You Bet Your Life exists for the benefit of modern skeptics who are open to re-thinking their position, and for Christians who have friends and family looking for a rational way out of their unbelief. It endeavors to give every seeker a reason to believe.
The book starts with the indisputable: someday you are going to die. So what comes next? Since one’s eternal state is forever, thoughtful individuals should do everything in their power to get the best possible outcome.
Yet how do we examine the afterlife? The religious traditions that once informed us about our fate have fallen into disrepair. Cut off from traditional answers, today’s secular person is left with a disturbing choice between the nihilism of scientific materialism and an irrational leap into mysticism. Many simply dodge the question and distract themselves through pursuits such as entertainment, achievement, activism, etc.
Despite our unique age, this crisis presents nothing new. At the beginning of the Enlightenment, the French mathematician Blaise Pascal noticed similar tendencies in affluent Paris. He felt outraged that his friends would be so reckless with their souls.
Framing his plea against the backdrop of Pascal’s famous Wager, author and former atheist Paul Ernst takes the reader through the cumulative case for a remarkable conclusion: the men and women who witnessed the life Christ 2000 years ago were not merely pre-scientific or gullible. They encountered an event that would cause them to reject their own beliefs and give up everything for what they knew to be true.
The early chapters establish a method for evaluating truth claims and evidence. Since most people do not have a clearly thought out worldview, Ernst unpacks a simple but robust road map for thinking about philosophical systems. He addresses the worldviews of Naturalism, Theism and Eastern Pantheism so that the reader can better identify his or her own faith commitments and ends the section by exposing the myth of “neutrality” concerning ultimate ideas.
You Bet Your Life then contends for a Being like the Judeo-Christian God on the basis of philosophical and scientific evidence. Ernst renders The Kalam Cosmological Argument as set forth by Dr. William Lane Craig and Dr. William Dembsky’s Design Inference accessible to the general reader. He emphasizes the ways our natural world points to supernatural truth.
But Christianity also presents specific historical claims, and Ernst tackles these one by one. The most important of these are Jesus’ claims to deity, which are surprisingly open to investigation. The book sets Biblical assertions against a proper backdrop and subjects them to rigorous criteria. Ernst uses the results of both sympathetic and hostile scholarship to show that widespread consensus leaves no better explanation than the bodily resurrection of Christ.
After the positive evidence, You Bet Your Life deals with classic objections to Theistic belief—including the problem of evil, the hiddenness of God, and alleged falsehoods in the Bible. Ernst solidly defends the Bible as God’s revelation on the basis of its internal testimony rather than circular reasoning.
Yet the issues at stake in You Bet Your Life ultimately boil down to a question of the heart. Ernst details his own hard-fought intellectual journey against doubt and anti-supernatural presuppositions. The book contrasts this with the path taken by famous atheist Antony Flew, who likewise found the evidence compelling but never came to faith.
Ernst candidly admits that a fear of judgment and the dread of nonexistence were central for him, as they should be for all.
The final chapters relate the love of God as shown in his gracious offer to all creatures and describe what it means to trust in Him. You Bet Your Life finishes with what Jesus’ followers say is the way to secure eternal life.