Some books are written to be exhaustive on a subject, and others are written to be more accessible, perhaps more of an overview. Edward William Fudge writes Hell: A Final Word: The Surprising Truths I Found in the Bible, his “last book on the subject” (17) of hell, conditional immortality, and annihilationism, as the latter. Those requiring more depth are encouraged to see Fudge’s book The Fire That Consumes: A Biblical and Historical Study of the Doctrine of Final Punishment, now in its third edition. In light of Rob Bell’s controversial reigniting of a Christian universalist perspective in Love Wins, it seems appropriate that Fudge throw one last hat into the mix for the annihilationist perspective. Like others, he encourages his reader to ask, “‘Is this what the Bible teaches?’ How we might feel about hell cannot be the measure of what hell really will be” (32, emphasis original), noting the insistence many have in faithfully clinging to church tradition even when it seems contradictory to Scripture simply because it’s what we “have always believed” (98), and therefore must be right.
Fudge provides his reader with a history of the traditionalist view of hell—never ending torment—originating in deuterocanonical texts and Greek philosophy, and effectively demonstrates in an accessible way his reason for believing, “The ultimate punishment common to all the lost will become a reality: they will cease to be. From Genesis to Revelation, the Bible repeatedly warns that the wicked will ‘die,’ ‘perish,’ or be ‘destroyed’” (35, emphasis original). Throughout, he repeats the question as to whether Scripture “[appears] to be more consistent with a fire that torments forever, a fire that purifies, or a fire that consumes” (69), hoping the reader is eventually convinced of the latter. But what makes this book special is the interweaving of his personal journey with this particular doctrine, how and why The Fire That Consumes was researched and written and how he has been treated because of his perspective. It does appear, however, that the true purpose of its penning is to prime the reader for the aforementioned text and plug the recently released movie Hell and Mr. Fudge. Yet, though beginning and ending with a commercial, there is much good and convincing information in this book…and may make you want to read his larger work, too.
*Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from ACU Press/Leafwood Publishers as part of their ACU Press Bookclub Program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”