Mark Driscoll’s Lies About the Apostles Creed

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I haven’t watched a Mark Driscoll video in so long because it’s like a drinking game: take a sip each time he makes something up, adds to history, or condemns another Christian denomination because they disagree with his interpretation.

Here’s a quote from one of his videos.

“The Apostles creed was a summary doctrinal statement put together by early Church Bible teachers and the original version did not say that Jesus went to “hell”. There was an edited version that came out in 400 A.D.”

Mark Driscoll is the pastor of Mars Hill Church in Seattle, WA. He’s a know-it-all, though he wouldn’t ever say it in those words. Instead he makes it his weekly routine to convince his audience that nobody is right except for him – and yet condemns the Catholic Church for claiming papal infallibility.

Out of the many videos on the internet of him picking apart doctrines, one will be hard pressed to locate one statement where he praises another for their interpretation and correct articulation of scripture/doctrine. His style is attractive to many. Having majored in Communication, he knows how to make people listen, and it works. Even though we might get mad at him, he is an effective voice.

But no matter the effective level of communication, it’s all a wash if it isn’t true. If the opposite were the case, Moses was in trouble.

This video of his is no exception. He takes a topic as easy to understand as “descended into hell” and turns it into a smug attack on the Apostles creed. It starts when he says that some of his audience recited the Apostles creed as children and were taught that Jesus went to “hell”.

Yes, the creed does say that “he descended into hell”. He thinks, though, based on recent teachers (e.g., “on TV”) that Jesus was going to the hell, as in the hell where damned people go.

That’s not what early Christians meant. To return the sarcasm to Mr. Driscoll, I am not sure if he knows this, but the Apostles didn’t speak English nor did any of the early Christians. Therefore, no matter what, none of the professors of the Apostles creed wrote or aurally confessed “he descended into ‘hell’”.

The Latin reads descendit ad inferos. In early English translations, inferos was “hell”, but it actually means the “place of the dead” or better yet, describes the place one is when buried. The Creed is only saying that Jesus was buried in the earth when it reads “was buried, he descended into hell.”

But Driscoll complicates this. For being such a “scholar” and having the responsibility of being a pastor, he clearly does little to dig into the understanding of this single line.

“Early Bible teachers”?

Were there such things as “early Bible teachers” when the creed was in use? Well, people couldn’t be teaching from a Bible that did not exist, yet. People like Mark Driscoll simply think or assume that the Bible was in use since the beginning of the Church. That is contrary to history and logic.

The FedEx van didn’t back up to the Upper Room on Pentecost and deliver copies of the Bible. The Bible was written over the course of decades and it took even longer for Christians to start discussing which books should be read during Mass or in a church at all. Further, it took a couple more centuries in order for the Church to determine which books would be included.

The Apostles Creed was replaced by the Nicene Creed, a product of the Council of Nicaea in A.D. 325, while the Bible was canonized in the later part of the 4th century. Therefore, when Mark Driscoll says that “early Bible scholars” were saying the Apostles creed, he ignores history. The Bible simply didn’t exist when the Apostles Creed was in use.

Further on Creeds, they were used in early Christianity for two purposes: interrogatory, and a profession of faith. As a tool of interrogation, early Christians would repeat one part of the creed, and the other would finish the sentence. It was like a password against infiltrators who sought the demise of Christians. For example:

Inquirer: “Do you believe in God?”
Seeker: “I believe in God the Father, who is almighty and creator of heaven and earth.”

Edited version that came out in 400A.D.?

He really has me confused here. By A.D. 400 the Church would have been in the preference of using the (then) 75 year old Nicene Creed. Not leaving it up to my own understanding, I sought to find what he was talking about to no avail. History books and internet searches of trusted sites provided nothing. I didn’t find anything close, trusted site or not.

“Edited”? If he has his dates wrong and is referring to the Nicene Creed, I still do not agree with him referring to it as an “edit”. Edits are used to make small corrections. While the general content of the two Creeds, Apostles and Nicene, are the same (Father, then Son, Spirit, the Church, and the Last Things), it hardly gets by to say one is an “edit” of the other. The Nicene Creed is comprehensive, where the Apostles Creed is very basic. One is like a draft document, the other being the full report.

People attack the Catholic Church for “making things up” all too frequently when here is a popular figure amongst their own, conjuring “facts”. Not to correct him, because he won’t read this, but for you, the reader, make sure you don’t fall for everything people say about the Church. Remember this is Christ’s bride and last time I checked He is faithful and would not lead His bride into heresy.

Shaun McAfee

Shaun McAfee

Shaun McAfee is a veteran of the Air Force and current civilian in the Army Corps of Engineers as a Contract Specialist. He blogs at Currently he is pursuing a Masters in Dogmatic Theology with Holy Apostles College and Seminary where he also serves as the Social Media Director. He also works for Patrick Madrid's Envoy Institute as the Social Media Administrator. A convert to Catholicism, he loves learning, explaining, sharing, and defending the faith. He is married and has two boys named Gabriel and Tristan. They live in Omaha, NE.

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6 thoughts on “Mark Driscoll’s Lies About the Apostles Creed”

  1. Avatar

    The title of this article accuses Mark Driscoll of lying about the Apostles’ Creed, but no supporting evidence is provided showing that Driscoll intended to deceive people. Perhaps he is a poor scholar, but can you show that he knows the truth and intentionally mistated it?

    Related to the substance of his remarks, the old Catholic Encyclopedia provides a good starting point for understanding which Creeds contained the descendit clause.

    1. Avatar

      to be fair, yes, the title was a little polemical. It’s not *necessarily* a lie. However, as a pastor, he shouldn’t be misleading his flock with stuff that isn’t true. This is but one case of many. Like the sermon he gave saying masturbation is okay. He is just so deceived.

  2. Avatar

    Excellent…although a cradle Catholic, I spent 35 years as an evangelical Christian of various stripes, 20 of those years within the Assemblies of God, and 12 of THOSE years as a licensed minister. The one thing in common with most evangelicals is the simple “ask Jesus into your heart” prayer to accept Him through Faith, and to then be pronounced “saved” 5 minutes later with no understanding whatsoever of what you just prayed, and to eventually, no hurry of course, later on be baptized as a sign of this personal faith rather than as an entry into it.

    How this fits into your article is this: We as Catholic Christians renew our baptismal vows and make them personal every Easter or hopefully more often, never being taught, as some such as his ilk would imply, to depend on infant baptism to “save” us, and we do so very thoroughly–how? By using the ultimate “sinner’s prayer–” we renounce (or turn away from) Satan, and towards God through the very creedal words Driscoll mocks here. Instead of depending on a 7.5 second prayer with no thought given to the doctrines we are supposed to be espousing as Christians, the Apostle’s Creed is richly filled with the exact theology that Driscoll and other evangelicals would want us to have as believers, and which are subsequently taught within their “discipleship” classes. I am not mocking evangelicalism here. I found a close and personal understanding of that commitment to our Lord Jesus Christ and its ramifications during those years of my life, and in a way that I somehow had missed to a large extent during my earlier Catholic upbringing. But it was mixed with a lack of respect for Sacred Tradition, and a depleted understanding of the salvation story and how it applied in my life. Much of it was very simply a waste, and in fact at times insane.

    The real issue here is the “easy believism” that puts the cart before the horse. We are Catholics have people study and search the Scriptures and Tradition first, in order to hopefully know what they are getting into, and then and only then to become disciples by entering the Church through the sacrament of baptism. Evangelicals tend to do it primarily the other way around. He (Driscoll) is the quintessential example of this, and yet mocks the early Church Fathers, or “Bible teachers” as he calls them, for doing so. It is indeed a deception and frankly an impoverished ignorance on his part. Thanks for a well-written and hard hitting article.

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