Marvin R. O’Connell, “Blaise Pascal: Reasons of the Heart”

This biography is short and straightforward but not dumbed down.  The author is an emeritus professor of history at Notre Dame.

I have to admit that, while I am a great fan of Pascal’s, after reading this biography of him I feel no need to read a more detailed one.  Pascal was indeed a remarkable man, brilliant and versatile, but I’m not sure that his theology strictly speaking — as opposed to his Pensees — is all that appealing to me.  The Jansenists he identified with were austere Augustinians who thought the Jesuits (and others) too cheerful and worldly, and were very hung up in their disputes with the Jesuits about the right attitude toward grace; the Jesuits in turn accused them of being crypto-Calvinists; etc.

The book has a good discussion of the famous wager (187-89).  Also this (129):  “…[Pascal] rejected the idea that theology was an inquiry by human reason into revealed truth and so a matter of scientific speculation left to academic specialists.  Every since his conversion on the ‘night of fire’ he was convinced that his knowledge of the divine depended upon prayer and experience; and the divine he knew was the God, not of the savants, but of Abraham and of Jesus Christ.”