The Legitimate Use of Pascal in Apologetics

I have written two prior treatments of Christian philosophers’ usefulness in apologetics* and here I wish to add another to the list: French philosopher Blaise Pascal (1632-1662). Pascal is widely known for his work in mathematics and science, although his recognition and focus on religion and philosophy wouldn’t come until later in his life. In 1654, where not too long before, physics and mathematics were regarded as secondary in his mind, Pascal experienced a life-changing religious conversion, which led him to a life of devotion and theology as his primary concerns.

Pascal became a close associate of a group of ascetics known as “Jansenists,” named after the Dutch Bishop Jansenius (1585-1638) who wrote a famous treatise on St. Augustine entitled the Augustinus (1640). The influence the group had on Pascal would (in part) lead to his emphasis on the corruption of human sin and the need for divine, irresistible grace. When Pascal died in 1662 of an undiagnosed illness, there was a paper found stitched into his jacket: “The God of Abraham, The God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, not of the philosophers and the scholars.” This demonstrates, in a brief statement (among others), the skepticism Pascal applied to the power of philosophy.  [Read more...]