Why do some churches not have crosses?

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By BibleAsk Team


The absence of crosses in certain churches may seem striking to those accustomed to seeing them prominently displayed in religious spaces. However, the decision to omit crosses can stem from various theological, cultural, and historical reasons within different Christian traditions. Here, we delve into some of these rationales.

Theological Perspective

Some Christian denominations emphasize the resurrection of Jesus Christ over his crucifixion. For them, the empty cross symbolizes the risen Christ rather than his suffering and death. This perspective highlights victory over sin and death rather than focusing solely on the crucifixion itself. In this vein, certain churches opt for imagery or symbols that underscore the triumph and glory of the resurrection rather than the cross’s instrument of suffering.

Iconoclasm

Throughout history, certain Christian groups have adhered to iconoclastic beliefs, which discourage the veneration of religious images or symbols. They interpret the commandment against graven images (Exodus 20:4-6) as a prohibition against depicting religious figures or objects, including crosses. Instead, they emphasize a more austere form of worship that centers on Scripture and sacraments rather than visual representations.

Cultural Aspect

In some regions or periods, displaying a cross publicly may have been culturally or politically sensitive. For instance, during periods of religious persecution or in regions where Christianity was a minority faith, churches may have avoided overt symbols like crosses to minimize attention or avoid provoking hostility. Similarly, in contexts where Christianity coexists with other religious traditions, churches may opt for less confrontational imagery.

Denominational Differences

Different Christian denominations have distinct theological emphases and practices. Some denominations, such as certain branches of Protestantism, prioritize preaching and teaching based on the Bible, with less emphasis on visual symbols like crosses. In contrast, Catholic and Orthodox traditions often incorporate elaborate iconography and symbols into their worship spaces, including crucifixes and other representations of Christ’s suffering.

Emphasis on Personal Faith

Some churches prioritize individual or communal expressions of faith over physical symbols. They may believe that faith should be lived out in daily actions rather than demonstrated through visible symbols or rituals. For these communities, the absence of crosses serves as a reminder that faith is more than outward displays or rituals—it is a deeply personal and transformative relationship with God.

Some churches do not have crosses because they believe it’s a lot easier to wear a cross, hang one on a wall or nail one to the steeple, than it is to “bear” the cross. Jesus affirmed this truth when He said, Whosoever will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me” (Mark 8:34). And “he that taketh not his cross, and followeth after me, is not worthy of me” (Matthew 10:38, KJV).

To these churches, the cross is simply a symbol that identifies the Christian religion in all its varied aspects. These churches feel that believers should not put too much emphasis in this outward symbol. Paul teaches, “For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God” (1 Corinthians 1:18, KJV).

In the New Testament, the word ‘cross’ is typically used in a symbolic metaphor.  It’s never used in the Bible as a physical icon. These churches say there’s nothing in the Bible that tells us that the image of the cross has any power to it.  The power of the gospel is in the man that was crucified on the cross. Like Paul, they say “For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified” (1 Corinthians 2:2, KJV).

People may be caught up in superficial matters while leave the essence of Christianity and the love of God that was displayed on the cross. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16, KJV).

Therefore, these churches teach that instead of hanging a cross on a building, the Christian should have a living experience with the Lord and declare, “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20, KJV).

Symbolic Diversity

While the cross holds central significance in Christian theology as a symbol of Christ’s sacrifice and redemption, some churches may choose to emphasize other symbols or imagery that convey similar spiritual truths. For example, the fish (ichthus) symbol, the alpha and omega, or the lamb are all rich with theological meaning and may be preferred over the cross in certain contexts.

    In conclusion, the absence of crosses in some churches can be attributed to a combination of theological interpretation, historical context and denominational differences. Ultimately, the most important factor in the Christian faith is to live in such a way that honors God and uphold His truths.

    In His service,
    BibleAsk Team

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