Sunday, April 11, 2010
Why not the cross?
I was asked about the cross as a religious symbol and why I thought it inappropriate. Here's my response:
When Christ described what He accomplished for us in His Atonement, He referred exclusively to the suffering in Gethsemane. (D&C 19: 15-19.) Therefore, in the Lord's own explanation, He used the suffering of Gethsemane as the exclusively to let us know the price He paid.
I know that among others, James Talmage and Bruce R. McConkie, have said that the suffering in Gethsemane was renewed on the cross. I have a different view, and I explain that in Come, Let Us Adore Him. I will not repeat that here. I expect that since this is my personal view, there will be many who do not share it with me. However, it is my view that the cross was the means of death; and His death became possible by what He went through in Gethsemane. Had He not been weakened through the ordeal in Gethsemane, He could not have died on the cross. But when He arrived at the cross, all that was left to accomplish was His death, while fulfilling the inspired, prophetic foretelling of the event in conformity with the 22nd Psalm.
The original Saints who belonged to the Primitive Church (New Testament Church) regarded the great symbol of Christ as the fish. That symbol was used in the first centuries following Christ. It was supplanted by Constantine. Constantine adopted the cross as a symbol for the new, Roman state religion which changed the Primitive Church into the new, Historic Christianity. It would undergo a name change to the Catholic Church (meaning Universal Church), then the Roman Catholic Church as it was entrenched as the state religion of the Roman Empire. It has also been referred to as the Holy Roman Empire. All those names are suitably descriptive. The adoption of the cross as a religious symbol for this new Historic Christianity, supplanting the earlier fish symbol, is one of the reasons I think it not appropriate. It symbolizes the change of Primitive Christianity into a new religious form significantly different from what it was when it began.
The cross symbolizes the newer form of the faith, which adopted many of the earlier Roman state myths and simply gave Christian names and references to them. The celebration of Sol Invictus mid-winter became the celebration of Christmas. Spring fertility rites, including use of the egg and rabbit symbols of fertility were converted into a "Christian" holiday of Easter. Local deities no longer hailed from Olympus, but semi-deified "Saints" could be prayed to just as the earlier veneration of local deities. The full panoply of changes would require books to explain, but for me these changes are symbolized by the adoption of the cross as the great symbol of the new Historic Christian movement. Hence the reason I think it inappropriate as a symbol for a restoration of Primitive Christianity.