Correcting Taylor Marshall

Mr. Marshall has a post up at the Roman communion blog, “Called to Communion,” which he titled, “John Piper on “Correcting” the Apostles Creed“. Both Piper and Grudem think that the phrase, “he descended into hell” is either confusing or wrong and that it would make sense to omit it from recitations of the Apostles’ Creed.

After expressing sorrow and suggesting that they get their ideas from an anabaptistic, anti-credal tradition (nothing like poisoning the old well!), Marshall states:

There are potentially a number of errors here. One is that Christ Himself did not have a human soul. Many Protestants, without knowing it, do not believe that Christ has a human soul. They instead believe that Christ has a human body but that His deity serves as the animating principle of His body. Hence, when Christ died, His deity was naturally in Heaven. The conclusion is that He would have skipped Hell entirely.

Does Marshall really think that either Piper or Grudem falls into this category of people who deny Christ’s true humanity? It’s hard to see this comment as anything other than a straw man.

Marshall continues:

On the other end of the spectrum is the heretical doctrine of Calvin that states that Christ literally descended into the Gehenna of the damned in order to receive the full punishment of sin. This is contrary to Scripture, contrary to the Fathers, and contrary to orthodox Christology. {Read: Calvin’s Worst Heresy: That Christ Suffered in Hell}.

The link is to a most ill-informed post (by the same inimitable – and who would want to – Taylor Marshall). The linked article is an exercise in demonstrating Mr. Marshall’s inability to understand what he reads.

In any event, Calvin expounds at length on the article “he descended into hell,” in his Institutes (link). In that section, Calvin evaluates a number of options, and ultimately concludes that Christ suffered the pains of hell on the cross, and consequently “descended into hell” in that way. In fact, Calvin makes it quite clear to someone with better reading skills than Mr. Marshall:

Hence there is nothing strange in its being said that he descended to hell, seeing he endured the death which is inflicted on the wicked by an angry God. It is frivolous and ridiculous to object that in this way the order is perverted, it being absurd that an event which preceded burial should be placed after it.

If the rest of the section was unclear, this one at least should have popped out to Mr. Marshall before he started writing his post back in 2009, much less before he repeated his false accusation now. It was not after death, but before it that Christ (per Calvin) endured hell. Thus, Calvin did not teach that Christ’s soul went to the Gahenna of the damned, as Marshall alleges.

Indeed, Professor R.F. White gently corrected Marshall back in 2009 (link), but perhaps a sterner rebuke is in order, since he has not only failed to correct his original post, but has continued the false accusation.

Skipping to the end of Marshall’s post, it was amusing to find his comment:

PS: It is Catholic tradition that the 12 Apostles wrote the Apostles Creed. There are 12 lines in the Apostles Creed and each Apostle contributed a line. It was Saint Philip, according to pious tradition who added “He descended into Hell.”

Whether such tradition is “pious” or not, the line “he descended into Hell” is a later addition. Calvin mentions this fact in his Institutes, and Grudem spends a significant, some might say exorbitant, amount of space in his Systematic Theology demonstrating the same thing. It’s one of a myriad of “pious” fables that are Rome’s stock in trade.


9 Responses to “Correcting Taylor Marshall”

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