Most will agree that the Salvation Army is no different to many other denominations in being a multi-faceted organisation: a church, a charity, and a self-serving community for its members. Asking which activity is the most important has little value or meaning. But their choice of identification gives clues to the inner thoughts of the leadership.
Historically, the most visible emblem of the Army was the crest, shown on the right, and this is full of wonderful symbolism:
- Central to the crest is a Latin Cross, representing the Crucifixion of Jesus, and since there is no corpus, is also represents his resurrection.
- The cross is intertwined with a large "S", representing the Salvation from sin through the sacrifice of Jesus.
- Behind the cross and "S" are two crossed swords, representing the fight taken up by the Army's soldiers in their battle against evil.
- The legend "Blood and Fire" refers to the blood shed by Jesus for our sins and the fire of the Holy Spirit.
- Encircling sun rays depict the fire of the Holy Spirit which surrounds the world.
- Seven 'salvos' in the lower part of the blue ring reflect the Truth of the Gospel.
- The crown symbolises the sovereignty of Jesus, and the five stars on the crown represent the five wounds suffered on the cross.
- Blue symbolises the holiness of God the Father, red symbolises the blood of Jesus the Son, and yellow symbolises the fire of the Holy Spirit. These colours are repeated in the Army flag.
The above nicely describes the aims of the Salvation Army, as envisaged by its founder, William Booth, in 1865. But like other denominations, as the organisation has grown, the doctrine has been overshadowed by the religion itself. This is clearly evident in the current logo, which dispenses with all the earlier symbolism to give focus only to the organisation's name.
The shield symbolises shelter and yet it is a curious choice because a shield is a device to protect and to defend against attack; quite the opposite of the fighting message of William Booth. Nevertheless, we are not to judge. It is the Army's logo, and they have every right to choose whatever logo they wish.