A Royal Ruin: Pascal’s Argument from Humanity to Christianity
by Douglas Groothuis
The Bible is God’s anthropology rather than man’s theology.—Abraham Heschel
We humans often puzzle over our own humanity, scanning our heights and our depths, wondering about and worrying over the meaning of our good and our evil. No other animal reflects on its species like this. Here, and in so many other ways, we stand unique among living creatures. Why does a young student go on a homicidal rampage at Virginia Tech on April 16, 2007, murdering thirty-two fellow humans, and then kill himself? Why does evil strike so hard and so erratically?
In spite of these upsurges of human evil, we are also struck by the beauty, courage, and genius wrought by human minds, hearts, and hands. After every tragedy, heroes emerge who rescue the living, comfort the dying, and put others above themselves in spontaneous acts of altruism. Humans make machines made to torture others, and humans make music sublime in its ability to give pleasure. Singer-songwriter Bruce Cockburn ponders the complexities and contradictions of humanity in “The Burden of the Angel/Beast”—the distinctively human discomfort with being human and not understanding the origin and meaning of our own humanness.
We go crying, we come laughing.
Never understanding the time we’re passing.
Kill for money, die for love.
Whatever was God thinking of?
The meaning of human existence is a question as perennial as it is perplexing. It haunts our songs and our poems, it stalks our relationships, and it troubles our philosophies and religions.
In the seventeenth century, a young scientific and philosophical genius, Blaise Pascal (1623-1662) marveled at our enigmas and inscrutability…
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