Like many feeling and thinking people who grew up in the end of the twentieth century, I am full of doubts. For example, how do you know that anything you feel is real? How do we know that our love is a genuine selfless giving, and not an expression of our own needs? How do we know that our deep experiences are not figments of our imagination? How can we know that God exists - isn't it just as likely that our troubled psyche has invented him?

A lot of people - very good people - have conversations with Jesus in their heads every day. Is there any evidence that these cosy chats are any more real than a child chatting to its imaginary friend? If you are sceptical about faith in God - after all faith, by definition, is a matter of belief and nothing else - you are not alone. Solid Christians, who go to church every Sunday and give away their money and time, doubt too. God has never been one for proving himself.

Sometimes I talk to him. I say 'O.K. God, if you are there, why don't you prove it to me?' And then I spend the week looking out for wonderful things. And sometimes everything is grey and dreary, and sometimes wonderful things happen -- co-incidences and lucky breaks and revelations I could never have dreamed of. But at no point can I say - yes, for sure, God is in this. That's what faith is - like love, it's a feeling, and we have been taught to distrust feelings.

But just let's think for a minute: - in the seventeenth century, the French philosopher and mathematician, Blaise Pascal wrote a short piece now called 'The Wager'. He combined logic and theology. He argued that if you were asked to bet on a coin - heads or tails - God exists? which way would you bet? And he says this: the chances are about even - God exists or not - and there isn't any way of knowing. If there is a God, the rewards of believing are infinitely wonderful; if there is no God, the downside is a bit of local inconvenience. If you were a betting person, which would you choose? Infinite rewards or finite discomfort? Logically, you would have to lump for God. If he doesn't exist - what have you lost? You lived a good life, tried your best, took the long shot, died loved by all and justified. If God does exist, you turn out to be right as well.

No contest.



The Wager




A sermon preached by Imogen de la Bere