Speculation and Interpretation

Invincible Ignorance and Pascal's Wager: Irreconcilable?

An apparent contradiction is at play in apologetics and salvation theology; two claims are made which seem opposed to each other. The first is the claim of Pascal's Wager, a favorite argument of Professor Peter Kreeft's (among others) for why we ought to live like God exists. The second is the doctrine of Invincible Ignorance, which is often interpreted to mean that those who do not believe in God or His Church may still find themselves in heaven; this was certainly the view of C.S. Lewis (see The Last Battle), as well as a number of prominent (and orthodox) Catholic Theologians.

---Pascal's Wager---

Pascal's Wager was a chapter in the Pensees, in which Blaise Pascal presented an argument aimed not so much at the atheists of his day as the agnostics. The outline of the argument is as follows:

  1. Man must satisfy both his intellect and his will; the demand of the intellect is to know and obey truth, the demand of the will is to seek and find the good and to avoid evil.
  2. The agnostic claims that we can't know truth absolutely.
  3. However, we must ultimately live as if we did know truth: ultimately, we must live as if there is God, or as if there is not God. While we may claim intellectually not to know, not living as if there is God is equivalent to living as if there is not God.
  4. Since we must make a choice, our intellect is not offended by having made this choice. We therefore must choose based on our will.
  5. Having settled the demands of the intellect, we must now turn to the demands of the will:

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