This is a great book for those of you who like apologetics, philosophy, epistemology, and theology: Christianity for Modern Pagans by Peter Kreeft. In this book, Kreeft gives a short commentary on the Pensees of Blaise Pascal (d. 1662). Kreeft arranges the Pensees in a topical order to make them easier to read and digest. Here is a big picture outline of this book: 1) The Problem: The Human Condition, 2) Two Popular Pseudo-Solutions, 3) How to Find the Truth, the Real Solution, 4) Six Clues along the Way, 5) The Turning Point, the Wager, and 6) The End, the Point of it All. The book is just over 300 pages of witty, provocative, and even disturbing thoughts about life, death, God, and Christ. I like this part of Kreeft’s introduction.
“Pascal is the first post-medieval apologist. He is ‘for today’ because he speaks to modern pagans, not to medieval Christians. Most Christian apologetics today is still written from a medieval mind-set in one sense: as if we still lived in a Christian culture, a Christian civilization, a society that reinforced the Gospel. No. The honeymoon is over. The Middle Ages are over. The news has not yet sunk in fully in many quarters.”
“It has sunk into Pascal. He is three centuries ahead of his time. He addresses his apologetic to modern pagans, sophisticated skeptics, comfortable members of the new secular intelligentsia. He is the first to realize the new dechristianized, desacramentalized world and to address it. He belongs to us. This book is an attempt to reclaim him” (p. 12-13).
Later, Kreeft writes this.
“The world will do anything to get rid of the consciousness of sin, for the smell of its sins stinks to high Heaven and makes Sodom and Gomorrah look like a church service. There is enormous social and psychological pressure, inside the Church as well as outside her, to ignore, deny, or minimize sin, as Molina and the Jesuits did in Pascal’s day. It seems that the most important question in the world, ‘What must I do to be saved?’ (Acts 16:30), is never asked; and if it is, the answer is not to be born again, but just born; not otherworldly but this-worldly; not repentant but respectable; not self-denying but self affirming (see Mt 16:24).”
“Yet even if every voice in the world should preach the gospel of spiritual auto-eroticism, there are two voices that tell us we are sinners in need of a Savior: the voice of conscience within and the voice of God without: in Scripture, in all the prophets and saints and above all in the teaching of Jesus and his living Church. And these two voices, not society’s, are the only two we can never escape, in this world or the next. Better to make peace with them even if it means war with the whole world, rather than vice-versa. That is not Jansenism, it is simply Christianity” (p. 14- 15).
I realize Pascal wasn’t a proto-evangelical, but his writings – and this book Kreeft wrote – are certainly full of wisdom and intelligence that will benefit anyone interested in these things. Note: this book isn’t a beginner’s text on apologetics or philosophy; it is more in the category of intermediate or advanced. Don’t get it unless you’re somewhat familiar with these areas of study. I’ll blog more on it later, DV.