The sign of the cross

Discussion in 'Worship' started by steadfast7, Nov 14, 2011.

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  1. steadfast7

    steadfast7 Puritan Board Junior

    Is there anything wrong with making the sign of the cross as part of one's prayer/devotional/private worship life? Granted, it is not a means of grace required by scripture, but might it help on some subjective level?
  2. Romans922

    Romans922 Puritan Board Professor

    What's the purpose in doing?
  3. saintandsinner77

    saintandsinner77 Puritan Board Freshman

    Confessional Lutherans are known to make the sign of the cross. They do is a reminder that they have been baptized into Christ and are His children by what Christ did for them. I came out of Eastern Orthodoxy, where we made the sign of the cross and when I was converted, I totally abandoned the practice as being idolatrous or "too Roman Catholic." I have reconsidered my view (I don't practice it, but don't think it's entirely wrong either).
    There doesn't seem to be a clear Scriptural warrant against it, granted that a person is doing it for the right reason, namely, to remind themselves that Christ has put His name on us and we are saved by Christ's work on the cross. In sum, in Christian liberty, a person can do it in good conscience, granted they don't make it a legalistic requirement.
  4. Hamalas

    Hamalas whippersnapper

    Provided there are no misunderstandings or skewed theology attached to it (i.e. Roman Catholicism) it's simply a matter of conscience. (WCF Ch. 20)
  5. Stargazer65

    Stargazer65 Puritan Board Freshman


    I don't know what it's like in Malaysia, but if I did that around here, every Christian I know would asssume I went apostate. It may as well be called the "sign of the pope." I don't feel a need to do it, but if I felt like doing it, I'd do it secretly so as not to offend the brethren. But that might be just a cultural thing.
  6. NaphtaliPress

    NaphtaliPress Administrator Staff Member

    Either it is meaningless, then why do it, or such an action is being invested with meaning apart from Scripture, from which I cannot see avoiding superstition and will worship. This used to be a no brainer; the Puritans understood we not only reject idolatry but, as one Puritan put it, symbolizing with idolaters (see Robert Parker, A Scholastical discourse against symbolizing with Antichrist in ceremonies, especially in the sign of the cross, 1607).
  7. py3ak

    py3ak They're stalling and plotting against me Staff Member

    Papists maintain that the sign of the cross is an unwritten moral tradition. Apart from the inherent superstition of the practice (it is an ordinary aspect of magic to believe in the influence of particular gestures), at least around Roman Catholics making the sign of the cross would effectively countenance their abominable slur on the sufficiency of Scripture; something no Protestant ought to be able to tolerate.
  8. saintandsinner77

    saintandsinner77 Puritan Board Freshman

    Lutherans who hold to sola fide and call the Pope the Antichrist, yet make the sign of the cross, and I'm interested what the Scriptures you have in mind to say that the practice is idolatrous if used with the intention of reminding oneself of Christ's death on their behalf. Where is the will worship in making the sign as a private Christian without any magic or superstition attached? Some Reformed folks on this board use non-inspired hymns in their service as does Rome... so obviously some Reformed think just because Rome does x, therefore we cannot do x...and again, this assumes the practice does not contradict the gospel, sola fide, any other essential article of faith or any explicit moral imperative of Scripture..
  9. py3ak

    py3ak They're stalling and plotting against me Staff Member

    Does the gesture have meaning, or not? If not, then you are admitting to going through an entirely empty form. If it does, then the burden of proof is on you to show that the Scriptures authorize this significant action - I doubt there is time enough in the days we have assigned to us to find Scriptural warrant there.
  10. PuritanCovenanter

    PuritanCovenanter Moderator Staff Member

    Well, let's look at the second commandment for one. Why use a symbol to remind us of the Trinity? People use pictures to remind themselves of Christ and I even can take you to a Church (that is not Roman, EO, Anglican, nor Lutheran) that has a stained glass display of an image that is supposed to represent God the Father with a dove between his hands lighting on an image of who is supposed to be Christ.

    I suggest that some would benefit from reading this blog I put together a few years ago. It really helped me out. Fisher's catechism on this subject is very good also. I include it in the blog.
  11. saintandsinner77

    saintandsinner77 Puritan Board Freshman

    In the Confessional Lutheran example, it has the meaning of a reminder of Christ's death for them- the cross was applied to them. I am not authorizing anything nor am I implying or advocating that it should be practiced. I am speaking to Christian liberty in what a Christian does in his private practice, not as a part of corporate worship. Conservative Reformed churches do many things that are not authorized (but neither explicitly condemned) by Scripture such as using many cups in communion, singing non-inspired hymns, taking out a mortgage for a church building to accommodate more worshippers, and we can go on and on with the list, but again, I am speaking to private practice..
  12. steadfast7

    steadfast7 Puritan Board Junior

    We're in agreement that the superstitious elements that are attributed to the act, especially for those who came out of those traditions, must be abandoned, even if it means abandoning the practice itself. But, is the act itself reprehensible? I don't think so. It can very well be used as a tool, or an aid, like the myriad of uninspired, unwarranted aids we have in our private devotional life. Why use a reading plan to read your Bible? Why write out your prayers, rather than doing it extempore? Why craft a confession of faith and make people memorize it? None of these things are required by scripture, but we all admit that they are helpful practices.

    Could the sign of the cross be redeemed from its superstition and magic? yes. Rather than it being a symbol of the Trinity, how about using it as a physical reminder that we are crucified with Christ; or a symbol that all our hopes, the very centre of our being, is built upon the gospel of the cross?
  13. Tim

    Tim Puritan Board Graduate

    Brother, it's probably not helpful to compare taking out a mortgage to an act of worship or devotion.

    I think we should just focus on what God has told us to do, instead of making up things that the Bible never commands us, and then saying that we might have liberty to do so. God tells us what to do, and those things will necessarily have spiritual benefit in done in faith. Let us be content and rest assured that those commanded acts will benefit us.
  14. saintandsinner77

    saintandsinner77 Puritan Board Freshman

    Does your church have a cross on it to remind people of who we are and what we believe in? Is that idolatrous?
  15. saintandsinner77

    saintandsinner77 Puritan Board Freshman

    I recall from the confession chapter 20: "God Alone is the Lord of the conscience" with the condition that we do not engage in sin or any practice that contradicts the gospel of Christ...God has not commanded us in Scripture to read theological works outside of Scripture in our private devotion, but we all do it...what room does adiphora have in the private Christian life, assuming it is not an explicitly sinful practice?

    food does not bring us near to God; we are no worse if we do not eat, and no better if we do. Be careful, however, that the exercise of your freedom does not become a stumbling block to the weak. (1 Corinthians 8:8-9)

    ---------- Post added at 09:37 PM ---------- Previous post was at 09:35 PM ----------

    Agreed, in corporate worship, but again, we are speaking of private Christian devotion
  16. steadfast7

    steadfast7 Puritan Board Junior

    As mentioned earlier, I do not attribute the sign of the cross as a means of grace in the sacramental sense. But the church, even the Reformed Church, encourages the use of other things that serve as aids to devotion. The Bible reading plan, the evening worship service on Sunday, the written prayers, the memorizing of the catechism, etc. Are any of these commanded or necessary for devotion?

    Isn't it conceivable, that in a moment of grogginess or despair, making the sign of the cross might remind someone of the truth of scripture that he is crucified with Christ and upheld by Christ's intercession? What could be wrong about that?
  17. saintandsinner77

    saintandsinner77 Puritan Board Freshman

    Right brother- If one condemns making the sign of the cross in private devotion when it simply done as a reminder of Christ's work, then one must also condemn singing non-inspired hymns and reading Puritan authors in one's private devotion since those practices are also not explicitly commanded in Scripture.
  18. PuritanCovenanter

    PuritanCovenanter Moderator Staff Member

    Nope. Just words on a Banner. For Christ's Crown and Covenant.

    As a side note, when does Christian liberty mean that we can perform that which entices us or charges us emotionally for something that might be forbidden? Christian Liberty is freedom from sin to do as he desires. It releases us from the bondage of things to perform rightly that which is done in spirit and truth. Christian Liberty is not a license to do contrary to His will.
  19. PuritanCovenanter

    PuritanCovenanter Moderator Staff Member

    I believe your example falls short because the things you list here are things that the scripture commands. Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves, praying, paying attention to our doctrine, All these are commanded and do grace us.
  20. py3ak

    py3ak They're stalling and plotting against me Staff Member

    Again, though, you are assigning religious significance to a gesture. That is not redeeming it from superstition; that is superstition because you have no warrant for this significant action.
  21. saintandsinner77

    saintandsinner77 Puritan Board Freshman

    Brother-Where are we commanded to have a banner created in Scotland on our building or to worship in a building for that matter? The cross is the universal symbol of Christianity...
  22. PuritanCovenanter

    PuritanCovenanter Moderator Staff Member

    I agree with Joshua. Poppycock. LOL.

    This thread is done for right now. Please go read this along with J. I. Packers chapter 4 of Knowing God. It is also on my blog. Spend some time contemplating. I might open this up later.
  23. PuritanCovenanter

    PuritanCovenanter Moderator Staff Member

    I answered your question. And you are off topic now. This thread was about the sign of the cross as in invoking and performing an action with a symbol that represented the Trinity in admiration and devotion. This is about the crossing of ones self that is admittedly not attached to any means of grace and is basically empty and Romish.
  24. NaphtaliPress

    NaphtaliPress Administrator Staff Member

    Leaving off addressing what private ceremonies we can create for ourselves, we (at least those holding historic Presbyterianism) do not adopt idolatrous practices with some notion we can retain the same practice for different reasons. The way to reform idolatrous practices is to bury them. One of the practices that George Gillespie and others wrote against in opposing the English Popish ceremonies being imposed on the church at that time just prior to the second reformation in Scotland, was the sign of the cross. In the largest part of the four which make up A Dispute Against the English Popish Ceremonies, George Gillespie sets out to prove the disputed ceremonies are idolatrous.

    §1.  I have proved the ceremonies to be superstitious [see Part 3, chapter 1]; now I will prove them to be idolatrous. These are different arguments; for every idolatry is superstition, but every superstition is not idolatry, as is rightly by some distinguished.[fn1] As for the idolatry of the controverted ceremonies, I will prove that they are thrice idolatrous: I. Reductivè [By conducting], because they are monuments of by-past idolatry; II. Participativè [By imparting, see Part 3 Chapter 3], because they are badges of present idolatry; III. Formaliter [By form, see Part 3 Chapter 4], because they are idols themselves.

    In Part 3 chapter 2,Gillespie takes up monuments of past idolatry and frames a rule which he explains.

    First, then, they are idolatrous, because having been notoriously abused to idolatry heretofore, they are the detestable and accursed monuments, which give no small honor to the memory of that by-past idolatry which should lie buried in hell. Dr. Burges reckons for idolatrous all ceremonies devised and used in and to the honoring of an idol, whether properly or by interpretation such. Of which sort (he says) were all the ceremonies of the pagans, and not a few of the Papists.[fn2] If an opposite, writing against us, is forced to acknowledge this much, one may easily conjecture what enforcing reason we have to double out our point. The argument in hand I frame thus:

    All things and rites which have been notoriously abused to idolatry, if they are not such as either God or nature has made to be of a necessary use, should be utterly abolished and purged away from divine worship, in such sort that they may not be accounted nor used by us as sacred things or rites pertaining to the same.
    But the cross, surplice, kneeling in the act of receiving the communion, &c., are things and rites, &c., and are not such as either God or nature, &c.
    Therefore they should be utterly abolished, &c.

    §2. As for the proposition I shall first explain it, and then prove it. I say, all things and rites, for they are alike forbidden, as I shall show. I say, which have been notoriously abused to idolatry, because if the abuse is not known, we are blameless for retaining the things and rites which have been abused. I say, if they are not such as either God or nature has made to be of a necessary use, because if they are of a necessary use, either through God’s institution, as the sacraments, or through nature’s law, as the opening of our mouths to speak (for when I am to preach or pray publicly, nature makes it necessary that I open my mouth to speak audibly and articularly), then the abuse cannot take away the use. I say, they may not be used by us as sacred things, rites pertaining to divine worship, because without [outside] the compass of worship they may be used to a natural or civil purpose. If I could get no other meat to eat than the consecrated host, which Papists idolatrise [idolize] in the circumgestation[fn3] of it, I might lawfully eat it; and if I could get no other clothes to put on than the holy garments wherein a priest has said mass, I might lawfully wear them. Things abused to idolatry are only then unlawful when they are used no otherwise than religiously, and as things sacred.

    Gillespie then pursues five proofs of this rule for dealing with monuments to idolatry (3.2.3–6):

    1. He adduces God’s own precept. Isaiah. 30:22. Jude 23, Exodus 34:13; Deuteronomy 7:25, 26; Numbers 33:52; Deuteronomy 7:5; 12:2, 3.

    2. The abolishing of relics of idolatry is manifestly acceptable service toward God. Numbers 33:52, 53; Isaiah 27:9.

    3. The churches of Pergamos and Thyatira are reproved for tolerating idolothites. Revelation 2:14–20. He subsequently spends a page or more distinguishing two sorts of idolathites.

    4. He adduces approved examples. Jacob (Gen. 35:4); Elijah (1 Kings 18:30); Jehu (2 Kings 10:22–28); Hezekiah's destruction of the brazen serpent which had been originally set up at God’s command (2 Kings 18:4), Josiah (2 Kings 23); Manasseh (2 Chron. 23:15); Moses (Exod. 32:17–20); and Daniel (Dan. 1:8).

    5. He backs the rule or proposition with a two fold reason, that things notoriously abused to idolatry remind and that they move. They preserve the memory of idols (cf. Exod. 23:13; Deut. 12:3; Josh. 23:7; Esth. 3:2; Deut. 25:19), and “such idolatrous remainders move us to turn back to idolatry.” “God would have Israel to overthrow all idolatrous monuments, lest thereby they should be snared (Deut. 7:25; 12:30).

    fn 1.
    Synop. Pur. Theol., disp. 19, thes. 30 [sic thesis 3]. [Professors of Leyden. Antonius Walæus (1573–1639), Andreas Rivetus (1572–1651), Antonius Thysius (1603–1665), John Polyander (1568–1646). Synopsis Purioris Theologiæ. Leyden: 1581. Cf. Edited by Herman Bavinck. Leiden: 1881. Pages 162–163. See Google books here.]

    fn 2.
    Manuduct., sect. 2, p. 38. [Cf. John Burges, A Manuduction unto the following Dispute. In An Answer Rejoined to that much applauded pamphlet A reply to Dr. Morton’s general defense of three nocent ceremonies (1631). Pages 27–42.

    fn 3. [Meaning to carry around; obviously a scornful remark respecting the papal practice of uplifting, displaying, and carrying the elements around to be adored by the people.]

  25. NaphtaliPress

    NaphtaliPress Administrator Staff Member

    Gillespie also addresses one of the more obvious objections of his opponents.

    §7. Thus, having both explained and confirmed the proposition of our present argument, I will make me [my] next for the confutation of the answers which our opposites devise to elude it.

    And 1., they tell us, that it is needless to abolish utterly things and rites which the Papists have abused to idolatry and superstition, and that it is enough to purge them from the abuse, and to restore them again to their right use. Hence Saravia will not have pium crucis usum [pius use of the cross] to be abolished cum abusu [along with the abuse], but holds it enough that the abuse and superstition be taken away.[fn1] Dr. Forbes’ answer is, that not only things instituted by God are not to be taken away for the abuse of them, but farther, neither must indifferent matters thoughtfully introduced by men always be done away with because of ensuing abuse. The Papists have abused temples, and places of prayer, and cathedrals, and holy vessels, and bells, and the blessing of marriage; however, thoughtful reformers have not proposed that such things must be abandoned.[fn2]

    Answer. (1) Calvin,[fn3] answering that which Cassander alleges out of an Italian writer, abusu non tolli bonum usum [abuse does not take away the good use], he admits it only to be true in things which are instituted by God himself, not so in things ordained by men, for the very use of such things or rites as have no necessary use in God’s worship, and which men have devised only at their own pleasure, is taken away by idolatrous abuse. Pars tutior [The safer part] here, is to put them wholly away, and there is, by a great deal, more danger in retaining than in removing them.
    fn1. N. Fratri et Amico, art. 17. [“N. Fratri et Amico,” in Diversi Tractatus Theologici (1611) 16.]

    fn2. Irenicum, lib. 1, cap. 7, 9, 6. neque res mediæ ab hominibus prudenter introductæ, propter sequentem abusum semper tollendæ sunt. Abusi sunt Papistæ templis, et oratoriis, et cathedris, et sacris vasis, et campanis, et benedictione matrimoniali; nec tamen res istas censuerunt prudentes reformatores abjiciendas [7–6, p. 43]. [The quotation comes from section 6. Section 9 reads: “IX. Atqueita iam paret justas fuisse & idoneas rationes, ex ipsarum rerum intuitu, propter quas Patres Perthenses articulos à Rege propositos, partim potuerunt, partim etiam admittere debuerunt. Nam in rebus illis quædam sunt necessariæ, omnes autem licitæ ac laudabiles: illæ sine peccato contemni non possunt; istæ licitè et laudabiliter admittuntur” (7–9, p. 45). Cf. The First Book of the Irenicum, trans. E. G. Selwyn, p. 118–119, 121–122.]

    fn3. Responsio Ad Versipellem Quendam Mediatorem, p. 41–44. Apparently this has never been put into English. [Cf. CR 37 (CO 9), 542.] {CR=Corpus Reformatorum, ed. G. Baum, Ed Cunitz, Eduard Reuss, and Alfred Erichson. 87 volumes (Brunsvigae: C.A. Schwetschke, 1834–1900)}. {CO= Ioannis Calvini Opera quae supersunt omnia, 59 volumes, in Corpus Reformatorum, volumes 29–87}
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