Another Reason to Have the Corpus on the Cross, by Pr. Rossow

The Processional Cross at Bethany Lutheran, Naperville

The Processional Cross at Bethany Lutheran, Naperville

We have all heard it from our protestant friends and sometimes even from our Lutheran acquaintances – “Why do you have Jesus on the cross, that is so Catholic? That is so negative. We believe in the resurrected Jesus so we have empty crosses.” That last phrase is quite profound. They do indeed have empty crosses.

I and the other two pastors here at Bethany Lutheran Church and School, Naperville, Illinois, have taken to pointing to the processional cross during the sermons when we speak of Christ crucified for our sins. In some sermons that can be as many as three or four times. Because Christ on the cross serves as a helpful homiletical illustration is another good reason to fill our crosses up with the corpus of Christ. This is a fitting matter to consider on this most holy and good day of the church year.

The main reason we have Christ on our crosses is for theological reasons. These theological reasons are both positive and negative. Here are a few positive reaons.

  1. The Bible says we preach Christ crucified (I Cor. 1:23). Therefore, good church art which is to reflect what we preach and teach has Christ on the cross being crucified for our sins.
  2. The heart and core of the faith is the forgiveness of sins and that forgiveness takes place on the cross. It is there that Jesus says “It is finished.”
  3. The resurrection from the dead is a vital teaching and cannot be separated from the crucifixion but it must always be remembered that death is a by-product of sin and sin was paid for on the cross. Paul says in I Corinthians 15:56 that the sting of death is sin and the power of sin is the law. Both sin and the law are put to death in Jesus body on the cross.

Here are a couple of negative reasons.

  1. Leaving Jesus off the cross is a theology of glory. The theology of glory is a Calvinist invention preferred by the MethoBapticostals. It takes the emphasis off the shedding of blood for the forgiveness of sins and puts it on the triumphal Jesus who leads us to morally upright and effective lives.
  2. Leaving Jesus off the cross diminishes the significance of the sacraments of Holy Absolution and Holy Communion because the pastor is not seen as a mouthpiece of forgiveness nor an administrator of the body and blood of Christ but as a life coach exhorting believers on to glorified resurrection living.
  3. Leaving Jesus off the cross supports the erroneous theology of “church growth.” This faulty theology is reflected in sermon series on the purpose driven life (individual purpose is not a scriptural category), money management tactics (the Bible says very little about personal money management – the parables on money are about the Gospel, not the proper use of money) and good parenting skills (the Bible says very little about proper parenting).

Following in the footsteps of St. Paul, true Confessional Christians proudly placard Jesus Christ crucified (Galatians 3:1).

We have numerous crucifixes throughout our church and school but recently I noticed that while teaching adult confirmation in our conference room I kept reaching to point to the corpus and was frustrated because we did not have a crucifix in there. We recently did the work to get one there and in all the rooms of the church and school where we teach the Gospel so that we can clearly preach Christ crucified.

May God bless your Good Friday devotion that your eyes may be fixed more securely on Christ crucified that you may know for sure that your sins are forgiven.

About Pastor Tim Rossow

Rev. Dr. Timothy Rossow is the Director of Development for Lutherans in Africa. He served Bethany Lutheran Church in Naperville, IL as the Sr. Pastor for 22 years (1994-2016) and was Sr. Pastor of Emmanuel Lutheran in Dearborn, MI prior to that. He is the founder of Brothers of John the Steadfast but handed off the Sr. Editor position to Rev. Joshua Scheer in 2015. He currently resides in Ocean Shores WA with his wife Phyllis. He regularly teaches in Africa. He also paints watercolors, reads philosophy and golfs. He is currently represented in two art galleries in the Pacific Northwest. His M Div is from Concordia, St. Louis and he has an MA in philosophy from St. Louis University and a D Min from Concordia, Fort Wayne.


Another Reason to Have the Corpus on the Cross, by Pr. Rossow — 61 Comments

  1. Excellent article, which I will share despite the typos. If I may point them out: 1) I’d spell the portmanteau ‘MethoBapticostals.’ (and I used to be in the first part of that group) 2) Never heard of a “St. PAU.” It was St. PAUL of Tarsus who wrote the Epistle to the Galatians.

  2. Dear Pastor Rossow,

    Your blog post is interesting, because I have developed the same custom of pointing to the crucifix, when talking about the atonement from the pulpit. I think in my case there are two reasons.

    First, one of the crucifixes at Trinity-Evansville has always been located on a processional cross directly to my right in the pulpit. I can reach out and touch it, with my right hand, if I want.

    Second, I was inspired by two paintings of Cranach–the bottom panel of the altar triptych at the Wittenberg St. Mary’s parish church, where Luther points to the crucifix from his pulpit; and the center panel of the altarpiece of the Weimar St. Peter and Paul city church, where John the Baptist points to the crucifix while talking to Luther and Cranach Sr. I have seen both in person.

    Some may remember that the Weimar altar painting was on the cover of the “Church Growth” monograph by Kurt Marquart, published by the Luther Academy in 1994.

    You can see both of these paintings online here: and here:

    Blessings on your observance of Good Friday and Easter!

    Yours in Christ, Martin R. Noland

  3. Martin,

    I too have seen them in person. I always wondered if the loin cloth of Christ in the one, blowing away from the preacher was a symbol of the breathe of the Holy Spirit as the word is preached.

  4. Pr. Rossow,
    This is indeed a thoughtful and thought-provoking article. Some of us have been blessed to be called to churches that have either retained or repristinated crucifixes in our chancels or church art. Others have been blessed in other ways. To my thinking this is not an either or argument, but rather a both and one. One can preach Christ crucified with both types of visual illustrations, which perhaps will lead to future purchases of artistry picturing the crucified Christ. The main point is that our preaching should not be limited by the illustrations we might have on hand, but praise God for any opportunity to preach Christ and Him crucified…

  5. Dear Tim,

    That’s a good question. A person with some expertise in Northern Renaissance religious art might be able to answer that.

    I just looked at my copy of: Kuehne/Kuehn, “Lutherstadt Wittenberg” (Bindlach: Gondrom, 1995), which I picked up at the museum store the day we visited that city. The stylized loin cloth, with the long extensions of the cloth fluttering in an s-curve in the wind, can be found:

    1) on the typanum over the north portal of the Castle Church in Wittenberg;

    2) the uppermost panel of the central window behind the high altar of the Castle Church of Wittenberg;

    3) the bottom panel of the triptych in the Parish Church of St. Mary’s of Wittenberg (which I mentioned and linked to above);

    4) the title page of the New Testament, translated by Luther, and published in Wittenberg;

    5) the triptych of the Parish Church of St. Mary’s in Kemberg, painted also by Lucas Cranach, Jr.

    Since I don’t remember seeing it in other Northern Renaissance artists, it might be a “signature” element for the Cranachs, and thus common to Wittenberg and the region. That’s just a guess . . .

    Yours in Christ, Martin R. Noland

  6. “The theology of glory is a Calvinist invention preferred by the Methabapticosals.”

    I don’t disagree with that, but you find it much more in post-Puritan Calvinism than you do pre-Puritan Calvinism. Not to get too off-track with the point, but if you look at Calvin’s Calvinism, it’s far closer to Lutheranism than the Calvinism found after the Puritan uprising. Yes, Calvin was not in a hundred percent agreement with Lutherans (particularly with regard to the supper), but he was no Zwinglist. Calvin also emphasized a law/gospel distinction, practiced absolution (see his Strasbourg (sp?) liturgy), believed that the sacraments were not merely symbolic but were actual means of grace, and other things.

    While Calvin was not a Lutheran, the Calvinism found after the Puritans is even less Lutheran.

  7. Somebody sharp with Church history:
    What was the story, again, with the widow of a Lutheran prince who had a crucifix placed in his hands for his lit de parade to indicate that he died a Lutheran?

  8. I’d like to point out that in our sinful human nature, we are all theologians of glory. We all would rather call the good bad and the bad good. Only by the power of the Holy Spirit are we able to say “what a thing is”, and accept the blessing of suffering at the foot of the cross.

  9. Mark,

    I agree we are all theologians of glory.

    In terms of the definition of the theology of glory, I use a working definition that includes a broader scope of Luther’s theology than the early works you cite. I think it is important to define it with the mature Luther otherwise it is not genuinely evangelical. Most of Roman Catholic theology is right in line with “accepting suffering at the foot of the cross.” A broader definition sees the theology of the cross to be a matter of trusting in the love of God for us from the cross rather than trusting what the devil, our flesh, our conscience and the world say about us apart from the cross.

  10. J. Dean,

    Post Puritan Calvinism certainly has many of these things in spades. I see it as a result of the primary theology of Calvin however which is one of glory.

    When you ask of Luther what is God’s greatest trait it is His love. When you ask Calvin it is His glory.

    For sure, we dare not underestimate the incredible power of “The Bondage of the Will” and how it highlights many of the blessed similarities between Luther and Calvin. Many do this and it ends in gospel reductionism. I do not mean in that way. What I mean is that in Luther the cross is at the center of all theology and for Calvin the power and glory of God is at the center and it makes a huge difference.

  11. I have no problem with the image of Christ in pain on the cross above the altar, but I would prefer to have a resurrected Christ in His glory with the cross. The cross itself is a reminder of those things you spoke of, but a resurrected Christ drives home that He has defeated death and devil! His resurrection sealed the victory on our behalf. Isn’t it His resurrection that gives us confidence that we too will be raised again?

  12. Erv,

    You are right, the important thing is preaching Christ crucified, however the question still remains, why have an empty cross. The Bible does not talk about an empty cross. It talks about preaching Christ crucified.

  13. David,

    I think you missed the point. It is at the cross that sin, death and the devil were defeated. The sting of death is sin. Death is the symptom. Sin is the cause. Sin is defeated in the cross when Jesus says “It is finished.”

    The resurrection is sweet comfort indeed but it is icing on the cake. The cake is the body which is given and shed for us. The resurrection shows us that our bodies will rise some day but they were going to rise whether Jesus rose from the dead or not. He was already alive before the resurrection. After all, he went and preached victory to the devil and those in hell. The victory came when God in the flesh died for us.

  14. I too would rather have a resurrected Christ Cross on the alter. I know my Redeemer lives! He is Risen! He is Risen indeed! Other wise wouldn’t we have our Sabbath day on Friday instead of Sunday? I’m just a lay person, I want to hold on to the Risen Lord.

  15. Pr. Rossow,
    Scripture does speak of “preaching Christ and Him crucified”. It also speaks of the risen Christ. They are inseparable. My point is that not every preaching station was appointed with crucifixes. If one has them then use them as an illustration to drive home the point of Christ crucified. But if one does not then don’t let that hinder your preaching. In my case the church building I serve in was built in the mid-1960’s. Above and behind the altar is a 12-foot cross. I’ve looked into a corpus to attach to it…about $1500 for a cheapo one. An acceptable one was more like $4500, plus finding someone to properly attach it (no Roman legions in the area). The existing processional cross was purchased about 10 years before I arrived, it is in very good shape, has the IHS symbol emblazed upon it, but no corpus. That does not deter me from preaching Christ crucified. All of these churchly appointments are art and illustrations, they may either add or detract from the ambiance of the worship setting, but do not control it. If I had my preference, and much geld, we’d likely be purchasing corpus enhanced crosses, but that is not my situation, nor likely many other pastors. I am not criticizing your article, I agree with its scholarship and intent, but sometimes real world circumstances don’t at least immediately allow the ideal to become possible. Can a corpus-free cross be a symbol of a resurrected Christ? Of course it can and is! Christ was crucified for you and for me….preach it! Christ was raised so that we too might have victory over the grave….so preach that too! Don’t let symbolism or lack thereof be a deterrent to proper biblical preaching…..

  16. Judy,

    I am trying to demonstrate from Scripture what is better for us, not what we want. Before I understood what Scripture actually said on the matter I too thought the corpus on the cross was overkill (couldn’t resist that one).

    It is notable that you say you want to hold on to the Risen Lord but when Mary does that to Jesus in the garden after the resurrection he says “do not cling to me.”

    Look at what Jesus points the disciples to when he appears to them. He points them to the marks of the crucifixion. Even in the resurrection, the joy, comfort and assurance is in his pierced body. We preach Christ crucified. Paul clearly placarded Jesus crucified to the Galatians, the book of Hebrews is all about the sacrifices of animals that point to the death of Christ and the hero in the Book of Revelation is the lamb who was slain (chapter 5). I could go on and on. I do not know of a single reference in the Bible to an empty cross.

    I am glad that you rejoice in the risen Christ, so do I. But it is the crucified Christ who is at the heart of Holy Absolution and Holy Communion.

  17. Resurrected Jesus on the cross is ahistorical. Jesus refers to Himself on the cross as His glory, thus we glory in it, when you see Jesus on the cross, there is God being God for you, God dying for you, see your forgiveness. Empty crosses convey none of this. As well don’t empty mangers look odd, why then empty crosses? Of course we are not offended to put baby Jesus in the manger. To see Jesus on the cross brings about the scandal of it all. We need to see Jesus there for us, not only does Jesus refer to it as His glory but He draws all people to Himself there (John 12). Also too the emphasis of actually looking upon what is lifted up (John 3). For example, in Galatians St. Paul mentions resurrected Jesus 1 time, crucified Jesus 8 times. An empty cross of itself does not mean Jesus is risen, it’s just simply a symbol of the Christian faith. Also too, I’m with Luther on this one, hold a crucifix before my dying eyes.

  18. @Pastor Tim Rossow #14
    Thank you; I’m not sure I missed the point you made, though maybe I did. We confess every Sunday not just to Christ’s suffering and death and burial, but also to His resurrection. We point to the risen Christ in the Sacrament. Both Good Friday and Easter are necessary and we share in both with Christ through our baptism.
    I don’t think one vision of Christ (either in a state of humiliation on the cross, or in His present state of glory with the cross) is “better”, but that, without proper preaching, both visions of Christ can be misused and misunderstood; and so, I think the better one is whichever helps someone understands God’s love and grace, both of which are present in both Good Friday and Easter.
    Thank you for the discussion and stimulation. It is an interesting topic.

  19. 10. Be Thou my Consolation,
    My Shield when I must die;
    Remind me of Thy Passion
    When my last hour draws nigh.
    Mine eyes shall then behold Thee,
    Upon Thy cross shall dwell,
    My heart by faith enfold Thee.
    Who dieth thus dies well!

  20. Thank you for the post, Pastor Rossow!! Haha …

    “Following in the footsteps of St. Paul, true Confessional Christians proudly placard Jesus Christ crucified (Galatians 3:1).” Amen! (Although for practical purposes, Pastor Erv Hutter’s experience is well taken too).

    Indeed, the Gnostic and Osiandrian error of the Reformed faith or Calvinism is all to pervasive.

    The processional cross at Bethany Lutheran, Naperville is simply awesome!

    Blessings to all at BJS!

  21. I have heard many an Evangelical use the line: “Why do you have Jesus on the cross, that is so Catholic? That is so negative. We believe in the resurrected Jesus so we have empty crosses.” The crazy thing is that they are insinuating that churches that retain the body do not believe in the resurrection. It is typically an indicator that they are highly ignorant of the tradition they critique. So much of my adult life has been spent learning that what I was taught about ancient Christian tradition is not true. When we hear an Evangelical use this line, it is possibly a good opportunity to have a discussion about how what they believe about Christian tradition is not true.

    Also, the body being removed is quite likely influenced by Puritan theology. They took the first commandment and split it in two to create a commandment forbidding idols, which they have to greater or lesser extent applied to various forms of sculpture throughout history. Thus the Christ on the cross becomes a stature that we are praying to instead of God Himself, they believe. Their interpretation of what they believe to be the second commandment has led to great austerity in their worship in an effort to purge any possible trace of idolatry. Just compare the interior of a typical Episcopalian cathedral to that of as Roman Catholic or Orthodox. It’s like black and white next to full color. This is a classic example of how a Reformed “third use” of the law, apart from the proper distinction between law and gospel, leads to a sort of legalism that robs the gospel (and accompanying religious culture) of beauty.

    Where Christ is not on the cross, consider that the doctrine there may be somewhat less than life giving. We are healed by his wounds, and blood. This lack of emphasis on the death of Christ in favor of resurrection also seems to usually coincide with a denial of the sacraments. I mean, after all, a brutally tortured to death messiah is a rather gruesome spectacle to consider. Who’d want to proclaim that every Sunday until he returns?

  22. Miguel :  Just compare the interior of a typical Episcopalian cathedral to that of as Roman Catholic or Orthodox. It’s like black and white next to full color. This is a classic example of how a pReformed “third use” of the law, apart from the proper distinction between law and gospel, leads to a sort of legalism that robs the gospel (and accompanying religious culture) of beauty.

    I would say that that holds true much more for the typical Presbyterian or Reformed church than for the typical Episcopalian one.

    I believe the division of the First Commandment to create a particular prohibition also of images that one does not worship (thus separated from the First Commandment) predates the Puritans, as it was found already with Calvin and in the Book of Common Prayer.

    It seems to me that the movements in which crucifixes are frowned upon tend to be those, also, where preaching is not expected, either, to portray Christ before the eyes of the faithful as crucified (Galatians 3:2) – rather, the Word of the cross is seen mostly as an introduction for newcomers into a life that is less about the atonement than morality and religious fervour.

    Which would, on its own terms, make sense, somehow …

  23. Yes it is Judy. It says several things. It says that we are fools if we do not teach the resurrection because if it is not true then all the Gospel is called into question, we are left in our sins.

    It also points out that the death and resurrection cannot be separated. They are one piece.

    Most importantly for this discussion is that it points out that the sting of death is sin and as I mention in the post, death is paid for on the cross. Death is a symptom of sin. It is not the root problem. We must never lose sight of that or we risk becoming theologians of glory who focus on resurrection and not crucifixion. The resurrection is the culmination of the cross. The cross is not merely a step toward the goal of resurrection.

  24. @Pastor Tim Rossow #14
    The resurrection is sweet comfort indeed but it is icing on the cake. The cake is the body which is given and shed for us. The resurrection shows us that our bodies will rise some day but they were going to rise whether Jesus rose from the dead or not. He was already alive before the resurrection. After all, he went and preached victory to the devil and those in hell. The victory came when God in the flesh died for us.

    What comfort if the promised resurrection had not occurred
    and been demonstrated to many at the time!?
    It would be the “pious myth” that unbelievers claim it to be around this time every year.

    “If Christ is not raised, your faith is futile, you are yet in your sins.”

    Someone wrote yesterday (can’t find it now)
    ‘the cross gives significance to the resurrection,
    the resurrection gives significance to the cross’.

    “Christ died for our sins and was raised again for our justification.”

    The resurrection is not “icing” but fulfillment of prophecies and Christ’s promises.

    Cross and resurrection
    You can’t have one without the other!

  25. The priest at a Roman Catholic wedding, I attended, spoke well on this subject. A repairman, repairing hurricane damage to the Church, asked the question, ” When are you Roman Catholics going to get Jesus down off that cross ?” The priest’s reply was ” The Crucifix shows us, that He just loved us to death.”
    I say Amen.

  26. There were of course three “empty crosses” on Easter morning, but only one resurection, so I don’t quite see how a Christless cross is a symbol of the resurection.

  27. This discussion could easily become a bit similar to the discussion about Universal Justification.

    Somebody says that as a Christian you are definitely not allowed to do this or that, or to say this and that, and they support this claim with obvious misunderstandings.

    And then one gets engaged in defending one’s freedom to this or that, and the Scriptural propriety of doing this and that.

    And suddenly it seems as if, by defending what others have prohibited, and by refuting their misunderstood reasoning, you are the one prohibiting others from, say, using the empty cross for some or other purpose, or for talking about justification by faith, or whatever the topic is.

    Obviously there is nothing wrong with the empty cross as such – just as there is nothing wrong with making the sign of the cross, rather than drawing an elaborately detailed crucifix in the air in front of you.

    And equally obviously, in the Biblical references to the cross, the cross is not a symbol of resurrection and life; rather, the cross in itself is seen as an offence and an emblem of suffering and shame – and as such it does not in any way represent a contradiction of Christ being portrayed as crucified, rather, Christ portrayed as crucified is clearly implied in any and all references to the cross.

    This might be a little less obvious to some, I think, because we have become so accustomed to seeing the cross as mostly a symbol of Christianity and being Christian – and so many have become accustomed to thinking of Christianity and being Christian as having little or nothing to do with Christ crucified – which is probably why so many prefer and produce crosses so cutesy and pretty that it is very difficult to associate them in any way with Christ crucified – which is probably very often also the intention.

    And because of what it does to our thinking about Christianity, and being Christian, and the cross, and Christ, I think there is much more reason for Christians to have reservations toward the cutesy cross than toward the emptycross.

    Of course there are also crucifixes that are offensive simply because of their poor artistic qualities – but that is an entirely different matter …

  28. @Pastor Tim Rossow #9
    I will grant that there is a noticeable “progression” in Luther’s thought and writings over time. But I can’t get around the Heidelberg Disputation–stills hits my eyes and ears as phenomenally profound and “mature”. And “Lutheran”. I find myself quoting the HD quite often in sermons.

  29. @Jais H. Tinglund #32
    Pearl S. Buck, in “The Good Earth”, has a scene where the protagonist is in Shanghai or some other huge city where he has the opportunity to run across Europeans and Americans. He has an encounter with a representation (don’t remember what kind–I read it 30 years ago this year and not since) of Christ on the cross. He understands that the “missionary” who shows it to him is claiming that this is his “God”. And it makes no sense to him. WHy should I worship a god who is dead?
    Point is: I will not give up my crucifix, period. But I will make sure that it is accompanied by the clear proclamation of the Word. The crucifix and the Resurrection, of course, *must* go together. Good Friday isn’t Good without Easter. Easter is fiction and theology of glory without Good Friday. And neither of them make it to *me* 2000 years later and thousands of miles away without Maundy Thursday.

    As to “crucifixes” that offend because of their poor artistic qualities…. (treadign on thin ice, I know) Um….. Gumbi?

  30. David M,

    Yes, Gumbi (St. Louis Sem Chapel) is a silly crucifix. It does not speak “given and shed” for you.

    As to Heidlberg, order Uruus Saarnivaara’s “Luther Discovers the Gospel” from CPH, as a matter of fact every Lutheran should read this book, and you will never look at Heidlberg the same again.

  31. Rev. David Mueller :
    I will not give up my crucifix, period.

    Well, neither would I.
    My point is that neither will I spit and wheeze at the sight of an empty cross – unless somebody would say something about only the empty cross being legitimate, and backing it up with obviously flawed reasoning such as:

    1) the banal and inconsequential observation that “He is not really hanging there anymore” – which not only has nothing to do with anything, but would be also a very hypocritical manner of arguing for anybody who still keeps wedding pictures around, or pictures of the children, or any photos at all, really, since all photos by their very nature must have been taken at a point in history that is no longer the present.

    2) the unbiblical claim that the empty cross is a sign of the ressurection.

    3) the obviously absurd claim that Christ portrayed as crucified is somehow a denial of justification by faith alone, and somehow propagates the invocation of the Saints as assistant Saviours, and the existence of Purgatory, and Transsubstantion, and the authority of the Pope, and free will, etc. etc. – or, as it will be phrased: “It is Catholic”.

    In such cases it would seem to me that the principle applies, which is presented in FC X, that nothing should be done to create the impression that we are in agreement and unity with those with whom we are not in agreement or unity at all – since the objection to crucifixes is almost always, whether or not the one objecting is aware of it, based on the assumption, and in itself an attempt to pretend, that we are (at least almost) in agreement with those Protestant churhes which not only prohibit the use of crucifixes, but also the faithful adherence to the ordinances of Christ, such as Christ-centered and Gospel-focused (i.e.: sacramental) faith, preaching, teaching and worship …

  32. As I recall from a trip to South America: For some cultures still influenced by old-world pre-Reformation Roman Catholicism, an image of the suffering Christ reverberates with a message of guilt — not, “Christ suffered and died for you,” but, “Christ suffered and died because of you.” And that is why some bringers of the Gospel — as well as some Protestant converts previously burdened by such guilt — avoid the imagery.

  33. @R.D. #38
    Yes – but that truth is exactly what those who reject the atonement – and accordingly also reject the imagery that corresponds to and proclaims the Biblical truth of atonement – wish to escape: that there ever was a need for atonement between God and us, because we really owe it to God not to sin, and it is really evil of us that we sin, for we really are not allowed to, and it really is sin not to obey the Word and will of Cod in all things, and we really don’t, and that really is wrong of us, and we arereally not good enough as we are, not even close.

    All these Biblical truths are offensive to sinful nature – and that is why those who have not been overcome by the love of God as revealed in Christ crucified would rather escape “such guilt” by denying that they ever had and still have “such guilt” than admit to and confess “such guilt” before God to be actually delivered from “such guilt” and its eternal consequences (cf. 1 John 1:8-9) – and that is why they will also prefer to avoid being confronted with “such guilt” by having Christ portrayed before them as crucified, in preaching as well as in art – and will prefer instead a religion or a “Christianity” that has higher regard for the autonomy and nobility of man than does the authentic Christian faith taught by Holy Scripture.

  34. Gary W. Moss :The priest at a Roman Catholic wedding, I attended, spoke well on this subject. A repairman, repairing hurricane damage to the Church, asked the question, ” When are you Roman Catholics going to get Jesus down off that cross ?” The priest’s reply was ” The Crucifix shows us, that He just loved us to death.”I say Amen.

    I prefer St. Paul’s “We preach Christ crucified.”

  35. My cousin sent me this link after me expressing my uneasiness with iconography. He is a confessing Lutheran. I was sent to a Lutheran gradeschool and was confirmed in that church. That being said, I cannot consider myself a Lutheran (Follower of Luther). I am a Christian (Follower of Christ). What follows is my response. While I don’t agree with “Lutheranism” I do stand with Luther on this point: Sola Scriptura! Let’s let scripture define scripture-

    Let me preface this by saying I’m sorry if I offend you, but I cannot agree to something contrary to scripture. I submit to you the following. I believe that the link you sent me, while seemingly on it’s face sounds good to you, is stretching scripture to justify unsound doctrine. Let’s break it down, using the verses Pastor Rossow puts forth, followed by a few that I find interesting:

    Galatians 3:1
    English Standard Version (ESV)
    By Faith, or by Works of the Law?
    3 O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? It was before your eyes that Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed* as crucified.
    Galatians 3:1
    King James Version (KJV)
    3 O foolish Galatians, who hath bewitched you, that ye should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ hath been evidently set forth*, crucified among you?
    -Question: What does the Greek Textus Receptus actually say?
    From Strong’s Concordance:
    From G4253 and G1125; to write previously; figuratively to announce, prescribe: – before ordain, evidently set forth, write (afore, aforetime).

    This is why I don’t like modern translations. They change both what the KJV and more importantly the Textus Receptus are trying to convey. Notice also that they take out an entire phrase and turn a question into a statement. What befuddles me is that the good pastor took koine greek at seminary and should definately know what the Greek says. If this is the logic we are going to follow, how about this:

    Ephesians 6:10-18
    King James Version (KJV)
    10 Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might.
    11 Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.
    12 For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.
    13 Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.
    14 Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness;
    15 And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace;
    16 Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked.
    17 And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God:
    18 Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints;
    -Question: When are we getting fitted for our armor duder? Should we pull our swords out of the closet?
    Obviously, I kid. The point I’m trying to make is that there are literal and figurative messages in the Word. I think we would both agree that Paul uses figurative language using Roman armor to push his point home in the scripture above. Which sucks because I think I’d look awesome in some armor. Oh well.

    1 Corinthians 1:23
    English Standard Version (ESV)
    23 but we preach* Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles,
    -Question: Does the word “preach” mean building a crucifix in a place of worship?
    *From Strong’s:
    Of uncertain affinity; to herald (as a public crier), especially divine truth (the gospel): – preach (-er), proclaim, publish.

    1 Corinthians 15:56
    English Standard Version (ESV)
    56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law.
    -Question: Are we still bound to follow the law?

    Matthew 5:17-20
    English Standard Version (ESV)
    Christ Came to Fulfill the Law
    17 “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. 18 For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. 19 Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. 20 For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.
    -Question: What is the law?

    Exodus 20:3-6
    King James Version (KJV)
    3 Thou shalt have no other gods before me.
    4 Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth.
    5 Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me;
    6 And shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments.
    -Questions: Did Jesus, fully man and fully God, once dwell amongst us? Didn’t He come from heaven before he was conceived? Didn’t he accend back into heaven? Where is He now?

    -But that’s just in the Old Testament, right?
    Acts 17:29
    English Standard Version (ESV)
    29 Being then God’s offspring, we ought not to think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone, an image formed by the art and imagination of man.

    Romans 1:22-23
    English Standard Version (ESV)
    22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools, 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.

    2 Corinthians 5:7
    English Standard Version (ESV)
    7 for we walk by faith, not by sight.

    Romans 10:17

    English Standard Version (ESV)
    17 So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.

    Colossians 2:8
    King James Version (KJV)
    8 Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ.

    2 Timothy 4:3-4
    King James Version (KJV)
    3 For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears;
    4 And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.
    -Question: Is it possible that some of what is taught as church tradition and doctrine are merely fables?

  36. @Carl H #37

    “Christ suffered and died for you,” but, “Christ suffered and died because of you.”

    That is too bad they avoid the imagery because of this. Because both ARE true at the same time. That is what I see when I look at a crucifix — both Law and Gospel. That is exactly what the Church is about. It’s kind of like the thief on the cross who believed. He didn’t have much to go on, but he believed Christ, acknowledged it, and eternal life was granted to him.

  37. “The theology of glory is a Calvinist invention preferred by the Methabapticosals.”


    The “Theology of Glory” was best epitomized by the Roman Catholic scholastic theologians such as Aquinas.

    It it thoroughly and utterly a doctrine of human-centered works righteousness.

    This heretical error by Rome was the CAUSE of the reformation. Please re-read the Heidelberg Disputation!

    It is currently espoused as “infallible” doctrine by the Roman Church.

    It was re-endorsed by the Council of Trent which has not been repealed or renounced by Rome to this day.

    Roman Catholic theologians always talk in terms of “cooperation”, “synergy” and you “earning merit” to “make yourself holy” with God or Christ as being an inactive spectator in the processor of salvation (Christ as maybe a point guard who passes you the ball as you, the star of the show, score the winning points in the game of salvation!). Yes, Christ’s suffering is talked about but only as “good example” for you to follow as you “work” your way up the ladder of glory to heaven!

    The Roman theology is thoroughly that of Glory and semi-pleigian (which Luther denounced clearly and mightly).

    The on-going “Theology of Glory” as espoused by Romanism is being vocally promoted by the most recent Popes who claim that you can be saved without belief in Christ but by “trying to be good” or “following ones conscience” (probably just need a bit more time in Purgatory to perfect one’s self…..). We can see this in action as the current Pope is “reaching out” to other “Christ less Christian” leaders like Kenneth Copeland:

    Bottom line, its a huge historical error to NOT accurately identify Rome and its scholastic theologians as originators (and currently the biggest propagator of) the “Theology of Glory”.

  38. @RJ #43
    I was going to point out the anachronism of that statement, but it doesn’t mean it’s not true. Calvinism, Arminianism and the RC semi-Pelagianism are all the theology of glory. But that theology doesn’t begin with Rome, either. Neither does it begin with the doctrine of the Parisees, or of Ahab and Jezebel/the sin of Jeroboam, or the golden calf, or even Cain. It begins in Eden, of course. The problem with all of it is that each version places “me” above God. I don’t think it’s a *huge* historical error. Just a minor one, easily corrected. As I’ve said many times, Methodists are just sloppy RC’s.

  39. @Rev. David Mueller #44




    noun: anachronism; plural noun: anachronisms

    1. a thing belonging or appropriate to a period other than that in which it exists, especially a thing that is conspicuously old-fashioned. An act of attributing a custom, event, or object to a period to which it does not belong.”

    Pastor Mueller –

    With all due respect, the statement is not an “anachronism” it is factually incorrect.

    It is false and misleading history.

    It is also reckless and dangerous in that, by omission and false diversion, absolves the chief purvevory of this error (the Roman Catholic Church) of its complicicy in codifing into bad doctrine and teaching via its soclastic theologians. It also excuses the Roman Church’s and its leader’s (Pope) current role as the chief purvevor of the “theology of glory” in the world today. It is the main institution that perpetuates it within both the visible church and the world today.

    This is why Luther identified the instiutional Roman Chruch (and specifically the office of the Pope) as being ther representation of the Anti-Christ on earth (a declaration that is stood by in the governing documents of the LCMS by the way) because, as you rightly point out, it is totally antithetical to the notion of salvation by action of God through Christ.

    Your assertions are of course theologically and biblically correct that the “theology of glory” is the default position of “human reason” (human nature of the old adam) since the Garden. But since this point was already correctly addressed and brought out by other commentors (see comment #9 for example) I saw no reason to restate this theological observation.

    And, since this article goes to into a lot of detail to indentify the historical roots and current propigators of the theology of glory this error of historical fact is not a minor or trival as it will cause a great many who may read this to come to gravely erroreous conclusions as real major perpetuators of this (theology of glory) in our times (the papcy and the Roman Church).

  40. @RJ #45
    As they still use the Western liturgy, RC worship will almost always be more cruciform and cross-focused than any Protestant or EO service out there. For all our identification of the office of the Papacy as the anti-Christ, Luther still said: “I would rather drink blood with the papists, than mere wine with the Zwinglians.”

    This might all come down to how many rat feces your willing to accept in your corn flakes, and we all prefer to have no rat feces in our corn flakes, but I’d still prefer 5 to 50.

    Easter Blessings+,
    -Matt Mills

    If you’re going to be a stickler on terms, you might want to make sure you haven’t misspelled “scholastic” first.

  41. @Matt Mills #46

    Matt –

    This is not a “term” issue but a factual issue.

    The historical facts stated were not true.

    It is significant. It is not “nit-picking” a minor terminology issue but rather it points out a significantly misleading error in attribution of the cause and accountability for this problem.

    It leads to the reader to erroneous conclusions about an issue that is of eternal significance and who is the major culprit in leading the church astray.

    Sorry, but the fact that the RCs have crosses/crucifixes hanging everywhere, pictures of Christ everywhere, talk about suffering a lot (theirs, the saints and Christ), & even use large aspects of historical liturgies does not make them anything other then what they are: the chief practitioners and purveyors of the theology of glory. Yes, the RCs point at the cross, gesture, chat, venerate, remind you a lot about what a great example Christ is for us to emulate in our quest for “personal holiness”, and even talk in great detail about the suffering of Christ a lot but they never actually GIVE Christ to anyone as the free and unconditional gift of God for the forgiveness of sins so they are thoroughly theologians of glory not theologians of the cross.

    Also, please don’t generalize an outward appearance that corresponds in visual appearance and sometimes even in word as being true worship in spirit and truth.

    As far as RC worship goes, you also might recall that Luther equated it to a “highjacked shipped”. It had all the trappings and appearances of a legitimate vessel but since it was highjacked and being sailed into the rocks by a pirate captain and his crew (which was looting and abusing the captive passengers) it was still pirate ship and therefore fraudulent. The fact that their grave theological errors are masked in the trappings of the true church can arguably be said to be of greater danger as it better disguised from the more visible errors of the Kenneth Copelands of the world. Luther said that it was possible for one to be save in a RC Church but only if one truly ignored all their bad teachings and rules. That is why he speculated that for hundreds of years prior to the reformation the “scholastic” (since you like that spelling!) theology of the Rome caused the true church on earth to consist only of baptized infants and persons of intelligence so limited as to be classified today (using politically correct terms) as being “learning disabled”.

    Nor would I be so willing to lump so many Protestant groups as obviously being the greater evil of the two (particularly when one group currently numbers 1.1 Billion and demands unconditional obedience to its human leadership). For instance, if you read many of the writings of John Wesley it equates much more closely to the theology of the cross then anything currently being dogmatically and infallibly proclaimed by the RC Church and its leader.

    Particularly when you make statements to the effect that God will respect and save anyone who is “trying to do good” or “following their conscience”. This is short hand for saying you are saved by what you do (following the law) not what Christ did (the cross). Christ and the cross are not needed in this theology.

    Please review this diagram that outlines how RC theology and worship work in practice and tell me exactly where Christ, the cross and God’s action are even mentioned or being the sole means of your salvation:

    I also hope that I have met the critical spelling and grammar check too (probably not since it is pretty late now and I am very tired) as if I failed this all other points I made must certainly be null and void as well – so feel free to ignore and belittle them because of a misspelled word or mangled phrase!

  42. Really, what is a good reason to NOT have a corpus on the cross? It is our universal Christian symbol and identity.

  43. Really, what is a good reason to NOT have a corpus on the cross?

    Well, because ‘the strife is over, the battle won’, Dave. The body of Christ is not there and will never be there again. TO keep his body on the cross is to freeze redemption in one particular place and time. Not quite the whole story, eh?

    But I know how many of my fellow Lutherans love them some ‘romish’ window-dressing. It is so cool and authentic and old. Some of our ‘priests’ LONG for the same wicked power the men of Rome had over the souls in their churches.

    BTW..thanks, RJ for the excellent and pointed posts. This is a battle you cannot win with most Lutherans, however. RC, Orthodox and Lutherans are the only true Christians. Every one else is a Zwinglist. Your typing errors prove it! So there.

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