through the process of evolution--which is basically an argument that suggests that life is predicated on death. In order for one species to arise many others had to die. This soulless naturalistic explanation does nothing to console the family of those who have lost someone. If life is predicated on death and death is completely natural we would care no more about the dying or the dead than we would about a blade of grass growing in concrete. Why do we mourn death? Why do we cry for hours when someone has passed? Why do we attend funerals, send flowers, mutter "I'm sorry's" if what has taken place is just a natural occurrence.

I have an answer to those questions. It is because death is not a natural process! It is because there is One who has placed eternity in the human heart. There is One who shaped and molded and designed us. One who says unabashedly "I am the way the truth and the LIFE!" We think death is unjust for one reason: because it is unjust. We morn because it is unnatural! Because even in the heart and soul of the skeptic he realizes, even if his mouth will never admit it, that human beings were never meant to die in the first place! That's why we look at death and loss as a tragedy. Indeed our emotions are right! It is a tragedy. A great one, because God did not create us to die.

Blaise Pascal, the 16th century scientist, logician, mathematician and philosopher turned Christian apologist offers a fascinating argument to the skeptic. He proposes that there are two choices. Either God exists or He does not. There is simply no logical middle ground. He posits that through evidences of design in nature and through the scriptures it is logical to believe that there is a God. If one lives life as though God existed and the Christian life was the way to Him, and then dies and finds out their is no God such a person would have lost absolutely nothing. However if one lives as though God does not exist and assumes that Christianity is all fairytales and then one dies and faces God, such a person would have lost EVERYTHING. Essentially there is a wager or a bet if you will. On one side there is the chance to gain everything, literally all eternity if what the Christians say is correct. On the other side if one lives a Christian life, which empirically is not inferior in either quality or quantity but arguably superior to the non-Christian life one would lose nothing. Such a person would have lived meaningfully and died.

In our lives we face a choice. We can either wager to gain everything at the risk of losing nothing or we may gamble to gain nothing and lose everything. We know we are going to die one day, just like my friend's brother did. But before we die what choice are we going to make. Friend, you are free to make whatever decisions you like, but you know what I wager. I'm afraid I just can't risk losing eternity. How about you?

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