In The Church that Forgot Christ, Jimmy Breslin muses on the phrase “descended into hell,” and accuses the Catholic Church of taking it out of the Nicene Creed when he wasn’t looking. Of course, nothing of the sort occurred; he’s simply confusing the Apostle’s Creed with the Nicene Creed.
Yet I must admit I too missed that phrase when I joined the Catholic Church and learned the Nicene Creed. I had been familiar with the Apostle’s Creed from my Methodist days, and that phrase, “descended into hell,” spoke to me of the fierceness of Christ’s love. J. Preston Eby saw it as evidence of universalism: If Christ would be willing to descend into hell once (1 Pet 3:18-20), he asked, wouldn’t he be willing to do it again?
When I wrote before that “the Creed” is difficult for me, I meant the Nicene Creed. It was created specifically to re-shape the Gospel into an official belief system which would exclude many Christians. I find the Apostle’s Creed much more a description of the flavor of trust in Christ. There are actually only two words I have trouble with in the Apostle’s Creed, only and virgin. Only, because I sense the entire Creation is the Child of God, and because Jesus himself taught all to call God “our Father.” Virgin, because I see the Lord’s example as theosis, more than kenosis. The “resurrection of the body” isn’t a problem for me, since I never took it to mean “physical body,” but it strikes me that “the resurrection of the body and the life everlasting” is quite in harmony with the idea of reincarnation/rebirth, held by some early Christians. I would also translate *credo/pisteuo* as “trust,” since that’s a valid translation, and even as his brother said, it’s not about belief. (Jas. 2:19)
My statement of trust:
I trust in God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth.
And in Jesus Christ his Son our Lord; who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead, and buried; he descended into hell; the third day he rose again from the dead; he ascended into heaven, and sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty; from thence he shall come to judge the living and the dead.
I trust in the Holy Spirit; the holy catholic Church; the communion of saints; the forgiveness of sins; the resurrection of the body; and the life everlasting. Amen.