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07.03a. Pascal on God's Concealment of the Truth, Contradictions, Hidden Meaning, and the Falsity of Islam. Reading Pascal's Pensees last night, I came across a number of intriguing passages on these subjects:

566. We understand nothing of the works of God, if we do not take as a principle that He has willed to blind some and enlighten others.

578. There is sufficient clearness to enlighten the elect, and sufficient obscurity to humble them. There is sufficient obscurity to blind the reprobate, and sufficient clearness to condemn them and make them inexcusable. Saint Augustine, Montaigne, Sebond...

585. ... God being thus hidden, every religion which does not affirm that God is hidden is not true; and every religion which does not give the reason of it is not instructive. Our religion does all this: Vere tu es Deus absconditus.*

* Is. 45. 15.
I quite agree. A principle of Judaism and Christianity is that God has purposely obscured His existence. Religions which do not have this principle must explain why the existence of God or gods is not obvious and subject to rigorous proof.

598. It is not by that which is obscure in Mahomet, and which may be interpreted in a mysterious sense, that I would have him judged, but by what is clear, as his paradise and the rest. In that he is ridiculous. And since what is clear is ridiculous, it is not right to take his obscurities for mysteries.

It is not the same with the Scripture. I agree that there are in it obscurities as strange as those of Mahomet; but there are admirably clear passages, and the prophecies are manifestly fulfilled. The cases are, therefore, not on a par. We must not confound and put on one level things which only resemble each other in their obscurity, and not in the clearness, which requires us to reverence the obscurities.

A good general point-- obscurity may or may not hide profundity, but clear mistakes or clear truths help us know whether it is worthwhile trying to clear up the obscurities. If, however, Noah's Flood is wrong, does that cast doubt on Isaiah?

678... A cipher has two meanings. When we find out an important letter in which we discover a clear meaning, and in which it is nevertheless said that the meaning is veiled and obscure, that it is hidden, so that we might read the letter without seeing it, and interpret it without understanding it, what must we think but that here is a cipher with a double meaning, and the more so if we find obvious contradictions in the literal meaning? The prophets have clearly said that Israel would be always loved by God and that the law would be eternal; and they have said that their meaning would not be understood and that it was veiled....

684. Contradiction.- We can only describe a good character by reconciling all contrary qualities, and it is not enough to keep up a series of harmonious qualities, without reconciling contradictory ones. To understand the meaning of an author, we must make all the contrary passages agree.

Thus, to understand Scripture, we must have a meaning in which all the contrary passages are reconciled. It is not enough to have one which suits many concurring passages; but it is necessary to have one which reconciles even contradictory passages.

Every author has a meaning in which all the contradictory passages agree, or he has no meaning at all. We cannot affirm the latter of Scripture and the prophets; they undoubtedly are full of good sense. We must, then, seek for a meaning which reconciles all discrepancies.

The true meaning, then, is not that of the Jews; but in Jesus Christ all the contradictions are reconciled.

The Jews could not reconcile the cessation of the royalty and principality, foretold by Hosea, with the prophecy of Jacob.

If we take the law, the sacrifices, and the kingdom as realities, we cannot reconcile all the passages. They must then necessarily be only types. We cannot even reconcile the passages of the same author, nor of the same book, nor sometimes of the same chapter, which indicates copiously what was the meaning of the author. As when Ezekiel, chap. 20., Says that man will not live by the commandments of God and will live by them....

728. It was not lawful to sacrifice outside of Jerusalem, which was the place that the Lord had chosen, nor even to eat the tithes elsewhere. Deut. 12. 5, etc.; Deut. 14. 23, etc.; 15. 20; 16. 2, 7, 11, 15.

Hosea foretold that they should be without a king, without a prince, without a sacrifice, and without an idol; and this prophecy is now fulfilled, as they cannot make a lawful sacrifice out of Jerusalem.

There is more place for figurative meanings that we moderns allow. One nice thing about Pascal is that he takes prophecy seriously enough to look for unfulfilled prophecies as well as fulfilled ones. [permalink: 04.07.03a.htm]

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