From Pensees

I’m almost a third of the way through Pensees now, and thoroughly impressed with it. On a scale of one to ten, my admiration for Pascal’s writing is easily a twenty. This book is essentially a collection of philosophical jots, tittles, and essays – fodder for Pascal’s unfinished apologia for the Christian faith. I only wish my fragmentary thoughts were as clear and penetrating as his.

Naturally, I feel compelled to share some of these beautiful fragments with you. Maybe you’ll be inspired to pick up Pensees and read it for yourself. At least, I hope so.

People are generally better persuaded by the reasons which they have themselves discovered than by those which have come into the mind of others. (p. 4)

The last thing one settles in writing a book is what one should put in first. (p. 7)

Words differently arranged have a different meaning, and meanings differently arranged have different effects. (p.  7)

Eloquence – it requires the pleasant and the real; but the pleasant must itself be drawn from the true. (p. 8)

As men are not able to fight against death, misery, ignorance, they have taken it into their heads, in order to be happy, not to think of them at all. (p. 50)

Let each one his thoughts, and he will find them all occupied with the past and the future. We scarcely ever think of the present; and if we think of it, it is only to take light from it to arrange the future. The present is never our end. The past and the present are our means; the future alone is our end. So we never live, but we hope to live; and, as we are always preparing to be happy, it is inevitable that we should never be so. (p. 50)

Men despise religion; they hate it, and fear it is true. (p. 53)

Let them at least learn what is the religion they attack, before attacking it. (p. 54)

Among those who do not believe, I make a vast difference between those who strive with all their power to inform themselves, and those who live without troubling or thinking about it. (p. 55)

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. There is nothing more real than this, nothing more terrible. Be we as heroic as we like, that is the end which awaits the noblest life in the world. Let us reflect on this, and then say whether it is not beyond doubt that there is no good in this life but in the hope of another; that we are happy only in proportion as we draw near it; and that, as there are no more woes for those who have complete assurance of eternity, so there is no more happiness for those who have no insight into it. (p. 56)

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. (p. 57)

Nothing reveals more an extreme weakness of mind than not to know the misery of a godless man. Nothing is more indicative of a bad disposition of heart than not to desire the truth of eternal promises. Nothing is more dastardly than to act with bravado before God. (p. 59)

The sensibility of man to trifles, and his insensibility to great things, indicates a strange inversion. (p. 61)

Between us and heaven and hell there is only life, which is the frailest thing in the world. (p. 63)

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. (p. 68)

Objection – Those who hope for salvation are so far happy; but they have as a counterpoise the fear of hell. Reply – Who has most reason to fear hell: he who is in ignorance whether there is a hell, and who is certain of damnation if there is; or he who certainly believes there is a hell, and hopes to be saved if there is? (p. 71)

True fear comes from faith; false fear comes from doubt. True fear is joined to hope, because it is born of faith, and because men hope in the God in whom they believe. False fear is joined to despair, because men fear the God in whom they have no belief. The former fear to lose Him; the latter fear to find Him. (p. 77)

The knowledge of God is very far from the love of Him. (p. 80)

Men will never believe with a saving and real faith, unless God inclines the their heart; and they will believe as soon as He inclines it. (p. 82)

Along Came A Spider

My review of The Amazing Spider-Man is now available on MovieByte:

2012 has been a terrific year for superheroes at the movies.

May brought us Marvel’s The Avengers, in all its hilarious, exciting, Hulk-smashing glory. July gave us The Dark Knight Rises, the final chapter in Chris Nolan’s epic trilogy, and the biggest, boldest Batman film of them all. Both of these cinematic behemoths garnered critical acclaim, with good reason. But there’s another piece of comic book filmmaking that deserves applause, and that is The Amazing Spider-Man.

Does it reach the same mind-boggling heights as Batman and The Avengers? Not quite. Does it live up to its title? Oh yes. Continue reading —->

No Luther, No Bach

From Francis Schaeffer’s How Should We Then Live? (p. 92):

Johann Sebastian Bach (1685 – 1750) was certainly the zenith of the composers coming out of the Reformation. His music was a direct result of the Reformation culture and the biblical Christianity of the time, which was so much a part of Bach himself. There would have been no Bach had there been no Luther. Bach wrote on his score initials representing such phrases as: “With the help of Jesus” – “To God alone be the glory” – “In the name of Jesus.” It was appropriate that the last thing Bach the Christian wrote was “Before Thy Throne I Now Appear.” Bach consciously related both the form and the words of his music to biblical truth. Out of the biblical context came a rich combination of music and words and a diversity of unity. This rested on the fact that the Bible gives unity to the universal and the particulars, and therefore the particulars have meaning. Expressed musically, there can be endless variety and diversity without chaos. There is variety yet resolution.

And this is why I love Bach.

Book Review: Starship Troopers

The historians can’t seem to settle whether to call this one “The Third Space War” (or the fourth), or whether “The First Interstellar War” fits it better. We just call it “The Bug War.” Everything up to then and still later were “incidents,” “patrols,” or “police actions.” However, you are just as dead if you buy the farm in an “incident” as you are if you buy it in a declared war…

In Starship Troopers, Jaun “Johnnie” Rico signs up with the Federal Service and struggles through the toughest bootcamp in the Universe, determined to make it as a cap trooper with the Terran Mobile Infantry. But the hardest part is yet to come – when he’s thrown into battle against an enemy unlike anything mankind has faced before.

Looking for futuristic weaponry, space soldiers, and nasty aliens? This is the book for you. Looking for a mental workout to get the old lemon throbbing? This is also the book for you. Or to put it another way: are you a sci-fi enthusiast with a taste for politics and moral philosophy? Read Starship Troopers. It has both in equal measure.

Continue reading Book Review: Starship Troopers