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June 02, 2004

A friend of mine is looking for articles discussing whether it is acceptable or not to have a cross in a church. I know many traditional Reformed Christians are against the idea and I’m wondering if anyone can point me in the direction of some resources that would discuss this in context of Scripture. I have found the following:

The answer to the question as to whether or not it is proper or biblical to display crosses on buildings, pulpits, etc. is rooted in general principles from the Word of God. I am not sure that you could point to any specific text and declare that this Scripture prohibits the use of crosses. It is also an issue that we, as elders, would not make a war over. You must judge whether or not it is an issue worth battling over in your present church context. Nevertheless, we do believe that such crosses are not good and wise because of the following biblical principles.

The Lord Jesus stated that those who worship God must worship Him in Spirit and in truth. Biblical worship can occur in Jerusalem, Samaria, New Jersey or Texas. It is not temple-centered or geography-specific. New Testament biblical worship is also clearly and foundationally “Word-based” in the power of the Holy Spirit, not visually-based. New Testament worship in its simplicity and purity has replaced the Old Testament worship which was very visual in many respects. However, even in the Old Testament, God prohibits the use of images in His worship according to the 2nd commandment, and the moral law was not abrogated by the Lord Jesus Christ or His apostles under the New Covenant. Therefore, our worship is to be “icon-free”, that is, our worship is to be free of any image or representation of spiritual realities. I realize that most people probably do not use the visual symbol of the cross as an “aid” to worship. They do not bow down to a cross in a building and worship it. Nevertheless, the physical cross is an icon of sorts in that it is a visual symbol of a spiritual reality. Our hearts are to be taken up in worship of our Triune God through the Word in the power of the Holy Spirit without the use of any “aids”. The Bible is to be preached, read, prayed and sung in our worship. Again, our worship is “Word-based” not visual-based. However, God has authorized and sanctioned the use of two visual sacraments, baptism and the Lord’s Supper. In both instances, we do not use the symbols as aids in worship. They point to unseen realities of the Person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ. When these visual ordinances have been abused and distorted, God’s Word and ways have been abused and distorted (i.e. the error of baptismal regeneration and Rome’s exaltation of the mass). God is at liberty to give us, as it were, two visual symbols. But we are not at liberty to do the same.

Secondly, historically whenever churches have begun to travel down the road of employing icons in their worship, they have begun the travel down a slippery slope which leads to iconography.

Thirdly, we believe we need to be biblically sensitive to our Christian brethren who were converted out of Roman Catholicism. When such brethren understand the Bible and their former Romanist ways in the light of the Scriptures, they often are disturbed (understandably) by the use of such things as crosses. It is not right to cause needless offence to such brethren.

Fourthly, historically, the cross was a means of gruesome execution. D.A. Carson has written that we would not think to make a piece of jewelry in the form of an electric chair and then hang it about our necks. We would not think to embed in our church’s brick wall an image of a gallows with rope and noose. To the Christians of the first century, the cross was such a gruesome reality. The cross also embodied shame. It was not something that you would ordinarily talk about. They would not have placed a cross in their buildings. Because of the very nature of crucifixion, the crucifixion of the Lord was a stumbling block and something of which to be ashamed. To the understanding (note again the matter of words, not images) of the early Christians enlightened by the Word of God from the pens of the apostles, the cross was not a visual symbol but an historic reality of what happened to the Lord of glory. Men and women were to think of what happened on the cross. There God reconciled sinners to Himself through the propitiatory sacrifice of His own Son. There on the cross, all the sins of all the elect of all ages were imputed to the Lord Jesus Christ. Holy wrath was poured out. God’s righteous justice was satisfied. Mercy was given to hell deserving sinners. Satan was defeated. Christ was victorious. A visual cross does not convey any of this…especially a “sanitized” cross of 21st century American society.

That was an article written by Pastor Jeff Smith of Trinity Baptist Church, Montville, NJ (I do not have a link to the article as it was emailed to me).

There are two other articles here and here that are also against crosses.

I was raised in a tradition that was very much against and sort of visible representation of Christ except for in the ways He commanded (ie the Sacraments). If I were involved in building a church and were faced with the question of whether or not to place a cross in that building I suppose my reaction would be to ask why we would want one. Does the image of the cross enhance our worship? Do we worship “better” when it is there? If it does I think that is a wrong reason. Do we find that symbol reminds us of what Christ did? I think Christ has given us the perfect symbol of His death in the Lord’s Supper. So why? Why do we need a cross in our churches? That is my question…

May 31, 2004

I am Canadian, and as such have no idea what the proper etiquette is for Memorial Day. To say “happy Memorial Day” seems a touch flippant. So, for all my American friends, enjoy your day away from the grind.

What do Americans do on Memorial Day, anyways? Is it just an “excuse” for a day off or do people actually find activities to do that honor the people the day is dedicated to?

May 31, 2004

Every now and then David Cloud, a hardcore fundamentalist baptist, publishes some of the emails he has received over the past weeks or months. It always makes for hilarious reading. While I agree with a whole lot of what Cloud has to say, there have been a few times I’ve gotten close to emailing him myself. His stand on women’s clothing is, in a word, ridiculous and he is also an anti-Calvinist. However, I do admire the fact that he takes a strong stand on many important issues.

Here are some snippets from his mailbox:

�You and your sickie so called �ministry� need to hurry up and die and go to hell. Elvis was kind and good and is with Jesus. When you die, hell will open up to welcome you. … Why don’t you do the world a favor and jump off a high bridge?�

�To know history is the death of Protestantism. Your critique is full of lies, rumors and misrepresentations. Jesus said �unless you eat my flesh and drink my blood you will have no life within you. For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me and I in him.� As recorded in John, chapter 6, this is where Judas turned away because he could not accept it. Judas, the first protestant.�

�The bible is nothing but propaganda based on ignorance, superstition and fear of mortality. To any rational human being, its own words emphasize what a CROCK it all is.�

And so on. If you are exceptionally bored you can read more of it here.

May 30, 2004

Welcome to yet another edition of my now-patented Sunday Ramblings. It’s a time for me to throw disorganized thoughts together and call it blogging.

Today we start at The Journey Church which had its second preview service this morning. As with their first preview which was held last month, I was priveleged to be part of it as once again I ran the sound for them. It was a great little service and their numbers were up from last time. They had 13 college-aged kids who had formed a missions team and come to Toronto from Memphis, Tennessee to help out. I must say, they were one of the nicest groups of kids I’ve ever met. Most of them made an effort to come over and introduce themselves to me and thank me for taking the time to help out with the service. I wonder if everyone in Memphis is so polite…

It’s funny to see a church in the very early stages of development. The sermons are so very basic and geared towards “seekers,” trying to help people understand just what Christianity is all about. Though it is neat to see such a church begin, I am just as happy not to have to “start over” doctrinally again. I would find it difficult to have to go back to the beginnings after just being part of a new church. Growth is good!

I just noticed there is a new church in town (at least I think it’s a new church) that has an evening service - quite a rare commodity these days. The motto for their church is “teaching the Bible - book by book, chapter by chapter, verse by verse. The full cousel of God.” So that sounds neat. I may just go and visit some evening to see what they are all about. The lazy part of me often rejoices that my church has no evening service, but the spiritual part of me often regrets that we do not.

When you take music lessons as a Christian, when do you learn to play “altar call music?” You know that I mean, I’m sure. The slow, pensive music usually played on keyboard (though guitar can substitute) that is often played during the altar call or response time.

A few weeks ago I was in church and someone (whose name will go unmentioned) leaned over to me and whispered, “You know, we try to say that our music needs to be relevant to the culture, but this music isn’t any closer to what unchurched people listen to than hymns.” And you know, that person may have been right. Of all the tens of thousands of Christian songs that are published every year, only a select few make it into the churches. Are they the best ones? Not necessarily. Are they the ones with the best lyrics? Nope. So what makes people choose them? Probably the fact that they are easily singable. Some songs would be quite difficult for your average person to learn and even more difficult for groups to sing together. So really maybe what we do is just take the instruments that are popular in the culture around us and make songs on them that are perhaps vaguely similar to what they listen to. We then think we’re being culturally relevant. Strange, though, that we don’t sing any songs in church that sound like something we’d find on a Britney Spears album or on a U2 album…

That’s about it for today. I’m signing off until tomorrow. Enjoy the rest of your Lord’s Day.

May 27, 2004

So far so good in regards to the move to the new commenting system. I had a bit of a problem with my archives but managed to fix it. The only real annoyances now are:

  • Old comments will not appear in the new commenting system. So although you’ll be able to see older comments on the actual blog pages, they won’t show up in the forums. Any new topics will be fine, of course, but it would have been neat to see the entire Purpose Driven Life discussion moved to the forum, for example.
  • Archives topics will only have an entry created in the forum the first time someone clicks on them. That means there will be strange topics popping up from time-to-time on the forums…unless I take the time to go through day-by-day and click on each one. Maybe that’s a project for tomorrow!

Other than those small annoyances I’m quite happy with the forums. I am hoping a bunch of people sign up and begin to use them so we can get some good discussions happening. I am excited at the prospect of having people be able to begin their own topics in the forum so those readers who do not have their own blogs have an opportunity to speak out!

May 27, 2004

I made some pretty big changes to the site today. All new topics will now direct you to the forums to do commenting. I think this system will work better in the end. I am a bit worried it will lead to more spamming (just when I had started to get it under control) but I think there are more reasons to do it than not to do it.

If you want to reserve a user name in the forums, you should probably go over there and register yourself. That assures you that no one else will be able to post using your name. If you wish to remain anonymous you are free to do so, but be aware that if you do not register and post under the name “Fred,” anyone else will also be able to post under that name until it is registered. Just some food for thought…

There is an area in the forum for you to post your own topics, so let’s make this a great, interactive forum!

May 27, 2004

I came across a good little article by R.C. Sproul that speaks about the church growth movement. Here are some quotes:

The church growth movement has done an outstanding job in capturing the right words. Everybody opposed to churches growing raise your hands. Anybody out there not want to attract unbelievers to the church of Christ? Is anybody seeking ways to grow the church impractically? The way the theory is couched just about guarantees its being accepted. The problem is the theory doesn’t match the words.

The only seekers we tend to draw with seeker sensitive services are believers seeking a different church. By presenting a God who wants us to look at ourselves, who doesn’t judge and command, who has a wonderful set of insights on how to have a happy, healthy marriage we put God’s imprimatur on narcisism. There’s nothing evangelicals like more than to be told that God loves them just the way they are.

You can read the full article here. The site has a great selection of articles by some great, Reformed writers. The full list is here.

May 26, 2004

There is so much discussion happening in various parts of this site now that I keep thinking it might be a good idea to put some forums in place.

I know there is a long and arduous way of changing the commenting system so that the forum takes over that role, and think that might be the way to go. So at the end of each post it would say Comments as it does now, but when you clicked that it would take you into a forum rather than the loooong list of comments as it does now. This would arrange the comments more logically and more neatly than are under the current system and would keep the pages from getting so incredibly long like they are now (see the Purpose Driven Life page for an example)! It certainly would facilitate easier conversation. It would also let other people start discussion topics, which might be interesting.

So what do you think? Good idea or bad?