Christian Thinkers 101: A Crash Course on Blaise Pascal
by Kenneth Samples
Did you know that the first digital calculator was invented by a seventeenth-century French mathematician? In his brief time on Earth, Blaise Pascal (1623–1662) wore many hats and left an imprint on both modern science and Christian philosophy that lingers to this day. Here’s your crash course on the life and accomplishments of Blaise Pascal—and why he still matters today.
Who Was Blaise Pascal?
Blaise Pascal lived during the scientific revolution and worked as a mathematician, physicist, inventor, polemicist, and writer. His invention of the calculator was one of the major achievements of the early scientific revolution and the precursor to the modern computer.
Pascal grew up as a nominal Catholic, but as an adult he had a dramatic religious experience that led him to commit his life to Christ and to put his remarkable mind to work for Christ’s kingdom. As a Christian philosopher, theologian, and apologist, Pascal provided a penetrating and provocative analysis of Christianity’s broader world-and-life view. In particular, Pascal’s wager argument was a key contribution to Christian apologetics. He accomplished all this before dying at the age of 39.
What Did Pascal Write?
Two of Pascal’s books are still read with appreciation today: The Provincial Letters and Pensées (pronounced “Pon-SAYZ” and roughly translated as “Reflections”). In The Provincial Letters, a book celebrated for its stylistic prose, Pascal supports the controversial Catholic Jansenist movement against the Jesuits. Pensées was published posthumously as an unfinished apologetic work consisting mainly of organized and unorganized notes, outlines, and fragments. Pascal had been preparing a book on Christian apologetics for his skeptical friends when he died of a serious illness. While Pensées is really more of an outline than a complete book, its content is so profound that it remains a perennial bestseller…
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