Book Review: Hell, A Final Word

978-0-89112-149-7My 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.

Disclaimer:

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.”

7 thoughts on “Book Review: Hell, A Final Word

  1. Hi, Adam.

    My name is Chris Date and I contribute to the blog and podcast at http://www.rethinkinghell.com, where we’ve interviewed Edward Fudge (and many others). I don’t think the verses you cited truly challenge Fudge’s position; in fact, I think they bolster it.

    May I explain why? I don’t want to do so here in your comments thread without your permission.

    1. Chris,
      I’d love to chat with you about this. What format would be easiest for you to do this? If you want an in depth chat we could do an interview on your podcast together about it, would you be up for that?

      Looking forward to getting to know you Chris,

      Adam

      1. I was just thinking of a chat between the two of us, if that’s OK. I was just going to comment here. If email or some other medium is preferable to you, that’s OK, too.

      2. Thanks so much, Adam, I appreciate it. I’m looking forward to a charitable conversation.

        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. Thessalonians 1:9 says these will experience eternal destruction. What is the destruction? Eternal.

        Conditionalists, including Edward Fudge, agree that the punishment will be eternal. Indeed, Fudge says so in this very book. On pages 26 and 27, he writes, “Did you notice that all five of these things–salvation, redemption, judgment, punishment, and destruction–have something else in common? They all result from some action or process. Salvation is the result of saving [Heb. 5:9]. Redemption results from redeeming [Heb. 9:12]. Judgment is the result of judging [Heb. 6:2]. Punishment [Matt. 25:46] and destruction [2 Thess. 1:9] are results of punishing and destroying. Now look with me one step farther. In each case above, the thing that is “eternal,” the thing that the adjective “eternal” colors “permanent,” is the result of the action, not the action that produces the result.”

        You see, Fudge’s point is that we don’t deny the eternality of the punishment and destruction, any more than we deny the eternality of the salvation, redemption, or judgment. But in order to affirm the eternality of the latter three, one must affirm that what is eternal is not the process of the verb (“save”) from which the noun (“salvation”) arises, but is instead the outcome of the verb. Jesus will not, after all, be continuing to save and redeem the elect even after their glorification. Yet, their salvation–the result of being saved–will last forever. Likewise, so say we conditionalists, the punishment and destruction that result from being punished and destroyed will last forever.

        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)

        Yes, and I’ll get to that in a moment, but the important piece here that cannot be overlooked is that in citing Isaiah 66:24, Jesus tells us what it is this maggot and this fire are consuming. As Fudge writes, “Isaiah identifies the wicked as “the corpses” of God’s adversaries. Corpses are powerless. They cannot harm anyone. Regardless of their advantageous position over the righteous while alive, corpses enjoy no such advantages. This final picture of the wicked is a picture of corpses.” The picture is not of immortal bodies living forever in torment, but lifeless ones being consumed by maggots and by fire.

        What’s more, the idiom of an unquenchable fire is used consistently in Scripture to refer to a fire, not which never dies out, but rather one which cannot be prematurely extinguished and therefore completely consumes. It’s used this way in Ezekiel 20:47-48, Jeremiah 17:27 and Amos 5:6. God’s burning wrath which wouldn’t be quenched, prophesied in 2 Kings 22:17 and 2 Chronicles 34:25, found its fulfillment in the destruction of Jerusalem in the subsequent chapters of both books. And the undying worm is making the same point as the stouthearted scavengers in Deuteronomy 28:26, for whom corpses will be food and who cannot be frightened away from their carrion. The point of these idioms is consistent and clear: the corpses of the wicked will be completely consumed. (For more, see my articles on this passage, part one and part two.)

        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.

        Well we’ve seen what it is Jesus says by citing Isaiah 66:24, that the corpses of the wicked will be irresistibly and completely consumed. But I’m skeptical of the accuracy of the claim you made about Edward Fudge; it looks like Glenn (below) shares my skepticism. I don’t think it’s accurate to claim that Fudge says many times that the fires of hell will eventually be quenched. Fudge’s point is that “quenched” does not mean “died out” to begin with, but rather means to be actively “extinguished.” I cannot find a single place where Fudge says in this book that the fires will be quenched. What he does say is that, “The fire is not extinguished. The worm does not die. Some day nothing will be left of these corpses. Then the fires can go out and the worms can finally die.” So he does say that the worms may eventually die, but as I expain in the part one article I linked to above, the text doesn’t say the worm will never die to begin with. But Fudge does not say the fires will eventually be quenched; he says that they will eventually die out, but that’s not what to “quench” means in the first place.

        So to sum up, conditionalists–including Fudge in this very book–do not deny that the punishment and destruction will be eternal; we affirm it. And far from challenging our position, Mark 9:48 and its citation of Isaiah 66:24 is strong support for our view.

  2. Hi Adam. I noticed you said: “Fudge says many times that the the fires of hell will eventually be quenched.” I’m inclined to doubt that he said that, but you say that he said it many times. Can you quote one of those many times where he specifically states this? Thanks

    1. Hey there,
      Do you recall the chat we had on my former blog? Pleasing Pain? Just curious, because we already had this chat once, haha.

      Adam

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