Wagers of Salvation. But…

Pascal’s Wager.

Another instance of localized Man reaching for the infinite One. Strenuous and extraneous debate for and against is unnecessary; and eventually, shall necessarily balance out.

But lucid observations can be made, like this one by GM Davies on the existential premises assumed within said Wager. And a further remark on “unified individuals” by another commentator is also appreciated.

Still, might there not be more to be said, on wrestling with Belief and Faith in fear & trembling… …


11 thoughts on “Wagers of Salvation. But…

  1. Reading Wittgenstein reading Kierkegaard:

    Kierkegaard writes: If Christianity were so easy and cosy, why should God in his Scriptures have set Heaven and Earth in motion and threatened with eternal punishments? – Question: But in that case why is this Scripture so unclear? If we want to warn someone of a terrible danger, do we go about it by telling him a riddle whose solution will be the warning? – But who is to say that the Scripture really is unclear? Isn’t it possible that it was essential in this case to “tell a riddle”? And that, on the other hand, giving a more direct warning would necessarily have had the wrong effect? God has four people recount the life of his incarnate Son, in each case differently and with inconsistencies – but might we not say: It is important that this narrative should not be more than quite averagely historically plausible just so that this should not be taken as the essential, decisive thing? So that the letter should not be believed more strongly than is proper and the spirit may receive its due. I.e. what you are supposed to see cannot be communicated even by the best and most accurate historian; and therefore a mediocre account suffices, is even to be preferred. For that too can tell you what you are supposed to be told. (Roughly in the way a mediocre stage set can be better than a sophisticated one, painted trees better than real ones, – because these might distract attention from what matters.)

    The Spirit puts what is essential, essential for your life, into these words. The point is precisely that you are only SUPPOSED to see clearly what appears clearly even in this representation. (I am not sure how far all this is exactly in the spirit of Kierkegaard.)

    -Ludwig Wittgenstein

    And here, Wittgenstein speaking of Belief, with a reference (in agreement) to Kierkegaard’s ‘absurd paradox’:

    I think that the word ‘belief’ has caused much mischief in religion. All these intractable thoughts about ‘paradox’, the eternal meaningfulness of a historical state of affairs etc. However, if instead of saying ‘belief in Christ’ you say ‘love of Christ’, then the paradox vanishes, the vexation of the understanding ceases…Not that one could now say: Yes, now everything is simple or comprehensible. Nothing is comprehensible, but it is no longer incomprehensible either.

    -Ludwig Wittgenstein

  2. William James, setting the primacy of the unseen over the seen, instinctive faith over critical argument:


    The truth is that in the metaphysical and religious sphere, articulate reasons are cogent for us only when our inarticulate feelings of reality have already been impressed in favor of the same conclusion. Then, indeed, our intuitions and our reason work together, and great world-ruling systems, like that of the Buddhist or of the Catholic philosophy, may grow up. Our impulsive belief is here always what sets up the original body of truth, and our articulately verbalized philosophy is but its showy translation into formulas. The unreasoned and immediate assurance is the deep thing in us, the reasoned argument is but a surface exhibition. Instinct leads, intelligence does but follow. If a person feels the presence of a living God after the fashion shown by my quotations, your critical arguments, be they never so superior, will vainly set themselves to change his faith.

    -William James

  3. These are indeed interesting quotes. I had promised Rocky an answer to a question he had asked a while ago. The recent discussion served as a reminder to write a few words. Of course, nothing as interesting as these quotes but they do represent how I feel now. The struggle is from our need to feel close to others. Having different experiences, viewpoints, ideas, philosophies, we long for closeness and understanding. When one takes comparison out of the equation, immediately everything takes its place and nothing is confusing and all is tranquil. In the end, we are probably all dusty sojourners….

    PS. I love this book

  4. legacy,

    Welcome to this little corner of the world wide sandbox.
    You are right; indeed, we ARE all dusty sojourners

    As David declares:

    But who am I, and who are my people,
    That we should be able to offer so willingly as this?
    For all things come from You,
    And of Your own we have given You.
    For we are aliens (sojourners) and pilgrims before You,
    As were all our fathers;
    Our days on earth are as a shadow,
    And without hope.
    O LORD our God, all this abundance that we have prepared to build You a house for Your holy name is from Your hand, and is all Your own.

    1 Chronicles 29

    And the Teacher counsels:

    Remember now your Creator in the days of your youth,
    Before the difficult days come,
    And the years draw near when you say,
    “I have no pleasure in them”:

    For man goes to his eternal home,
    And the mourners go about the streets.
    Remember your Creator before the silver cord is loosed,
    Or the golden bowl is broken,
    Or the pitcher shattered at the fountain,
    Or the wheel broken at the well.
    Then the dust will return to the earth as it was,
    And the spirit will return to God who gave it.
    “Vanity of vanities,” says the Preacher,
    All is vanity.”

    And moreover, because the Preacher was wise, he still taught the people knowledge; yes, he pondered and sought out and set in order many proverbs. The Preacher sought to find acceptable words; and what was written was upright—words of truth. The words of the wise are like goads, and the words of scholars are like well-driven nails, given by one Shepherd. And further, my son, be admonished by these. Of making many books there is no end, and much study is wearisome to the flesh.

    Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter:

    Fear God and keep His commandments,
    For this is man’s all.
    For God will bring every work into judgment,
    Including every secret thing,
    Whether good or evil.

    Ecclesiastes 12


    [Am not familiar with Dr. Seuss, but will definitely check out your recommendation!]

  5. [Was thinking of providing some clarity to the Wittgenstein/James quotes above by adding Kierkegaard’s description of the “double movement of faith” performed by Abraham (in the ultimate test of faith — the sacrifice of Issac); where Kierkegaard had painted several ‘fractal’ possibilities/scenarios of how Abraham moved through joy-fear-resignation-acceptance-obedience-sacrifice-murder-hope, to a ‘real faith in the absurd‘…

    But after the long biblical passages above, I think, ’tis enough…

    *in K’s Fear & Trembling

  6. Don – I really enjoyed reading the passages above. I think “all without hope” is about living a life without God. With God how could we have days without hope? The statement that “all is vanity” sums up life in 3 words… amazing!

    Dr. Seuss wrote books for children and he also illustrated them. I like very much reading them for my kids but somehow I think I get much more enjoyment out of them than they do. “Yertle the Turtle”, and “Oh The Places You’ll Go” are probably my favorites although I like them all.

  7. legacy,

    I remember some of my earliest books were the adventures of Mooty the Mouse (written by a local writer+illustrator, with local context). Brings back good memories…

    Exactly. David’s “For we are aliens (sojourners) and pilgrims before You,…Our days on earth are as a shadow, And without hope” has to be seen from the perspective of eternity, and is his use of deep contrast within the context of the chapter to point…
    It is not a lament and is in fact, a recognition of reality and pointing to the only true living, in Him.

    Ecclesiastes (and especially chapter 12) is amazing and shall remain always close to heart.


    [Also want to say, I’m glad that one of the main connotation behind the chosen name for the site is now clearly seen.

  8. “what you are supposed to see cannot be communicated even by the best and most accurate historian; and therefore a mediocre account suffices, is even to be preferred.”

    yes. because the point is not to relay historical truth, nor being logical/consistent. The point is to confuse the heck out of you so that just maybe you would ponder on it, not in an intellectual way but concrete in relation to one’s circumstances in life) and then may be you would search for meaning, then maybe you would realize for yourself what is written, and not just being told/taught about it.

    This is the very same point of a Chan/Zen Koan. To confuse the heck out of the intellect. However, a lot of Chan practitioners, myself included, forget that the koan has to be born out of one’s own circumstances in life and not a borrowed koan.

  9. roamingwind,

    You have hit the nail on the head; or as some put it: painted the last brush-stroke on the dragon’s eye and made it come alive.

    And in so doing, what you said above have also captured the essence of one of the little notes I have in a draft folder in my head, where I was thinking of putting together a little post on:
    How To Read the Later-Wittgenstein’s “language-games” in his Philosophical Investigations.
    –Ans: as a Chan practitioner would read the Blue Cliff Record and the The Gateless Gate (preeminent collections of gong-ans/koans).

    Lets see if I cant do more to put that post together.


  10. Pingback: Kierkegaard: NEITHER a leap NOR ironic « gobbledygook…

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