When I first heard this, it bothered me. I seek to live a life that pleases God. Idolatry definitely does NOT please God. Have I been practicing and condoning idolatry without even realizing it? It was important for me to find out.
I've examined the claims of the WMSCOG, studied my Bible, and done some historical research. I'm sure this will take a few posts to get through, but here we go...
"Cross is an idol" is one of the World Mission Society Church of God's official videos. It tells the story of a woman whose husband died in a helicopter accident. Her daughter hates everything that reminds her of her father's death, even toy helicopters. She goes on to compare this with how Christian churches use the cross as a reminder of Jesus' death. The video makes many statements connecting the cross to paganism, with sources given for these "shocking" claims. By the time the 4 minute video is done, the viewer is left wondering if they've been deceived all their lives into pagan worship. Is the feeling of guilt that arises from videos like this the conviction of the Holy Spirit, or is it an orchestrated part of a cult's mind control tactics?
The first thing we should know is that the WMSCOG makes many misleading historical statements about the cross!
Let's see what happens when we try to verify their statements using the same sources they cite. These are direct quotes from the video...
"The cross originated from ancient Chaldea. It was used as a symbol of the god Tammuz in Egypt. (Babylon Mystery Religion)" (minute 2:30)Here's what Ralph Woodrow, the author of Babylon Mystery Religion, says about his own book. "So is it with the claims about pagan origins. What may seem to have a connection, upon further investigation, has no connection at all!" Even the author of Babylon Mystery Religion says that there is no connection here. This quote was misused by the WMSCOG. They have neglected to share that the author pulled the book out of print after finding that the book he used for research (The Two Babylons by Alexander Hislop) was full of faulty research.
"Cross...was despised...the disgraceful punishment of slaves and the worst criminals... (History of the Christian Church)" (minute 2:51)Does this make you think the early Christian church despised the cross? The quote comes from History of the Christian Church which was published in 1910. You can find the quote here in Volume 2, Chapter 6. Now read the full context:
"The oldest and dearest, but also the, most abused, of the primitive Christian symbols is the cross, the sign of redemption.... Upon this arose, as early as the second century, the custom of making the sign of the cross on rising, bathing, going out, eating, in short, on engaging in any affairs of every-day life; a custom probably attended in many cases even in that age, with superstitious confidence in the magical virtue of this sign; hence Tertullian found it necessary to defend the Christians against the heathen charge of worshipping the cross.... The cross was despised by the heathen Romans on account of the crucifixion, the disgraceful punishment of slaves and the worst criminals; but the Apologists reminded them of the unconscious recognition of the salutary sign in the form of their standards and triumphal symbols"Do you still think that History of the Christian Church supports the idea that the early Christian church despised the cross? How about this next quote...
"When Christianity began to be paganized, the cross was considered as a symbol of Christ. (Harper's Book of Facts)" (minute 3:15)Here's where you can read Harper's Book of Facts online. It is a digitized 1895 edition with a handy search feature. I've searched it and can't find this quote anywhere. Maybe the WMSCOG needs to recheck their source or be more specific with an edition or page number? As it is, it doesn't look good for the WMSCOG. If anyone wants to help me track down this quote, go right ahead. I'll update this post if it's found. Here's another reference to the same book:
"The cross was introduced to the church in AD 431. The cross was erected on top of the church in AD 586. (Harper's Book of Facts)" (minute 3:18)This is meant to make us think that the cross was not used as a symbol until Christianity had been around a long time, far removed from the early church. This is not a direct quote from the book but the information comes from the entry for "cross" on page 212. Harper's Book of Facts says, "Crosses in churches and chambers were introduced about 431; and set up on steeples about 586."
The WMSCOG neglects to mention that Harper's Book of Facts also says that symbolism of the cross actually began long before that with the signing of the cross first being recorded about about AD 110.
We should also note that with the persecution of Christians in the early church, they often disguised the written symbol of the cross, for example as an anchor. Also, crosses can be found in the catacombs much earlier than the 5th century. Check here for more information on the Cross as an early Christian symbol. And here's more about Christian symbols.
Do you see how the World Mission Society Church of God misuses their quotes and sources? Do you find that acceptable? I surely don't. And that's one more reason the WMSCOG does not earn my unconditional trust and devotion. More next time on why the cross is not an idol....
Click here to go on to Part 2.