This current blog series on Reflections is intended to encourage Christians to read more vigorously by providing a beginner’s guide to some of the Christian classics in such fields as theology, philosophy, and apologetics. Hopefully, a very brief introduction to these important Christian texts will motivate today’s believers, as St. Augustine was called to in his dramatic conversion to Christianity, to “take up and read” (Latin: Tolle lege) these classic books.
This week’s book, Pensées, is by Blaise Pascal and is considered both a theological and philosophical masterwork. It was intended to be Pascal’s apologetics magnum opus until illness prevented him from finishing it.
Why Is This Author Notable?
Frenchman Blaise Pascal (1623–1662) was one of the founding fathers of the scientific revolution in the seventeenth century. A true Renaissance man, Pascal was as a mathematician, physicist, logician, inventor, and an intuitive Christian thinker and apologist. For more about him and his accomplishments, see my article “Christian Thinkers 101: A Crash Course on Blaise Pascal.”
What Is This Book About?
Pascal had been preparing a book on Christian apologetics when he died prematurely at 39 years old of something akin to stomach cancer. His unfinished apologetics work (consisting mainly of a series of organized notes, outlines, and fragments) was first published in 1670 under the French title Pensées (pronounced “pon-sayz” and roughly translated as “thoughts”). While Pensées is more of an outline or a series of short comments and essays than a complete book, it remains a very popular text in philosophy and in Christian theology and apologetics.
To get a taste of Pascal’s content in Pensées, consider this aphorism on the level of human diversion in life: