Becoming Neo-Pascalian: The First Step of Make-Believe Faith

pathway-^riza^

We are left with this all-important question: how do we get faith? How do we “make belief”? If we’re not lucky or blessed enough to have a Damascus-road experience, and, as Pascal tells us, we can’t reason our way to faith or merely don faith like a good habit, then what? What? If indeed there [Read More...]

Making Room for the In-Laws

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Marriage is the ultimate melting pot. Unless you’re one of those whose families knew each other well prior to their children marrying, if you’re married, you have probably had an experience something like mine. He was an Episcopalian; I was an Evangelical Free Churcher. He was from California; I was from Colorado. He was a [Read More...]

Easter: Tripping Over Joy

Photo courtesy: Denny 637, Flickr C.C.

The Easter season has only just begun. It will go on for another seven weeks, and then it will go on for eternity. This poem, for me at least, captures both its magnificence and its munificence, its great grace and its hilarity. There is a laughter that comes when we are deeply relieved at having [Read More...]

Becoming Neo-Pascalian: From Gambling Table to Altar

Coin-Toss

One of the concepts Pascal is best known for is his Wager, a longer fragment in Pensées (f. 418). Here Pascal brings his formidable mathematical mind, operating halfway between the gambling table and the altar, to the issue of faith, and plays with probability theory in the soul. It is such a rich and complex [Read More...]

Loving Mrs. Turpin, Loving the Grotesque

gargoyle eating snake

If I were less ordinary, reading Flannery O’Connor would be more fun. As it is, I inhabit the commonplace, and she lives in a different dimension, a place, as one critic put it, of living gargoyles. This makes reading her fiction a stressful and shocking experience. I imagine that, if she knew this, it would [Read More...]

Becoming Neo-Pascalian: The Third Order

MoonsOfJupiter

In our last Pascalian conversation, I left you with fire. And if you’ve had an experience like Pascal’s, perhaps you feel that all this blather about science and reason and blah, blah, blah is highly irritating. Fire is warm and bright and compelling. Science and reason is cold and comfortless. Can we really come to [Read More...]

My Mother’s Morals

1950s fashion

I’ve been thinking a lot about my mom these days anyway, since it has been nearly thirty-three years to the day since I last saw her. And then I read this article: “Not Your Mother’s Morals”: A Review. And let me say up front, this post is no reflection on Jonathan Fitzgerald, his mother’s morals, [Read More...]

(One of) My History Hang-ups

StarTrek

Any Star Trek fans out there? The Original Series? Do you remember the episode called “The City on the Edge of Forever”? No? Okay, here’s a short story, a blend of science fiction, mid-sixties silliness, and historical play: Dr. McCoy has passed through the Guardian of Forever, a portal into time and space that could [Read More...]

Becoming Neo-Pascalian: Fire

memorial_blaise_pascal_2

When Pascal died, those who prepared his body for burial found sewn into the lining of his jacket a small piece of paper. Apparently he carried it with him everywhere he went, transferring it from jacket to jacket as they were changed, through the last eight years of his life. Clearly, this paper, called the [Read More...]

Becoming Neo-Pascalian: An Indiana Jones Kind of Faith?

Earlier we took a quick look at a scientific experiment conducted by Pascal in 1646, and we considered the ways that that experiment led him to two general “laws” of knowledge. If we want to know what is truly true, we will not rely only on what we’ve been told, and we will not rely [Read More...]

Pascal, Ash Wednesday, and the Hidden God

In the Anglican Ash Wednesday ritual, we pray for the grace of true repentance. Repentance means to turn around, which obviously means you’re going to be looking in a different direction, seeing something that was “behind your back” before. And what do we see when we repent? “Jesus Christ is the object of all things, [Read More...]

Becoming Neo-Pascalian: Poised Between Two Worlds

experiments

Last week we explored the Jansenist effort to reconstruct Christian community as the fellowship of the really-serious-no-compromise-do-it-right-all-the-time-damn-it. While part of me wishes I could actually be the ascetic that this demands, the other part of me is sitting here eating potato chips. I suspect Pascal had fewer bouts of self-indulgence, but something kept him from [Read More...]


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