Edward W. Fudge (J.D., University of Houston College of Law) is a well-known Christian thinker and Bible teacher. Fudge has authored a number of books, including, Two Views of Hell: A Biblical and Theological Dialog (with Robert A Peterson; IVP Academic, 2000), Hell A Final Word: The Surprising Truths I Found in the Bible (Leafwood, 2013), and the focus of the present review, The Fire that Consumes: A Biblical and Historical Study of the Doctrine of Final Punishment (third edition; Wipf & Stock, 2011).
The Fire that Consumes was a considered by many as a watershed book when it was initially released in 1982. Now, fully revised and expanded, this third edition of Fudge’s work has been received with open arms—at least by some. For Fudge, the traditional understanding of Hell (eternal conscious torment upon the death for all unsaved) needs to be reconsidered in light of the biblical and historical data. Fudge offers an alternative approach to be embraced by the reader, namely Annihilationism (everlasting destruction and total annihilation after a period of conscious torment upon the death for all unsaved).
The Fire that Consumes continues to be one of the most comprehensive positive presentations of the Annihilationist position on the market today. Fudge leaves nearly no stone unturned in his interaction with the biblical and historical sources, though some will find his exegesis and interaction more convincing than others. The length of each chapter averages roughly 10 pages and the content therein seems intentionally focused. In other words, while Fudge could have easily condensed several chapters into one, he has sought to focus more narrowly and in smaller sections. This really functions for the benefit of the reader as they seek to analyze the overall effectiveness of Fudge’s arguments.
On a more personal note, I greatly appreciate the work that Fudge has put into this volume. It is scholarly, readable, well-documented and persuasively presented. Still, if I am completely honest, I found myself largely unconvinced by Fudge’s exegesis and biblical arguments against the traditionalist position. In all truthfulness, Fudge has caused me to seriously rethink my position on Hell. However, in doing so, while I am now more sensitive to the Annihilationist position in my understanding, I am more convinced that the traditional position is biblically represented. The Annihilationist position is certainly more emotionally appealing, and I honestly hope that such is the case for the sake of those witnessing such a destiny, but I can’t shake the overarching witness of Scripture—despite Fudge’s attempt to say otherwise. With that said, this book is worth serious engagement and comes highly recommended!
I received a review copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. 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.