For what it sets out to do, Edward Fudge’s Hell: A Final Word, is very successful. It gives a good overview of the arguments for conditional immortality and against the traditional view of Hell as a place of eternal conscious punishment. It gets just in-depth enough to where you can understand what he means and to where you can follow his reasoning, without getting specific enough to demand a much more lengthy book. This book is relatively short, and it actually reads much more like a first-person novel than a doctrinal theology book, drawing the reader in.
Now, this book is good for the interested reader to get his feet wet, but it is not a substitute for more thorough works like Fudge’s earlier book The Fire that Consumes (and Fudge definitely doesn’t let you forget it! One of the few things I didn’t like about the book was how it kind of seemed like an advertisement for The Fire that Consumes at times). If you’re looking to dive right in, I’d recommend biting the bullet and purchasing The Fire that Consumes. However, I would imagine for most lay Christians, the idea of a 500 page tome that thoroughly analyzes dozens of relevant passages and rebuts numerous opposing arguments may seem a little daunting (although for what it is worth, I found the Fire that Consumes to be surprisingly reader-friendly). Because it is short and so darn interesting, this is a good book for somebody who has first started to think about alternative views of Hell, or for that friend of yours who you keep trying to get to look into conditionalism but who hasn’t been all that interested. I could see either one coming away thinking that Fudge has given them something to consider. Now of course, more in-depth study and defense of conditionalism would be necessary to thoroughly defeat the traditional doctrine; you simply cannot address even a fraction of the possible arguments against Fudge’s view in a book this size. That is okay; this book can be used to get a lot of people to not only wonder if eternal torment is just or consistent with the God we know (which I imagine many evangelical Christians are wondering in the back of their minds), but for the first time, to consider that maybe, the Bible doesn’t teach what they have always been told it did. I can see many coming away thinking that maybe, the hard-truth they have been swallowing out of their devotion to Jesus was in fact not a truth at all.
Disclosure of Material Connection:
I received this book free from ACU Press/Leafwood Publishers as part of their ACU Press Bookclub Program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.
(Originally published 06/13/2012: http://3-ringbinder.blogspot.com/2012/06/book-review-hell-final-word-by-edward.html. Immaterial changes have been made).