Protestant/Other Christians

Cross vs. Crucifix

by Steve Ray on February 11, 2019

(A letter Steve wrote to an Evangelical friend asking for an explanation of the Crucifix)

Dear Protestant Friend:

41QrxFhjYrL._SY300_QL70_You display a bare cross in your homes; we display the cross and the crucifix. What is the difference and why? The cross is an upright post with a crossbeam in the shape of a “T”. A crucifix is the same, but it has Christ’s body (corpus) attached to the cross. As an Evangelical Protestant, I rejected the crucifix—Christ was no longer on the cross but had ascended to heaven. So why do I now tremble in love at the site of a crucifix? Let’s examine the history and issues surrounding the two.

I will start with the Old Testament and the Jews’ use of images and prohibition of idols. I know in advance that it is not a thorough study, but it will give a general overview of the issues. I will try to provide a brief overview of the Cross and the Crucifix, the origin, the history, and the differing perspectives of Catholic and Protestant. It will try to catch the historical flow and include the pertinent points. The outline is as follows:

  1. The Three Main Protestant Objections to the Crucifix
  1. Images and Gods in the Old Testament
  1. Images and Images of Christ in the New Testament
  1. The Cross in the First Centuries
  1. The Crucifix Enters the Picture
  1. The “Reformation” and Iconoclasm
  1. Modern Anti-Catholics and the Crucifix
  1. Ecumenical Considerations

The Three Main Protestant Objections to the Crucifix

Let me begin by defining “Protestant” as used in this article. First, it is used to describe the first Reformers who tore down crucifixes and crosses in the first years of the Reformation; and second, it refers to general American Evangelical-type Protestants. Granted there are many Anglican and “high” Lutherans and others that do not object to the crucifix or other Christian symbolism. With that behind us, let’s begin.

71Xt231pY2L._SL1500_The first major objection of the Protestant regarding the crucifix (an image of Christ on the cross) is that Christ is no longer on the cross–He is risen. I was raised with this observation and my friend would ridicule the Catholic traditions. My friend also challenged us when we first became Catholics, commenting, “We serve a risen Christ, not one that is still on the cross.” Unfortunately for them, since childhood my mother had valued her beautiful Christmas crèche scene. I asked the obvious: “Do you serve the risen Christ or one still in the manger?” (I also had to comment on the cute little statue of Our Lady standing over the plastic baby Jesus, along with the animals.)

Second, Protestants see the image of Christ on the cross as a violation of the command to make no graven image. The Reformers were big on this. Protestants now utilize plain crosses in their “churches,” on their walls, and around their necks, just as they have pictures of Jesus (always with soft skin and melodrama) on their walls. (I was raised with this feminine Jesus presiding, ever so romantically, over our dinner table.

After spending time in the Holy Land, driving through the Judean wilderness, and ascending Mount Tabor, which he and his disciples frequented, I doubt he was so dainty and delicate; he probably had calves like a bear and smelled a bit like one as well.) However, at the turn of the last century, the Protestant churches (excluding Lutheran) were still pretty much opposed to displaying of the cross, even the bare cross. The bare cross was not in wide use until recently, though current Protestants don’t know their own history on the matter and that their predecessors opposed it as much as they did the Crucifix.

Third, they object to the Crucifix because it is Catholic and to condone or display the Crucifix is to make a statement in favor of Catholicism. No one of “Reformed” persuasion would want to be identified as a Catholic. A bare cross seems to be generic, which is what most Protestants like–generic Christianity–with no history to criticize or Church to obey.

Images and Gods in the Old Testament

Since the people in olden ages worshiped idols made of earthly materials [Endnote 1], God forbade the children of Israel to possess such “gods”. “Then God spoke all these words, saying, “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. You shall have no other gods before Me. You shall not make for yourself an idol, or any likeness of what is in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the water under the earth. You shall not worship them or serve them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God’” (Ex 20:1-3).

To read this whole 14-page article, click here.

To read Steve’s other articles, click here.

For Steve’s talk “The Pain of the Crucifixion,“ click here.

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Dear Jerry:

I am writing a short letter to thank you for approaching me in the bookstore yesterday to talk, and to make a few comments on our earlier discussion.

bible-bookstoreAs always it was fun talking with you Jerry. I always look forward to such times; they are a high point in my week. I am always intrigued that you claim not to be a “Protestant”, though within one minute of our greetings you were in the thralls of protesting.

Your method of protesting also reminds me awfully much of my many encounters with Jehovah’s Witnesses in which they can’t stick to one topic for more than a minute or two, but bounce all over the place as soon as they fail to make any inroads or their “questions” are adequately answered.

Talking with you for an hour makes me feel like a tired cottontail rabbit— darting through a maze of rabbit trails and never quite getting anywhere. You, like the Jehovah’s Witnesses, have your pet verses and arguments and you bounce from one to the other in no apparent order.

It would be nice sometime just to sit down and exhaust one issue. But, that probably won’t happen until we meet in Glory someday. One thing though Jerry, talking with you sure makes me glad I found the Catholic Church. When I spend an hour with you I remember how sad the Fundamentalist tradition really is.

lifeway-bookstoreI used to say that Catholics followed tradition, but I believed the Bible. This was self-deception since no one comes to anything objectively without a background of experiences, preconceived ideas, filters, language barriers, biases, theological conceptions, and a proclivity to be influenced by others in various sociological situations.

People, including myself, would regard you as much more genuine Jerry— much more responsible—if you were willing to admit that you too are a product of religious tradition, and not pure, unadulterated, objective, Spirit-led truth.

In other words, why not just admit that you were influenced by Campus Crusade and their “tradition” before you came to a new “understanding” of John 3:16? Yet you try to imply that you, apart from any bias, tradition, influence, or help from others, read John 3:16 completely on your own and came up with the Fundamentalist doctrines. Come on; let’s be honest….

For the rest of my letter to the Baptist in the Bookstore, click here.

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Christmas – when even Protestants put up Statues!

by Steve Ray on December 20, 2018

Christmas is that magical time of year when Protestants don’t have a problem with statues of Jesus, Mary, Saints and Angels! Isn’t that lovely (and inconsistent)?

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“Ancient Baptists” and Other Myths

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The Bible out of Context: “Saved by Faith Alone”?

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White Supremacy, Black Power, to Islam, then the Road to Damascus: My Journey into the Fullness of the Christian Faith

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Follow Dustin through the phases of his life including Islam until he finally discovered the Catholic Church. Maybe you’re like me (aside from being born with Cerebral Palsy and defying doctors’ pronouncements, by the grace of God, that I would be confined to a wheelchair and relegated to a vegetative state). Maybe you grew up […]

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Willow Creek Protestant Megachurch Paid $3.25M in Lawsuits Over Sex Abuse of Disabled Boys

August 16, 2018

If you don’t like this post, or think I’m pointing fingers, then read below under the line of asterisks ******* By Stoyan Zaimov Aug 16, 2018 | 8:01 AM “Willow Creek Community Church in Illinois reportedly paid $3.5 million in lawsuits over the sex abuse of two developmentally disabled boys. The evangelical megachurch, which recently […]

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Who Speaks for God on Morals? Many Choose their Church Like they Choose a Restaurant

August 13, 2018

We have a “church” near our house that is making it comfortable for anyone to join no matter who they are, what they believe or what they practice. They say it is our job to accept and love, to be nice, not to judge. “Celebrate Diversity!” Celebrate Diversity is a slogan of acceptance, multiculturalism, non-judgmental […]

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Mega-church Mania: One Mom’s Observations (she’s a good writer) and Observations from the Early Church

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Mr. Ray, My eldest daughter invited me to my grandson’s ‘dedication’ at her new place of worship.  Worship? Sorry. Her new place of…..well, the giant Olympic-sized structure that, after being directed in by police/traffic officers, upon entering, reminded me of a mall.  Oh and by the way, I didn’t witness any worship. My 1st thoughts were…”Wow! […]

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Why are some ex-Catholics so hateful?

August 5, 2018

I was asked recently why some ex-Catholics and anti-Catholics are so hateful and mean — why they display such fierce opposition to the Church. Of course, not all ex-Catholics are that way, but a good number are. When I was an anti-Catholic I did not consider Catholics to be Christians. They were heretics. I thought […]

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Sola Scriptura and the Canon of Scripture

May 23, 2018

Sola Scriptura and the Canon When non-Catholics are asked to provide biblical support or their belief that the Bible Alone is the sole rule of faith for the believer, they usually cite 2 Timothy 3:16-17 which states that “all scripture is God-breathed and is useful”. However, they somehow miss the fact that the two verses […]

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Should Catholics Attend Non-denominational or Ecumenical Bible Studies?

April 10, 2018

Every day, Catholics are invited by coworkers, neighbors, and even family members to “ecumenical” Bible studies. Should they go? Certainly all of us would benefit from more study of Scripture, but as someone who has been a part of a number of Protestant Bible studies—I’ve even taught them—I discourage Catholics from attending them because of […]

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“Ecumenical” Bible Studies

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Without a teaching authority or the tradition of the historic Church, this cartoon shows what many Bible studies are really like. I remember Bible Studies that started out with “What does this passage mean to you?”  To keep from arguing or fighting, many just avoid difficult passages. There are many studies that exclude Catholic ideas […]

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Differences Between Catholic and Protestant Approaches to the Bible

February 8, 2018

“Bible Christians” (a misnomer, since Catholics are the real and original Bible Christians), based on their recently devised “Reformation” principle of sola Scriptura, study the Bible with the following premises: 1. There is no binding authority but the Bible alone; 2. There is no official binding interpretation or interpreter; each person ultimately is their own […]

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Response to an Ex-Catholic, now Baptist

February 6, 2018

A while ago I received an e-mail from a Southern Baptist and decided to take a few minutes to respond. Thought others might be edified by it so I have posted it here without using his name. His e-mail is contained in regular text and my response is in CAPITAL LETTERS. **************************************************** HELLO FRIEND: I […]

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