Sunday, November 8, 2009

The heart has its reasons which reason knows nothing of.--Blaise Pascal

Do you usually make decisions based on your emotions, trusting that if you "go with your heart," you'll do what's best? Or do you try not to let your emotions get the best of you and instead base your decisions more on reason? When your heart wants to call that person but you know you shouldn't, what do you do? Go with your gut? Or put the phone down?

What about when it comes to your understanding of God? The quote in the title of this post shows that heart and reason are definitely connected, but in Pascal's "Pensées," or "Thoughts," he stresses the role of the heart, rather than reason, in our knowledge of God. Pascal writes, “We know the truth, not only through our reason, but also through our heart.” Although he doesn’t criticize reason, he explains its limitations. “As if reason could be the only way in which we can learn!” There are an infinite number of things which are beyond our reason…for example, supernatural things.

The role of the heart is stressed in Pascal's writing, but the Bible says that the heart is deceitful. We can’t always trust our feelings. Our emotions can distort reality. For example, I know that when I am feeling bad about myself, sometimes I project that feeling onto God and feel that that is how he sees me, which is not the truth. Our hearts, our emotions, can distort our reason. So reason and heart are connected.

While I agree with Pascal that the heart is an important factor in our knowledge of God, I think that reason is also important, and I don’t know that I would consider one more important than the other. I think there needs to be a balance. Galileo said “I do not feel obliged to believe that the same God who has endowed us with sense, reason, and intellect has intended us to forgo their use.” Now, Pascal didn’t say that we should forgo our use of reason, but I love that quote because it does remind us that our use of reason comes from God, too.

Pascal says that the inability to prove God’s existence by reason demonstrates the weakness of our reason, not the uncertainty of our knowledge, so we need to “humble reason,” which would like to be the judge of everything. He also says that it’s just as dangerous for someone to know God without knowing their misery as it is for someone to know their misery without knowing the Redeemer who can heal them. I love that, because he's making the point that the heart has to be involved in order to understand the Gospel and what a relationship with Jesus is. Can you know God without loving him and knowing who you are in relation to him?

I find Pascal's concept so relevant to my own journey of finding a relationship with God. When I first started seeking God, “reason” was the driving force for me. I needed evidence and answers to my questions. Soon though, the heart aspect became a factor. When I felt that I was presented with enough evidence about the resurrection and realized in my heart that he is Lord and Savior, I committed my life to Christ. Now that my heart is so much more involved, evidence isn’t as important an issue for me because I am connected to my savior, but I really think it takes both reason and heart to have a knowledge of God. It did for me, anyway. So, while I appreciate Pascal’s focus on the involvement of the heart in our knowledge of God, I also don’t want reason to be humbled any more than Pascal has humbled it.

What do you think? Heart first? Or is reason best?


Cami said...

Lisa, I was JUST thinking about this last week- head vs. heart. We should chat about this next time I see you (while drinking coffee, of course).

Alli Hibb said...

I'm reading Simply Christian right now and there are a few chapters about this's really, really thought-provoking...

You should read it...if you haven't already.