He Descended Into Hell
The phrase “he descended into hell” from the Apostles’ Creed is a challenge phrase insofar as it has been interpreted in many different ways. Whether it literally refers to Christ’s descent into Hell, merely refers to His burial in the Earth, or if it refers to a separation between the Father and the Son while Christ bore the sins of the world, there is not a consensus amongst Christians about how to understand it. Before neglecting it, believing it to be unbiblical, I would encourage a church to explore the various ways this phrase can be understood. While a congregation may view one interpretation as unbiblical, it is certainly possible another interpretation could satisfy the church’s reading of the phrase. In addition, because it is a difficult phrase, it ought to be approached with humility. The church for thousands of years has found it to be an important expression of Christian and biblical faith. If we find it to be unbiblical, we are presented with an opportunity to look at the way the Holy Spirit has taught His Church over the centuries in order to see if there is a deficiency in how we understand the Scriptures. Finally, while a congregation may find this phrase difficult, it is not up to the congregation to change the creed, removing phrases from it. The creed belongs to the whole body of believers and is not “up-for-grabs” by smaller communities of believers. Tampering with the creed without the consent of the whole church is to separate ourselves from the rest of the body of Christ, and church unity is an important element in the creed and an essential component of biblical teaching.