Coinciding with the occasion of Edward Fudge’s 70th birthday, a historic theological conference is being inaugurated in Houston, TX on July 11-12, 2014. It’s called the Rethinking Hell Conference, and is organized by the outstanding group of Bible scholars who run the Rethinking Hell website and podcast. If you’re anywhere within driving distance of Houston and have a high regard for the Bible, I wholeheartedly recommend you considering attending this conference.
I wrote the following tribute to Edward for the conference. I’m sharing it here in the hope of exposing you to him and his work, and also to invite you to attend the conference and meet Edward yourself.
The Bible says that the eyes of the Lord go back and forth across the earth, looking for those whose hearts are truly His (2 Chronicles 16:9). When God was looking for someone to lay the foundation of the desperately needed reformation on the doctrine of final punishment, He certainly started with this in mind: a heart that truly loved God and His ways.
However, for this task, God needed more than a true heart. He searched for someone with a brilliant mind, paired with the ability to persevere and use that mind tirelessly for decades in service to the Lord. God knew that only the pairing of talent and tenacity would accomplish what He had in mind.
God needed someone who could handle the notoriety that would come from the bold declaration of scripture. This person would need the ability to endure critics who would claim that anyone who questioned the traditional view of hell deserved to suffer eternal punishment themselves. Equally challenging, the reformer would need to remain humble during seasons of wide acclaim, even when made the subject of a feature film.
The one for this task would need the grace to enter a global debate with courage but without pride. God also expected someone with the character to remain true to all of the other teachings of scripture, who would “walk the talk” and live a life that honored the Lord in every way.
Most of all, God needed someone who would cry at the thought that people would reject God’s gracious gift of eternal life and end up eternally lost. In this way, God’s servant would truly share His heart, who does not rejoice in the death of the wicked (Ezekiel 18:23), but does everything short of breaking the free will to invite everyone to share eternity with Him. (John 3:16)
God found the man for this calling in Edward William Fudge. Edward exemplifies God’s heart, and brings his world-class gifts and talents to the challenge of reformation with dignity, graciousness, and a true servant’s heart. Only in eternity will we know the true impact of Edward’s life-long devotion to God’s eternal purpose.
For me, Edward is a wonderful role model, a man like the one I hope to become. I want my heart to grow into one that, like Edward’s, beats with love for the Lord and concern for those who God wants to reach with His grace, love, and truth.
Edward, on your 70th birthday, I pray that God will grant you the satisfaction of hearing “well done, good a faithful servant,” along with a renewed strength and vision that says “you’re just getting started, My son. In fact, you haven’t seen anything yet!” (Ephesians 3:20)