Every Day Is Father’s Day For Christians

20140615-084429-31469179.jpgQ. 26. What do you believe you when thou say, “I believe in God the Father, Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth”?

That the eternal Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who of nothing made heaven and earth with all that in them is, who likewise upholds and governs the same by His eternal counsel and providence, is for the sake of Christ, His Son, my God and my Father, in whom I so trust, as to have no doubt that He will provide me with all things necessary for body and soul; and further, that whatever evil He sends upon me in this vale of tears, He will turn to my good; for He is able to do it, being almighty God, and willing also, being a faithful Father.

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  1. I have a problem with the Apostles’ Creed. Jesus never descended into Hell. I rather like the extended discussion by Turretine which is never seen by the average church attender. I refuse to state that phrase when we recite this in church.

  2. Richard,

    In case you’re unaware of the Westminster Larger Catechism’s interpretation:

    Question 50: Wherein consisted Christ’s humiliation after his death?

    Answer: Christ’s humiliation after his death consisted in his being buried, and continuing in the state of the dead, and under the power of death till the third day; which has been otherwise expressed in these words, he descended into hell.

    • David,

      I know and having seen Turretine’s treatment of this, I am of the opinion that since most, even Presbyterian churches are not that faithful in teaching the Larger Catechism, this will remain a sticking point. If we don’t teach our people what this humiliation consisted of and such words as catholic meaning universal then we bring about a state of confusion and uncertainty in the congregation. This is just after the pastor mildly scolded the congregation for living on milk and not meat! I should have worded my objection better with a context. Creeds and confessions and catechisms are the basis for congregational teaching, discipleship, and mentoring.

    • I did not find the argument compelling. Here is John Piper’s exegesis of some of the passages: http://www.desiringgod.org/blog/posts/did-jesus-spend-saturday-in-hell–2

      The oldest extant version comes from Bishop Marcellus of Ancyra (ca. A.D. 337), and it does not contain the clause about descending into hell. Scholars call this version “The Old Roman Form”—the earliest creed of the Roman church.

      This link gives Turretine’s discussion of the phrase: http://www.apuritansmind.com/puritan-favorites/francis-turretin/the-descent-into-hades/

      Given all this, I personally must reject this phrase as being theologically indefensible, exegetically disproven, and historically unsupportable.

    • Hyde has a rather full discussion of how both phrases “and was buried,” and “he descended into hell,” originating from different directions (and probably languages) in the Empire and having the same essential (original) meaning, came to sit side by side in the Creed.

      On the one hand, we can put a proper construction on a retained phrase of the most ancient, catholic, and cosmopolitan Creed, that firmly anchors us in the historic church, and asserts our (superior) right to the heritage of church history.

      Or, we could just deny our right and duty to accept who we are in historic terms, and attempt a radical reboot–this was the ethos of the Anabaptists and those of their ilk.

      Even on an erroneous reading, the historic phrasing doesn’t directly attack the gospel. If we alter the apostolic Symbol, simply to be ornery (and stricter than thou), we needlessly encourage powerful enemies of Christ in ecclesiastical garb. And we open yet another avenue for the accusation of schism.

      The Reformers were wiser to retain the words, and teach the truth.

    • Richard, thanks for the Turretin link. But he doesn’t reject the phrase. His conclusion: “Thus by the descent into hell may be understood the extreme degree of Christ’s suffering and humiliation, both as to soul and body; and as the lowest degree of humiliation as to the body was its detention in the sepulchre, so as to the soul were those dreadful torments he felt. And thus this last article will be apposite for expressing the last degree of Christ’s humiliation, whether as to disgrace of body or as to anguish of soul.”

      • Q. 44. Why is there added, “he descended into hell”?

        A. That in my greatest temptations, I may be assured, and wholly comfort myself in this, that my Lord Jesus Christ, by his inexpressible anguish, pains, terrors, and hellish agonies, in which he was plunged during all his sufferings, but especially on the cross, has delivered me from the anguish and torments of hell.

  3. So really it all boils down to whether the congregation is properly taught the signification of such “metaphorical” language since “in which he was plunged during all his sufferings, but especially on the cross,…” The reason why I have pointed this out is that I have observed a significant level of dissonance in Presbyterian churches where the catecheisms and confessions are simply given lip service.
    On a historical note, I don’t understand why the Cross-work of Christ needs to be shackled to a dubious Roman Catholic doctrine which can and has been linked to the teaching of purgatory. As a convert from Roman Catholicism I often wonder what ever happened to always reforming? At this point my concern is whether or not this particular phrase is binding for those of us who are converted from R. Catholicism and hence find this particular piece of teaching a real stumbling block. I cannot go against conscience and scripture. Nowhere in scripture can this phrase be defended no matter what “spin” it is given by catechism or church ordinance.

    • No one should speak against his conscience. However, that limit should not prevent a person from learning and embracing a true doctrine, though it may use terms he once associated with falsehoods he now heartily rejects. Our Confessions and Catechisms teach the proper doctrine using language that has been reclaimed from vandals.

      As a matter of historical import, during the Christological controversies, it was the Arians who kept pouring their own meaning into “strict” biblical terminology and language (which they were most insistent should be alone confessed). The orthodox knew they were fudging whenever they would agree to such terms at Nicaea.

      It took agreement by the orthodox on an extra-biblical term ὁμοούσιος (of the same/identical substance)–which term was previously used and possibly coined by Gnostics–to pin the Arians down to a fundamental disagreement. To force them to say what they meant, by which the orthodox found them out of accord with the meaning of Scripture.

      There will be no form of words, not even Scripture itself, that false teachers cannot pervert to an inconsistent meaning.

      • Here is more grist for the mill: http://www.calledtocommunion.com/2012/04/john-piper-on-correcting-the-apostles-creed/
        These types of arguments are why as a convert from Roman Catholicism, I most strenuously reject the line that Christ descended into Hell.
        The issue that Bruce brings up is a different argument and is irrelevant for our discussion here. An excellent discussion on the Person of Logos can be found in W. G. T. Shedd. Both sides on this issue are debating on how the doctrine of the Trinity should be worked out. The issue of the Apostle’s Creed where the line that Christ descended into Hell is different because it was a belief that was inherited and the Reformers were loath to get rid of it.
        Respectfully, with my brothers in Christ here I must disagree for I remain unconvinced. This “doctrine” is not taught in scripture, explicitly or implicitly which can be drawn by inference and etc.

        • Here is a couple of verses. First of all quoting Piper, “did Jesus spend a Saturday in Hell? Additionally, these verses are not inconsistent with the Larger Catechism or the Heidelberg C.

          1) Here are statements Christ made in Luke 23: “Assuredly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise” (v. 43) and “Father, into Your hands I commit My spirit” (v. 46). While our Savior was suffering on the cross, He anticipated His arrival in Paradise that same day, immediately upon His death.

          2) Christ’s statement, “It is finished!” (John 19:30). Christ had no need to make a supposed trip to Hades to release the godly deceased since their salvation was now secure because of His substitutionary death.

    • My point, re. the orthodox’s use in a positively assertive way of a previously “heretical” term, is quite suitable to address particular claims made in the thread, namely that a certain word or phrase cannot be defended in Scripture, which has been previously used to promote an error (alas, what will decent people think?).

      Well, starting with the Nicene Creed we have that very thing, so it isn’t a strong claim to assert the illegitimacy and unhelpfulness of re-framing an understanding of Apostles’ Creed language.

      When you further realize that the Roman (as even the Lutherans continue to confess) understanding of the phrase “descended into hell,” isn’t even the original intent of the creedal language (!), it is obvious that the Reformed clarifications and corrections are doubly necessary.

      “Buried” and “descended into hell (or hades/sheol, i.e. the abode of the dead)” were originally equivalent phrases, they taught the SAME TRUTH. As a single form of the Creed emerged, people who no longer or never had recognized the equivalence simply incorporated both. And then, the latter more picturesque statement went in search of both another meaning, and biblical support.

      The question remains: can (or should) the phrase be retained? Its use, despite the errors of interpretation foisted on it, is ancient and venerable for that reason. That is partial support for retaining it. (Perhaps we should then adopt the original meaning, and drop the now-superfluous “he was buried”?)

      A better reason for retaining it was conceived by the Reformers. Instead of a poor reinterpretation of the original meaning, adopted by the Medieval church (and kept by the Lutheran reformers); it was thought wiser to invest the phrase with meaning that conveyed important Christian doctrine that all true believers of every age would gladly confess. Hence, Heidelberg Cat. 44.

      So, the Reformed undid a poor and ultimately false reinterpretation of the original meaning; kept the phrase out of respect for a venerable “form of sound words;” and reinterpreted it once again, only this time in a pure and accurate way.

      Be silent when it is confessed, if you must. But please also do not impute error of doctrine or duplicity of motive to those who declare it aloud in the spirit of their Reformation identity and doctrine. That is simply uncharitable, and unworthy of you.

      Lastly, the claim that the Reformers were just “wimps” when it came to this point, and whether or not to keep it was purely pragmatic, fails the fact-test. We hear the same nonsense when it comes to the matter of infant-baptism, that the Reformers (Luther, Calvin, Bullinger, et al) were just wishy-washy on the matter.

      • Bruce,

        Other than the last two paragraphs, above, much of your argument is still a rather tortuous defense of a creedal statement that has a checkered history that unfortunately got included in the Heidelberg catechism and Larger Catechism. In the final analysis it does not matter how one goes about defending the inclusion of the statement. It does matter when the Heidelberg and Larger catechisms are given lip service and no explanation or real teaching takes place or worse these catechisms are no longer considered even worth the effort of learning and memorizing. Interestingly enough what scripture references are used to support the phrase that Christ descended into Hell? Once again, I have seen no credible exegesis to support the arguments made by you (or anyone else for that matter) in support of even this phrase’s metaphorical meaning (since a literal rendering is absurd and insupportable in the New Testament). I have provided two to show that indeed “it is finished” and “this day you will be in paradise with me.”
        Lastly, concerning your last two paragraphs, where have I imputed anything to those who wish to declare this statement? Also, the Reformers were not perfect and differed in their attempts to interpret this statement. They were not wimps – I never said that – but they had baggage – many of them were Roman Catholics – but I will not speculate as to their motivation. Lastly, I never brought up the doctrine of infant baptism and I object to my concerns being linked to “nonsensical” arguments made about infant baptism. This guilt by association and I think unworthy of you. Let’s agree to disagree.

    • Richard,
      Yes, we will agree to disagree. That’s fine. All along I intended to be gracious in my dissent from the stance you took, since I’m pastorally concerned with anyone who has issues similar to yours. It is a pity that Romanists managed to twist such phrasing into a kind of (odd) support for notions of purgatory.

      But this is a public forum, and I’m not simply challenging you. I’m pastorally concerned with a full spectrum of readers of this blog. I want to grant those with ears to hear it a substantial response to what is, honestly, a knee-jerk rejection of what is now a constituent element of the Reformed Faith, being written into our very Confessions. And defended from Scripture. It would be well for folks besides yourself to NOT have confidence in their teachers needlessly shaken.

      So my brother, please understand that the following is not specifically directed toward you, as if I was contradicting myself in the first line above and now seeking to persuade you. There are others who need the reply.

      Heidelberg 44 (in two printed versions available just this minute) defends its answer (which teaches/defends the terms you find objectionable) with the following texts:
      Mt.26:36-46; 27:45-46
      Ps.18:5-6; 116:3

      Note how not one of these texts is an appeal to, say 1Pet.3:19, which is used for example by Lutherans who retain the Medieval interpretation.

      The notion and even the language of “descent into Hades/Sheol/the grave” is not at all foreign to Scripture. The Psalm texts appealed to above are direct support. As Hebraism, we find the NT also using the same; note the quotation of Ps.16:10 in Act.2:27, n.b v31 (where Heb. Sheol is rendered Gk. Hades).

      The Reformed explain such texts as these not as a literal transit of the Son into Hell/Hades, as the “grave” concept is expanded into the permanent state of the dead for dead reprobates, cf. Lk.16:23, Ezk.31:16; Ps.55:15. Sheol is frequently rendered “grave” in the KJV, as in it’s first encounter, Gen.37:35, and all three other uses in Genesis. Sheol is the destination for those who “go down” (descend) into the literal earth, Num.16:30, where the physical and spiritual ideas are deliberately merged.

      Clearly, in the case of saints, their hope in Messiah and his eventual victory over the grave/Sheol means that they also triumph over it. But while they wait for his coming, that devouring maw looks terrible and permanent for all who go down (descend) to it as the common lot, Job.17:11-6, 1Sam.2:6; Is.38:18; Ps.6:5.

      So once again to be clear, the original meaning of the creedal phrase “he descended into hell,” was language reflective of the biblical use (OT & NT) of the terms Hades/Sheol to speak of the grave/place of the dead in general terms (though real permanence and lasting misery for the wicked was implied by the same language).

      Our Lord and Savior did descend to this grave; but that idea is clearly expressed in the previous phrase, “was buried.” But as the Confessions reappropriate and reinterpret the redundant phrase, they point not to the Lord’s grave, but to the cross where Christ experienced the full equivalent of Hell, in the sense of eternal death and wrath, for the sins of his people. What he experienced there WAS hell, that destiny belonging to every believer, but which not one of them will ever endure–not for a moment, even in the death of their body.

      • I just read Peter Martyr Vermigli on the Apostle’s creed and even he is not that convincing of the need to keep that phrase. Mine is not a knee jerk reaction but an argument for the removal of the phrase which is not necessary given what you say above. I have no problem with what is being communicated and the earlier versions of the Apostle’s creed does not have this phrase but did have crucified, dead, and buried. Frankly, I care deeply about what is being taught, along with the doctrine of the propitiation of God’s wrath brought about by the cross-work of Christ. Once again, I do not object to what you say in your defense – I hold to those exact same ideas – I just object to the redundant and potentially misleading statement of Christ’s descent into Hell.

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