I'm not a Catholic, but I've been aware since I was little that Catholics will "Cross" themselves. Early on I felt like I shouldn't copy it as it always had been portrayed in tv/film as something ritualistic or superstitious. But now that I understand some of the Catholic's reasoning, I'm wondering if there is any doctrine in protestantism that addresses why you shouldn't do it, or is it simply because we don't want to imitate Catholicism?

Catholic brethren please feel free to talk about the reasons why it should be done, in the comments.

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    Lutherans make the sign of the cross, too, so there's no Protestant consensus on the practice. – StackExchange saddens dancek Oct 2 '11 at 13:13
  • I recall something about the Cossacks crossing themselves in the other direction. – TRiG Oct 2 '11 at 18:04
  • Yes, as I understand it, the Orthodox church crosses themselves opposite to the Catholic church. – Narnian Nov 7 '12 at 13:30
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    I make it a point to never be cross. – fгedsbend Jul 16 '15 at 16:27

There is no prohibition against using the sign of the cross as a Protestant. Yet, there is no Biblical command to use it either. The same is true of closing your eyes when you pray, and even praying before meals.

Yet, the sign of the Cross, as I understand it, is used at the close of prayers. We are commanded to pray in the Name of Jesus, but not that of the Father and the Holy Spirit.

"Until now you have asked nothing in my name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full." John 16:24 ESV

However, we are commanded to baptize in the Name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

"Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in[a] the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit." Matthew 28:19 ESV

So, praying in the Name of the Father, Son, and Spirit actually seems to be somewhat contrary to the command of Jesus. We pray in the name of Jesus and we pray to the Father. Adding the name of the Father and Holy Spirit is, again, not specified in Scripture, so it's likely just a tradition of men.


Consequently, a reasonable conclusion to draw is that if we are commanded to pray in the name of Jesus and not in any other name, including that of the Father and the Spirit, then that is probably what we ought to do. Had God wanted us to pray in the name of the Father and of the Holy Spirit in addition to the name of Jesus, it seems He would have mentioned that when He told us to pray in the name of Jesus.

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  • +1 because you are the only one to give a reason protestants shouldn't do this, and thus the only one to answer the question. However, this does not necessarily mean I agree with you. After all when Jesus told His disciples what to pray in the Lord's prayer, He didn't end in "In Jesus' name amen" either. But I defiantly appreciate the effort. – 2tim424 May 30 '13 at 2:09

I don't think there's any harm in making the sign of the cross. I don't think we could equate it with the type of superstition that equates to idolatry or occultism. (I'm sorry if that sounds offensive to anyone who practices it. Please read on, and you'll see I don't mean to offend.)

It's definitely meant as a Christian gesture for the Catholics and the other denominations that did or still do practice it.

I think that if you're a protestant that is not in a denomination that practices it, you should not practice it. Not because it's wrong, or for Scriptural reasons but because there's really no good motive to do so and because it just plain shows common decency to respect the traditions of others, so long as they are not anti-Christian, or anti-God.

To do it flippantly would seem to dishonor it and could prove offensive to those who hold it as important. As a Baptist, I imagine I'd get annoyed if a bunch of Catholics went down to the beach and held dunking-style baptisms just to do it. To me, baptism is very symbolic, and an important rite. Not that it saves you or anything, but it's not something to be made fun of. For those that make the sign of the cross, I'd imagine it's the same.

Since there is no scriptural prohibition against it, and it's important to some, I'd say that we should just keep our silence, and show respect for their beliefs and practices, as we'd hope they'd have respect for ours.

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  • Thanks for your answer. I definitely don't think anyone should do it(or anything else) flippantly, that would be sacrilegious. I'm only asking if there is a doctrinal reason, that doing it with understanding and in proper context, it is objectionable. For example there a few doctrinal reasons as to why one shouldn't display a crucifix instead of an empty cross. So I'm wondering if it's just because it's not a tradition with most protestants, or if there is a real doctrinal objections to the practice. – 2tim424 Oct 3 '11 at 5:58

Based on my personal experience as a lifelong Roman Catholic, I offer the following brief insight. First, the sign of the cross is just the that: the sign of the CROSS, the cross upon which Christ's blood was spilled in atonement for our sins and to redeem us. That's powerful in and of itself.

Second, in a Catholic mass, when the sign of the cross is made, accompanying it is usually the phrase, "In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit." Obviously, that is an affirmation of the Trinity, a doctrine to which Christians of many traditions subscribe.

Third, when we make the sign of the cross, we often refer to it as "blessing yourself." You are invoking God's blessing and protection. There is also one place in the mass where we trace the sign of the cross on our foreheads, then on our lips and finally over our hearts. This is connected to the Old Testament scripture (and practice of the Jews) praying, "May the thoughts in my mind, the words on my lips and the meditations of my heart be acceptable to You, my God and my Redeemer." As you can see, there is nothing whatsoever superstitious about it. If you look at it not in a denominational context, it seems to have intrinsic worth for all Christians.

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  • Hi Andy and welcome to our Christianity Q&A site! I removed the phrase "true Christians" because it conflicts with the way our site works. I found the rest of the answer extremely helpful and it really gives me some insight into the Catholic tradition. Thanks! – Jon Ericson Nov 7 '12 at 18:49
  • Thanks, I just wanted to be clear I don't think it's superstitious, but that's the way it has been portrayed. I've been hearing allot about the mystics(such as St. Francis) from before the reformation, and they certainly weren't doing it superstitiously when they performed miracles. I was just curious if Protestants had any theological objections since most do not do this. I'm sure you realize that there are protestants out there that despise anything catholic for no good reason at all, but at the same time there are valid theological issues too. I'm just trying to discern which is which. – 2tim424 Nov 7 '12 at 21:13

Catholics and Orthodox followers cross themselves. If you are a Protestant you can do it, just recite what Catholics call 'Et Nomine' in your language (but not in toungues!)

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