As our interview series continues, I’d like to take a few weeks to discuss the topic of hell.
I’ve got some great guests lined up, including a Christian universalist (who supports the view that one day God will reconcile all people to himself through Christ), a traditionalist/exclusivist (who supports the view that only Christians are saved and the lost suffer in an eternal hell), and a conditionalist (who supports the view that immortality is conditional upon belief in Jesus Christ, so the unsaved will ultimately be destroyed and cease to exist rather than suffer eternally in hell).
We begin with conditionalism, which is sometimes referred to as annihilationism. Conditionalists begin with the premise that only God is inherently immortal, despite what Socrates and Plato might have said about immortal souls. For humans, immortality is God's conditional gift, bestowed at the resurrection but only to the redeemed. Those who reject God's grace throughout life do not live forever. When John 3:16 says the options are eternal life or perish, conditionalists say that means just what it seems to say.
According to conditionalism, at the end of the world, the good and bad alike are raised to face judgment. The righteous enjoy eternal life with God; the lost are sentenced to hell. But God does not keep billions of them alive forever to torment them without end. Instead, those in hell suffer such precise pains as divine justice may require, in a destructive process that ends in extinction. This is the second death, the wages of sin. Eternal punishment is eternal destruction, eternal capital punishment.
Our guest is the man widely attributed with the renewal of conditionalism in our time: Edward Fudge.
Fudge is the author of The Fire That Consumes: A Biblical and Historical Study of the Doctrine of Final Punishment, the book Christianity Today identified as the standard reference on conditionalism. He and theologian Robert A. Peterson of Covenant Seminary co-authored Two Views of Hell, with Peterson making the case for the traditionalist viewpoint of conscious, unending torment and Fudge presenting the conditionalist alternative.
The oldest grandson of African missionaries on his mother's side, and poor Southern sharecroppers on his father's side, Fudge was born six weeks premature in a rural Alabama clinic in 1944. He began preaching at age 16, and sometimes picked cotton to buy winter clothes. He received bachelor's and master's degrees at Abilene Christian University and completed law school at the University of Houston College of Law. Fudge preached for the Kirkwood Church of Christ in suburban Saint Louis, Missouri from 1968-1972, during which time he also attended Covenant and Eden theological seminaries.
Fudge was fired from his publishing job when he refused to recant his views on hell, but has found opportunities to minister in Baptist, Methodist, Presbyterian, Pentecostal, Adventist, Episcopal and nondenominational churches as well as in Independent Christian Churches and numerous varieties of Churches of Christ. He is a near forty-year member and former regional officer of the Evangelical Theological Society. For the past 31 years, he and his wife Sara Faye have served in the Bering Drive Church of Christ in Houston, Texas, an autonomous, gospel-based, ecumenical congregation. The Fudges have two grown children and five grandchildren.
Fudge is the subject of the 2012 independent film Hell and Mr. Fudge produced by Pat Arrabito and directed by Jeff Wood. The film was released at the 2012 Worldfest-Houston International Film Festival.
He will be speaking at an upcoming Rethinking Hell Conference, which you can learn more about here.
You know the drill! If you have a question about conditionalism for Fudge, leave it in the comment section. Be sure to utilize the "like" feature so we can get a sense of what questions are of most interest to you. After 24-hours, I'll pose seven of the most popular questions to Fudge and post his responses next week.
The following week, I’ll be introducing you to Robin Parry, our universalist!