EPILOGUE BY BRUCE EDWARDS
When I first wrote Edward Fudge in 1973, my new bride, Joan, and I found ourselves ministering to the Church of Christ in a small, rural town in central Missouri. We were fresh from a rigorously conservative Bible college in Florida where non-instrumental, “non-institutional” students like me went to learn to be sound preachers.
My head was in the clouds and my feet were, well, planted firmly in the “Show-Me” Missouri soil. Edward’s writings were a cause celebre; I was, even at 21, an ambitious, aspiring preacher-editor-influencer; and, having thoroughly imbibed Mizzou’s skeptical spirit, I wanted to explore, then expose the “leaks” in Edward’s “grace” doctrine.
My goal in the exchange was hardly to encounter God in a new and dramatic way. But that, in fact, was the result!
The word wrangling, the tortured hypotheses, in short, the relentless interrogation reflected in my letters to Edward in A JOURNEY TOWARD JESUS painfully underscore, a quarter of a century later, that my only means of seeking the truth as a young believer was through dialectic, that is, through socratic inquisition. To say the least, it is a method dependent entirely on the intellect and the appropriation of one narrowly conceived hermeneutic. I had forgotten or never known that God also speaks through the imagination, and through the heart, in a language deeper than propositional discourse or Aristotelian logic, valuable and essential as those “tongues” are to our development as disciples.
I wanted to remain true to my conservative restorationist roots, yet, mid-way through the correspondence, I began to realize that my foundations were being shaken, as God always shakes that which can be shaken in order to leave behind that which is eternal. God was calling to me through means that my education and my training had not prepared me for. As C. S. Lewis puts it in his SURPRISED BY JOY, “God, if I may say it, is quite unscrupulous”; he will condescend to use any means necessary to bring us fully unto Him, even letters begun in suspect motive! Through and between the lines of our correspondence, I was hearing God rebuke, remind, and remake me by His Spirit.
My re-reading of A JOURNEY TOWARD JESUS of course makes me wince at my hyper-rationalistic strategies; much seems to me strained and belabored–and so I marvel again at Edward’s patient and loving responses.
The vocabulary and the issues current in my worldview then now seem rather quaint, even sophomoric. They no longer captivate or motivate my walk with God or my fellowship with His people. Yet, I have also learned that however provincial or time-bound, these issues have served many readers who, without appreciating the original context, still see them as useful analogues for their own journeys with God. He has taught me to be less harsh about the booklet’s shortcomings (by which I mean my inane questions!) now than I used to be, and I am happy to see it back in electronic circulation.
God has provided me much in the last twenty-three years of the journey: a tolerant and magnificent partner in Joan, four faithful and generous children in Matt, Mary, Justin, and Mike; marvelous comrades, in and out of restorationist fellowships; and, most importantly, His abiding presence, inestimably kinder, ever more real, and ever deeper. His Spirit counsels, comforts, and confronts; these letters reveal the earliest stirrings of His intervention with my grand plans and the substitution of His own for my life.
And so, my journey, as Edward’s, continues. I did not and could not foresee where it would take me and, if I could have, I may not have had the faith for it. Jacob or Joseph or Esther or Paul might tell us the same. But that for me is the grand lesson of our little booklet: God is merciful; He gives us, like manna in the wilderness, the faith we need for today, the faith required to dream today’s dreams, and the faith sufficient to guard tomorrow’s.
May you, too, have the faith to begin and to continue the journey on to its glorious destination.
Bowling Green, Ohio