Some weeks ago I was contacted by Leafwood Publishers (leafwoodpublishers.com) and asked if I would be willing to receive a complementary copy of Edward Fudge’s latest book, (Hell A Final Word) read it, and publish a review here at Grace Digest. Of course I eagerly said yes.
Before I discuss the book I am compelled to say something about the author. I could say a lot of good things about his credentials, his education, and his dedication to biblical scholarship. I believe those things speak for themselves. I do want to make a few observations about the man Edward Fudge.
I had admired brother Fudge at a distance for quite some time because of his character as a preacher, teacher, and author, and his devotion to Christ and what the Bible has to say about him and those who submit to him by faith. Edward Fudge is one of a handful of men who have been used to open the eyes of many Christians, especially in the Stone-Campbell tradition, to the grace of God in salvation vs. legalistic merit. My admiration meter shot up drastically when I was able to get to know brother Fudge personally. We shared several meals together, a perfect setting for two old men to discuss life, theology, and some of our experiences of following Jesus. I am certain that I have never met a more humble, sincere, devoted, and loving disciple of Jesus than Edward Fudge. So it is with this background of love and respect that I make the following remarks about his book, Hell A Final Word.
Most everyone who reads this probably knows about Edward Fudge’s earlier works, Two Views of Hell and The Fire That Consumes, the later now with three revisions. This latest book tells the story not only of Edward’s biblical challenge of the traditionalist view of everlasting torment in hell but also is a personal story of how all of this study on the final end of the lost and the subsequent writings came about. As I read the narrative it was as if I was sitting in the room as events happened. Few authors are able to tell a story in conversational language so that the reader can’t wait to turn the page and gets annoyed by the slightest interruption while reading.
There is no doubt that our God prepared this good man for such a work. His family history, his education, his work, his study, and yes, even his enemies were all used by the providential hand of God to bring Edward Fudge to the writer’s table to tackle such a subject. The odds were very much against him. For 1600 or so years only one view of hell really mattered. That view was that God would torment lost men and women forever in conscious suffering in the fires of hell. When student and researcher Fudge dug into history and the pages of the Bible he was surprised to find no support for the traditional view of hell as unending conscious torment, or for the immortality of the human soul (except for the saved). I’ll quickly admit that I too was surprised when I first read some of Edward’s conclusions. I will say more about that some other time.
I highly recommend this book for anyone who wants to know more about what the Bible teaches about the final end of the wicked, and especially for those who are familiar with Edward’s earlier books on the subject, specifically The Fire That Consumes. I think of this easily readable book of about 185 pages as sort of an umbrella covering the life and work of the author and his conclusions given in more detail in earlier books. I think that perhaps this book should be read before the others because of the importance of context.
Not only did the author spend months and months of research in libraries, reading books and articles, writing letters, and making phone calls, but he paid a price sometimes at the expense of his own immediate family, and his Christian family at large. Brother Fudge was already suspect in Church of Christ circles because he taught the assumed heresy that people outside the churches of Christ could be saved. That grace teaching was the beginning of a life lived swimming upstream in the river of biblical teaching. His enemies were fierce, his circumstances were unfriendly, and his health was fleeting, but his God was ever faithful. Buy this book! Read it, pray over what you read, and make up your own mind. You might agree or you might disagree but you will come away with at least some of the respect I have for my friend and mentor Edward Fudge.
(The book is available at all the usual outlets or you can order from the author at EdwardFudge.com)
June 3, 2012