So, what did Jesus do between his death on Good Friday and his Resurrection on Sunday morning? The early church had a line in the earliest known creed, the Apostles Creed, which reads “He descended into hell,” according to the 1662 version of the Book of Common Prayer, the version familiar to most English readers.
Most Christians who affirm this creed, and believe it, recite this line without thinking much about what it means. Other Christians refuse to recite this part of the creed, believing that this line is not in alignment with the Bible. So, what’s story with the whole “descended into hell” stuff? Is it in the Bible or is it not?
The CredoHouse, out of Oklahoma, develops fantastic educational resources geared to help average Christians gain a handle on advanced theological concepts. I highly recommend them for use in adult Sunday School classes. In this 3-minute video snippet, Michael Patton, the lead instructor at the Credo House, does a great job succinctly tackling the subject that would probably take hours to sufficiently unpack.
The key controversial verses behind the “He descended into hell” clause are mainly Acts 2:31, 1 Peter 4:6, and 1 Peter 3:18-20, leading many Christians to traditionally believe in the so-called “Harrowing of Hell,” when Jesus preached to the souls that died previously to the appearance of Christ upon the stage of world history. Listen to how Michael Patton summarizes other various viewpoints.
John’ s recent post on William Lane Craig’s Defender Series of podcasts brought to mind that I should update my list of recommended podcasts for the thinking Christian (here is an earlier list John and I have discussed). I do not have the time to read books as much as I would like, but the marvel of MP3 players is that I can download audio files and listen to them while I work in the yard or drive to and from work.
John’s suggestion of William Lane Craig as the “graduate school” for the next step following after Dick Woodward’s Mini Bible College is very appropriate. Dick was an amazing teacher who continues to impact the world through his unique ability to “put things on the bottom shelf” for people by exploring the basic contours of the Bible. Dr. Craig then makes it more in-depth in terms of helping you grasp and develop your own understanding of God (theology) founded on Scripture and then applied in terms of being able to offer a rational defense of the Christian faith (apologetics).
But just as there are fine and different academic graduate schools out there, there are different “graduate school” approaches to theology and apologetics. For example, Dr. Craig is probably one of the leading Christian apologists alive today, such that atheist Richard Dawkins awkwardly still refuses to debate him. But Dr. Craig is known for his “Middle Knowledge” approach to the issue of God’s sovereignty vs. free will. He is also known for his classical/evidentialist approach to apologetics. Without digging too much into those things right now, let me just say that not everybody is totally with Dr. Craig on these issues. But, PLEASE, do not let that dissuade you from digging into William Lane Craig! He is awesome! It is just important to know that there are other approaches that Christians take to these issues. You might want to check out some of the other podcast resources available to get a flavor of what is out there. So here we go!