More Thorough Exegesis of Francis’ "Failure of the Cross" Phrase

In response to Pastor Hall quadrupling down on his misinterpretation of Francis’ words, let me explain how I know (with certainty) that Pope Francis was contrasting the divine perspective with the human perspective, when he said:

The cross shows us a different way of measuring success. Ours is to plant the seeds. God sees to the fruits of our labors. And if at times our efforts and works seem to fail and not produce fruit, we need to remember that we are followers of Jesus Christ and his life, humanly speaking, ended in failure, the failure of the cross.

a) Notice that the point of the paragraph is to explain the right way of measuring success. It’s not a discourse on the atonement or on redemption, but instead of metrics of success. The cross is an example of how to measure success.

b) Not only is this confirmed by the thesis sentence of the paragraph, but also by the way that the paragraph fits within the section of the speech:

And it diminishes the wonder of our first encounter with Christ. We can get caught up in measuring the value of our apostolic works by the standards of efficiency, good management and outward success, which govern the business world.

Not that these things are unimportant, of course. But we have been entrusted with a great responsibility, and this is why god’s people rightly expect accountability from us but the true worth of our apostolate is measured by the value it has in god’s eyes, to see and evaluate things from god’s perspective, calls for constant conversion in the first days and years of our vocation and, need I say, it demands great humility.

The cross shows us a different way of measuring success. Ours is to plant the seeds. God sees to the fruits of our labors. And if at times our efforts and works seem to fail and not produce fruit, we need to remember that we are followers of Jesus Christ and his life, humanly speaking, ended in failure, the failure of the cross.

b) Thus, the point of the Pope’s statement is to contrast outward success, success as perceived by men, with true success.

c) The pope is drawing a distinction between measuring worldly endeavors (like businesses) with “our apostolic works” or “apostolate.”

d) So, in context the pope is saying that measured by business standards, i.e. “humanly speaking” the cross was a failure.

e) The pope is saying that this is the wrong way to measure spiritual endeavors. It’s an argument from the greater to the lesser. If measuring the cross by business standards would make it look like a failure, we shouldn’t worry that our apostolate/apostolic works look like a failure by that standard.

f) That the pope was talking about failure that shouldn’t count as failure can be seen from the fact that he refers to “seem to fail” when describing our efforts and works.

g) The alternative understanding, that Francis meant that the cross really did fail, would undermine the point of using the cross as an illustration. If the cross actually failed, then business method of measuring success is right, and we’re not dealing with a “different way of measuring success,” but with a same way of measuring success.

h) Finally, we see the same thing confirmed in the way that the pope wraps up his discussion in a subsequent paragraph:

I know that many of you are on the front lines in meeting the challenges of adapting to an evolving pastoral landscape, like Saint Peter, I ask you, that regardless of the difficulties and trials that you face, be at peace and respond to them as Christ did. He gave thanks to the father, took up his cross and looked forward.

Notice that he encourages people to imitate Christ in their “front lines” of “an evolving pastoral landscape.” That makes sense if the cross was a success spiritually, though not “humanly speaking,” but makes no sense if the cross was truly a failure.

Now, I certainly agree that the RC views of the atonement and of the mass treat the cross as being at least partly a failure – but that’s an external critique of their position – not something they themselves admit. Acting like Francis was admitting it here is inappropriate “gotcha” apologetics at best. We need to be honest in our criticisms, even of the Man of Sin whom God will destroy with his Spirit.


5 Responses to “More Thorough Exegesis of Francis’ "Failure of the Cross" Phrase”

  1. Lockheed Says:

    Thanks, TFan.

  2. michael Says:

    When using that measuring rod the question that comes to my mind is “what information and statistics” is he, pope Francis, basing his encouragement on? Obviously someone/s has/have told him the measure of their, that is the RCC's, success reflects poorly on their achieved objectives goal, that is, they don't see more and more people come home to mother; papa is ready, willing and able to embrace you you wayward child of the faith if you will apostate what you believe and come back home, for some, and, come home for the first time for others!

    In their mind they are the TRUE Church. In my mind, having experienced the RCC faith, it is not. I have had conversations with both Priests and Nuns and during our conversations I plied evangelistic terms in the conversations in hopes the Holy Spirit would open a door to their hearts so as to share with them why I do not believe the RCC is the One True Body of Christ that He died to save from her sins. To a talk, each one has made the comment in their own way that they hope the Lord would touch my heart and draw me back to the faith, come back home wayward child, you won't be ostracized and treated poorly for your rebellion!

    Also these Words of the Apostle Paul come to mind too as I stand firm in my conviction that I have now by Grace through Faith received the gift of Eternal Life:::>

    Tit 3:1 Remind them to be submissive to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good work,
    Tit 3:2 to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all people.
    Tit 3:3 For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another.
    Tit 3:4 But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared,
    Tit 3:5 he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit,
    Tit 3:6 whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior,
    Tit 3:7 so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.

    “…to show perfect courtesy toward all people. …”.

  3. Eric Dolce Says:

    Thanks for this very helpful post… there have been too many making mountains–not out of molehills, but out of nothing.

  4. Anonymous Says:

    No one should ever refer to the cross as a failure, no matter what their intention. Even from a human persoective it wasnt a failure. The word failure doesnt belong in the context ofvthe cross. God bless

  5. Hugh McCann Says:

    Agreed. Well stated, and let it go.

    The Mass, Purgatory, Mariolatry, ad nauseam prove Mr Hall's point well enough, but in this, the Pope wasn't saying anything untrue from a carnal perspective. (His only stance.)

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