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Christianity for Modern Pagans: PASCAL's Pensees Edited, Outlined, and Explained Paperback – September 1, 1993


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 341 pages
  • Publisher: Ignatius Press (September 1, 1993)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0898704529
  • ISBN-13: 978-0898704525
  • Product Dimensions: 8 x 5.3 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.9 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (32 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #39,749 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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4.7 out of 5 stars
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Logical and clear presentation.
Star
Kreeft presents the essential Pascal, and adds his own explanation and commentary after each Pensee, to great effect.
Anonymous
If you're on this page reading this review, it must mean you're at least SOMEWHAT interested in this book.
Matt Enlow

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

79 of 80 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on July 17, 1999
Format: Paperback
I struggled on my own with my existential crisis and frustration with our greatness/wretchedness and rediscovered the faith I had shelved. I read this book much later and it was an eloquent treatment of my path through the dark night! Pascal is great and Peter Kreeft adds much, with his elegant and illuminating comments. I use a lot of material from this book when talking with secular optimists and pessimists. I really like all the Kreeft books that I have read and he is a good speaker, too. I could not put down this book and have re-read it several times, in whole or parts. Highly recommended!
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68 of 69 people found the following review helpful By Corum Seth Smith on July 31, 2005
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I am a fan of both Kreeft and Pascal. I think some other reviewers have hit on many of the same reasons I like this book, but here's my own take.

First of all, there was a philosophical movement in Europe at the turn of the 18th century called the Enlightenment. No single wave of thought can take as much credit for influencing the modern world as the Enlightenment. That movement was a tidal wave that swept up every major philosopher for the last three hundred years. Pascal was one of the only thinkers not swept up in the powerful riptides of that "revolution." One of my favorite quotes in the book is that Enlightenment tries to do "life itself as a science." Yet Pascal knew that man was not the measure of all things, but a twisted contradiction of greatness and wretchedness. Herein I believe, lies much of his insight; he is not a strict Enlightenment idealist.

Rather, Pascal is a philsophical and theological realist who brought his bluntness and passion to the fields not only of philosophy, but science and math. Pascal was fortunate enough to brandish insights in all of these disciplines. My favorite parts of his thought, however, correspond to his philosophy.

These insights were the "Pensees," his thoughts. I think every Christian should know "The Wager" argument by heart. It is brilliant. Everything to lose and everything to gain; life often revolves around the choices we make and the corresponding benefits or harms that result.

Pascal is almost what you get when you try to blend the strengths of Augustine and Aquinas; a passionate minister (Augustine) mixed with the masterful logic of the Summa (Aquinas) rolled into one neat package. He was not a Cartesian dualist who saw mind and body as separate.
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44 of 45 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on July 1, 2005
Format: Paperback
Where to begin? Kreeft spends the introductory chapter providing some historical background on Blaise, which is laudable, since few know much of him besides his being a 17th century mathematician. Kreeft reorders the Pensees from what is believed to be Pascal's intended order, but I think the decision makes sense, since Kreeft explains the structure and his reasons for it. The book is arranged into 28 chapters, varying in length, that build upon each other very naturally. There are a very few instances when Kreeft's commentary seems somewhat off the direct intent of Pascal's thought, but these are rare. By and large, however, Kreeft is tremendously helpful in providing the historical, literary, or philosophical background necessary to unveil the genius of Pascal. Pascal is so subtle, shrewd, and thorough, and his overall insight into human nature is startling and silencing. Several of his longer essays leaving you grasping for superlatives. His thoughts on the sinful, wretched nature of human beings was particularly incisive, since we seem to view sin in increasingly external terms, i.e. things that we do, actions we take. The subtle, internal sins (the sin that we ARE?) are nearly forgotten, but Pascal shines brilliant light on them, to the point where you just stop and sit sheepishly. Pascal possesses such a rare honesty, and just insight, insight, insight, ad nauseum. He SEES so much, and we should be ashamed at how shallow our handling of life, truth, and belief so often is. Would that we all face and ponder the realities of our existence so squarely, but even here, Pascal is unpacking why we do not. Folks looking for philosophical proofs and arguments will not find as many as they hope, but the reason becomes clear the further one travels in the book.Read more ›
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25 of 26 people found the following review helpful By Kevin Davis VINE VOICE on February 27, 2004
Format: Paperback
Dr. Peter Kreeft (Philosopher at Boston College) has created another fine addition to his exstensive list of orthodox Christian philosophy, theology, and apologetics books. Here, Kreeft takes Pascal's Pensees (which he deems as the greatest work in apologetics), edits, outlines, and explains them with much focus on the modern world that was just beginning in Pascal's day (17th century) and has culminated in our "late modern" world of atheism, nihilism, existentialism, postmodernism, poststructuralism, neo-Marxism, and, in general, confusion. It can be argued that Pascal was the first Christian to really engage with the materialist-rationalist turn in Western thought (via Descartes, Hume, Hobbes, and others) that gave us the epistemological crisis of current discourse (that Kant tried to solve and Nietzsche embraced).

I thought it would be helpful to give a rather random example of how Kreeft takes one of the Pensees and expounds on it:

Pascal: Nothing presented to the soul is simple, and the soul never applies itself simply to any subject. That is why the same thing makes us laugh and cry.
Kreeft: This is why life is neither a tragedy nor a comedy but a tragicomedy. If we do not both laugh and cry at life, we do not understand it. ...People are never simple. They are good-and-evil, happy-and-wretched. We are also flesh-and-spirit. God is not simply either. He is one-and-three, person-and-nature, just-and-merciful, eternal-and-dynamic, transcendent-and-immanent. Only abstractions are simple. The only language with no ambiguity, no analogy and no poetry is mathematics. That's why it's the only language computers can "understand": it doesn't require understanding at all.
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