Pascal’s Fundamentals of Religion (Sept. 27)

Pascal’s Fundamentals of Religion
To-day we have Fundamentalists and Modernists, each striving
for the same goal. Pascal, two hundred and fifty years ago, gave
his precepts of the fundamentals of religious thought.
(Pascal confers with Descartes, Sept. 27, 1647.)
Read from PASCAL’S THOUGHTS Vol. 48, pp. 181-192

SECTION VIII
THE FUNDAMENTALS OF THE CHRISTIAN RELIGION
556

MEN blaspheme what they do not know. The Christian religion
consists in two points. It is of equal concern to men
to know them, and it is equally dangerous to be ignorant
of them. And it is equally of God’s mercy that He has given indications
of both.
And yet they take occasion to conclude that one of these points
does not exist, from that which should have caused them to infer the
other. The sages who have said there is only one God have been
persecuted, the Jews were hated, and still more the Christians. They
have seen by the light of nature that if there be a true religion on
earth, the course of all things must tend to it as to a centre.
The whole course of things must have for its object the establishment
and the greatness of religion. Men must have within them
feelings suited to what religion teaches us. And, finally, religion must
so be the object and centre to which all things tend, that whoever
knows the principles of religion can give an explanation both of the
whole nature of man in particular, and of the whole course of the
world in general.
And on this ground they take occasion to revile the Christian
religion, because they misunderstand it. They imagine that it consists
simply in the worship of a God considered as great, powerful,
and eternal; which is strictly deism, almost as far removed from the
Christian religion as atheism, which is its exact opposite. And thence
they conclude that this religion is not true, because they do not see
that all things concur to the establishment of this point, that God
does not manifest Himself to men with all the evidence which He
could show.
But let them conclude what they will against deism, they will
conclude nothing against the Christian religion, which properly con-
181
l82 PASCAL’S THOUGHTS
sists in the mystery of the Redeemer, who, uniting in Himself the
two natures, human and divine, has redeemed men from the corruption
of sin in order to reconcile them in His divine person to God.
The Christian religion then teaches men these two truths; that
there is a God whom men can know, and that there is a corruption
in their nature which renders them unworthy of Him. It is equally
important to men to know both these points; and it is equally dangerous
for man to know God without knowing his own wretchedness,
and to know his own wretchedness without knowing the Redeemer
who can free him from it. The knowledge of only one of
these points gives rise either to the pride of philosophers, who have
known God, and not their own wretchedness, or to the despair of
atheists, who know their own wretchedness, but not the Redeemer.
And, as it is alike necessary to man to know these two points, so
is it alike merciful of God to have made us know them. The Christian
religion does this; it is in this that it consists.
Let us herein examine the order of the world, and see if all things
do not tend to establish these two chief points of this religion: Jesus
Christ is the end of all, and the centre to which all tends. Whoever
knows Him knows the reason of everything.
Those who fall into error err only through failure to see one of
these two things. We can then have an excellent knowledge of God
without that of our own wretchedness, and of our own wretchedness
without that of God. But we cannot know Jesus Christ without
knowing at the same time both God and our own wretchedness.
Therefore I shall not undertake here to prove by natural reasons
either the existence of God, or the Trinity, or the immortality of
the soul, or anything of that nature; not only because I should not
feel myself sufficiently able to find in nature arguments to convince
hardened atheists, but also because such knowledge without
Jesus Christ is useless and barren. Though a man should be convinced
that numerical proportions are immaterial truths, eternal
and dependent on a first truth, in which they subsist, and which is
called God, I should not think him far advanced towards his own
salvation.
The God of Christians is not a God who is simply the author of
mathematical truths, or of the order of the elements; that is the view

THE FUNDAMENTALS 183
of heathens and Epicureans. He is not merely a God who exercises
His providence over the life and fortunes of men, to bestow on
those who worship Him a long and happy life. That was the portion
of the Jews. But the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, the God
of Jacob, the God of Christians, is a God of love and of comfort,
a God who fills the soul and heart of those whom He possesses, a
God who makes them conscious of their inward wretchedness, and
His infinite mercy, who unites Himself to their inmost soul, who
fills it with humility and joy, with confidence and love, who renders
them incapable of any other end than Himself.
All who seek God without Jesus Christ, and who rest in nature,
either find no light to satisfy them, or come to form for themselves
a means of knowing God and serving Him without a mediator.
Thereby they fall either into atheism, or into deism, two things which
the Christian religion abhors almost equally.
Without Jesus Christ the world would not exist; for it should
needs be either that it would be destroyed or be a hell.
If the world existed to instruct man of God, His divinity would
shine through every part in it in an indisputable manner; but as
it exists only by Jesus Christ, and for Jesus Christ, and to teach men
both their corruption and their redemption, all displays the proofs of
these two truths.
All appearance indicates neither a total exclusion nor a manifest
presence of divinity, but the presence of a God who hides Himself.
Everything bears this character.
. . . Shall he alone who knows his nature know it only to be
miserable ? Shall he alone who knows it be alone unhappy ?
. . . He must not see nothing at all, nor must he see sufficient
for him to believe he possesses it; but he must see enough to know
that he has lost it. For to know of his loss, he must see and not see;
and that is exactly the state in which he naturally is.
. . . Whatever part he takes, I shall not leave him at rest . . .
557
. . . It is then true that everything teaches man his condition, but
he must understand this well. For it is not true that all reveals God,

184 PASCAL’S THOUGHTS
and it is not true that all conceals God. But it is at the same time
true that He hides Himself from those who tempt Him, and that He
reveals Himself to those who seek Him, because men are both unworthy
and capable of God; unworthy by their corrupdon, capable
by their original nature.
558
What shall we conclude from all our darkness, but our unworthiness?
559
If there never had been any appearance of God, this eternal deprivation
would have been equivocal, and might have as well corresponded
with the absence of all divinity, as with the unworthiness of
men to Know Him; but His occasional, though not continual,
appearances remove the ambiguity. If He appeared once, He exists
always; and thus we cannot but conclude both that there is a God,
and that men are unworthy of Him.
560
We do not understand the glorious state of Adam, nor the nature
of his sin, nor the transmission of it to us. These are matters which
took place under conditions of a nature altogether different from
our own, and which transcend our present understanding.
The knowledge of all this is useless to us as a means of escape
from it; and all that we are concerned to know, is that we are miserable,
corrupt, separated from God, but ransomed by Jesus Christ,
whereof we have wonderful proofs on earth.
So the two proofs of corruption and redemption are drawn from
the ungodly, who live in indifference to religion, and from the Jews
who are irreconcilable enemies.
561
There are two ways of proving the truths of our religion; one
by the power of reason, the other by the authority of him who speaks.

THE FUNDAMENTALS 185
We do not make use of the latter, but of the former. We do not
say, "This must be believed, for Scripture, which says it, is divine."
But we say that it must be believed for such and such a reason, which
are feeble arguments, as reason may be bent to everything.
562
There is nothing on earth that does not show either the wretchedness
of man, or the mercy of God; either the weakness of man without
God, or the strength of man with God.
563
It will be one of the confusions of the damned to see that they are
condemned by their own reason, by which they claimed to condemn
the Christian religion.
564
The prophecies, the very miracles and proofs of our religion, are
not of such a nature that they can be said to be absolutely convincing.
But they are also of such a kind that it cannot be said that it is
unreasonable to believe them. Thus there is both evidence and obscurity
to enlighten some and confuse others. But the evidence is
such that it surpasses, or at least equals, the evidence to the contrary;
so that it is not reason which can determine men not to follow it,
and thus it can only be lust or malice of heart. And by this means
there is sufficient evidence to condemn, and insufficient to convince;
so that it appears in those who follow it, that it is grace, and not
reason, which makes them follow it; and in those who shun it, that it
is lust, not reason, which makes them shun it.
Vere discipuli, vere Israelita, vere liberi, vere cibus.1
565
Recognise, then, the truth of religion in the very obscurity of
religion, in the little light we have of it, and in the indifference which
we have to knowing it.
‘ I n allusion to John, viii. 31; i. 47; viii. 36; vi. 32: "Verily disciples, verily an
Israelite, verily children, verily food."

186 PASCAL’S THOUGHTS
566
We understand nothing of the works of God, if we do not take
as a principle that H e has willed to blind some, and enlighten others.
567
The two contrary reasons. We must begin with that; without that
we understand nothing, and all is heretical; and we must even add
at the end of each truth that the opposite truth is to be remembered.
568
Objection.—The Scripture is plainly full of matters not dictated
by the Holy Spirit.—Answer. Then they do not harm faith.—Objection.
But the Church has decided that all is of the Holy Spirit.—
Answer. I answer two things: first, the Church has not so decided;
secondly, if she should so decide, it could be maintained.
Do you think that the prophecies cited in the Gospel are related
to make you believe ? No, it is to keep you from believing.
569
Canonical.—The heretical books in the beginning of the Church
serve to prove the canonical.
570
T o the chapter on the Fundamentals must be added that on Typology
touching the reason of types: why Jesus Christ was prophesied as
to His first coming; why prophesied obscurely as to the manner.
571
The reason why. Types.—[They had to deal with a carnal people
and to render them the depositary of the spiritual covenant.] To
give faith to the Messiah, it was necessary there should have been
precedent prophecies, and that these should be conveyed by persons
above suspicion, diligent, faithful, unusually zealous, and known to
all the world.

THE FUNDAMENTALS 187
To accomplish all this, God chose this carnal people, to whom He
entrusted the prophecies which foretell the Messiah as a deliverer,
and as a dispenser of those carnal goods which this people loved.
And thus they have had an extraordinary passion for their prophets,
and, in sight of the whole world, have had charge of these books
which foretell their Messiah, assuring all nations that He should
come, and in the way foretold in the books, which they held open to
the whole world. Yet this people, deceived by the poor and ignominious
advent of the Messiah, have been His most cruel enemies.
So that they, the people least open to suspicion in the world of
favouring us, the most strict and most zealous that can be named
for their law and their prophets, have kept the books incorrupt.
Hence those who have rejected and crucified Jesus Christ, who has
been to them an offence, are those who have charge of the books
which testify of Him, and state that He will be an offence and
rejected. Therefore they have shown it was He by rejecting Him,
and He has been alike proved both by the righteous Jews who received
Him, and by the unrighteous who rejected Him, both facts
having been foretold.
Wherefore the prophecies have a hidden and spiritual meaning,
to which this people were hostile, under the carnal meaning which
they loved. If the spiritual meaning had been revealed, they would
not have loved it, and, unable to bear it, they would not have been
zealous of the preservation of their books and their ceremonies; and
if they had loved these spiritual promises, and had preserved them
incorrupt till the time of the Messiah, their testimony would have
had no force, because they had been his friends.
Therefore it was well that the spiritual meaning should be concealed;
but, on the other hand, if this meaning had been so hidden as
not to appear at all, it could not have served as a proof of the Messiah.
What then was done ? In a crowd of passages it has been hidden
under the temporal meaning, and in a few has been clearly revealed;
besides that the time and the state of the world have been so
clearly foretold that it is clearer than the sun. And in some places
this spiritual meaning is so clearly expressed, that it would require a
blindness like that which the flesh imposes on the spirit when it is
subdued by it, not to recognise it.

188 PASCAL’S THOUGHTS
See then what has been the prudence of God. This meaning is
concealed under another in an infinite number of passages, and in
some, though rarely, it is revealed; but yet so that the passages in
which it is concealed are equivocal, and can suit both meanings;
whereas the passages where it is disclosed are unequivocal, and can
only suit the spiritual meaning.
So that this cannot lead us into error, and could only be misunderstood
by so carnal a people.
For when blessings are promised in abundance, what was to prevent
them from understanding the true blessings, but their covetousness,
which limited the meaning to worldly goods ? But those whose
only good was in God referred them to God alone. For there are two
principles, which divide the wills of men, covetousness and charity.
Not that covetousness cannot exist along with faith in God, nor
charity with worldly riches; but covetousness uses God, and enjoys
the world, and charity is the opposite.
Now the ultimate end gives names to things. All which prevents
us from attaining it, is called an enemy to us. Thus the creatures,
however good, are the enemies of the righteous, when they turn them
away from God, and God Himself is the enemy of those whose covetousness
He confounds.
Thus as the significance of the word "enemy" is dependent on
the ultimate end, the righteous understood by it their passions, and
the carnal the Babylonians; and so these terms were obscure only
for the unrighteous. And this is what Isaiah says: Signa legem in
electis meisf and that Jesus Christ shall be a stone of stumbling.
But, "Blessed are they who shall not be offended in him." Hosea, ult.,
says excellently, "Where is the wise? and he shall understand what
I say. The righteous shall know them, for the ways of God are right;
but the transgressors shall fall therein."
572
Hypothesis that the apostles were impostors.—The time clearly,
the manner obscurely.—Five typical proofs J1600 prophets.
1
400 scattered.
* Isaiah, viii. 16.

THE FUNDAMENTALS 189
573
Blindness of Scripture.—"The Scripture," said the Jews, "says that
we shall not know whence Christ will come (John vii. 27 and xii. 34).
The Scripture says that Christ abideth for ever, and He said that He
should die." Therefore, says Saint John, they believed not, though He
had done so many miracles, that the word of Isaiah might be fulfilled:
"He hath blinded them," &c.
574
Greatness.—Religion is so great a thing that it is right that those
who will not take the trouble to seek it, if it be obscure, should be
deprived of it. Why then do any complain, if it be such as can be
found by seeking?
575
All things work together for good to the elect, even the obscurities
of Scripture; for they honour them because of what is divinely
clear. And all things work together for evil to the rest of the world,
even what is clear; for they revile such, because of the obscurities
which they do not understand.
576
The general conduct of the world towards the Church: God willing
to blind and to enlighten.—The event having proved the divinity
of these prophecies, the rest ought to be believed. And thereby we
see the order of the world to be of this kind. The miracles of the
Creation and the Deluge being forgotten, God sends the law and
the miracles of Moses, the prophets who prophesied particular things;
and to prepare a lasting miracle, He prepares prophecies and their
fulfilment; but, as the prophecies could be suspected, He desires to
make them above suspicion, &c.
577
God has made the blindness of this people subservient to the good
of the elect.

190 PASCAL’S THOUGHTS
578
There is sufficient clearness to enlighten the elect, and sufficient
obscurity to humble them. There is sufficient obscurity to blind
the reprobate, and sufficient clearness to condemn them, and make
them inexcusable.—Saint Augustine, Montaigne, Sebond.
The genealogy of Jesus Christ in the Old Testament is intermingled
with so many others that are useless, that it cannot be distinguished.
If Moses had kept only the record of the ancestors of
Christ, that might have been too plain. If he had not noted that of
Jesus Christ, it might not have been sufficiently plain. But, after all,
whoever looks closely sees that of Jesus Christ expressly traced
through Tamar, Ruth, &c.
Those who ordained these sacrifices, knew their uselessness; those
who have declared their uselessness have not ceased to practise them.
If God had permitted only one religion, it had been too easily
known; but when we look at it closely, we clearly discern the truth
amidst this confusion.
The premiss.—Moses was a clever man. If then he ruled himself
by his reason, he would say nothing clearly which was directly against
reason.
Thus all the very apparent weaknesses are strength. Example: the
two genealogies in Saint Matthew and Saint Luke. What can be
clearer than that this was not concerted ?
579
God (and the Apostles), foreseeing that the seeds of pride would
make heresies spring up, and being unwilling to give them occasion
to arise from correct expressions, has put in Scripture and the prayers
of the Church contrary words and sentences to produce their fruit in
dme.
So in morals He gives charity, which produces fruits contrary to
lust.
580
Nature has some perfections to show that she is the image of God,
and some defects to show that she is only His image.

THE FUNDAMENTALS 191
581
God prefers rather to incline the will than the intellect. Perfect
clearness would be of use to the intellect, and would harm the will.
To humble pride.
582
We make an idol of truth itself; for truth apart from charity
is not God, but His image and idol, which we must neither love
nor worship; and still less must we love or worship its opposite,
namely, falsehood.
I can easily love total darkness; but if God keeps me in a state
of semi-darkness, such partial darkness displeases me, and, because
I do not see therein the advantage of total darkness, it is unpleasant
to me. This is a fault, and a sign that I make for myself an idol of
darkness, apart from the order of God. N o w only His order must be
worshipped.
583
The feeble-minded are people who know the truth, but only
affirm it so far as consistent with their own interest. But, apart
from that, they renounce it.
584
The world exists for the exercise of mercy and judgment, not as if
men were placed in it out of the hands of God, but as hostile to God;
and to them He grants by grace sufficient light, that they may return
to Him, if they desire to seek and follow Him; and also that they
may be punished, if they refuse to seek or follow Him.
585
That God has willed to hide Himself.—If there were only one religion,
God would indeed be manifest. The same would be the case,
if there were no martyrs but in our religion.
God being thus hidden, every religion which does not affirm that
God is hidden, is not true; and every religion which does not give

192 PASCAL’S THOUGHTS
the reason of it, is not instructive. Our religion does all this: Vere
tu es Deus absconditus.3
586
If there were no obscurity, man would not be sensible of his corruption;
if there were no light, man would not hope for a remedy.
Thus, it is not only fair, but advantageous to us, that God be partly
hidden and partly revealed; since it is equally dangerous to man to
know God without knowing his own wretchedness, and to know his
own wretchedness without knowing God.
587
This religion, so great in miracles, saints, blameless Fathers, learned
and great witnesses, martyrs, established kings as David, and Isaiah, a
prince of the blood, and so great in science, after having displayed all
her miracles and all her wisdom, rejects all this, and declares that
she has neither wisdom nor signs, but only the cross and foolishness.
For those, who, by these signs and that wisdom, have deserved your
belief, and who have proved to you their character, declare to you that
nothing of all this can change you, and render you capable of knowing
and loving God, but the power of the foolishness of the cross
without wisdom and signs, and not the signs without this power.
Thus our religion is foolish in respect to the effective cause, and wise
in respect to the wisdom which prepares it.
588
Our religion is wise and foolish. Wise, because it is the most
learned, and the most founded on miracles, prophecies, &c. Foolish,
because it is not all this which makes us belong to it. This makes us
indeed condemn those who do not belong to it; but it does not cause
belief in those who do belong to it. It is the cross that makes them
believe, ne evacuata sit crux.4 And so Saint Paul, who came with
wisdom and signs, says that he has come neither with wisdom nor
with signs; for he came to convert. But those who come only to
convince, can say that they come with wisdom and with signs.
3 "Truly thou art a hidden God." 4 i Corinthians, i. 17.

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