Sunday, February 05, 2006

A via media that I can dig on (Pascal's Pensees 526 and 527)!

"The knowledge of God without that of man's misery causes pride. The knowledge of man's misery without that of God causes despair. The knowledge of Jesus Christ constitutes the middle cause, because in him we find both God and our misery."


Eric Cadin said...

This is a beautiful reflection, and in his first encyclical, Deus Caritas Est, Pope Benedict echoes the reflection in #38.

Certainly Job could complain before God about the presence of incomprehensible and apparently unjustified suffering in the world. In his pain he cried out: “Oh, that I knew where I might find him, that I might come even to his seat! ... I would learn what he would answer me, and understand what he would say to me. Would he contend with me in the greatness of his power? ... Therefore I am terrified at his presence; when I consider, I am in dread of him. God has made my heart faint; the Almighty has terrified me” (23:3, 5-6, 15-16). Often we cannot understand why God refrains from intervening. Yet he does not prevent us from crying out, like Jesus on the Cross: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Mt 27:46). We should continue asking this question in prayerful dialogue before his face: “Lord, holy and true, how long will it be?” (Rev 6:10). It is Saint Augustine who gives us faith's answer to our sufferings: “Si comprehendis, non est Deus”—”if you understand him, he is not God.” 35 Our protest is not meant to challenge God, or to suggest that error, weakness or indifference can be found in him. For the believer, it is impossible to imagine that God is powerless or that “perhaps he is asleep” (cf. 1 Kg 18:27). Instead, our crying out is, as it was for Jesus on the Cross, the deepest and most radical way of affirming our faith in his sovereign power. Even in their bewilderment and failure to understand the world around them, Christians continue to believe in the “goodness and loving kindness of God” (Tit 3:4). Immersed like everyone else in the dramatic complexity of historical events, they remain unshakably certain that God is our Father and loves us, even when his silence remains incomprehensible.

Tim Galebach said...

Speaking of Pascal, what's the prevailing John Camp opinion about his wager?

John Zahl said...


I remember Intro to Logic with my favorite professor in college (Joel Richeimer). Once, as an example, he demonstated that Pascal's Wager was (at least, according to the rules of logic) an invalid argument, and he did this using chalk. I've never really thought much of P's Wager since, though Woody Allen has exhausted that little goldmine extensively (Stardust Memories being my favorite example).

Did you know that Pascal's son actually dug up his father's body in the middle of the night, hiding the remains in the basement of a church in Paris? Pretty hard-core! You can still visit that basement today. One day, I will expect nothing less from my own children.


Jeff Dean said...


Are you familiar with Luther's theology of the cross? Your post echoes many of the sentiments therein.

If you've never read it, I highly recommend (to everyone) G. Forde's "On Being a Theologian of the Cross."

Anonymous said...

Forde's is the single most life-changing book I have ever read (besides, of course,the obvious). Because I am not a huge brain-trust, it is one I never would have picked up myself, unbidden, but I was privileged to be part of a small group which studied it, and I had the benefit of a lot of mature and deep Christians to help wade through it.
It is truly the sort of thing that, once you "get " some of its big truths, you can never again see things as you did before. I know that is poorly said, but for me, it was a paradigm shift of huge magnitude---

I am ever thankful for having read this book, and every time I hear someone suggest it, I have this vicarious thrill of thinking: "OOOooh, he knows too..."

mattie said...

Jeff -

So we're all clear, that's not Eric's writing in that post, that's Pope Benedict. And I figure that Ratzi probably has read Forde... :)