Twice this week I saw my college-aged daughter Jacqueline reading Blaise Pascal’s classic work Pensées (French for “thoughts” or “reflections”). She’s not enrolled in a philosophy or religion course; rather she said she’s reading it for inspiration and wisdom. I immediately thought to myself, “That’s my girl!”
An intuitive mathematician and a gifted physicist, Blaise Pascal (1623–1662) was one of the great pioneers of the scientific enterprise. He was also one of the most distinctive Christian apologists in history. Pensées is not a typical monograph; rather it is comprised of thoughts Pascal scribbled in a notepad he carried with him regularly. He had intended to utilize the notes to write a Christian apologetics book. Unfortunately he died before he could complete this task.
Nevertheless, the collection of organized and unorganized notes contains such profound content that it remains a continual bestseller. One can only wonder what Pascal’s apologetics text would have been like had it been completed.
Mining Pascal’s Apologetics Gold
Actually, we can imagine, to some degree, what Pascal’s grand apologetics book would have been like. Over the last few decades, three gifted contemporary Christian philosophers have mined the apologetics gold within Pascal’s Pensées and set forth this wisdom in a more complete apologetics form. All three books are excellent for understanding Pascal as a man and utilizing his unique apologetics brilliance.
1. Making Sense of It All: Pascal and the Meaning of Life (Eerdmans, 1992) by Thomas V. Morris
One of the best books I have ever read on Christian philosophy and apologetics, Making Sense of It All skillfully and successfully answers many of the existential objections that people give for not believing. Morris utilizes Pascal’s scientific, philosophical, and apologetic statements to show how faith in Jesus Christ is the unique answer to humankind’s deepest yearnings for meaning and life eternal. Morris also succeeds in weaving together many of Pascal’s brilliant insights into a significant and powerful Christian apologetic work.
2. Christianity for Modern Pagans: Pascal’s Pensées (Ignatius, 1993) by Peter Kreeft
Prolific Roman Catholic writer and apologist Peter Kreeft presents Pascal and his apologetics ideas in a clever and stimulating manner. This work is much longer than Morris’ book and contains helpful information about Pensées and the life of Pascal. Kreeft, a convert from Calvinism to Catholicism, is one of the leading apologists and philosophers writing today.
3. On Pascal (Wadsworth, 2003) by Douglas Groothuis
In his book, Christian philosopher and apologist Douglas Groothuis discusses Pascal’s unique intellectual contributions to Christianity and to the broader Western world. In just over a hundred pages, Groothuis skillfully unveils and explains the central Pascalian philosophical themes. This helpful book is part of the larger Wadsworth Philosophers Series. It is great to see Pascal, an outspoken Christian thinker, included in this series.
Pascal is one of my favorite Christian thinkers and writers. I much appreciate that these three contemporary apologists have worked to bring his unique apologetics insights to life.