A Tribute to Edward Fudge

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Words are simply inadequate. How does one even begin to put into words the tremendous, life-altering impact of a man like Edward William Fudge? A humble, quiet, unassuming man, always ready with a smile and a twinkle in his eye, yet blessed with a depth of insight into the marvelous grace of God and the hope that is ours through faith in Christ Jesus that has led countless believers to a greater hope and appreciation with respect to the Father’s redemptive gift of life in the Son.  Only at the great reunion of that longed for Resurrection Day will his impact on his fellow life-travelers be fully realized and appreciated.

So many disciples of Jesus are far more qualified than I to attempt a tribute to such a man. They could easily enumerate his many and varied accomplishments during his earthly journey better than I.  I am merely one lone voice in the vast crowd of appreciative spiritual sojourners who can testify to how deeply Edward touched my heart and opened my eyes to a greater grasp of God’s grace and our hope of immortality.

I love how his beloved wife Sara Faye eulogized him in a message to his “gracEmail family” on November 26, 2017:  “It is with a heart of profound sadness and triumphant hope that I write to inform you that our precious Edward has been released from his mortal body and rests in the sheltering arms of His Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, whom he loved and served all his life.  Saturday morning, November 25, 2017, God granted him the gift of an easy passing with his loved ones beside him. … Edward was a remarkable man whose gifts were many.  A brilliant thinker who could engage any scholar on that level, a consummate professional writer who could pack more into three paragraphs than anyone I ever knew. … But most of all, he was a Jesus man, as he termed it, who loved God with all his heart, believed even through the most difficult of times and circumstances, and loved to spread the good news of God’s redeeming grace far and wide.  He gave glory to God for every good thing in his life, aware that he was a sinner saved by grace, and prayed often for Jesus to come quickly.  He was confident in his salvation through the blood of Jesus, and sure of Jesus’ triumphant return on that great Resurrection Day.”

Sara Faye and Edward enjoyed a loving relationship that had lasted over half a century, and they were a true example of a man and woman who were “fellow heirs of the grace of life” (1 Peter 3:7).  Just a few weeks before his death, Sara Faye wrote to me saying that she and Edward had been discussing one of my most recent “Reflections” articles, and Edward had some insights he wanted her to pass along to me. I always treasured such times when I could tap into his vast reservoir of biblical understanding. I was especially blessed to be able to spend some quality time with him a few years back at “The Tulsa Workshop” where he and I were both speakers. A photo was taken during that meeting that I will always cherish (Edward and I are with a mutual friend: Rob Ford, an elder from Edmond, Oklahoma).

Perhaps Edward’s greatest contribution to the cause of Christ, apart from his powerful personal example of daily devotion to the Lord, was his work in the area of eschatological and soteriological understanding known as “Conditionalism,” which was a very logical and biblical alternative to, and refutation of, the more traditional view of the nature of man and his ultimate, eternal destiny. It was here that I first encountered Edward, and it was here that he helped facilitate the transformation of my own thinking.

Every now and then something occurs in a person’s life that has a lasting impact upon them; having the potential to alter the course of their lives.  For me, one of those momentous events took place in Santa Fe, New Mexico in 1986.  I was the minister for a little congregation of about 150 members.  It was a great group, and my family and I stayed there for eight years (1984-1992).  One morning, as I was studying in my office, Dave England, one of the members, walked in, placed a book on my desk, and said, “Would you read this and tell me what you think?”  He then turned and walked out, giving me no indication as to his own views of the book.  I picked up the book and looked at the cover.  It was by Edward Fudge, someone I had never heard of, and the title was “The Fire That Consumes.”  I set it aside and continued with what I had previously been doing.

Some time later I noticed the book on my desk and picked it up again.  As I flipped through it I realized this was a presentation of a position on the nature of man and his eternal destiny with which I was completely unfamiliar, and, frankly, somewhat skeptical.  It seemed radically different from what I had always been taught to believe, although I must admit that I had never been completely comfortable with the traditional teaching on this subject, especially the view that God would torture people endlessly and find some satisfaction therein.

Over the next few days I read the book.  Then I read it again, this time much more carefully.  After that, I picked up my Bible and literally went through every verse, from cover to cover, over the next several months, examining the Scriptures to determine if “these things be true” (as did the Bereans in Acts 17:11 with the astounding teachings of Paul).  To make a long story short, I could not refute this view of the nature of man and his eternal destiny.  Indeed, the more I studied it over the coming years (and I studied it extensively and in great depth), the more convicted I became that Conditionalism (the view that man was by nature mortal, and that immortality was a promised gift conditioned upon being “in Christ Jesus,” and that eternal punishment was an everlasting loss of life itself, not just a “life of loss”) was a powerful Truth our traditional teaching had tragically subverted.

In the decades that followed that encounter in my office in Santa Fe, I have become increasingly vocal in my support of what I am convinced is the biblical teaching on the nature of man and his eternal destiny: an understanding for which I am forever grateful to Edward Fudge.  I have done considerable writing and teaching on this subject, and have always shared with those I taught just how significant an impact Edward had on my thinking. Over the years, Edward’s ministry and my own somewhat paralleled one another, and he was even gracious enough to make reference to my work in his third edition of “The Fire That Consumes” (p. 352-353). In 2014, I compiled my own writings and teachings on this topic into a 308 page book titled “From Ruin To Resurrection,” and Edward honored me by agreeing to write the Foreword to this book, even stating in that Foreword that “Al Maxey is perhaps the most influential popular presenter of this ‘Conditionalist’ (biblical) understanding in the Churches of Christ today.”

How does one properly say “Thank you” to another disciple of Christ for the impact he or she has had on their life?  Again, words seem so inadequate to express the depth of love and appreciation felt.  Maybe Edward expressed it best in the obituary that he wrote for himself, and which Sara Faye shared with his many friends:  “Always trust God – He is real, although invisible, and that is the most important thing you can do. Be nice to each other and support each other.  I love you and will see you on Resurrection Morning!  Blessed be the name of the Lord.”  When Edward sent me a copy of his third edition of “The Fire That Consumes,” he wrote this in the front of the book:  “To my friend and fellow servant of Jesus Christ our life, Al Maxey, with appreciation for your faithful ministry of the Word, and in hope of immortality at the last day.”  Perhaps, then, our greatest tribute to this beloved brother is to always trust our God, to be nice to each other and support each other, and to share with others the gift of God’s grace: life everlasting in the Son, which will be fully realized on that great Resurrection Morning!  Until we meet again on that Day, my friend, rest in blessed peace!

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