For preachers, a textual feast inside Austin city limits
AUSTIN, Texas — Welcome to the Lone Star State capital,…
For more than 30 years, Edward Fudge’s outside-the-mainstream teaching on hell sparked discussion and debate in Churches of Christ and among religion scholars.
Fudge, 73, died Nov. 25 in Houston. In a post on Fudge’s website, his wife, Sara Faye, described her husband as “nonjudgmental, humble in spirit, kind in manner and as Jesus described Nathanael, ‘a man in whom there is no guile.’”
“But most of all, he was a Jesus man, as he termed it, who loved God with all his heart, believed even through the most difficult of times and circumstances and loved to spread the Good News of God’s redeeming grace far and wide,” his wife wrote. “He cherished me for over 50 years, since our first Florida College days, delighted in our two wonderful children, and loved his six precious grandchildren who gave him great joy and hope for the future.”
Fudge, a member of the Bering Drive Church of Christ in Houston, authored “The Fire that Consumes: A Biblical and Historical Study of the Doctrine of Final Punishment,” first published in 1982. In 2012, Texas-based Leafwood Publishers, a branch of Abilene Christian University Press, released a shorter, more personal account by Fudge. It’s titled “Hell: The Final Word.”
Most in Churches of Christ have understood the Bible to teach that the unrepentant will endure punishment for all eternity, Jeff Peterson, a New Testament professor at Austin Graduate School of Theology in Texas, told The Christian Chronicle in 2012. In his writings, Fudge cited verses such as John 3:16, which says that whoever believes in Jesus “shall not perish but have eternal life.” Fudge suggested that only the saved will receive immortality.
“Edward Fudge has made the case for three decades that a better conclusion is that those who refuse God’s grace will suffer ‘eternal destruction,’ in the words of 2 Thessalonians 1:9,” Peterson said.
Cecil May Jr., dean of the Bible college at Faulkner University in Montgomery, Ala., said he and Fudge disagreed on several significant issues — including hell — but maintained a mutual respect.
“It is safe to say … that most in our fellowship believe in conscious everlasting torment for the wicked, as I do,” May told the Chronicle in 2012. “We would point to words of Jesus like ‘where their worm does not die and the fire is not quenched.’” (Isaiah 66:24, quoted in Mark 9:48)
Fudge’s life was the subject of the 2012 film, “Hell and Mr. Fudge,” by California-based LLT Productions. The movie traces Fudge’s life as a young Alabama preacher (played by Mackenzie Astin) who contradicts traditional views on hell and loses his pulpit. Through his personal trials, his wife, Sara Faye (Keri Lynn Pratt), stands by him.
After moving to Houston in 1982, Fudge worked as an attorney and taught Bible classes. He taught and preached in churches across the U.S., Canada and New Zealand.
Memorial services are scheduled for Nov. 30 in Franklin, Tenn., and Dec. 2 in Houston. See this post for more details.
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