The Garbage and Glory of the Universe

Blaise Pascal, theologian from the 1600’s, captured in his writings the paradox of being an image-bearer and a sinner in a cursed world. Look at what he says.

What sort of freak then is man!  How novel, how monstruous, how chaotic, how paradoxical, how prodigious!  Judge of all things, feeble earth-worm, repository of truth, sink of doubt and error, glory and refuse of the universe… Man’s greatness and wretchedness are so evident that the true religion must necessarily teach us that there is in man some great principle of greatness and some great principle of wretchedness! (Quoted in from Pascal’s Penseesin God the Peacemaker: How Atonement Brings Shalom[Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2009], 53).

In other words, both realities exist side by side. The height from which we have fallen along with the damage of the fall point to the glory of a previous held position and the goodness of being a creature. Sin itself speaks of humanity’s glory.

Perversion has a way of pointing to what is pure—it points to what we were and what we can be again through Christ. The helpful truth of what Pascal is pointing to here is that we must always recognize this paradox in humanity. The paradox demands that all are treated with tremendous dignity and that all stand in need of tremendous grace.

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Pascal on Living in the Present

Blaise Pascal was a Christian philosopher, scientist, and mathematician that lived in the 1600’s. He had a sharp mind and wrote some helpful stuff. One of his famous works is titled Pensees, which is french for “thoughts.” The book is a compilation of meditations on various topics. The following is a quote from Pensees on living in the present. Pascal’s thoughts here are insightful and challenging.

“We never keep to the present. We recall the past; we anticipate the future as if we found it too slow in coming and were trying to hurry it up, or we recall the past as if to stay its too rapid flight. We are so unwise that we wander about in times that do not belong to us, and do not think of the only one that does; so vain that we dream of time that are not and blindly flee the only one that is. The fact is that the present usually hurts. We thrust it out of sight because it distresses us, and if we find it enjoyable, we are sorry to see it slip away. We try to give it the support of the future, and think how we are going to arrange things over which we have no control for a time we can never be sure of reaching. Let each of us examine his thoughts; he will find them wholly concerned with the past or the future. We almost never think of the present, and if we do think of it, it is only to see what light it throws on our plans for the future. The present is never our end. The past and the present are our means, the future alone our end. Thus we never actually live, but hope to live, and since we always planning how to be happy, it is inevitable that we should never be so.” [1]


[1] Blaise Pascal, Pensees (London: Penguin Books, 1995), 13.