Edward Fudge’s highly influential work on hell, The Fire that Consumes, has been substantially rewritten and is now available through Wipf and Stock. It hasn’t made it to Amazon or Barnes and Noble yet, but soon will.
Fudge explains some of the changes he made —
This revised edition replaces many older quotations and citations with more recent ones, and it benefits from the use of materials that were not available for the first edition. For example, discussion of the Dead Sea Scrolls in the original edition of The Fire That Consumes was limited to fewer than a dozen Dead Sea Scrolls then accessible to researchers not fluent in Hebrew. For this new edition, I was able to read more than 800 scrolls and fragments in English, thanks to a recent two-volume study edition of the Dead Sea Scrolls produced by Florentino Garcia-Martinez of Belgium and his former student Eibert J. C. Tigchelaar. Later I discussed the scrolls with Dr. Garcia-Martinez in person, when he came to Houston to help oversee the arrangement of his personal library as a special collection within the Lanier Theological Library.
Other important updating includes my interacting throughout the book with seventeen authors of twelve traditionalist books published after the first edition of The Fire That Consumes. Revision was thorough and included rearrangement of material into thirty-six chapters instead of the original twenty. Several chapters are completely new; most others were rewritten or restructured. Although nothing published during the past thirty years required the reversal of any major conclusion expressed in my earlier editions, the present edition aims for a refinement of argument and an elegance of expression reflective of my own maturation from age 37 to age 66.
Now, for those new to the serious study of hell, Fudge is an elder in a Church of Christ, a lawyer, an author, and writer of GracEmails. The original edition of this work stands as the definitive work on the “conditionalist” or “annihilationist” view of hell, which is rapidly gaining acceptance among scholars. I think he’s exactly right. I covered many of his arguments in the Surprised by Hell series and again in the Age of Accountability series.
Here are the most common theories on hell:
1. Traditional/Arminian: Those who never accept the gospel and have attained the age of accountability are damned to eternal, conscious torment, even if they only committed one sin or died the day after attaining the age of accountability.
2. Calvinist/Double Predestination: The elect go to heaven; those not elect are damned to eternal conscious torment.
3. Universalist: All are ultimately saved and go to heaven. Some believe some souls may experience hell before finally accepting Jesus and being saved.
4. N. T. Wright: Wright and others argue that hell is separation from God by choice, which is a dreadful, agonizing experience. Wright cites Gollum of Lord of the Rings fame as an metaphor for what happens to those who reject God’s love and choose to leave his presence.
5. Available Light: Many argue that people will be judged only by available light, so that good people who’ve never heard the gospel will be saved.
6. Conditionalist/Annihilationist: Immortality is a gift from God given only to the saved. Those who’ve never accepted Jesus to enter the Kingdom do not receive immortality. However, they will stand before God, be judged, and be punished in proportion to their sinfulness (and some will not be very sinful at all and so will suffer little or no punishment). The wicked will suffer a just, fitting, painful punishment. And then the mortal will die the second death and be destroyed. The devil and his angels will suffer eternal, conscious torment, but humans will either be destroyed by the fire of God’s wrath or live with God forever in the new heavens and new earth.
Fudge argues this position comprehensively and, to me, effectively. This position moots the navel gazing and questioning so popular today because it eliminates the obvious injustice of punishing children forever for only a few naive sins. It describes a truly just and fit application of God’s wrath. And it’s what the scriptures teach.
I can’t wait to get my copy of the book.