Douglas Groothuis

Defending Christian Faith, October 19, 2004





If he exalts himself, I humble him.

If he humbles himself, I exalt him.

And I go on contradicting him

Until he understands

That he is a monster that passes all understanding—Pascal.



I.          Pascal:  Misunderstood Genius (On Pascal, chapter one)


A.        Pascal as fideist and existentialist:  wrong


B.        The “wager-only” Pascal (Alan Carter, numerous philosophy of religion anthologies):  wrong


II.        Pascal’s Life and thought (On Pascal, chapters two and four)


A.        Scientific achievements


B.        Religious controversy


C.        Pascal’s apologetic project:  Pensées


III.       Building the Christian Apologetic on Basic Theism


A.        Concepts of truth and rationality


B.        Theistic arguments: cosmological, design, moral, etc. (contra Pascal)


C.        Critiquing other worldviews: naturalism, pantheism, polytheism


IV.       Argument from Christian Revelation to Explain Human Condition (On

           Pascal, chapter eight)


A.        Explanatory range of a worldview: human condition essential component of explanation


B.        Argument appeals to sense of personal identity and meaning:  self-understanding, exploration


V.        Human Greatness and Misery


A.        Greatness in intellect, artistry, etc.


B.        Misery in intellect gone wrong, weakness, etc.


C.        Mystery of the human condition


VI.       No Consolation From (Merely Human) Philosophy (Colossians 2:8)


A.        Two errors of philosophy


1.         Misery without greatness


2.         Greatness without dignity


3.         Need for a tertium quid


VII.     Transcending Merely Human Philosophy


A.        Explaining misery and greatness


1.         Created in God’s image (Genesis 1:26)


2.         Fallen (Genesis 3; Mark 7:21 – 23; Romans 3)


3.         Remnants of greatness in misery (“rumors of glory”—Bruce Cockburn)


VIII.    Pursuing the Best Explanation


A.        The dual nature as intellectually cogent


B.        That human condition needs to be explained, not just accepted


C.        Doctrines of original creation and subsequent sin are convincing


IX.       The Abductive Argument Form


A.        Neither deductive, nor inductive—best inference to the explanation (IBE)


B.        Confirming instances of hypothesis (dual nature)


C.        Not affirming the consequent fallacy (If p, then q; q; therefore, p)


X.        The Apologetic Worth of this Argument


A.        Part of a larger cumulative case for Christian hypothesis


B.        Illuminates human condition uniquely


C.        Offers hope for human restoration through Christ


D.        Initial treatment for unbelief


·         See also: Douglas Groothuis, “Deposed Royalty: Pascal’s Anthropological Argument,” Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 41, no. 2 (June 1998)


XI.       Pascal's Wager (On Pascal, chapter nine)


A.        Prologue:  agnosticism and God


B.        The wager proper


C.        The wager:  risks and rewards


D.        If many gods, why one wager?  Evidential considerations


E.         Is it religious brainwashing?  Cognitive elements


F.         Is it true faith?  A beginning


For more on the proper interpretation and philosophical force of Pascal’s wager.


1.         Douglas Groothuis, “Pascal Speaks from the Grave,” Think (Autumn, 2004), #8. For the wager.

2.         Alan Carter, “On Pascal’s Wager: Or All Bets Are Off,” Philosophia Christi, series 2, 3, no. 2 (2001): 511-516. Against the wager.

3.         Douglas Groothuis, “Are All Bets Off? A Defense of Pascal’s Wager,” Philosophia Christi, series 2, 3, no. 2 (2001): 517-524. For the wager.

4.         Alan Carter, “Is Pascal’s Wager Back On? A Response to Groothuis,” Philosophia Christi, series 2, 4, no. 2 (2002): 493-500. Against the wager.

5.         Douglas Groothuis, “An Unwanted Farewell to Pascal’s Wager: Reply to Carter,” Philosophia Christi, series 2, 4, no. 2 (2002): 501-508. For the wager.