First United Presbyterian Church

A Crucifix

What’s the difference between a cross and a crucifix? The cross is the symbol we’ve been looking at all through Lent this year, with our theme, “Lift High the Cross.” A crucifix is the cross, with the image of Jesus suffering crucifixion.

While the crucifix is often seen in Catholic Churches, it is less often encountered in a Presbyterian church like FUPC. This artwork is in the Witherspoon building.

The use (or avoidance) of crucifixes in Protestant churches stems from historical and theological differences between Protestantism and Catholicism.

Historical context

During the Protestant Reformation in the 16th century, reformers like John Calvin objected to the veneration of religious images, including crucifixes. They believed such practices detracted from the worship of God and could lead to idolatry.

Protestants emphasized a return to the Bible as the sole source of religious authority. They argued that the Bible didn’t explicitly endorse the use of crucifixes in worship.

Theology of the cross

As Presbyterians, we place greater emphasis on the resurrection of Jesus Christ as the ultimate symbol of His victory over death. The empty cross, devoid of Jesus’s figure, represents this triumph.

We also emphasize salvation through faith in Jesus’ sacrifice, rather than through veneration of the physical instruments of his crucifixion.

During Lent, we reflect more on the death and suffering of Jesus than we do at other times of the year, as we look forward with confidence to the Resurrection on Easter.

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