Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Blaise Pascal: Insight into Faith (Post IV)

Continued from Insight into Faith (Post III).

Blaise Pascal believed that Christianity alone embodies and offers the holistic solution for the quest of the mind and heart for truth. Pascal’s solution is simple, we must listen to God. Pascal, a brilliant scientist, mathematician, philosopher, inventor, writer and so forth, had a spiritual experience in his thirty first year of life that he recorded and kept in the lining of his jacket.


In the year of grace, 1654, On Monday, 23rd of November, Feast of St Clement, Pope and Martyr, and others in the Martyrology, Vigil of St Chrysogonus, Martyr, and others, From about half past ten in the evening until about half past twelve,


God of Abraham, God of Isaac, God of Jacob, (Ex 3:6; Mt 22:32) not of the philosophers and scholars.

Certitude. Certitude. Feeling. Joy.
Peace. God of Jesus Christ.
“Thy God and my God.” (Jn 20:17)
Forgetfulness of the world and of everything, except God.
He is to be found only in the ways taught in the Gospel.
Greatness of the Human Soul.
“Righteous Father, the world hath not known Thee, but I have known Thee.” (Jn 17:25)
Joy, joy, joy, tears of joy.
I have separated myself from Him. “They have forsaken Me, the fountain of living waters.” (Jr 2:13) “My God, wilt Thou leave me?” (Mt 27:46)
Let me not be separated from Him eternally. “This is the eternal life, that they might know Thee, the only true God, and the one whom Thou hast sent, Jesus Christ.” (Jn 17:3) Jesus Christ.

Jesus Christ

I have separated myself from Him:
I have fled from Him,
denied Him,
crucified Him.
Let me never be separated from Him.
We keep hold of Him only by the ways taught in the Gospel.
Renunciation, total and sweet.
Total submission to Jesus Christ and to my director.
Eternally in joy for a day’s training on earth.
“I will not forget thy words.” (Ps 119:16) Amen.

Pascal discovered the paradox of man which true religion teaches. Man is both a source of greatness and wretchedness. Even in wretchedness man learns of his greatness. Pascal points out that man can realize that something is missing because he has fallen from a previous nature, the state of grace that one ought to be. Knowledge of privation points out knowledge of one’s true condition. Pascal wittingly indicates that while a person with no eyes is inconsolable “probably no man ever ventured to mourn at not having three eyes” (409). Man seeks what is intrinsic to his nature including knowledge of reality. Since reason cannot know all of reality, the limitation of man becomes more evident and humbles man to receive grace and knowledge as a gift.

Christian religion points out two truths that man must know to remain balance in his knowledge. “There is a God whom men can know, and…there is a corruption in their nature which renders them unworthy of Him” (555). Knowledge of only one of these truths leads to opposite extremes. Knowledge of God but not of sin leads to the pride of the philosophers while knowledge of sin and wretchedness but not of a redeeming God leads to the despair of the atheists. It is God in his gift of faith that makes both truths known to man. The need for redemption becomes both evident and reasonable. Through faith Jesus Christ can be recognized as “the end of all, and the center to which all tends” (555). The true God is different from limited view of God that philosophy offers because God not only brings the world into motion but also restores His creation that has turned against Him. As a God of love, He fills the hearts of man to make them aware of their condition that they might freely return back to Him. Without the mediator of Jesus Christ, man falls into either atheism or deism. To accept such possibilities is not reason, but grace through which all things become possible and miracles become evidence. To reject such possibilities is not reason, but an emotional problem that fails to dive into the infinite mystery that surrounds all things.

This worldview follows the assumption that the highest act of a human person is not knowledge and reason but faith and love. We are made to know precisely because we are made to love and be loved, not vice versa. While reason is very much a function of the human person it is not humanity’s end in itself but a means to understanding the choices available to the will. Faith is to the will what knowledge is to the intellect. They complement one another rather than replace each other. There is no competition intrinsic to the either faith or reason that would put one in conflict with the other. Rather human minds create the conflict. Even when affirming a judgment of the intellect, this willful act follows a trust in the correlation of an idea and its ability to represent reality regardless of whether this process is something that the judger is consciously aware of. This implicit trust is made explicit in Christianity and its belief of Jesus Christ as the Logos and Word of God. God stands beyond all creation and orders everything accordingly to His will and sees that it is good. Rather than destroying reason, Christianity inherently fosters the scientific and philosophical enterprise, precisely because it believes in the intelligibility of the world ordered by a divine Logos. Even if such world is ultimately shrouded in mystery, we can through the gifts of revelation and reason have positive knowledge about creation and the creator.

“Without the Creator the creature would disappear...But when God is forgotten the creature itself grows unintelligible." --Second Vatican Council

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