Sunday, January 05, 2014

Book Review of The Fire that Consumes (Third Edition) by Edward William Fudge

The Fire that Consumes
by Edward William Fudge
ISBN 978-1-60899-930-9
Cascade Books (Imprint of Wipf and Stock)
Reviewed by Clint Walker

In the last few years, there has been a lot of discussion trying to sort out Biblical truth from medieval myth and historic church dogma when it comes to the afterlife. Books like Rob Bell's Love Wins and Sprinkle and Chan's Erasing Hell have hit the bookshelves, both discussing how the preaching of the kingdom of God and eternity with Jesus has to do with the eternal torment in hell for unrepentant unbelievers.

Long before these men were debating the issue, Edward Fudge was quietly making the case for conditionalism, or annihilationism, depending on what you would like to label it. In either case, Fudge first entered the debate on the nature of hell in 1982 with The Fire that Consumes. Now, more than thirty years later, the book is as relevant as ever, revised and expanded in many places in order to speak to contemporary thought and scholarship on the issue.

Fudge's professional training, primarily, is as an attorney, although he has some theological education as well. As an attorney, he makes his argument for the ultimate death of unbelievers, instead of their eternal conscious punishment. He does so by making a careful exposition of pertinent Scriptures, a detailed study of extra-biblical sources that informed New Testament thinking, as well as a clear discussion of the church fathers, and how the doctrine of hell evolved.

Fudge's arguments against a traditional view of hell are quite compelling. I am still considering them myself. Especially since the weight of his arguments come not from tradition or sentiment, as some of the arguments for even some of the best theologians do, but clearly they come directly from Scripture.

Whether or not you agree with Fudge, his arguments are worth listening to. And I am not the only one who says so. With scholars writing forwards for the book like Richard Bauckham and F.F. Bruce, as well as kind words from Max Lucado on his web page, a lot of people, even if they do not agree with Fudge, are sympathetic to his compassionate heart, his argumentation, and his ability to pay attention to the details of what the Scripture is saying.

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