Caller: I have a question. I’ve been studying with a friend of mine who has just begun to keep the Sabbath and has started going to church with me, and she had a question about seeing—she’s always put together Christian churches with crosses, and she was wondering why in some Bible-based churches there are no crosses? I just kind of didn’t really have a great answer for her and I thought maybe you could flesh out the answer for me a little.
Pastor Doug: Well, where we find the word ‘Cross’ is primarily in the New Testament. As a matter of fact, I don’t think the word ‘cross’ is used in the Old Testament in terms of a symbol. The only time you find that word is like ‘cross a road’. In the New Testament the word ‘cross’ is typically used in a symbolic metaphor. It’s never ever used in the Bible as a physical icon. They always thought of the cross as the teaching of the gospel.
You know, Paul said “I’m determined to know nothing but Jesus Christ and Him crucified”. Christ said “Whoever takes up their cross and follows me-“. Well, I’ve met people that go around the country with literal crosses on their back but that isn’t what Jesus was talking about. It’s a lot easier to wear a cross or to hang one on a wall or to nail one to the steeple, than it is to bear the cross. And so, to differentiate Christian churches from maybe other institutions of religion or other public buildings, it became customary, as a symbol, to put a cross on these buildings. I don’t condemn them for doing that. I’m just saying that it grew out of the idea to identify the edifice as a Christian church.
Caller: Wasn’t it originally—I’d heard from someone that it was used in the Egyptian—it was like a symbol from the Egyptian world?
Pastor Doug: You need to be careful, because if you travel—and I’ve traveled to all different parts of the world—you study some of the ancient archeology and the symbols and signs that were used in their architecture, you can find virtually any symbol that you can imagine. There’s only so many geometric forms and the cross is a very basic one. You can find something similar to the cross in all kinds of different applications.
You can find—you know, the swastika was part of Greek architecture as a design. And you can find it in Meso-American architecture. Some people used it simply for architecture and, well, Adolph Hitler made that symbol something very ominous. Yes, there was an Egyptian cross that was upside down and had a little loop on the bottom of it. It was a little different from the Christian cross and some people have tried to make a connection. I don’t think we should vilify the Christian symbol of the cross. There’s no command in the Bible that the six points of the Jewish star are to be a symbol for Judaism. But for our day and age that’s simply what we use to identify the Jewish flag.
The cross is simply a symbol that identifies the Christian religion and all it’s varied forms. I don’t think we should put too much power in the outward symbol. Some people make crosses good luck charms. They think there’s some kind of—you know, you hold it up and Dracula runs away. There’s nothing in the Bible that tells us that the image of the cross has any power to it. It’s the teaching of the cross that has the power. Okay?
Caller: That’s good enough for me.