My friends over at Leafwood Publishers sent over an unexpected book this time for me to review. It’s written by Edward Fudge and it’s called Hell, A Final Word – Surprising Truths I Found in the Bible. It was unexpected to me, not because of this past year’s obsession over books on hell prompted by Rob Bell’s heretical book Love Wins, but because the argument put forth in the book was an argument for a view on hell that not many are familiar with – annihilationism.
For those of you who are unfamiliar with this five dollar word, it simply means that those in hell will ultimately be destroyed by the fires of hell so much so that they eventually cease to be, rather than the traditional view where those in hell are thought to be tormented for all eternity (the traditional view). Now before you just write this view off, you must know this position on hell was held by the renowned theologian John Stott, as well as the renowned author I. Howard Marshall, among many others. Fudge, the author of this book, holds this view and shows himself to be an astute theologian throughout these pages. Fudge is no wacko and you should not think he is for holding this position, that is clear after reading his book in whole. He knows his stuff, and does not treat any theological doctrine on a surface level at all as so many “Christian” authors do these days. He examines and treats the issues as he ought to, respectfully and carefully. But as you’ll see, I remain unconvinced of his position.
So how does Fudge make his case? He uses 51 short chapters (helpful model by the way) to explain his argument, from the Bible, for annihilationism. In my opinion his argument consists of two parts:
1) Emotional: In the beginning of the book, before his arguments from Scripture, he makes a few unhelpful statements that reveal his heart for this issue. He states that he abhors the fact that the doctrine of eternal torment is the reason many leave or avoid the Christian faith. He states that it would be more loving of God to allow those in hell to die than continue forever in torment. He also states that he could easily believe in an eternal torment for adults, but not for teenagers and younger, assuming the reader will agree. Well, the very fact that phrases like these are in the book lead me to believe that Fudge cannot quite seem to believe in a God who would torment people in hell forever because, and I quote, “It doesn’t sound like God.” Though I am a very much not against emotions, this is a problem. Fudge should know that what the Bible says ought to trump whatever he feels about things, and that God is who He is no matter what we desire or want Him to be like. All emotions must be subject to divine Scripture, and Fudge does not bring his under submission here.
2) Biblical: After clearly telling his readers where his heart is, Fudge goes into the Bible, from start to end, to develop his doctrine of annihiliationism. He makes it plain that the word used for hell in most instances, “gehenna,” refers to a fire that consumes, rather than holding one in torment. He states that the words die, perish, and destroy actually mean what they mean in every other context. People who die, die. People who perish, perish. People who are destroyed, are destroyed. He makes a clear argument that these three words are the most common words in the Bible used for those who end up in hell. Fudge states, “Why can’t words mean what they mean?” Then he goes on throughout the rest of the New Testament making his case. I really do mean what I say when I state that Fudge knows his stuff, he writes in a very theologically aware manner, not leaving any stone un-turned, and I would have been convinced if it weren’t for a few things from the Bible.
In Matthew 25:46 Jesus speaking of those who will perish says, “These will go away into eternal punishment, but the the righteous go into eternal life.” So the punishment will be what? Eternal. 2 Thessalonians 1:9 says these will experience eternal destruction. What is the destruction? Eternal. Lastly, speaking of hell Jesus says it is a place where, “The worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched.” (Mark 9:48) Fudge says many times that the the fires of hell will eventually be quenched, and the worm will eventually die. This is simply not in line with what Jesus says. Therefore, I must conclude that Fudge is misinterpreting his own emotions into the Bible to pull out his own ideas, rather than God’s. If Fudge were right, Hell would eventually cease to be because it would be completely vacant, and that simply is not true.
So, Hell, A Final Word – Surprising Truths I Found in the Bible was a good read, a challenging read, even an interesting read, but it comes short of upholding the Biblical Truth that has stood through the ages. I would recommend this read and anything Fudge has written as a standard on the position of conditional immortality or annihilationism.
If you’d like to see more about this book, or buy it for yourself, please click here.
I received this book free from Leafwood Publishers. Providing me a free copy in no way guarantees a favorable review. The opinions expressed in this review are my own and not that of Leafwood Publishers. 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.”