The Wager


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Michael Steele, played by Randy Travis, is a movie star who had it all and was also a good Christian man with good Christian values.

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In the film, Michael is tested over and over again in his faith. Like Job, he keeps going and keeps his faith in God. This movie is a wonderful example of how faith can guide us through rough situations. The movie has several adult themes including divorce and separation, fighting and also adultery. Due to these themes, this movie is awarded the Dove Seal for ages twelve and up. The Wager Theatrical Release: June 15, Content Rating Descriptions. Synopsis Micheal Steele is ten days from the biggest night of his life…walking the red carpet as a Best Actor nominee.

Content Description Sex: Director tries to force Michael to make love in a scene with his co-star but Michael refuses; adultery is discussed as Michael is seen with his female co-star at his home when she tries to seduce him.

N othing is more lamentable about the present intellectual condition of our society than the great flippancy with which contemporary authors regularly treat the most momentous of topics. The journalistic attitude, comprised of a pernicious congeries of arrogant self-assurance, fashionable bigotry, and incurable mental indolence, is all pervasive, and ushers into the world on a weekly basis dozens of trite, insipid, often sarcastic treatments of the gravest and most consequential questions which, for eons, have resisted the most pertinacious inquiries of philosophy and theology.

There are times when the mass of contemporary authors appears like nothing so much as one large crowd of schoolchildren, dressed up in their parents' over-sized formal wear, play-acting at some adult concern, like a wedding or a funeral, yet possessing none of the maturity or sophistication to carry it off in the least convincing manner. Bishop Butler lamented how much the reverence for truth had waned in his own time; what would he say had he lived to our own age? One of the most notable evidences of this intellectual unseriousness is the habitual disrespect displayed toward the name of Blaise Pascal, and the ignorant and dismissive contempt leveled towards his famous argument of the Wager.

This fact is all the more remarkable when we consider the near universal idolatry of science among contemporary authors, for Pascal possessed one of the great scientific and mathematical minds of all time; his work on conic sections was admired and utilized by no less a figure than Newton. What a spectacle it is to read our fashionable literati, endowed with little more scientific knowledge than what they gained through a general studies course and a perusal of The Selfish Gene mocking the fanatical irrationality of the father of probability theory.

If Pascal asserted the limitations of reason, as he most certainly did, it is because he perceived, as well as any man ever did, the utmost capacity of the reasoning faculty. He was a man of science and math who understood quite readily that science and math could not answer those questions he had most long to find answered. His Pensees , even in its fragmentary state, stands as one of the most profound, one of the perspectivally grandest reflections on the nature of human existence ever committed to paper; it is not too audacious a claim to say that every true assertion about mankind can be placed within the parameters of Pascal's sublime vision.

It is in this masterpiece that the argument of the wager finds place, occupying a mere three or four pages in the larger work. When Pascal's opponents deride this argument, they never reveal even the slightest indication of familiarity with the magnitude of the entire Pensees. They fix exclusively upon the Wager, and to be sure, the argument is afflicted with unmistakable weaknesses, which can never fail to attract the scrutiny of those in search of easy proof of their mental acumen.

The argument is not intended to address the metaphysical issue of whether or not God exists, as some of its more foolish scoffers have mistakenly maintained; it is an appeal to the psychology of the doubter, an attempt to convince him that faith in God resembles any number of decisions which he commonly makes in reference to more mundane concerns, when probabilities, rather than certainties, obtain.

Yet even as such, the argument seems strangely indifferent to those psychological elements which compel assent, particularly, all the forms of prior inclination which dispose a mind to entertain an argument in the first place, whether those inclinations take the form of accepted principle, or result from the power of the affections.

Hortatory theology traditionally attempts to demonstrate to the prospective believer that faith in God either follows from some set of premises, already established, or that it satisfies some object of the desires. Such arguments assume that belief is best compelled by a knowledge of the object of belief, but Pascal's argument attempts to compel belief in the absence of any knowledge of the attributes of God, besides his infinity.

Such a formalistic method of gaining a mental disposition to believe in God, in large disregard for the actual qualities of God, is quite distant from the prevalent tradition of Christian rhetoric.

The Wager: Heskey to haunt Liverpool

It is not at all clear that Pascal's argument does what he wishes it to do — namely, offer a purely rational, yet at the same time, genuinely compelling argument, of power to dispose every comprehending mind to belief in God. Yet if it does not accomplish this feat and what other argument has? What is the most stupid assertion which a philosopher ever committed to paper? Lord knows there is a plethora of candidates, but my choice would come from the Australian David Stove, a man who in general respects deserves to be called anything other than stupid.

The falsity of this proposition is obvious now, but it always was as obvious as it now is. Who can possibly be ignorant of the fact that certain conviction regarding what ensues after death is impossible for us to attain, and that consequently there can be no form of acquired knowledge which leads to such a conviction. This enigma is a fundamental — perhaps the fundamental — feature of human life.

Yet how many persons, in an era of skeptical pretense such as ours, share a like mind with Stove, and harbor the conviction, somewhere in the back of their consciousness, that reason has settled the matter against a belief in immortality. Nor is this a prejudice of recent date; Pomponazzi thought so, and so apparently did Hume, among many others of their eras.

Reason can in no way settle the choice; there is an infinite chaos which separates us. A game is being played, at the extremity of that infinite distance, in which either heads or tails will come up. Which will you bet on? By reason, you cannot choose one or the other; by reason, you can defend neither.

This vital longing is not properly a problem, cannot assume a logical status, cannot be formulated in propositions susceptible of rational discussion. The proper thing is not to bet at all. From what other origin stemmed that silly pretense of the logical positivists, that all questions were insignificant which escaped their own limited powers of articulation, no matter how momentous for the course of human life, if not from a dark realization that the mystery of what lay beyond remains forever impervious to their favored theories.

How much easier to belittle the importance of the issue, than to cure the impotence of the theories! Yet even among the far less theoretically inclined, how many have adopted a similar pose of agnosticism towards the question of immortality by simply ignoring the choice, regarding it as immaterial to the day-to-day affairs of life, and leaving it to a future hour to disclose all. How apparently sensible, how respectful of reason, how moderate, and yet, as Pascal insists, how delusive and unwise. There is no alternative; you are involved Your reason is no more offended by choosing one rather than the other, since you must necessarily make a choice.

That is one point settled. Our actions declare our position, however much our intellect wishes to abstain from the declaration.

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The most apparently mindless and uneducated person, who never read three words of philosophy, who works unreflectingly for his daily bread, takes his pleasures as they come, and all in all, drifts from one experience to the next without so much as single time in his life inquiring into the propriety of his choices, or exerting his will in conformity to such an inquiry, has proclaimed his infidelity with the brazenness of a Hume or a Russell, because a lack of faith in eternal redemption is the only position rationally consistent with such a form of life.

And this is so of every life, that it implies a belief in a divine immortality or no, just from the shape of it. So there is no escaping from the choice with which Pascal presents us; we must all choose, simply because we all live and act, and indeed, our lives and our actions have already declared our choice.

We must commit, because we have already committed. Any notion that we are free to abstain from such a commitment is illusory.

1. Background

It is not our reason that arbitrates this choice, though it does quite powerfully illuminate the terms of the choice. It is our chosen shape of life — that is to say, our faith — which ultimately must settle the question. How does reason inform us concerning the terms of this choice which we are to make in an ultimately non-rational manner? According to Pascal, it reveals to us the most unambiguous disparity of values, between beatitude, which is of infinite value, and life, which is of no value at all.

This is the place in the argument where most skeptics wish to pause; this is the assertion which seems most evidently false to them, and with good reason. Surely, life is not nothing, and in sacrificing it, or any significant part of it, for the sake of any distant promise, it is surely not true that we are staking nothing at all.

Only to consider the most trivial of examples, one who fasts on Fridays out of a religious duty might otherwise be feasting upon chateaubriand, and chateaubriand most certainly is not nothing. More seriously, the freedom of both mind and of body, which we seem to forfeit by committing ourselves to a faith in God is, by the testament of the theologians themselves, the very opposite of nothing, for they conceive that it is one of the essential features of our nature, and one which goes far to justify the prevalence of evil.

Is it? No truer words were ever spoken than that dictum of Dr. Johnson, that all life is an attempt to forget about death.

THE WAGER | Movieguide | Movie Reviews for Christians

The enormous accumulation of technologically enhanced distraction which we refer to quite inappropriately as our culture is, in many ways, but a collective effort at mutual oblivion regarding the reality of death. Yet in driving the fact of death from our minds, we drive away from our thoughts as well all of the meaning of death, for death is certainly the most meaningful circumstance of life. I am here implying the contemptibleness of a Lucretius or a Whitman, who would try to convince us of the insignificance of death.

To weigh the value of the life that we are asked to wager against immortality, we must estimate it in the light of death. It is hardly accidental that so many and so various peoples have worshiped the form of death, in the image of a Moloch or a Shiva or a Tezcatlipoca, since worship is implicitly directed towards whatever we regard as sovereign, and nothing reigns so victoriously in our sphere as death. Whatever object I establish as the purpose of my endeavors ultimately comes to ruination.

If I labor to earn, it is only to prosper for a while before I die; and if I bask in indolence every live long day, it is likewise but a way of filling up the hours until my last. Both forms of life come to the same end. As the fool. It will be urged that none of this follows by any means, that the industrious man makes for himself a more comfortable life than the lazy one, that the family man enjoys more affection than the independent one, that the good man possesses a greater mental repose — call it happiness — than the indifferent one.

It will be maintained with great plausability that even within the boundaries of this world, things of value can be recognized, and preferred to other things. But already we are speaking of preferences and emotions, things which of themselves are less compelling motives than reasons. Certainly, it is true that a man with a family lives a life filled with an abundance and variety of affection absolutely unobtainable to the single man, and affection is a very fine thing, but strictly speaking, the choice to marry then is a choice to benefit oneself.

If reason operate at all in such a decision, it is a mere instrumental reason. But marriage as a genuine good, as a discipline of loyalty and sacrifice, cannot exist in a world where all choices are of equal value, because all alike advance us but one step closer to the grave. If death be the final arbiter of being, then I may choose from preference, or I may choose from an emotional impulse, or I may choose from self-love, or I may choose from a Promethean defiance of an absurd universe, but I can never choose from reason.

That is to say, I can never select one course as more reasonable than another because both end in death, which is itself the antithesis and destruction of reason. Annihilation is infectious. Death then is not merely the termination of the functioning organism, with its correspondent elimination of neurological integrity; it is the vast shadow which this prospect casts over the whole of life.


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It is death as the only conceivable universal end of each and every human scheme, and the repercussions which this fact has upon the entirety of our practical reason. It is the reduction of every design to the same nothingness, in the ultimate unfruitful fruition of them all. The modern self-satisfied intellectual likes to dismiss the belief in immortality as a mere flattery of our vanity, as a comfortable doctrine which eases the perturbation of the mind, and veils from its reflection the loathsome reality of death, but in truth, is it not this same person who, by his assumption that he can hold his entire range of values in the face of regnant death, has anesthetized his soul with the grandest of delusions, to the discomforting truth of the case?

Is it not merely because most people refuse to think about death that they fail to consider its devastating consequences? That a state in which our actions are unintelligible — that is to say, a state in which death pervades all things triumphantly — can be made endurable merely by a shift in our own attitude? That courses of action devoid of real value — that is to say, leveled to nothingness by the gravity of death — can be ennobled simply on account of our choosing them?

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