Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Part IV of my Response of my Response to Centuri0n on Christmas

This is the fourth part of a series of response to a recent post from Centuri0n. I suggest that you read the first three parts first, in order to gain a proper perspective and context.

(part 1)
(part 2)
(part 3)

In this part, I'll be addressing Centuri0n's claim that: "Here's a short list of things that we have to stop doing if we have to stop doing all the things "Rome" does to make sure we don't confuse people about what the Gospel is: ... -- eradicate all iconography of crosses from our architecture and art."

I had answered: "I don't see any particular problem eliminating the iconography of the cross from our architecture. Our art? I'm not sure what you mean there. Plenty of both Reformed and Fundamentalist non-Reformed Baptistic churches avoid the iconography of the cross."

Based on Centuri0n's further explanation, he apparently just meant architecture and building decorations. Centuri0n provides some examples of churches that incorporate crosses, and I could simply reply by providing examples of fundamentalist and reformed churches that do not incorporate crosses in their architecture. Here's one such example, in case anyone thinks it doesn't happen (link). I should point out, interestingly, that while the church itself does not employ cross iconography, the web site for the church has something that arguably is supposed to be a cross (though it does not have the typical dimensions associated with Catholic crosses).

I could also point out that using the particular cross found in Russian Orthodox architecture (example) would be confusing (note the extra piece for the title above the main crossbar, and the slanted piece towards the base, which looks something like a place to stand). It's not sinful to use such a cross in one's architecture, but it might confuse, in a way that a typical simply cross does not.

In some parts of the world, that may not be the case. Perhaps in some parts of the world, it would be valuable to avoid cross iconography in church architecture specifically to avoid the appearance of being a Catholic church. But, in general, churches are free to decorate their church in any way that does not violate God's law, and a cross in ipse does not violate God's law.

That said, again, there is no Scriptural requirement that we incorporate crosses into our architecture and building decorations. So, Christians are free to include it or not, and it would be wrong for Centuri0n to insist that Christians must use crosses in their architecture.

I found this particular topic interesting, because Mormons have conventionally not put a cross on top of their churches, specifically to avoid being connected with conventional Christianity. These days, they want to be called Christians, so we can probably expect to see cross architecture/decorations start to appear (compare the current look of the St. George Temple, look closely, that's a weather vane on top, or this more modern Mormon temple, where you can see a golden statue of what the Mormons think is an angel holding a trumpet). I doubt a weather vane would confuse anyone for long, but placing a golden statue holding a trumpet on the pinnacle of the roof of one's church would be a really bad idea for a Christian church in, say, Utah, Idaho, or Oregon.

Major Objections

1. Of course, a major objection is that the matter simply does not follow. There may be some marginal value in avoiding crosses to avoid a connection with popery, but - as I think Gene Bridges has pointed out - the cross is an ancient symbol of Christianity, and one that predates the sect of Roman Catholicism. While avoiding cross iconography may be helpful in some places and at some times, to distinguish the true gospel from the gospel of Rome, the situation is not similar to observance of a church holiday, because the informational content associated with the form of a cross is quite minimal compared with the informational content associated with the holiday held December 25.

2. Whether we place a cross on our buildings, or not, is of relatively little consequence. Thus, even if the logical conclusion of my position on Christian freedom was that it would be wise to avoid crosses in our architecture, that would not be an "over the top" action to take. Worship does not subsist in pictures, but in ideas.

3. This is the big one. Centuri0n's apparent line of reasoning is that if we do one thing to set ourselves apart from Catholicism, we must do everything possible to set ourselves apart from Catholicism. That simply doesn't follow. Centuri0n does not provide any analytical link, and there is not one to be made.

-Turretinfan

5 comments:

luvvom said...

Who is Centuri0n and where is this debate between you and him?

Turretinfan said...

Centuri0n is the screenname of Frank Turk, a Baptistic, soteriologically-Reformed blogger.

It's not been really a formal debate. I simmply responded to a post on his blog in his comment box, which lead to a series of interactions.

We have previously debated on the subject of the regulative principle of worship (me pro, him con).

Ah well.

-Turretinfan

Ebenezer Erskine said...

I like what you have been saying to Centurion. Your arguments are sound and well prepared. Keep up the good work!!!

Turretinfan said...

Thanks for the compliment, EE!

Turretinfan said...

"Orthodox" has pointed out that although the church's exterior may not include cross iconography, apparently the pulpit does have a big cross on it.

Also, in his view, the cross on the web site is something like the Greek Orthodox cross.

-Turretinfan