In "Is the Cross an Idol? - Part 1", I examined how the World Mission Society Church of God misuses and misquotes their sources in an attempt to prove that the Christian cross is an idol. But they are not the only ones that object to the use of the cross as a Christian symbol. Beyond the WMSCOG's highly questionable practices, is there any substance to their argument? Let's take their points in turn...
The WMSCOG says the cross was not introduced into Christianity until the 5th century.Truth: The cross was a symbol of Christianity as early as the 2nd century.
Yes, the cross became the prominent symbol in the 5th century, but that's not when it was introduced. The cross was already associated with Christians hundreds of years earlier. Also, during the time when Christians were severely persecuted they used other symbols, such as anchors, which are considered as disguised crosses. The anchor is found as early as the 1st century (in the cemetery of St. Domitilla).
Wikipedia - Christian cross
Cross as an Early Christian Symbol
Anchor as an Early Christian Symbol
Harper's Book of Facts
The WMSCOG says the cross was a pagan symbol adopted by the Christian church because the new Christians couldn't let go of their pagan ties. It really honors pagan gods like the Egyptian god Tammuz.Truth: Jesus died on an actual cross, which has no relation to the Egyptian god Tammuz.
A cross is a very basic shape that has been used since ancient times in many areas and religions. That does NOT mean that Christians copied it from paganism. The cross is an extremely meaningful symbol for Christians because it was the instrument of Jesus' sacrifice and because it has a history of Biblical significance. If you wish to say that the Christian cross is pagan because other pagan religions also use a cross, you can use the same argument to say that kneeling in prayer is a pagan act because pagans knelt in prayer to their gods. (Thanks to Ralph Woodrow for this example.)
Ralph Woodrow on Babylon Mystery Religion and The Cross
Wikipedia - Cross and Crucifixion
The WMSCOG says that people worship the cross, thinking that the cross itself is something sacred that has the power of God, treating it like a charm, bowing down to it and kissing it in worship.Truth: Christians respect the symbol of the cross, but we do not worship the cross itself; we worship Jesus who died on it.
It's not surprising that some may think all Christians will hold up their little cross to ward off evil as a magic charm since that's what they see in Hollywood movies--but those are movies, not reality. Of course we know that the little piece of shaped wood or metal is not powerful in itself. And some may view a Christian's actions on the outside (such as kneeling before a cross) and draw the conclusion of cross worship by mere appearances--but God sees what is in the heart. Let God be the Judge of whether that person is worshiping the cross or worshiping the God who hung on the cross.
Any symbol can turn into an idol for someone when they care more for the symbol itself than the meaning behind it. But that doesn't mean the symbol itself is evil, only the attitude toward it. Unfortunately the symbol of the cross is not immune to such abuse, and there are people who have crossed the line from respect to worship. But that should not diminish the true symbolism of the cross.
"Yet both the superstitious abuse and the puritanic protest bear a like testimony to the significance of the great fact of which it reminds us." (from History of the Christian Church)
History of the Christian Church
Should a Christian wear religious jewelry?
Is the Cross a Pagan Symbol?
There's still more to examine. Coming soon: symbolism and Biblical references to the cross...
Click here to go on to Part 3.