BY JENNIFER JILL SCHWIRZER
Are you guessing that Hell and Mr. Fudge is a story of a quaint old candymaker trapped in a burning kitchen? Well, you’re . . . warm. Actually, it’s about how the fires of controversy raged around a kind, unassuming Southern preacher—who just happens to be named Edward Fudge. And what a story it is! But actually this article will recount two stories: the story of Edward Fudge, a Southern preacher turned controversial author on the subject of hell, and the story of how Pat Arrabito and her Seventh-day Adventist production team turned Fudge’s story into an award-winning feature film, soon to be released (and, we hope, watched by you).
The Day Hell Broke Loose
Rewind. Edward Fudge, now a Houston-based lawyer and internationally known theologian and author, began his preaching career at the tender age of 16 for the Church of Christ. Like most other evangelical churches, Fudge’s denomination taught the twofold doctrines of natural immortality and eternal hell. Young Edward accepted these teachings unquestioningly, because that’s what good Christians did in those days. Interestingly, he devoured a set of Voice of Prophecy study guides at age 14. Apparently the force of his training kept him from accepting the biblical teaching of annihilation of the wicked. But he would revisit the issue later in life.
Fast-forward 15 years. Edward has married a schoolteacher named Sarah Faye Locke and fathered two children. Plans for an academic career loomed before him until his father’s death at only 57 years of age led him to assume the directorship of the family publishing business in Athens, Alabama.
When a hostile takeover led to his firing, he found a job as a typesetter in a printshop while serving as volunteer pastor of a small nondenominational church that met in a renovated barn. It was during these days of barn preaching that hell quite literally broke loose.
Keep rolling. Fudge published an article in Christianity Today (CT) that simply observed that the Bible most often described the end of the lost with such words as “die,” “perish,” or “destroy.” Ever the scholar, he gathered and shared biblical data as naturally as a farmer sowed a field. A renegade Adventist named Robert Brinsmead read the article. Brinsmead, once a preacher, had restudied most of Adventism’s distinctive teachings and rejected them. Now he wanted to restudy the doctrine of hell to decide whether he wanted to also reject the Adventist view that it entails annihilation rather than an Continue Reading