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Ask the Pastor

† Theological musings and answers to selected questions by a confessional Lutheran pastor.






20 August 2005

Crucifixes in Church


Q: Why is the Crucified Christ not shown or displayed on the cross in the Lutheran Church?

Giunta Pisano CrucifixA: Actually, in many Lutheran Churches it is. However, from the beginning of the Reformation to the present, there’s been discussion and sometimes violent arguing as to the appropriateness of this display.

Luther and the reformers who worked with him were not out to remove crucifixes or other religious statuary and art from the churches. This was done more by others. Much of the disagreement stemmed different understandings of how the admonition against graven images was to be interpreted. The commandments were given as part of God’s Covenant with Israel. The New Testament made by Christ contains no such prohibitions. Perhaps God allowed the change because no longer was he spirit only, but in his Son now had a specific, human form and substance.

Another reason for the change is tied up with an unfortunate tendency to automatically discard anything perceived as “too Catholic.” Since the Roman Church uses crucifixes, many Lutherans, following along with the knee-jerk anti-Catholicism of American Protestantism, began discarding them or not building them into their newer churches.

You can see that many older Lutheran churches in the U.S. still have crucifixes while many that were built in the past fifty years do not. However, this trend seems to be changing and the crucifix is again becoming more a part of Lutheran liturgical architecture and art.

Send email to Ask the Pastor.

Walter Snyder is the pastor of Holy Cross Lutheran Church, Emma, Missouri and coauthor of the book What Do Lutherans Believe.

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