Flatlander Faith

Apologetics from an Anabaptist perspective

Tag Archives: Blaise Pascal

The kingdom of Christ

From the Pensées of Blaise Pascal (circa 1660):

If the Jews had all been converted by Christ we should only have suspect witnesses left.  And if they had been wiped out we should have had none at all.

The Jews reject him [Jesus], but not all of them: the holy ones accept him and not the carnal ones, and far from telling against his glory this is the crowning touch to it.  Their reason for doing so, and the only one to be found in all their writings, in the Talmud and the rabbis, is merely that Christ did not subdue the nations by force of arms.  “Gird thy sword, O most mighty” [Psalm 45:3].  Is that all they have to say?  “Christ was slain,” they say, “he was defeated and did not subdue the heathen by force.  He did not give us their spoils.  He offers us no riches.”  Is that all they have to say?  This is what makes me love him.  I would not want the man they envisage.  It is clear that it is only sin that prevented them from accepting him, and by their rejection they have become unimpeachable witnesses, and, what is more, in doing so they have fulfilled the prophecies.

Idolizing truth

We make an idol of truth itself, for truth without charity is not God, but his image and an idol which we must not love or worship; still less must we worship its opposite, which is falsehood.

It is false piety to preserve peace at the expense of truth; it is false zeal to preserve truth at the expense of charity.

(More thoughts from Blaise Pascal)

Belief and unbelief, according to Blaise Pascal

I marvel at the audacity with which some people presume to speak of God.  In giving their evidence to unbelievers, usually their first chapter is to prove the existence of God from the works of nature.  I would not be surprised about this project if they were addressing their arguments to believers, for those with living faith in their hearts can clearly see at once that everything that exists is entirely the work of God whom they worship.  But for those in whom this light has been extinguished and in whom we are trying to rekindle it, persons devoid of faith and grace, searching with all their light that which they see in nature that could lead them to this knowledge and finding only obscurity and darkness, shall I  say to them that they have only to look around, and they will see in the least of these things God plainly revealed?   To give them no other evidence of this great and important matter than the course of the moon and the planets and claim this as infallible proof is to give them reason to believe that the proofs of our religion are feeble indeed.   Reason and experience tell me that nothing is more likely to bring it into contempt in their sight.

But this is not how the Scripture speaks, with its better knowledge of the things of God.  On the contrary, it speaks of God as a hidden God, and because nature has been corrupted, he has left men to their blindness.  They can only escape from this through Jesus Christ, for without him all communication with God is severed.  “Neither knows any man the Father, save the Son, and he to whosoever the Son will reveal him” (Matthew 11:27).

This is what the Scriptures tell us when they say in so many places that those who seek God shall find him.  This is not the natural light of the noonday sun.  We do not argue that those who are looking for the sun at noonday or water in the sea will find it and that in the same way the evidence of God in nature is likewise.  It is not.  Rather it says, “Truly thou art a God that hidest thyself” (Isaiah 45:15).

If it is an evidence of weakness to prove God from nature, do not despise Scripture.  If it is an evidence of strength to recognize these contradictions, then respect Scripture for this.

It is a remarkable fact that no writer in the canon has ever used nature to prove the existence of God.  They all try to help people believe in him.  Neither David, nor Solomon, nor others ever said: “There is no such thing as a vacuum, therefore God exists.”  They must have been smarter than the smartest of their successors, all of whom have used proofs from nature.  This is most significant.

People despise Christian faith.  They hate it and are afraid that it may be true.

There is always enough light to illuminate the elect and enough obscurity to humble them.  There is enough obscurity to blind the reprobate and enough light to condemn them and deprive them of any excuse.

One of the things that will confuse the damned will be the recognition that they are condemned by their own reason, by that which they claimed to condemn the Christian faith.

To know God without knowing our own wretchedness only makes for pride.  Knowing our own wretchedness without knowing God makes only for despair.   Knowing Jesus Christ provides the balance, because he shows us both God and our own wretchedness.

-selected from les pensées  of Blaise Pascal (1623-1662)

Truth and idolatry or truth and charity

On se fait une idole de la vérité même ; car la vérité hors de la charité n’est pas Dieu, et est son image et une idole, qu’il ne faut pas aimer, ni adorer, et encore moins faut-il adorer son contraire, qui est le mensonge.

(We make an idol of the truth itself, for truth apart from charity is not God but His image and an idol which we must not love or worship.  Still less should we worship its opposite, which is a lie.)                                   -Blaise Pascal

I have spent forty years reading and studying the Bible, with the help of Commentaries, Concordances, Dictionaries, books on doctrine, apologetics, history.  Many parts of the Bible that once seemed obscure and mysterious are now crystal clear.  I’m sure that I must be seeing things just the way God sees them and anyone who sees them differently is plainly wrong.

And Blaise Pascal has the gall to call that idolatry!

In truth, I am sometimes tempted to think the way I wrote in that first paragraph.  A light goes on in my mind, something becomes clear to me and I am sure that I am seeing what God wants me to see.  Then I think of the old tale of the blind men and the elephant.  No doubt God has revealed something to me, something that I needed to see because of the trials and temptations that will come in my own life.  That does not mean that I now have a clear picture of the whole elephant.

There are many disgruntled and lonely Christians, searching forlornly to find someone to fellowship with, someone who sees things exactly as they have been revealed to them.  That is idolatry.  I don’t believe that God is ever going to reveal all the mysteries of life and of His Word to me, or to any other individual.  He shows us each a small part and as we share what we have received, we all begin to get a clearer idea of the big picture.  And a greater love and appreciation for one another.

Pascal was right after all.  Truth and charity are indivisible qualities of God.  Some people view God as a stern taskmaster wielding a rod to strike us every time we come up with the wrong answer.  Others view Him as a kindly old sugar daddy who will pat us on the head when we do wrong and tell us it’s OK as long as we love everybody.  Both pictures are seriously distorted.

God tells us through His Word that we should love the truth and also love our neighbour as much as we love ourselves.  Even that difficult neighbour who has the loud parties Saturday night and then complains that we made too much noise when we left for church Sunday morning.  Or the one who complains every time our child chases a ball onto their lawn.  Or the one who complains that our dog is using his lawn for a bathroom.

Sometimes the neighbour has a justifiable complaint, sometimes not.  But God wants us to love him all the time.  Because He does.

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