Pascal, the Heart’s Knowledge, & the ‘Wager’

The heart has reasons the mind knows nothing of. In a world where rational thought will never reveal God to us, how can someone come to faith? How will the heart make the decision for us? What is the knowledge of the heart?

Each season of Faith & Reality we show-case one of the great Christian thinkers of the past - someone whose impact and influence is still with us. Blaise Pascal (1623-62) was a contemporary of Descartes, and it was the latter philosopher who bequeathed to the West one of the great curses of modernity: the radical distinction of mind and matter, of body and spirit, or reality and illusion. Pascal went down another path, one that is even more relevant now that we are adrift in the postmodern age.

Some of his quotes:

“Men despise religion. They hate it and are afraid it may be true. The cure for this is first to show that religion is not contrary to reason, but worthy of reverence and respect. Next make it attractive, make good men wish it were true, and then show that it is.”

“The heart has its order, the mind its own, which uses principles and demonstrations. The heart has a different one. We do not prove that we ought to be loved by setting out in order the causes of love; that would be absurd. Jesus Christ and St Paul possess the order of charity, not the order of the mind, for they wished to humble, not to teach.”

“If I saw no signs of a divinity, I would fix myself in denial. If I saw everywhere the marks of a Creator, I would repose peacefully in faith. But seeing too much to deny Him, and too little to assure me, I am in a pitiful state, and I would wish a hundred times that if a God sustains nature it would reveal Him without ambiguity.”