Tuesday, 14 September 2010

Pascal and Prophecy

I have just finished a first-reading of Pascal's Pensees - which turned out to be very different from what I had expected.

(By which I mean that I had picked-up a false impression concerning the nature of the book.)

I was especially surprised at Pascal's emphasis on fulfilled-prophecies as major proofs of Christianity.

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(I was also surprised at Pascal's use of miracles as major proofs of Christianity - and his discussion of miracles in general. However, I had previously thought-about this subject; while I have never once considered the importance of prophecies. Literally never. --- In passing, and in addition, I was surprised at Pascal's - devastating - critique of Islam; since I did not think people were writing about that subject at that time in that way.)

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Of course, my suprise at a serious discussion of prophecy merely shows the extent to which I am a child of my time - since the Bible is full of prophecies; and the New Testament makes frequent use of the fulfillment of prophecies as evidence of the validity of Christ's claims.

But, somehow, I had managed to ignore, bracket-out, the argument based on prophecy - without really being aware that I was doing it; unwittingly deploying the typical modern strategy of making invisible that which strikes one as dull or absurd.

And what strikes one as dull or absurd is something which can be culturally shaped, quite easily it seems. It is one of the main ways of rendering invisible that which is hostile to the prevailing liberal/ PC worldview.

(i.e. Labelling - by satire or mockery - as boring/ nutty anything which is beyond the pale.)

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Anyway, this matter of prophecy is now revealed to me as yet another major area in which modernity is unique.

All previous societies, and nearly everyone until very recently, believed that while of course *most* prophecies by *most* people are bogus, manipulative, false or mistaken: there *is* such as thing as true prophecy.

Since prophecy was believed in eras when the prevailing opinion was much sounder than it is now, and when there were at least *some* profoundly wise and insightful people - such as Pascal - (whereas now there are apparently no such people at all); it would seem sensible to try and recover such beliefs; and to overcome that shallow modern fastidiousness which expresses itself in reflexive sniggering at the idea of true prophecy.

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(Maybe someone could translate 'The argument by sniggering' into good Latin - as a name for one of the primary logical or rhetorical tactics used by liberalism? Or is this perhaps just an instance of the 'Reductio ad ridiculum' - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Appeal_to_ridicule)

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