Extraordinary honor elicits special thanks
God willing, in a small, private ceremony scheduled to occur later this month, the Foundation for Evangelical Dialogue, sponsor of the Rethinking Hell Project, will formally present to the world a new volume titled A Consuming Passion: Essays on Hell and Immortality in Honor of Edward Fudge (Pickwick Publications: Wipf and Stock, 2015, 430 pages).
Technically referrred to as a Festschrift (German for “feast of knowledge”), such a book brings together a variety of authors who have been invited to contribute chapters that address some aspect of a theme associated with the book’s honoree. That is the case with A Consuming Passion, as a Foundation spokesperson explains. “This diverse collection of essays in honor of Edward Fudge explores the topics of hell and immortality, for which Fudge has been widely known through his magnum opus, The Fire That Consumes: A Biblical and Historical Study of the Doctrine of Final Punishment.”
A Consuming Passion carries a preface by Stephen Travis and a foreword by Ron Highfield, who also served with Christopher M. Date as co-editor of these nearly half-a-thousand printed pages. The volume opens with a gentle, almost-poignant, dedication:
“To Edward Fudge,
whose consuming passion for God’s word,
studied faithfulness to God’s character,
and deep love for a lost, hurting, and dying world,
have inspired in two generations
a likewise consuming passion, faith, and love.”
The Festschrift’s 22 chapters are contributed by authors in the United States, Canada, United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, Cyprus and Pakistan. They are arranged under five headings: “The Legacy of Edward Fudge” (John G. Stackhouse Jr.,Terrance L. Tiessen, Jon Zens, Rob McRay, Gregory G. Stump), “Theology and Philosophy” (Gordon L. Isaac, James S. Spiegel, Nicholas Rudolph Quient, Peter Grice, Adam Murrell), “Biblical Exegesis” (Claude Mariottini, Kim Papaioannou, Roger Harper), “History and Polemics” (David Instone-Brewer, James Kenneth Brandyberry, Ronnie Demler), and “The Road Ahead” (Glenn Peoples, Douglas A. Jacoby, Ralph G. Bowles, David C. Cramer, Jim Wood, Christopher M. Date).
My heartfelt thanks
I am deeply humbled by the presentation of this book, by the professional respect and personal affection that inspired and propelled its creation, and by the warm and generous comments such a volume tends naturally to include. My heartfelt thanks go to its sponsors, creators, contributors, and endorsers, and to all who yet will be a part of its distribution.
Everything we do for good that lasts is God’s work through us, and I delight to give him thanks and praise for enabling the writing of The Fire That Consumes and for all he has done with it ever since. The unending Age to come will unfold the riches of his grace to us through Jesus Christ, of which our rescue from hell is only the bare beginning.
Many Christians believe that people will live and suffer in hell forever, but, as the gracEmail family knows, I defend a view known historically as ”conditional immortality” which today is espoused by an exponentially-growing minority of Christians, including several of the most highly-respected theologians and biblical scholars in the world.
At the heart of this view is the absolute conviction that God alone is inherently immortal, and that only those human beings who are redeemed, to whom God gives immortality in the resurrection, will live forever. The unrepentant, who by definition reject eternal life, will be banished into hell (Gehenna), which the New Testament pictures as a lake of burning sulfur and a place where God is able to destroy both soul and body.
Although Christians sharing my understanding have defended it both before and after me, The Fire That Consumes is widely regarded as the seminal treatment of the topic today. Stephen Travis lauds its “clarity, sure-footedness, and comprehensive scope,” while John Stackhouse calls it “one of the most convincing cases ever offered in the history of controversial theology.” Its first edition carried a Foreword by F. F. Bruce and was an Alternate Selection of the Evangelical Book Club. Its revised third edition has been featured in The New York Times and includes a new Foreword by Richard Bauckham of Cambridge University.
The character of God
We must never reduce the study of hell to a mere exercise in academic trivia. Hell is not a subject of possible interest only to persons other than ourselves. It is not a topic unrelated to the character of God. When seriously taken to heart, these truths remind us that not only others but we also must one day give account to God; that we must leave to God all determinations of destinies and resist the temptation to speculate; and that God’s character is perfect and pure love which will be nowhere more apparent than in the day when he shall judge the hearts of men. Ron Highfield, a professor at Pepperdine University and a dear friend of mine for more than thirty years, pays me what is perhaps the highest compliment of all when he writes:
I soon noticed that Edward’s favorite subject was the amazing grace God has bestowed on us in our Lord Jesus Christ. And though Edward Fudge is best known for his work on the nature of hell, I am sure that if he were given a chance to preach one sermon to the whole world, the subject would be God’s unfathomable love and unspeakable grace bestowed on us sinners in Jesus. And my friend Edward would readily confess himself to be among those sinners, saved by grace, rescued by Jesus, and made holy by the Spirit.
So you can see why, when I was asked to serve as an editor for a book of essays written in honor of Edward Fudge, I agreed immediately and enthusiastically. Thank you, my friend, for your service to God’s people. And thank you for setting an example, as a theologian who conducts his work in “a spirit of gratitude, reverence, humility, faith, hope, and love.” And who, with all God’s people, seeks passionately to join that grand movement of all things by the Spirit, through the Son, and to the Father.
For details about authors, chapter titles, and a special introductory price, please go to: www.rethinkinghellbooks.com