Home > Philosophy of Religion Articles > Anthropological Argument
Anthropological Argument: An argument for Christianity developed by Blaise Pascal that starts with the observation of humanity's dual nature of greatness and wretchedness and claims that the best explanation of this fact is Christianity and its doctrines of creation and the fall. Pascal wrote:
Groothuis, D. (1998) Deposed Royalty: Pascal’s Anthropological Argument. Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society, 41(2), 297-312
"What sort of freak then is man! How novel, how monstrous, how chaotic, how paradoxical, how prodigious! Judge of all things, feeble earthworm, repository of truth, sink of doubt and error, the glory and refuse of the universe!"
"Man’s greatness and wretchedness are so evident that the true religion must necessarily teach us that there is in man some great principle of greatness and some great principle of wretchedness."
Deposed Royalty: Pascal’s Anthropological Argument"Pascal develops several apologetic strategies, including an argument from human nature in support of Christian revelation. He argues that the Christian doctrines of creation and the fall best explain the paradoxes of the human condition and render Christianity worthy of respect. Pascal does not restrict his apologetic endeavors to this argument, but employs it skillfully in order to attract the attention of skeptics and other unbelievers. Pascal’s apologetic orientation is instructive for Western Christians today. Starting an apologetic argument from the point of the human condition is appealing in a psychologized and individualistic culture...By examining Pascal’s treatment of the contradictions of humanity, his explanation for the human condition, and the form of argument he presents, we can discern the apologetic force of Pascal’s anthropological argument for Christianity."
A Royal Ruin: Pascal's Argument from Humanity to Christianity"We humans often puzzle over our own humanity, scanning our heights and our depths, wondering about and worrying over the meaning of our good and our evil. No other animal reflects on its species like this...Any worldview worth its rational salt needs to offer a sufficient explanation for both human greatness and debauchery...Pascal believed the answers were found in the Bible. We find greatness in humanity because we are made in the divine image (Genesis 1:27). However, that image has been defaced (but not erased) through the fall (Genesis 3; Romans 3). There is something wrong with every aspect of our being, but we remain noble in our origin. There are, to invoke Cockburn again, "rumors of glory" found in humanity. From the greatness and wretchedness of humanity, Pascal developed an argument for the truth and rationality of Christianity."
Greatness and Wretchedness: The Usefulness of Pascal’s Anthropological Argument in Apologetics"In the realm of philosophy, Blaise Pascal (1623–62) is perhaps best remembered for his wager argument. In his Pensées (thoughts), however, Pascal offered several lines of apologetic reasoning, including what has been termed his anthropological argument. This argument makes the case for Christianity by pointing out that any viable worldview must successfully explain the seemingly paradoxical nature of the human condition."