Cleansing Fire

Defending Truth and Tradition in the Roman Catholic Church


Pascal: “Errors must deserve hatred and contempt”

December 29th, 2011, Promulgated by benanderson

Dave Armstrong posted some really great material by Blaise Pascal today in two separate posts:

Ridicule and Sarcasm Regarding Sin and Absurdity Sanctioned by God (Argues Blaise Pascal); Many Biblical Examples Provided

Blaise Pascal on Biblical and Theological Paradox, and Heretics’ Miscomprehension and Consequent Resort to False Dichotomies

They are both short and well worth the read, so I’d encourage you to click the above links… but for those really short on time, here’s a couple snips I enjoyed:

For, fathers (since you will force me into this argument), I beseech you to consider that, just in proportion as Christian truths are worthy of love and respect, the contrary errors must deserve hatred and contempt; there being two things in the truths of our religion—a divine beauty that renders them lovely, and a sacred majesty that renders them venerable; and two things also about errors—an impiety, that makes them horrible, and an impertinence that renders them ridiculous. For these reasons, while the saints have ever cherished towards the truth the twofold sentiment of love and fear—the whole of their wisdom being comprised between fear, which is its beginning, and love which is its end—they have, at the same time, entertained towards error the twofold feeling of hatred and contempt, and their zeal has been at once employed to repel, by force of reasoning, the malice of the wicked, and to chastise, by the aid of ridicule, their extravagance and folly.

Do not then expect, fathers, to make people believe that it is unworthy of a Christian to treat error with derision. Nothing is easier than to convince all who were not aware of it before, that this practice is perfectly just—that it is common with the fathers of the Church, and that it is sanctioned by Scripture, by the example of the best of saints, and even by that of God himself.

The source of all heresies is the exclusion of some one of these truths; and the source of all the cavils brought against us by heretics, is their ignorance of some one of these truths.

And it usually happens that, being unable to perceive the relation of two opposing truths, and believing that the admission of the one involves the exclusion of the other, they adhere to the one and renounce the other; and fancy that we do the contrary. Now this exclusion is the source of their heresy, and the ignorance we have shown them to labour under, the ground of their cavils.

Therefore it is that the shortest way to prevent heresies is to instruct men in every kind of truth ; and the surest way to refute them, is to declare it as universally. . . .

The error they all fall into, is the more dangerous, from each pursuing one truth: their fault is not in adopting falsehood, but in not embracing the countervailing truth.



10 Responses to “Pascal: “Errors must deserve hatred and contempt””

  1. avatar Raymond F. Rice says:

    In college French classes many years ago, I read most of Pascals works. I found him both challenging and brilliant as well as devilishly hard to translate. The biggest and saddest message I received from his life was that no matter how brilliant and intellectually you are, you are still vulnerable to your own pride and error. At the end of his relatively short life, he became a Jansenist heretic and died outside of Holy Mother, the Church.

    If the beliefs espoused by him as a Catholic had been applied to him when he became a heretic, things might have been very different.

  2. avatar annonymouse says:

    Ben, Ben, Ben…

    Hatred and contempt for error? Not in our Church, not anymore. We don’t have error anymore. One can claim to rely on one’s conscience and everything’s cool, don’t you know.

  3. avatar Ben Anderson says:

    You might be right, but I thought that Jansenism wasn’t declared a heresy until after he died. Do you have any resources to share? I just skimmed (really quickly) through his wikipedia article and the Catholic Encylopedia and neither mentioned that he was a heretic or that he died outside the Church.

  4. avatar Raymond F. Rice says:


    Check the wikipedia on the subject of Jansenism. I believe it was first condemned in 1640 or 41 and Pascal died in 1662. But please note, there was a very long and murky history surrounding this situation and the formalities of a full papal condemnation took some time. It involved Pascal and the Sorbonne, clerics and academics as well as the Jesuits.

    It was similar to the Great Schism where various saints supported various popes!!??

  5. avatar Bernie says:

    This makes me think of an article in this morning’s D&C about a Cafe for ‘unchurched’ folks where you can go and participate in discussion of the day’s topic without being judged. Everyone has an opinion and everyone’s opinion is not only valid but also validated –unlike nasty institutional ‘religion.’

  6. avatar Thinkling says:

    Reminds me of something +Sheen said…Be tolerant of people, intolerant of error.

  7. avatar Scott W. says:

    Reminds me of something +Sheen said…Be tolerant of people, intolerant of error.

    Indeed. This is why I try my best to attack ideas and not people. Leaving aside the charity issue, there is at a minimum a tactical reason as well. Namely, when you attack a person, you create a combox escape-hatch for your opponent to dive down which means a long, off-topic discussion of who said what about whom while his rotten logs of error remain untouched. When you stick to ideas and your opponent tries to claim you are making it personal, you know you are on the right track (and so will any witnesses.)

  8. avatar Raymond F. Rice says:


    What is a combox escape hatch??

  9. avatar Raymond F. Rice says:

    I found this today and thought I would share:

    • Please treat everyone with reverence and respect whether you agree with their opinion or not.
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  10. avatar Scott W. says:

    What is a combox escape hatch??

    Things that allow someone to talk about stuff other than the issue at hand. Many times I’ve experienced someone trying to prop up a very weak argument, someone makes a personal comment, then the next twenty comments are a rabbit trail about how mean this person was, what that person said, etc. and the discussion rarely gets back on track.

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