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Crosses In Church

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…

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