What world-famous mathematician, scientist, inventor, philosopher, and author believed in a Creator and is often credited with this statement?
“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.”
This 17th-century Frenchman was a child prodigy and a homeschooler taught by his father. While still a teenager he invented a mechanical calculating machine to help his father perform calculations in the tax office. He wrote a philosophical treatise on Christianity that is still referenced and treasured. He invented the first bus lines by using carriages with many seats to transport passengers through Paris.
One biographer said, “[this man] is to France what Plato is to Greece, Dante to Italy, Cervantes to Spain, and Shakespeare to England.”
Who is he?
This man also said,
For, at the creation of man, Adam was the witness, and guardian of the promise of a Saviour, who should be born of woman, when men were still so near the creation that they could not have forgotten their creation and their fall. When those who had seen Adam were no longer in the world, God sent Noah whom He saved, and drowned the whole earth by a miracle which sufficiently indicated the power which He had to save the world, and the will which He had to do so, and to raise up from the seed of woman Him whom He had promised.
This man developed two completely separate fields of mathematics. He wrote a treatise on projective geometry at 16 and worked with Fermat to develop probability theory. He developed the theory of conic sections to divert himself from the pain of an illness. This man has a university in France named for him.
Who is this renowned mathematician and creationist?
This eminent mathematician and fervent Christian philosopher was Blaise Pascal (1623–1662).
Pascal is famous for both scientific and literary reasons. In the Pensees (Thoughts) he records his reflections and notes for a comprehensive analysis and defense of the Christian faith. He died before completing it, and his notes were published posthumously.
After Pascal died, the paper scraps on which he had written his notes were randomly glued into a massive album…upside-down, sideways, angled, etc. The album is now in the Bibliothéque Nationale in Paris and is regarded as one of France’s most valued cultural treasures.
Pensees is generally recognized as a classic of French literature. Durant’s 11-volume The Story of Civilization acclaims the Pensees as “the most eloquent book in French prose.” (vol 8, p 66)
Biographer Ernest Mortimer rated Pascal’s literary work even higher. He quoted French lexicographer, literary critic, diplomat, professor of English, and author of The Concise Oxford French Dictionary Abel Chevalley (father of mathematician Claude Chevalley) who said, “Pascal is to France what Plato is to Greece, Dante to Italy, Cervantes to Spain, and Shakespeare to England.” Quite high praise indeed!
(Ernest Mortimer, Blaise Pascal: The Life and Work of a Realist, London: Methuen & Co., 1959, 240 p.).
Pascal probably didn’t say the God-shaped vacuum quote at the beginning of this post in those exact words, although many attribute to him. In fact this attribution is all over the Internet without giving a source for it. (See here, for example.) But Pascal certainly believed this, even if he didn’t say it in these words. Here are two of his Pensees that are very close in meaning to the opening God-shaped vacuum quotation.
What is it then that this desire [for happiness] and this inability [to attain the good] proclaim to us, but that there was once in man a true happiness of which there now remain to him only the mark and empty trace, which he in vain tries to fill from all his surroundings, seeking from things absent the help he does not obtain in things present? But these are all inadequate, because the infinite abyss can only be filled by an infinite and immutable object, that is to say, only by God Himself.
(From Pensees, Section VII/425.)
The whole course of things must have for its object the establishment and the greatness of religion. Men must have within them feelings suited to what religion teaches us. And, finally, religion must so be the object and centre to which all things tend, that whoever knows the principles of religion can give an explanation both of the whole nature of man in particular, and of the whole course of the world in general. (From Pensees, Section VIII/555.)
Pascal’s Creation of man quotation (second block quote above) is from Pensee 643. It shows that Pascal was a creationist. He believed the Genesis record regarding Adam, the father of the human race and the global deluge that destroyed the world in Noah’s day.
The next quotation shows that Pascal read the Genesis account literally. He accepted the Genesis genealogies and records at face-value.
Shem, who saw Lamech, who saw Adam, saw also Jacob, who saw those who saw Moses; therefore the deluge and the creation are true. This is conclusive among certain people who understand it rightly.
(From Pensee 624)
Pascal’s work and thought, including Pascal’s Wager, will be covered further in the next blog post in this series.
Blaise Pascal was one of the greatest mathematicians, scientists, philosophers, and authors of the 17th century, and he was convinced of a Creator. The arrogance and hubris of today where man thinks he’s so advanced and despises the wisdom of previous generations regarding the existence of a Creator is foolish.
Belief in a Creator is common sense based on looking at what has been created, just as the Apostle Paul (Romans 1:18-23), President Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, Sir Isaac Newton, John Calvin, Dr. Werner von Braun, George Washington Carver, Johann Kepler, Blaise Pascal, and innumerable others have argued. The vast majority of mankind throughout history has known that there must be a Creator.
Pascal believed in the Creator. Today’s intellectuals would do well to pay heed to one whose scientific discoveries far exceed those of most scientists today. Pascal has earned credibility for his opinions, as will be discussed in more detail in the next post.
Soli Deo Gloria.
This is the ninth installment in the Famous Thinkers series highlighting great men of the past who believed in the Creator.
Read the prequels:
1. Famous Thinkers – Former U.S. President Supports Intelligent Design
2. Famous Thinkers – Scientist Supports Intelligent Design
3. Famous Thinkers – Mathematician Supports Intelligent Design
4. Famous Thinkers – Theologian Testifies for Creation
5. Famous Thinkers – Rocket Scientist Supports Intelligent Design
6. Famous Thinkers – Botanist Supports Creation 1
7. Famous Thinkers – Botanist Supports Creation 2
8. Famous Thinkers – Astronomer Is a Creationist
Read the sequel which continues the discussion of Pascal:
10. Famous Thinkers – Mathematician Is a Creationist 2
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©William T. Pelletier, Ph.D.
“contending earnestly for the faith”
“destroying speculations against the knowledge of God”
(Jude 1:3; 2 Cor 10:4)
Wednesday September 12, 2012 A.D.
For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse. For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God, or give thanks; but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures. (Romans 1:18-23)