Pioneer in Science and Apologetics: Blaise Pascal
By Brandon Markette
Most folks these days seem to think science and religion are incompatible. It was not very long ago when the great minds of science were also the greatest minds of religion. Take, for example, Blaise Pascal.
Born in France in 1623, Pascal quickly showed his keen scientific mind. By the age of 10 he devised his own experiments and, by 19, invented Pascal’s Calculator, a primitive, mechanical computer. In addition to his calculator, Pascal experimented with hydraulics and vacuums. He proved the existence of a vacuum and discovered what is now known as Pascal’s Law. Not only was he a physical scientist, but also an inventor and mathematician. In Mathematics, Pascal developed Pascal’s Triangle. Other than his calculator, Pascal also invented something most of us are familiar with — the syringe!
Blaise Pascal was one of the foremost mathematicians and scientists of the 17th century. Yet, he also became an ardent defender of the Christian Faith. Pascal’s enquiries were not limited to math and physics. He also investigated spiritual matters. In 1646 two men caring for his injured father introduced Pascal to Jansenism.
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Jansenism, named for Cornelius Jansen, began as a reform movement within the Catholic Church. Bishop Jansen championed an Augustinian view of sin and grace, which was at odds with the Catholic Church. His work, Augustinius, published posthumously, was condemned by the Pope. This did not, however, stop Pascal’s friends and students from continuing his work to reform the church. This movement, committed to Augustine’s view of grace, became known as Jansenism.
Through the Jansenists, God brought Blaise Pascal to faith. On 23 November 1654, Blaise Pascal experienced what he described as “a definitive conversion.” Pascal carried this life changing event with him, literally. Recording it on a piece of parchment, Blaise sewed the parchment into his coat.
After his conversion, Pascal applied the same mind that invented his calculator to understanding and defending the Christian faith…