What Edward Fudge has meant to Advent Christians
Edward Fudge’s life story has been summarized, written up in detail and even made into a movie already, so the only thing that I want to say about him is what he has meant to us as Advent Christians.
Once Mr. Fudge had completed his initial research into the biblical data regarding the final extinction of the unsaved, he began sharing his conclusions in a series of seminars titled, “Surprises From a Study of Hell.” In the process of doing that research, he had learned of the existence of a denomination so small that he was unaware of it before the research began, which he then realized had come to similar conclusions early in its own history, more than a century before. Perhaps someone else knows how his first contact with Advent Christians was made (I don’t). What I do know is that he presented his “Surprises” seminar as one of the afternoon activity options at the Advent Christian General Conference’s first Triennial Convention (before that, the Convention had been Biennial), held on the campus of Wheaton College (near Chicago) in June of 1981. I had the privilege of being one of those who attended that seminar. To put this in perspective, I had first been exposed to Conditionalism only about 12 years previously, and had only just become an Advent Christian minister 3 ½ years before that Convention. This was a year BEFORE the publication of Mr. Fudge’s seminal book, “The Fire That Consumes,” which greatly increased both his fame (or notoriety, depending on your point of view) and that/those of Conditionalism.
Getting on each other’s mailing lists meant that I had many more opportunities to converse with the man who became the leading exponent of Conditionalism of his generation, as did many other Advent Christian ministers. More and more Advent Christians read his book as it came out in second and third editions. Not everyone realized that he had published several other books, some on this topic and others on many other topics. In my personal library (now housed at First Advent Christian Church, in Hickory, NC), I have a fairly complete collection of his published works. With the demands of both family and full-time ministry, and being a slow (albeit avid) reader, I haven’t yet had the time to read them all – a task that I hope to accomplish “someday” (whenever that is).
The last time that I saw Mr. Fudge in person was at the inaugural ReThinking Hell Conference at the Lanier Theological Library, near his home near Houston, Texas, in 2014. As an example of how sharp his mind still was at that time, he knew who I was without looking at a nametag (I was waiting in a line to get one!) – he asked me a couple of questions that clearly showed that. I had walked right past him without recognizing him (mostly because I have a bad memory for connecting names and faces)!
The Conference dates were built around his 70th birthday, and I stayed after it in order to attend Sunday services at his home church (Bering Drive Church of Christ), where he was honored by specific mention in the sanctuary, as well as with a well-attended party in the fellowship hall. That was where, for the first and only time, I met his lovely and gracious wife, Sara Faye, whose story (all by itself) would be just as impressive as his (but someone other than me would need to tell it, and, in any case, it doesn’t involve nearly as much specific impact on Advent Christians as his does).
Edward Fudge was, in my opinion, “the Billy Graham of Conditionalism” – that is, the single individual who influenced more people to accept what the Bible says about the final extinction of the unsaved than any other individual in the 20th and 21st centuries.