Dear friend in Christ,
I can’t remember having stumbled upon the referenced post, which you wrote for Pulpit & Pen, but I read it and get where you are coming from, especially because words like “Speaking as a Protestant who is still protesting” and “what’s laid out in the London Baptist Confession” provide context.
Speaking of the latter, I confess to having foregone a visit to the resources to which you linked, so not only am I clueless…as to “what’s laid out” in that document…but nor do I doubt that the Pope’s very words were about God and the Cross failing.
My purpose in writing however – and by now, I hope, you at least suspect that I am a Roman Catholic – is not so much to defend the Pope as only to state (i.e. wishing not to appear condescending) what I understand by associating God and the Cross with failure…even if description from the latter perspective turns out to match that of the former.
And I do this not so much to advance the cause of “to each his own” as to agree with you that “the nature of Christianity when the cross [sic] becomes a failure [is that] it becomes insufficient.” Indeed, for many, life is not enough, even with the option to follow Christ… perhaps because the way they see of doing so is imperfect.
But it is the only way; it is only through association with other Christians that one is at least able, if not accustomed, to follow Christ. This is what his Church is about, but in turn her imperfection is not to be forgotten, and that is division. The French expression esprit de corps may be translated as team spirit, but esprit refers to the mind just as corps refers to the body.
We will always be scattered in body but must exist as the Church, the one Church, in mind or thought. This is brought to us by the Spirit (the ultimate meaning for esprit) to whom Christ points in praying Father, may they be one in us, as you are in me and I am in you.
In this, the Trinity, we can understand what perfection is; even so in one of its three Persons, as Christ also exhorted us: You must therefore be perfect just as your heavenly Father is perfect. In this command, however, perfection is rightly stated as a condition of being, and the name of the Father himself already tells us who he is: I who am.
In God, then, all things live and move and have our being; in this sense God is God, there is no other. But Being Itself (called divine), having taken on a certain condition-of-being (called human), opens itself ultimately to “all things” insofar as they are associated with the latter.
Without, however, ceasing to be God – neither overall nor as the Son – he therefore must perfect all things, which no other (!) human being can see; but within this created framework, and with this in mind, it is bound to take long.
But not only is it that with the Lord, “a day” can mean a thousand years, and a thousand years is like a day: in addition he himself says: my thoughts are not your thoughts, my ways not your ways…the heavens are as high above earth as my ways are above your ways, my thoughts above your thoughts.
In other words: God being within all things is not God being limited to all things, for do we even know where above the earth the heavens are?
What we do know, by following Christ, is that the Cross is the final script for the stage of (created) life, in words after Paul’s: it makes me happy to suffer for you…and in my own body to do what I can to make up all that still has to be undergone by Christ for the sake of his body, the Church.
But more historically – as a matter of language I can’t say more “worldly” because there is such a thing as salvation history – what we also know, by following Christ or not, is that the cross is an instrument of the most gruesome punishment that was practised at the time. From there it should be easy to understand why the Cross was a “failure”.
You would please notice that only once I have referred to the “cross”, viz. the last paragraph; because, taken strictly as punishment, it cannot be the “Cross” i.e. of Christ. Likewise you would please not deny that the “cross” is the only way for any “Cross” to be; for are we not still man [who] looks at appearances [though] the Lord looks at the heart?
You would also please note that I have arrived at my conclusion through Scripture and logic (i.e. reasoning the connections between my citations). I leave it to you to also find Catholic doctrine there, because I get the impression you are more read in it than I – no joke; but, to be frank this one time, I wouldn’t say well-read, but only because you re-present it with bias.
But, to return to my point, I went “i.e.” on logic only because paradoxically, after all I have put forward, it is not logic that works in the end (and I don’t mean the end-times) but “faith”, as you yourself said in the end of the post in question…but we are not at the end, are we?
In fact this is another thing we don’t “know”, or at least we won’t until it comes, so until then we can’t think that faith and logic are simply incompatible, especially as God is perfecting it even as we speak…even because we speak. And we preach a Christ who was crucified; he is the power and the wisdom of God.
That said, even as one would quicker hear today of the humour of God, a little wit isn’t bad, such as your own “hell-bent” comment. But please don’t belittle the Roman Catholics; there are also the rest of the Latin Catholics and all the Eastern ones, from the Malabar Syrians to the Belarussians.
What I mean is: all of us there just happen to form a larger Christian congregation, so that the Pope just happens to be a more public pastor. With such a broad back it is sensible to expect criticism; but if you’re going to protest still don’t reduce your opponent to what you can handle: this says more about one than the other.
That said, and finally, I too end singing that most beautiful hymn “Lift high the Cross”, though not past the refrain as I can never remember the rest – I heard it a long time ago and only in part. (Of course, I am referencing now your initial post on the matter, “Pope Calls Jesus, the Cross, a Failure #StillProtesting”.)
Actually it was at the end of the Sacrifice of the Mass, as televised by EWTN. I know you don’t believe in that crap (which description may not be invalid in some places, as a crude application of the Catholic doctrine of transubstantiation), but I won’t say I wasn’t trying here to convert you. That’s God’s job regarding everyone personally.
Nor, I hope, would this be seen as an attempt to proselytise, which to me suggests a particular method. (I do admit this is because of the Pope; some Catholics, you know, are quick to counter, but even within ranks; I’ll wait on account of “crap”).
But I will say I was trying to convince you, which is the point of proper debate. (I hear tiffs like that can bring people together… Well, couples, but God wants us all to be his corporate Bride.) I wonder, though, how “Lift high the Cross” would fare in a wedding…
Until then, let us be united in prayer for our unity as Christians.
Your brother in Christ