Wednesday, August 17, 2005
More Thoughts from Pascal
Not only do we only know God through Jesus Christ, but we only know ourselves through Jesus Christ; we only know life and death through Jesus Christ. Apart from Jesus Christ we cannot know the meaning of our life or our death, of God or of ourselves. Thus without Scripture, whose only object is Christ, we know nothing and can see nothing but obscurity and confusion in the nature of God and in nature itself (Pensees, 417/548).
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Francis Schaeffer wrote "The non-Christian philosopher has always said that man is normal now, but biblical Christianity says he is abnormal now." What informs us of our abnormality? The Spirit of God communicating via the scriptures. This is what made the Rabbi you debated so strange. He, of all people, should know how abnormal creation is now. He has the OT record to instruct and inform his observation of nature yet he took the Darwinian route. He denied there is evidence of an intelligent creator because (ignoring the OT record) he concluded this creator would have to be evil to have created such things as often observed in nature.
Without the Logos we have only enough information to convict us if we choose not to pursue the answers to questions that naturally arise in the soul when we contemplate a meteor shower, a coral reef, or the bacterial flagellum. Any science whether it be biology, sociology, psyschology,cosmology, physics, that excludes special revelation, will never discover the Truth.
Os Guinness states "Only when we respond to Christ and follow his call do we become our real selves and come to have personalities of our own." (The Call, p. 25)
Pascal's comments remind me of Calvin's Two-Fold Knowledge of God (Duplex Cognitio Domini). Until we have knowledge of God as Redeemer (i.e. through the instrumentality of God's Word); we cannot have "right" knowledge of God as Creator or ourselves for that matter. Good post!
P.S. Dr. Groothius,
What implication does this have for various epistemological constructs, such as the one provided by Thomism or Molinism?
It seems that until we are rightly oriented to God (cf. I Cor 2)we cannot rightly understand (interpret) ourselves or nature. What does this imply, if anything, for the discipline of philosophy (i.e the relationship between Athens and Jerusalem :)?
My original response (which I delayed in posting) was a question: isn't Pascal essentially asserting the necessity of revelation?
Then I realized that the quote is personal and psychological in nature as well: how does the individual grasp this revelation, and outside of this revealtion, is there any other knowledge that can be trusted.
I'm reminded of Paul's claims in Romans 1 & 2 about the sufficiency of our "natural" knowledge of God. And then I am reminded of how Jesus claimed that even if all people were silent, the rocks would cry out praise.
The way I've looked at it is this: there is sufficient information in nature and inside ourselves to require God as an explanation (general revelation). But in order to really know him and to understand the more purpose of our place in this world, we must have direct and specific revelation FROM God.
I liken it to the construction of the Tower of Babel in order to reach heaven. You can't get there that way. The same for science and specific knowledge of God's character (THE Creator as opposed to A Creator.)
First, is this intended to be a synopsis of Pascal's thoughts for aphorisms 417 -548? Or are they your thoughts upon pondering these two (417 and 548)specific quotes? When I consult my copy of Pensees, this does not appear to be a direct quote. If you are only considering 417 and 548, I don't see how you came to the conclusions in your post.
Second, the conclusion that "without Scripture, whose only object is Christ, we know nothing and can see nothing but obscurity and confusion in the nature of God and in nature itself " has interesting implications for those who lived before the advent of written revelation. It also has interesting implications for those who lived after God revealed himself through the written word, but before Gutenberg's invention made that revelation widely available. After all, it is only in recent history that the masses have had access to the written revelation of God. Moreover, prior to the incarnation, those who followed God did so with only a shadowy understand of Jesus Christ. Although Scripture was available (albeit limited), it was not the complete Scriptures to which Pascal refers. Our understanding of Jesus Christ relies heavily on the New Testament which became available post resurrection. Does this line of thinking draw too great a divide between the two testaments?
Further, does this emphasis on the primacy of Scripture negate or discard the effectiveness and/or importance of Natural Law in revealing the "God who is there"? Of course one cannot know or understand God or his created world exhaustively through observation of the natural world, but one cannot know these facts exhaustively from the written revelation either. I would hestiate to argue that those who lived before written revelation lived in obscurity and confusion regarding the nature of God and nature itself.
Of course, it is my nature to overanalyze, and due to that I run the risk of misconstruing a post that calls one to engage in contemplation of Jesus Christ and thus be fundamentally changed by that encounter. The content of the post reminds me of S.K. (as does #417)
The numbering of the fragment from Pascal needs to be explained. The first number is the more recent ennumeration (Lafuma, used in the Penguin Edition); the second is the older version (used in the Great Books version, for example).
Yes, we're most "ourselves" when we are seeking to be subjected to Christ.
Eugene Peterson in his newest book entitled something like: "Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places" says something like this:
Humans in holding on to "self" lose their "souls" or true life. But losing their selves in following Christ, they find their "souls" or true life.
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