FAITH AND REFLECTION — I checked the tire pressure on our travel trailer recently. I filled each tire to 250 kilopascals, which is about 36 psi. The reason I sometimes read the kilopascals side of my tire gauge is because of my admiration for the French polymath Blaise Pascal, the man pascals are named after.
Pascal was a remarkable man. He was a French mathematician, physicist, inventor, writer and Christian philosopher. He was born on June 19, 1623 and died on Aug. 19, 1662 at the age of 39. Pascal’s mother died when he was three years of age, so his father moved his family to Paris, where he homeschooled both Blaise and his sister.
Pascal’s genius was revealed early in his life and in a variety of ways. Pascal’s triangle, probability theories (studies he engaged in to help a gambling friend) and the aforementioned kilopascals for measuring pressure are just a few of his achievements.
At the age of 10, Pascal was conducting experiments in both science and mathematics. At 18, he invented the first calculating device to help his tax collecting father. It was called the “Pascaline,” but some have dubbed it “the first computer.” Later, while studying barometric pressure, he invented both the syringe and the hydraulic press. Both are currently and routinely used in the medical and industrial fields.
Pascal also made significant contributions in the field of the existence and nature of the vacuum. However, he is probably best known for a quote that he made about a different type of vacuum. He allegedly said, “There is a God-shaped vacuum in the heart of every man which cannot be filled by any created thing, but only by God the Creator, made known through Jesus Christ.”
Actually, the preceding is an abridged version. His actual and more verbose statement was, “What else does this craving, and this helplessness proclaim but that there was once in man a true happiness, of which all that now remains is the empty print and trace? This he tries in vain to fill with everything around him, seeking in things that are not there, the help he cannot find in those that are, though none can help, since this infinite abyss can be filled only with an infinite and immutable object; in other words by God himself.”
The prevailing philosophy that captured 17th-century France was reason. It’s champions, men like Voltaire and Descartes, tried to construct a worldview governed completely by reason. They, and others like them, would make bold statements like, “Who needs God? Man can make it on his own.”
Pascal’s comments, following his conversion to Christ boldly addressed the spiritual vacuum of his day. His courageous, impassioned response was “The heart has its reasons, which reason knows nothing of.”