Theologians and groups on the right and left are pressing the churches to incorporate new religious symbols and discard old ones in order to reach out to contemporary culture, writes Christine Wicker in the Dallas Morning News (Nov. 16).
The most organized and well-known of the attempts to revise and discard traditional Christian symbols is the Jesus Seminar. The seminar was originally focused on uncovering the authentic actions and sayings of Jesus through historical scholarship but now it is venturing into developing a faith and rituals that reflect the new view of Christ.
Seminar founder Robert Funk is proposing that the more universal symbol of salt replace the cross as the central Christian symbol since Christ’s death and resurrection is viewed by seminar revisionists as unhistorical. In challenging the traditional view of an omnipotent God, Funk would use the image of light.
There is yet little evidence that the ideas of Funk and the Westar Institute, the sponsor of the Jesus Seminar, are influencing many churches. It is more common to see mainline churches keep the old symbols while also adding new ones. Wicker gives the example of churches using crosses with a multi-ethnic figure, a mural of a globe in which worshippers leave their handprint in paint to symbolize the sacredness of touch, and languages and images reflecting feminist and interfaith concerns.
“Even some evangelical churches are engaging new images and giving old ones less prominence,” according to Wicker. Megachurches, such as Willow Creek Community Church, have been known to discard the cross in order to reach the unchurched. One “postmodern” ministry allows worshippers to write their sins in a bowlful of sand and then wipe them away.