The mathematician, scientist, and philosopher Blaise Pascal (1623–1662) was born in Clermont-Ferrand, France. Though battling poor health his entire life, Pascal labored in intellectual pursuits from the precocious mathematical ability of his youth, to the scientific genius of his early adulthood, and on to the brilliant religious and philosophical twilight of his cancer-shortened life. As a young man he sought satisfaction in the things of the world, but he found himself unable to fill the “God-sized vacuum” in his heart. The awesome presence of God that he experienced in conver- sion to Christ profoundly impacted him. He wrote of the experience and sewed the note into the lining of his favorite coat, where it was discovered after his death.
Pascal’s comprehensive Christian apologetic is outlined in the notes he was working on at his death. These “thoughts” (French title, Pensées), though fragmentary, reveal his strategy to counter the rationalism and skepticism of his age. Pascal championed the deep satisfaction obtained when the Christian heart and mind are at peace. Waging war between faith and reason, as did the secularists, can never gratify human longing: “The heart has its reasons which reason does not know.” Harmony between Christian head and heart, however, did not mean that Pascal thought Christianity rationally indefensible. His notes revealed preparations to present the miracles and fulfilled prophecies of the Bible as a positive apologetic.
He also planned his now-famous wager argument. A person reaps infinite gain in wagering life on God should He exist but experiences no loss if He doesn’t. On the other hand, a person suffers infinite loss in not wagering on God should He exist, yet reaps no real gain if He doesn’t. Therefore, Pascal urged, wager on God. Only this wager obtains the heart fulfillment even in this life—of knowing God personally.
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