Growing in Christ - Meditation

Meditation #105, July, 2018.

Blaise Pascal

As you do not know the way the spirit comes to the bones in the womb of a woman with child, so you do not know the work of God who makes everything. Ecclesiastes 11:5 (ESV).

The above verse is a humbling reminder that there is much about God we simply do not know or will ever know. At the same time it reminds us that the everyday occurrence of a child being born is miraculous.

Not everyone sees this.

Where do we begin? When we are talking to our beloved non-Christian friends and neighbors, where do we begin? How do we communicate the profundity of scripture? How do we explain the power of prayer? How do we present the joy of fellowship? Above all, how do we discuss the vital, robust gift of hope for eternal life?

An evangelist in the twenty-first century has a bewildering array of challenges, not least of which is the endless array of distractions that pull our friends and neighbors everywhere except the direction of the local church. We admire and enjoy technology, but mainly because it provides us with inane entertainments like video games. We consider ourselves to be logical because we have figured out how to take instructions from a GPS device. We enjoy the latest in telephone gadgetry so that we can carry on endless conversations about everything, all the time, with everyone; but are we ever saying anything? We are an affluent society but we endure astonishing statistics for suicide, depression and drug and alcohol abuse. Celebrities, the richest and seemingly best-loved people among us, are not immune from those diseases of self-destruction. Our non-Christian friends receive plenty of information about the church—from the media, whenever there is a controversy, or a personal failure of a leader. They generally do not receive any positive information by actual attendance, or biblical instruction, or encouragement from peers.

We are endlessly busy but do ever stop to think? From time to time we are reminded of the relentless passing of time and the shortness of our mortal lives.

Blaise Pascal was born in 1623. In France at that time there was considerable religious controversy. But Pascal was neither a politician nor a priest—he was a mathematician. He applied his gift of logical thinking to the very basic questions of the existence of God and the reasonableness of belief. His book, Pensees (Thoughts), [1] covers a great many topics pertaining to Christian faith, but before anything else, Pascal takes pains to point out the inherent misery of the human condition without belief in God:

"We do not require great education of the mind to understand that here is no real and lasting satisfaction; that our pleasures are only vanity; that our evils are infinite; and, lastly, that death, which threatens us every moment; must infallibly place us within a few years under the dreadful necessity of being forever either annihilated or unhappy." (Page 70, para. 194).

Pascal goes on, trying to articulate the mindset of someone who does not care to enquire into the possibility of the saving grace of God:

"Perhaps I might find some solution to my doubts, but I will not take the trouble, nor take a step to seek it; and after treating with scorn those who are concerned with this care, I will go without foresight and without fear to try the great event, and let myself be led carelessly to death, uncertain of the eternity of my future state." (Page 71, para. 194).

Pascal is in turn rather scornful of those who think this way. He points out, with relentless logic, that the unreasonableness of unbelief helps to prove the very reasonableness of belief:

"In truth, it is the glory of religion to have for enemies men so unreasonable; and their opposition to it is so little dangerous that it serves, on the contrary, to establish its truths. For the Christian faith goes mainly to establish these two facts: the corruption of nature, and redemption by Jesus Christ. Now I contend that, if these men do not serve to prove the truth of the redemption by the holiness of their behavior, they at least serve admirably to show the corruption of nature by sentiments so unnatural." (Page 72, para. 194).

The corruption of nature, or in other words, humankind in its sinful state; explains so much. When we  try to speak up on behalf of Jesus Christ, we are doing no less than pitting ourselves against that very obstacle. That fact that we can do it at all we must credit to the Holy Spirit (Luke 12:12).

Some make a deliberate choice in choosing the agnostic road; others fail to make a choice, blinded by fear of controversy or commitment. But by failing to seek and accept the road of faith, they are making a decision by default, or omission. This might seem bewildering or unfair to some, but Pascal sums everything up with the language of a bet, or wager:

"Let us weigh the gain and the loss in wagering that God is. Let us estimate these two chances. If    you gain, you gain all; if you lose, you lose nothing. Wager, then, without hesitation that He is." (Page 83, para.233).

Yes, let us wager. Let us embrace the mystery and the joy of the gospel. Let us accept there is a transcendent meaning to our lives. Let us sense the love of God even as we try to love one another as Jesus would have us do. Let us exult in the beauty of the natural world, that beauty that begs for belief in a Creator. Let us have confidence in our foundational evidence, Holy Scripture, which tells a story too complex and wonderful to have been created by the human mind alone. Above all, let us turn away from apathy and despair and turn towards the joy and beauty of eternity.

Praise the Father, praise the Son, praise the Holy Spirit.

In faith and fellowship,

Patrick McKitrick

Outreach Canada Ministries

[1] Blaise Pascal, Pensees (London: Arcturus Publishing Ltd.)2018.