Friday, April 1, 2011

Descended into where? Hell, evil, and all sorts of things I never learned about.

10 adults from our church are preparing to be confirmed/affirm their baptisms on the Easter Vigil (the night before Easter). They have been in a class for the past year that I have, admittedly, packed a wee bit too much into. Last night, as we prepared to cover the 2nd article of the Apostle's Creed "I believe in Jesus" in 10 mins, we got off track and the conversation went to hell - literally.

We started talking about hell. Where did Jesus go when he died? Did he die and just lie there dead or did his life after death begin immediately. Is hell a real place that you can go to? Did he go into the hells on earth in some spiritual way and conquer them? What happened? I was feeling a wee bit over my head (can't we just talk about grace some more???).

And then, we started talking about evil. I mentioned a couple of times that I've known I was in the presence of evil (at a battered women's shelter working with someone in the addictive grip of abuse; at a church in Rwanda that was the site of a genocidal murder). Others had their own experiences (at a German concentration camp; the events of September 11).

I said, but we Lutherans don't talk much about evil in a spiritual form - we talk much more about its manifestations. Evil as it appears in war, poverty, addiction, death. We talk a lot about sin and believe it is critical to address sin head on. But we do less with evil. Which made one of the natural theologians in the class say: why not? Scripture is full of it, isn't it?

So, we have research to do:
1) Why did we replace "hell" with "dead" in the apostles creed. And just what is normative for Lutherans re: hell?
2) What role does spiritual warfare have in Lutheran theology? What is evil?

help???!!! I love learning! - Sarah


  1. I believe that using the word "dead" in the Creed is more aligned with the ancient understanding than the common understanding of "hell" as a place of eternal torment (an idea that is less Biblical, I think, and more of a medieval development).

    When you learn more, please share!

  2. This is a constant dialogue that pops up in my seminary journey-- I drive my classmates nuts, but I'm searching for these very questions.

    In my understanding (thus far) I think by translating the word as "dead," we include all who died before Jesus came... not just those trapped in (like Chris said) the medieval construct of "hell."

    Please share some of your further questions or discoveries! I'd love to hear how things progress for your class.


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