Thursday, July 22, 2010

Puritans on Pascal

Blaise Pascal was a Jansenist, and as such, had a quarrel with Reformed Calvinist Protestants, with whom he was lumped by his Catholic enemies. He took care to disassociate himself from Calvinism, but his particular mutual enmity was with the Jesuits, with whom he shared the umbrella of the Roman Papacy. Recognized by all as a sincere man, and a genius, his writings against the Jesuits gave him much currency with the Puritans of his day, and the Reformed ever-after. It would seem that the Reformed have valued his writings more than he valued theirs. Jonathan Edwards included in the catalogue of his books, the life of Pascal written by his sister. The elder Thomas M'Crie is one of several who have translated Pascal's Provincial Letters into English, and his introductory essay provides a thorough overview as to the value of the man and his work, as well as his faults. It is interesting to consider that Pascal's devastating attack on Jesuit casuistry was so thorough and overwhelming that it gave all casuistry a bad name for centuries after to the detriment of Biblical casuistry.

Carl Trueman, John Owen: Reformed Catholic, Renaissance Man, pp. 25-26:

It would be wrong, of course, to see Jansenism as a form of quasi-Protestantism within the fold of the Roman Catholic church. In addition to being anti-Pelagian in its view of grace, Jansenism was highly sacramental in terms of its soteriology, and thoroughly orthodox in its view of the Mass; it also exhibited a much stronger interest in miracles than was typical of Reformed Protestantism; and, of course, its adherents were also careful to emphasize that there was no point of contact between their doctrine and that of the heretical Calvinists.72 Nevertheless, their interest in anti-Pelagian notions of grace, and the struggles they engaged in with the Jesuits, appear to have endeared them to John Owen....More significant is the fact that he wrote a preface to Theophilus Gales' The True Idea of Jansenisme, a Protestant treatise expounding the history and tenets of the movement in a sympathetic manner; furthermore, he also claimed at one point that he has read all of the literature on the Jansenist-Jesuit controversy and intended to write a theological history of the same -- a project which never appears to have been realized.74

72 For example, the comments of Blaise Pascal on Calvinists views in his 'Treatise on Grace': 'That is the appalling opinion of these heretics, injurious to God and unbearable for men. These are the shameless blasphemies by which they establish in God an absolute will without foreseen merit or sin to damn or save his creatures.' Pensees and Other Writings, trans. Honor Levi (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1995), 216. French Catholic iconography was not so sensitive to the distinction, frequently juxtaposing Jansenists and Calvinists in propaganda cartoons and engravings.

74 Works 12, 560.

John Owen, Biblical Theology, p. 277:

Let the reader simply compare the testimony of Plato, on the one hand, with Pascal's extracts from the Jesuit manuals on the other, and he will see at once that the maxims of the fortunetellers and of the Jesuits are as like as two eggs!

Richard Baxter, A Key for Catholics to Open the Juggling of the Jesuits, p. 392:

And to equivocate or reserve one half of your answer to yourselves, say the Jesuits, is not lying, nor unlawful, in case a man's interest requires him to do it. See the words of their own casuists cited for this by Montaltus the Jansenist [Louis de Montalte, pseudonym of the author of the Provincial Letters, Blaise Pascal].*

Matthew Poole, A Dialogue Between a Priest and Protestant (Northampton Press, 2010), p. viii:

Thousands of your priests and learned doctors charge the Jesuits with poisoning the souls of the people with pestilent and damnable errors such as these:
  • That a man may venture his soul upon any probable opinion, and that an opinion is probable if but one of their learned doctors affirms it.
  • That a private man may kill his enemy to maintain his honor, though not by way of revenge.
  • That a priest may absolve even old and inveterate sinners, and such as he believes to be incorrigible.
  • That affliction, or sorrow for sin, arising merely from fear of punishment is sufficient for salvation, and that the affection of loving God is not absolutely necessary to salvation.
All these, and many more, are clearly proved out of their own words and writings in the Provincial Letters, otherwise called The Mystery of Jesuitism.

Matthew Barker, Poole's Annotations on 2 Thess. 2.7:

The mystery ushering in the man of sin is a mystery of iniquity. It is not open sin and wickedness, but dissembled piety, specious errors, wickedness under a form of godliness cunningly managed, that is here meant: see the book called The Mystery of Jesuitism, or the Provincial Letters.

1 comment:

  1. The Pensees are one of the books, like the Institutes and Matthew Henry's commentary, that I am always reading/rereading. I love Pascal.