Edward Fudge & The Fire That Consumes

Below is a video teaching of Edward Fudge at Lanier Theological Library in which he addresses the doctrine of hell. Fudge is author of the book, The Fire That Consumes, which presents a case around what is known as annihilationism. This particular view states that the ‘fire’ of judgment is not given for eternal torment but to do just what every fire was meant to do, that is consume (or annihilate) the wicked. It is in contradistinction to the more popular view amongst evangelicals known as eternal conscious torment that says all wicked will be tormented forever as part of God’s judgment. The fire-torment will never end.

I’ve not yet read this particular book, though I had to engage with the debate in seminary as my systematics professor, Robert Peterson, is one of the great modern defenders of eternal conscious torment. Fudge and Peterson debated things in the book, Two Views of Hell. And I am becoming more aware of the in’s and out’s of the two views: annihalitionism and eternal conscious torment. Not to mention the third view known as evangelical universalism or ultimate reconciliation, which is not a nothing-matters universalism, but that all will ultimately be reconciled to God because of the work of Jesus Christ. One of the more well-known works describing this third position is Gregory MacDonald’s (or Robin Parry’s), The Evangelical Universalist. The name, Gregory MacDonald, comes from two of the more well-known evangelical universalists in church history, Gregory of Nyssa and George MacDonald.

I suppose that what is stated in Fudge’s own book is pretty much well summarised in the video teaching below. While most people think that eternal conscious torment is THE belief of the church throughout, it actually isn’t. And, as with all the Rob Bell hubbub from a year ago over his book, Love Wins, I think many evangelicals are realising that they might need to rethink the traditional-popular view of eternal conscious torment. We need to really grasp what the words Sheol, Hades, Gehenna, Tartarus, destruction, death, etc, really refer to. I’m not saying Bell’s book is the best place to learn, though I still think it worth engaging with as we consider both the theological and philosophical ramifications of God’s judgment. But it at least made many aware that there are some points that need to be laid down within evangelicalism’s view of hell and other important points worth engaging with to help us form a better and biblical view of hell. And I think many theologians have shifted more towards annihilationism and away from the eternal conscious punishment.

Without further ado, here is the video teaching from a good ol’ Texas boy, Edward Fudge.

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51 thoughts on “Edward Fudge & The Fire That Consumes

  1. Note, this so-called ‘Evangelical Annihilationism’ is not really that new, even the great Anglican Reformed, Philip Edgcumbe Hughes (RIP) wrote about it, at least somewhat. See his book: The True Image, The Origin And Destiny Of Man In Christ. A grand book in reality! *Not judging the doctrine of Annihilation at this point; I will leave that to the readers.

    • Yes, it really isn’t “new”. As Fudge acknowledges, the eternal conscious torment concept is the more “popular” side (at least in the US) but that is quickly starting to shift more towards annihilationism and conditional immortality.

      • Just of note, but even for the so-called pagan, Plato, the soul cannot undergo any annihilation! Plato’s Monad is the souls “unique” reality. Leibiniz called monads as the basic unit of perceptual reality. For both Aristotle and Plotinus, here the “first-being” is God, Himself.

      • Indeed, if the lost “soul” is annihilated? Only GOD can do so! But, I am not so sure God will annihilate what HE alone has made for eternity? I would not want to bank on this idea. I am not choosing against this position, but Jesus Himself surely has to be heard: Mk. 9: 43-48, three times the Lord states: “Their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched.” It seems perhaps the Lord Himself is thinking of Isa. 66: 24? But perhaps the most profound statement from Jesus is from Luke 16: 19-31. And we cannot leave out (Matt. 25:46), perhaps the most violent verse! A tough verse for those of us that believe in the very literal word and authority of Scripture!

      • Mark 9:48 quotes verbatim from Isaiah 66:24 where dead carcasses are in view, where the idiom of unquenchable fire is consistently used in the OT to refer to a fire that can’t be stopped from fully consuming, and the parallel, an undying worm, is a scavenger that can’t be prevented from fully consuming.

        Luke 16′s parable of Lazarus and the rich man is about the intermediate state between death and resurrection, not eternal punishment in hell.

        Matthew 25:46′s eternal punishment is the punishment of being killed, never to live again. After all, verses earlier it’s called the “eternal fire,” which is used twice elsewhere, and in both cases the punishment in view is being reduced to lifeless remains.

  2. Scott, thank you for continuing to bring challenging theological views to this forum. I have really enjoyed discovering the different schools of thought that get presented here. When I first read this, I admit my hackles came up. But as I watched through the video, I realized maybe what I’ve “always known” isn’t necessarily the truth. I’m not saying Mr. Fudge is 100% correct (in fact, in watching the video, it seemed to me that he himself did not think he had “arrived”), but I do believe that I need to reconsider the spiritual meanings that we have placed on words like “perish” and “eternal punishment”. I found even my basic views of our human composition — body, spirit and soul – challenged and I’m excited by what I’m discovering on doing more research into that subject.

    I’m sure so many (myself included) will be surprised how far we have strayed from the truth of how God created, maintains, saves and works within men and the world at large when we finally see and know Him face to face. We will truly grasp how much “His ways are not our ways”. May we always keep an open mind, and never put our God or our ideas about His workings in a box lest we do more of a diservice rather than service to Him.

  3. Thank you, Scott, for helping open some more windows around this conversation! This subject of final punishment is one that evangelicalism in general has not faced directly–despite calls to do so from men of such stature as F.F.Bruce, John Wenham, Richard Bauckham, N.T. Wright, John Stott, Philip E. Hughes, Michael Green, Homer Hailey, E. Earle Ellis, John Stackhouse, Clark Pinnock, and many others. Besides the video lecture that you mention, other resources are available at http://www.EdwardFudge.com/written/fire.html and at http://www.hellandmrfudge.com . It is sad when the most common “objectiom” received to the biblical case I set forth is that the church has “always” taught something else. The new third edition contains my response to 17 traditionalist authors of 12 books written since my first edition in 1982. God bless the study of his Word.

  4. I had the pleasure of interviewing Edward Fudge on my podcast last year. Being a Reformed, conservative evangelical, I was a traditional believer in eternal torment, and the interview with Edward Fudge moved me to the fence. Some time thereafter, I interviewed traditionalist author Larry Dixon, further tipping me toward annihilationism. A little later I moderated a debate on the topic, and in December participated in my own debate defending annihilationism. You can find these episodes and more by going to http://theopologetics.podbean.com/category/annihilationism/.

    Also, on March 3rd of this year I appeared on the Unbelievable? radio program with Justin Brierley (http://www.premier.org.uk/unbelievable) to defend annihilationism.

  5. As I have said, I find it interesting that the great pagan Plato believed the soul was immortal. If annihilationism is true, we would have to say that those annihilated were just sort of players, who did not make the grade being really human and redemptively possible. I am not convinced that the lost soul is of such little stuff? Of course I am speaking more philosophically and ontologically. And I am myself a Calvinist too, so the lost soul is for me, left alone to itself, and dies without Christ, but is surely subject to common grace. (Note, Luke 16: 26, etc.)

  6. I’m not sure what relevance Plato’s immortality of the soul has when discussing biblical theology. And I don’t see how the destruction of the soul means it was just a “player” and “of such little stuff.” Nevertheless, it seems to me that philosophy needs to take back seat, as it were, to Scripture, and I’ve become convinced that the Bible consistently and repeatedly affirms annihilationism; even the common traditionalist proof-texts better support my view, as I pointed out above from Mark 9 and Matthew 25. Perhaps it would behoove us to discuss Scripture, and let our philosophy result from it, rather than the other way around?

    • First I am not seeking to put philosophy ahead of Holy Scripture, I am really a certain biblical conservative. But, we cannot overlook the philosophical of scripture either, and this is certainly seen in the NT itself. Note the Jewish Greco-Roman Hellenism of St. Paul, and certainly the Platonic aspects of the Letter or Treatise of Hebrews, i.e. the idealism and nature of the essential reality itself (certainly Platonic and intellectual). Once again the Bible did not fall out of the sky, but certainly has its own epistemological history.

  7. I’m not sure I agree with what you claim to be some of the philosophical epistemology behind the NT, but putting that aside, this doesn’t help you at all. Plato, from what I understand, also taught that the soul eternally preexists its union with body at conception. Quite obviously the biblical authors did not believe that. Other tenets of Platonism were not, no doubt, shared by the biblical authors, either.

    This means that you simply can’t assume that because Plato taught something, therefore the NT authors believed it, too. We have to see what the biblical authors actually taught about the fate of the unsaved in hell, to see if it was informed by Platonism or not. They might have believed in the immortality of the soul, or they might not have. Why don’t we see what they say in Scripture?

  8. Another example of tenets of Platonism not shared by biblical authors: See Allen, Philosophy for Understanding Theology, 15. Christians denied Plato’s view of the use of
    preexisting materials for creation. Christians asserted ‘creation out of nothing.’

  9. Or take Platonism’s implication that the physical is inferior to the spiritual. This flies in the face of the NT teaching that God the Son took upon Himself physical form for eternity, and will raise the physical bodies of believers to glory as well.

  10. So you see, whatever influence Platonism may have had on NT authors, we have to look at what they wrote to see if they did, in fact, believe in the immortality of the soul. We can’t simply assume they did.

  11. As I said, it doesn’t matter if, indeed, the NT is influenced by Platonism. We have to see what the authors wrote to see if they adopted this particular tenet of Platonism.

    You say “here we are ‘looking’!” Yet, you didn’t respond to what I said above about Mark 9 and Matthew 25, which I think better support annihilationism for the reasons I explained, and about Lazarus and the rich man, which is irrelevant when it comes to hell. Do you want to move on to other texts?

  12. I’m not sure why you keep bringing up Plato, since, again, the question is whether or not one particular tenet of Platonism was adopted by the NT authors.

    I did, in fact, comment on Luke 16 above, along with Matthew 25 and Mark 9. Did you not read it? Here’s what I wrote: “Luke 16′s parable of Lazarus and the rich man is about the intermediate state between death and resurrection, not eternal punishment in hell.”

    • See the great problem here is that you make to make a dogmatic statement or case for annihilation, and as I have quoted above in reading my Anglican brother: Philip Edgcumbe Hughes (RIP), this may be possible? But, it may not be either! In other words we just don’t know for certain? For the case for some kind of eternality of the soul, “that there shall be certainly a resurrection of both the righteous and the wicked, or “both the just and unjust.” (Acts 24:15) And the soul of the “unjust” is itself under the penalty of “eternal-destruction away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His might or strength.” (2 Thess. 1:1:9) So a case can certainly be made that this loss is eternal, and away from the conscious presence of the Lord, forever!

      It could be either way, here? We can note that Roman Catholicism favors the latter, as well as most Reformed, historically.

  13. The resurrection of the unjust in no way suggests the eternality of the soul. All it means is that everybody who dies will one day rise. I fully affirm that. Annihilationism presents precisely an everlasting destruction from the presence of God, whether we should properly render that text using “away” or not (which is not at all certain). So none of these texts challenge my view.

    As for church history/tradition, I’ll happily quote first century orthodox theologians who taught my view, if you like. But I imagine neither of us wants to assume that tradition wins this debate.

    Whether Luke 16 is a parable or not, it explicitly is about the intermediate state. The rich man is explicitly said to have been buried, at which point he’s taken to Hades, not hell, Hades being the NT equivalent of the OT Sheol: the grave. And he begs Abraham to let him evangelize to his still-living brothers. There is no warrant, whatsoever, for carrying this over to the eternal state after the resurrection of the unjust, whether it’s a parable or not.

    So again: Do you want to respond to my comments above regarding Mark 9 and Matthew 25? Or do you want to let them stand and discuss relevant texts (since Luke 16 is irrelevant)?

    • Chris: I am not trying to just win an argument, to make a case foremost as you have, and are convinced of the annihilation of the souls of the unjust. My point, is that we really don’t know, at least in the dogmatic sense. But, yes, at this point I would favor the eternal nature of all human souls! You appear to be dodging my points and question, with your “dogma”. Fine somewhat, but what if your biblically and theologically wrong? This is really my point, to keep an open mind on this issue! We have plenty of “dogma” on both sides!

  14. Again, we have to look at the NT texts to see if the authors shared Platonism’s view of the immortality of the soul; after all, the denies Platonism’s eternal preexistence of the soul. As for Augustine, again, I’ll happily quote even earlier fathers who taught my view, and at times Augustine said some things verging on my view as well. But certainly we want to discuss the Scriptures, not tradition, right?

      • I hold no degrees :) If your appeal will be to tradition, well then unfortunately we won’t be able to get anywhere. I respect tradition and stand on the shoulders of giants, but as you say, Scripture has the last word. So if you’d like to discuss the Scripture, we can. If you want to discuss tradition, all I can do is quote first/second century annihilationists.

      • That’s funny Chris, your supposition or even pre-supposition that ALL the 1st and 2nd century “fathers” taught an “annihllation” of the lost, would be “dogma” to my mind. And I am just not that sure? I hope that would be fair.

  15. Robert (?), it is quite possible that we CAN know for sure. Perhaps God has revealed it to us in Scripture. I don’t see what that’s an impossibility. As for dodging points and questions, which such points and questions have I dodged?

    I’m not arguing from “dogma,” I’m arguing from Scripture. I’m not sure where the “dogma” comment comes from…

    • Well perhaps “pressing” is a better word? ;) But, you have said nothing about the text I quoted…2 Thess. 1:9. Though my argument is not “just” a literal biblical quote, as it is also a historical and epistemological point. I am again one that always see God’s “mystery” in Himself, and His Holy Scripture!

      But who knows? God can do what God wants in eternity! As Barth pointed out!

  16. I’m not sure why you think I said nothing of the text you quoted in 2 Thessalonians 1:9. Here’s what I wrote: “Annihilationism presents precisely an everlasting destruction from the presence of God, whether we should properly render that text using “away” or not (which is not at all certain).” In other words, not only do I affirm the eternal loss you mentioned, but the destruction can take place “away” from God’s presence, were that what the text actually said (which is not likely).

    So again, I’m not sure which points you think I’m avoiding, or the “dogma” upon which my arguments are based. I’m simply appealing to Scripture.

    • Chris: In reality with this last, you simply don’t know for certain either? For we both don’t know what “eternal” or “everlasting” means? For there is really no “precisely” about it, save “eternity”! This is my whole point with Plato! For the most usual part “everlasting” means just that, but again we are also dealing with the so-called “eschatological”! And we are again, pressed back into God’s “Mystery”! I for one am willing to allow both tensions! Note, btw, that EW Bullinger is usually thought to be an annihilationist, but this is again a supposition. We just don’t know? And I have several of EWB’s books…his, ‘Figures of Speech Used In The Bible’, and His ‘Greek/English Lexicon’.

  17. I don’t believe that I suggested that “ALL the 1st and 2nd century “fathers” taught an “annihllation” of the lost,” and if I did I I misspoke. However, as I said, I can quote first/second century annihilationists, whereas to my knowledge there are no first/second century fathers who can be demonstrated to have been traditionalists. And as I made clear, I *don’t* want to make this case; I said it would be how I respond to an argument from tradition. I’d rather discuss the Scriptures.

    So again, I see no basis for the “dogma” claim.

    • Chris: When were at this level we really cannot escape “dogma”! Btw, just a point, but do you accept the or any of the Ecumenical Councils? Like the Nicene, etc.? And if you are Trinitarian? That would surely be dogma! Note, I am certainly and thankfully Trinitarian, and follow the Nicene Creed, and also Chalcedon.

      Hopefully, you get my drift here? ;) How can we discuss the Scripture without theology or doctrine and dogma!

  18. Robert: I can only know what Scripture reveals. And I don’t see why we can’t know what “eternal” means; Christians unite in believing that the saved will have life forever, right?

    As for Plato, again, irrelevant because the NT authors may or may not have shared his view of the immortality of the soul. We need to look at Scripture, which is what I keep pleading that we do…

  19. Sorry, when I say “I can only know what Scripture reveals,” I don’t mean that literally the only knowledge to be had comes from Scripture. I’m speaking about this topic particularly. And I *do* think that it’s possible God has revealed the fate of the unsaved to us, such that we can know for certain.

  20. Yes, I accept those councils. I am Trinitarian, and I am Reformed. And yes, these are all dogma, but so far as I can tell, the only dogma underlying the argument I keep pleading to have the opportunity to make–that being one from the Scriptures–is the inerrancy of Scripture. The point is, I am not arguing from dogma; I am arguing from Scripture. Being unable to escape dogma is one thing; arguing from dogma is quite another.

    • You might want to re-think that whole piece you just wrote? All scripture revelation is surely doctrine & dogma! And btw, that position of Inerrancy is a tuff one, I agree with it somehow, but I would be hard pressed to define it! But yes, I really am a conservative Anglican and Reformed! ;)

      It has been nice to chat mate! :)

  21. Interesting conversation you two. While I certainly don’t agree with Robert on everything I can agree with him here that we really can’t say that we KNOW the exact fate of the unsaved. I think it’s meant to be a mystery. Notice that Jesus never taught on the particulars of hell but did mention it simply as a fact. All we need to know is that we want to be with Jesus and (just as the prodigal son’s father) Jesus is waiting with open arms for us to come and have a relationship with him. In so doing, we avoid hell and don’t NEED to know just what is involved. One thing is for sure, though. Whether it’s annihilation or everlasting torture (or something in-between), hell should not be used as the primary motivator to bring people into the Kingdom. The KINGDOM itself and the love of the KING are the motivation for people to respond. Fear of hell does not produce a true love of Christ.

  22. Hi folks, allow me to share a thought on 2 Thess.1:9. This verse can be translated – “They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction that comes from (rather than away from) the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His might.” according to ESV footnote. Here eternal destruction means annihilation as confirmed by the same Christ coming in 2 Thess.2:8 – “And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord Jesus will kill with the breath of his mouth and bring to nothing by the appearance of his coming.”

      • Brother Scott and others, I subscribed to conditional immortality for the last 35 years. Annihilation by the consuming fire of hell (2nd death) would be more readily accepted if it can be conclusively shown that the 1st death is the complete termination of life, with no consciousness in the intermediate period, between death and the resurrection. This I have done in my paper – The biblical doctrine of conditional immortality. The other paper is “The doctrine of the annihilation of the unsaved” Both can be accessed from my website – Peter Ong’s blog.
        God bless all of you.

      • Thanks Scott for your interest. Google – conditionalist.blogspot.com – and under my name Peter Ong you will find my artcles.

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