Pascal’s Wager is an argument that has to do with the existence of God. It basically lays out four scenarios to show why believing in God is “the best bet”:
The first scenario says that if someone doesn’t believe in God and God doesn’t exist, then they haven’t lost anything.
The second scenario says that if someone believes in God and God doesn’t exist, then they also haven’t lost anything.
The third scenario says that if someone believes in God and God does, in fact, exist, then they’ve gained something of infinite value.
The fourth scenario says that if someone doesn’t believe in God and God does exist then they’ve lost everything.
Now there definitely are a few problems with Pascal’s Wager (e.g. Which God are we talking about? Is that all that’s required to be a Christian? What if being a Christian results in you being tortured and killed, etc.) but I think that most people get the point.
Now to the subject at hand. Over the past couple of weeks I’ve seen a lot of comments on Facebook and blogposts that say that it’s perfectly okay for someone to be a Christian and involved in a same-sex sexual relationship – as long as it’s a loving, committed, and monogamous same-sex sexual relationship. Thankfully, now that same-sex marriage has been legalized in the United States (it’s been legal here in Canada for ten years now), we should be able to stop saying “loving, committed, monogamous,” etc. and just say “same-sex sexual relationships in the context of marriage”.
In the vast majority of cases, the arguments that I’ve heard are pretty weak – what can you expect from Facebook? They know what they want to believe but they really haven’t thought through the issues very well. But there are some people, of course, who have thought through the issues and have done some serious reading on the issue. In my experience, they’re in the minority. And, just in case anyone asks, anyone who uses the “shellfish” or “mixed fabrics” argument or says “doesn’t the Bible say ‘judge not'” is in the former category. Back to the point – this post is for both groups – those who have thought it through and those who haven’t – and anyone else who’s interested.
To be up front, I personally don’t think it’s consistent for a person to be a Christian and involved in a same-sex sexual relationship just like it’s inconsistent for a person to be a Muslim and believe in the deity of Christ. I find most of the exegetical arguments of people like Matthew Vines, James Brownson, and Jack Rogers fairly weak, though some of the theological arguments they offer are much stronger and make you think. I’m definitely open to debating those points but in this post I want to do something a little bit different. Just to be clear, though, I don’t think that same-sex attraction is a choice, I don’t think that same-sex attraction can be “fixed”, and I don’t think that Christians should force their views about marriage on non-Christians, especially in the legal sphere. Just need to get that out of the way just in case anyone makes any assumptions. (If you do have a question about what I believe, ask or ask for clarification, don’t assume.)
In this post I want to look at the issue in a way that’s similar to Pascal’s Wager. In this case we’re going to assume: (a) that God exists; (b) that heaven (or the New Creation) and hell are real and eternal; (c) that the Bible is the inspired, authoritative, and inerrant Word of God; and (d) that for a person to be a genuine Christian they need to repent of their sins, put their faith in Christ, and commit their lives to living for him. Each of these points can be disputed but, for now, we’re going to assume that they’re true. And even if you don’t think they’re true, pretend that they’re true for the sake of argument.
Here are the four possibilities:
1. If I say that same-sex sexual relationships are okay for Christians and they are, in fact, okay for Christians, I will probably gain a few gay or gay-affirming converts to Christianity. More importantly, I will spare gay Christians a life of loneliness, depression, shame, and struggle. That being said, I also might lose a few converts from Islam or from cultures that disapprove of same-sex sexual relationships because approving same-sex sexual relationships might be a bridge too far for them.
2. If I say that same-sex sexual relationships are not okay for Christians and they are, in fact, okay for Christians, I may lose a few gay-affirming converts, a few same-sex attracted Christians, and condemn same-sex attracted Christians to a life of singleness and celibacy. But, if they listen to what I say, those same-sex attracted Christians will be saved for eternity and may even be rewarded for denying themselves for what they believed was God’s will.
3. If I say that same-sex sexual relationships are not okay for Christians but they turn out not to be okay for Christians, I may lose a few gay-affirming converts, a few same-sex attracted Christians, and make things difficult for same-sex attracted Christians but, in the end, those who listen to what I say will be saved for all of eternity. The price of singleness is high, but the price of losing eternity in the new creation is even higher (assuming 1 Cor. 6:9 applies to all same-sex sexual relationships).
4. If I say that same-sex sexual relationships are okay for Christians and it turns out that they’re not okay for Christians (a la 1 Cor. 6:9), I might end up gaining a few gay or gay-affirming converts, but, in the end, anyone who listens to me and involves themselves in a same-sex sexual relationship will be condemned for eternity. I realize that not everyone believes that and some people think that that’s absolute nonsense – but stick with the scenario. On top of that, I’ll lose converts from Islam or from cultures that disapprove of same-sex sexual relationships. There will probably also be some severe consequences in terms of how Christians interpret their Bibles and view the inspiration, authority, and inerrancy of Scripture.
Now it’s clear to me that, based on all of these scenarios, that the safest course of action, if the four assumptions at the beginning are true, is to say that same-sex sexual relationships are not okay for Christians. There are lots of factors that are involved and they shouldn’t be minimized, but saying that same-sex sexual relationships are okay for Christians does the most damage from an eternal perspective if same-sex sexual relationships turn out not to be okay for Christians.
Now I wouldn’t say that we should decide our theology based on reasoning like this. The point is that no matter where we come out on this debate, we need to think through the consequences and be willing to take responsibility for those consequences if we’re wrong. We’re with issues that have consequences in the here and now and consequences for eternity. That at least warrants a better argument than, “The Bible also says you shouldn’t eat shellfish” or “Doesn’t the Bible say ‘judge not'”! And for those of us who believe it’s inconsistent for a person to be a Christian and be involved in a same-sex sexual relationship, we need to make sure that we don’t minimize the consequences of what we say either.
I would be interested in hearing any feedback. Please stick to the scenarios that were given and remember that this is an inter-Christian debate – we’re not talking about forcing our beliefs on non-Christians, we’re talking about what individual churches and Christians should believe and practise.
 From God’s perspective and from the perspective of the final judgment.