Looking round the Minster, I wondered if the highly sophisticated and intelligent people reciting the Creed really believed everything they were saying. Everyone was in full voice; I failed to spot anyone with their fingers crossed. But the answer seemed to be: not exactly.
“What we’re doing is identifying back to a distant past,” explained Michael Sadgrove, the Dean of Durham. “When we say he descended to Hell, I think, if people identify with it at all, they’re identifying with a tradition. The Latin for Nicene Creed is Symbolum Nicaenum. And I think these statements of faith have a symbolic function.
“I don’t think the way to understand them is to dissect them clause by clause. The fundamental of Christian faith is that Jesus Christ is our Lord and Christians will argue for ever about how you put boundaries round that.” It was a former bishop of Durham, David Jenkins, who most clearly, and controversially, articulated the revisionist view of gospel truth. His heirs are more circumspect but not necessarily in major disagreement.