Pascal's treatment of the question of grace in his works
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameDoctor of Philosophy
Pascal's theology of grace, which he claimed to be the pure doctrine of St. Augustine and the orthodox teaching of the Catholic Church, has been variously labelled Augustinian, Thomist, humanist or a Jansenist heresy. In this thesis an attempt is made to determine the exact nature of that theology. Key themes and assumptions which emerge from a study of Pascal's major writings directly concerned with his theology of grace, and from the shorter works which have influenced its formulation and expression, are appraised in the light of the basic presuppositions of the Augustinian doctrine and the religious experience which is their true warrant and psychological ground. The conclusion which issues from this examination is that Pascal in fact subscribed to two conflicting sets of presuppositions, the one held at the conscious level of thought, and the other unconsciously assumed. At the conscious level he defends passionately the Augustinian doctrine of grace, reflecting a view of God and of grace based wholly upon non-rational grounds. Clearly, the fundamental Augustinian distinction between nature and grace underpins both method and matter in each of the works studied. This theology is also found to be identical, on all counts, with that of Port-Royal, Jansen, Thomas Aquinas and the orthodox teaching of the Catholic Church. The inconsistencies and irrationalities in Pascal's works on grace witness, however, to unconsciously held assumptions which directly contradict those of Augustine, and correspond rather with the assumptions held by the Jesuits. If the doctrinal disagreements between Pascal and his Jesuit opponents are transposed to the level of psychological insight, it is suggested that a view of grace can be worked out which encompasses both Augustinian and Scholastic traditions of Christian thought.