The Fire That Consumes… Who?

[Gates of Hell (La Porte de l’Enfer), Rodin]

How can we not feel concerned by the question of Hell? All human beings, of all cultures and religions, must have this worry in common. What we become after we die is one thing – but to know what Heaven looks like is not really that pressing since, whatever it is, we are sure not to be disappointed. The truly frightening – and consequently captivating – matter is hell itself; that is to say, what exactly awaits the sinners and the non-believers after their death.

Christianity’s traditional answer is as simple as terrifying: hell is a place of never-ending conscious torment of the souls. Nevertheless, many theologians and philosophers over the centuries have examined and called into question this interpretation of the Scripture, punctuating History with abundant and heated debates. Along the same lines, Edward W. Fudge, in The Fire That Consumes, defends the thesis of a hell where souls are completely destroyed and annihilated. His vehement and passionate argumentation finds solid roots in a deep study of the sacred texts, in which he finds the elements to refute step by step the doctrine of the traditionalists.

As Fudge presents himself as an Evangelical Christian, the reader will not be surprised by the value of completeness he attaches to the Bible, nor by the sequential serious, substantial and critical analysis he leads with all the strength of his beliefs. As he widely mentions and develops his opponents’ ideas on the subject, his book gives a perfect and quite large insight into the current theological discussions that have the greatest scholars on the subject at a worldwide scale. For that reason maybe, this burning hot book is able to enthral the people of all religion and none; far from lapsing into proselytising, it presents its own viewpoint of the question with a highly academic rigour.

When you close the book, whether you agree with the author or not, you still find this brilliant exegetic work profoundly interesting. Looking into such a primordial and significant question is never a waste of time – although you might hope, as I do, not to be given any confirmation…


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