An Odd Argument for Belief in God – The Vandivierian Wager

Note: This article was originally featured in April 2013 a guest blog article on JTHMishMash, but that site has since gone offline. So I am publishing it here.

In this article I cover an original argument for belief in God. If this argument holds then belief in the Christian God is preferable to other worldviews. Oddly, this argument comes to such a conclusion without ever proving that God actually exists!

The argument uses expected value of return on investment. We assume that the claims each worldview makes are all true. Given the truth of those claims we will try to determine what the reward is and how difficult gaining that reward is. We will then multiply to determine expected value and the worldview with the greatest expected value will be justified as the economically rational choice. This argument is my reworking of the old Pascal’s Wager.

If atheism is true a person may enjoy their life but has no guarantees beyond death. Atheism is easily attained. Therefore the expected return on investment would be a lifetime of happiness.

The agnostic does not know whether or not there is an afterlife nor whether it would be pleasant or unpleasant if it did exist. Therefore the fact that the agnostic allows for an afterlife does not actually improve their expected return on investment. It is also a lifetime of happiness under the best case.

Several kinds of theism including but not limited to Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Buddhism and others promise eternal reward if you meet certain criteria. Even if the criteria of those religions were so difficult that there was only a billionth of a percent of a chance that the reward could actually be attained, any of them would still be preferable to atheism or agnosticism because an infinite reward divided by any finite number to correct for attainment difficulty will still yield an infinite reward as the expected return on investment.

Any rational investor would take that.

Yet not all these kinds of theism are equally easily attained. Christianity has a doctrine called salvation by faith alone. This means all you have to do is believe and you instantly and securely attain an eternal life of happiness according to most denominations. This is by far the easiest method of attaining a maximum reward. We maximize our return on investment by choosing Christianity!

Even if we allow hypothetical new religions to form in the future we will always be able to look back and count a finite number of religions. This would still allow us to prefer theism to atheism or agnosticism. This argument is not a stand-alone but rather a compliment to your arsenal. I completely advise actual arguments for God’s existence and Christianity’s historical validity alongside it.

John Vandivier’s formal training is in economics and political science but he also dabbles in philosophy and apologetics. His blog discusses all of the above at

This article was featured as a guest blog article on JTHMishMash:

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  1. […] you mess up you lose out. That’s exactly the argument I make for Christianity over Islam in the Vandivierian Wager, and it is consistent with the empirical finding that more folks are […]

  2. […] in God without establishing the existence of God. I built on that argument to provide a more robust Vandivierian Wager. In this article I present a separate argument which follows similar lines: If my argument is true […]

  3. […] The Many Gods Problem is given as a rebuttal to Pascal’s Wager. The argument goes that there could be infinitely many gods and therefore the return for believing in Christianity is infinity divided by infinite which might be positive, negative, or zero. The obvious problem is that there aren’t infinitely many gods to consider. If we consider every god ever defined we would have finitely many gods, and with finitely many gods the argument holds. I further improved Pascal’s Wager here. […]

  4. […] Here I am referring to a broad class of arguments including evidential, presuppositional, moral, ontological, and preference-oriented argumentation. Specific examples include Craig’s Kalam Cosmological argument, various forms of the Moral Argument from Craig and others, the ontological argument from Plantiga et al, the argument from reason as elucidated by Lewis and also the form given by Bruggencate (also called the Transcendental Argument or TAG), the historical argument as put forth by many folks (I really like J Warner Wallace here), and Pascal’s Wager as well as my version of the wager. […]

  5. […] ago I improved on Pascal’s Wager with the Vandivierian Wager. An article on it is here and a video on it is here. This article reinforces that argument in two […]

  6. […] must be more likely than it’s negation to be true in expectation.3 – Another standard, a la Pascal, is that the expected value of a statement needs to be higher than the expected value of […]

  7. […] Christianity is your best return on investment. […]

  8. […] Here’s one of many articles where I make an argument for Christianity without requiring certainty. Most arguments I make in favor of Christianity with optional certainty fall into one of two types of argument. First, if it is more likely that Christianity is true than it is likely that Christianity is not true, then it’s rationally preferred to believe that Christianity is true, even without certainty. Second, even with a very small chance that Christianity is true, identifying Christianity as true is rationally preferred when the expected value of doing so is high, and that is always the case under salvation by faith alone, because of the payoff from obtaining salvation is high. […]

  9. […] first argument is that because Christianity presents more value than Islam or Judaism because it has an eternal reward with low cost and risk. Christianity is unique in the doctrine of […]

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