Christian Themes

(Literary Essentials: Christian Fiction and Nonfiction)

Having distinguished between the God of philosophers and scholars and the God of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Jesus, Pascal elaborates his convictions about God and God’s relation to humankind. As a Christian, Pascal affirms that his religion teaches two essential truths: There is a God we can know; there is also a corruption in human nature that renders us unworthy. God, however, is “a God of love,” adds Pascal, and God will “fill the soul and heart of those whom He possesses.” Such claims, however, are not rationally demonstrable. On the contrary, religion often places us in a precarious position, saying that people are in “darkness and estranged from God.” Religion pushes reason to its limits, but, Pascal asserts in one of his most famous lines, “the heart has its reasons, which reason does not know.” He goes on to argue that primarily the heart, not reason, experiences God. Indeed faith is characterized by heartfelt experience of God.

As Pascal saw it, one’s decision as to whether life makes sense does not depend ultimately on reason alone but at least as much on one’s willingness to act when confronted by a forced wager. This is Pascal’s fundamental spiritual point. He argues that this situation need not offend reason. Indeed, defining life as meaningful is no greater affront to reason than the opposite decision. One has everything to gain and nothing to lose, at least in the long run, by believing. An eternity of happiness is at stake.

In fact, when forced to gamble, the paradox is that the reasonable action...

(The entire section is 641 words.)