Ed Fudge, Florida College &
by Harry Osborne, 2302 Windsor Oaks Ave., Lutz, FL 33549
February 04, 2001
In the 1970's, Ed Fudge left sound brethren during the "New Unity Movement" seeking to broaden the bounds of fellowship among non-institutional brethren. Ed's journey ultimately led him to the ultra liberal wing of the institutional folks. He has served as an elder for the Bering Drive Church of Christ (Houston, TX) which has featured inter-denominational services, instrumental music in worship services, and women in leadership roles for worship. They also observe all of the "holy days" on the calendar.
Brother Fudge now authors a cyberspace list called "graceEmail". His posting for Thursday, January 24, 2001 has a familiar ring to it for anyone who has followed the recent controversy over the creation account emanating from error taught at Florida College. Ed laments the "outrage" of one reader who is alarmed over teaching at "a particular Christian college" that the "days" of creation might not be literal days. He makes the following observation as a remedy:
"We should learn to read the Bible to hear its message to us, not to ask it questions which those who wrote it never remotely intended to answer. That is especially true when reading Genesis and Revelation, both of which discuss the frontiers between time and eternity. Compared to other ancient Near-Eastern accounts of origins (Egyptian, Sumerian, Akkadian, Hittite and Ugaritic), Genesis 1-3 uniquely proclaims fundamental biblical truths: God exists separate from and before his creation; God made all that exists; God made humans in his image to care for the rest of creation as good stewards; humans are to live in creaturely dependence on God; when humans abandon proper relationship with God, all creation suffers.
"The arguments of the past 150 years, about "how" God created and made all that exists, could not have been farther from the mind of the author of Genesis. Conflicts between science and religion generally arise when scientific people try to elevate scientific theories into a theology, and when religious people try to turn the Bible into scientific theory instead of theology.... "What," "who" and "why" are theological questions, which Genesis answers. "When" and "how" are scientific questions which it does not.
"Sometimes the Hebrew word translated "day" (yom) means a 24-hour day and sometimes it means another period of time. Genesis 2:4 speaks of "the day that the LORD God made earth and heaven" -- then summarizes events which cover several "days" in Genesis chapter 1. There is certainly room for legitimate question and interpretation regarding what Genesis chapter 1 means by "day." However, there is cause to be sad when people who believe in God, who follow Jesus Christ and who regard the Bible as authoritative canon, assail others who share those same convictions simply because they come to a different conclusion about such uncertain matters as these."
Anyone who has followed the Florida College administration and Bible faculty's defense of non-literal interpretations of Genesis 1 and 2 recognizes the arguments made by brother Fudge. They are virtually identical to the ones coming out of Florida College. We are told to ignore the apparently literal wording of the text because the original writers never meant it to be literal. We are assured about the intent of the Bible writers and the Holy Spirit because our brethren affirm that they can unerringly determine that intent while remaining ambivalent about "such uncertain matters" as the creation account and other Bible doctrines lacking "clarity." Thus, we can have great confidence that our basis for an ever-broadening fellowship rests upon the bedrock assurance that our brethren are absolutely certain the Spirit's intent was to inspire that which cannot be understood with any certainty. Does that give you comfort?
Following brother Fudge's road to biblical interpretation, what other doctrinal teachings will be placed into this realm of certainly "uncertain matters"? Ed has traveled this road for some time and its winding turns can be mapped by following his progress through the years. His call for greater "unity-in-diversity" in doctrine and practice has been headed downhill throughout the journey. Let us take a look at a few examples of "uncertain matters" which were never meant to be taken literally according to our good brother:
(1) Use of Women in Leadership Roles for Worship Services. As noted earlier, the Bering Drive Church of Christ where Ed has served as an elder has used women in various capacities of leading in the worship services. Lynn Mitchell, who served with brother Fudge as an elder at Bering Drive, detailed his acceptance of women in leadership roles during a forum at Freed-Hardeman University in 1990. (The forum is now printed as a book, Gender and Ministry.) Despite the pleas for tolerance of leadership roles for women in worship, the inspired apostle plainly stated, "And I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man, but to be in silence" (2 Timothy 2:12). It does not sound like Paul considered it an "uncertain matter," does it? Neither does he sound very tolerant of such!
(2) Instrumental Music in Worship. As already mentioned, Ed Fudge has been associated for several years with the Bering Drive Church of Christ which has used instrumental music in some of their worship services. Ed clearly condones that practice. Yet, the Scripture instructs, "Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord. And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him" (Colossians 3:16-17). Though singing is specified and the very next verse reminds us of the need for authority in all we do, our brother condones adding instruments. Despite other warnings of the consequences of going beyond God's commands, we are urged to tolerate the changes (see 2 John 9, Revelation 22:18-19, etc.). Where have we missed the "uncertain matter" with respect to adding instruments of music into the worship?
(3) Church-Sponsored Social Gospel Schemes for Entertainment and Recreation. Under his oversight as an elder, brother Fudge led the Bering Drive Church of Christ into a vast variety of entertainment and recreational programs sponsored by the church. The bulletin has advertised a "City-Wide Sports Day," "Bering Christmas Banquet," "Day at the Movies," "Family Halloween Funival," "White-Water Rafting Trip," "Anything Goes Contest," "Chris Christian Concert" and the list goes on and on. My personal favorite was an invitation reading, "Come Take a Bite out of a World Record - 300 Foot Hot Dog." The teaching of God's word tells us that the church is the "pillar and ground of the truth" with a spiritual purpose of equipping saints to attain "the fulness of Christ" (1 Timothy 3:15; Ephesians 4:11-16). Is there anything even remotely "uncertain" about the God-authorized mission and work of the church which would permit it to be used as a glorified social club?
(4) Denial of Conscious Torment in Hell. In 1982, Ed Fudge published a 500 page book denying eternal punishment in hell. That book, The Fire That Consumes, asserts that there will be no conscious torment for the wicked in hell. Jesus taught the reality of conscious torment for the wicked after departing this life (e.g. Mark 9:42-48; Matthew 5:21-30; 25:41, 46). Jesus even told of the rich man who was in torment after death (Luke 16:19-31). His consciousness while suffering is affirmed as he is called upon to "remember" the reason for his condition and as he is described in an exchange of thoughts concerning his desires. Where does our dear brother find anything "uncertain" about the words of Jesus affirming the reality of conscious torment for the wicked after death?
God's will concerning these matters is not "uncertain" as brother Fudge claims. Instead, it is understandable for all who will simply trust the literal truth revealed in the Word. The destination is clear for all who travel a road denying the literal truth revealed by God in plain language - full apostasy.
Ed Fudge's present assertion about the "days" of creation is not surprising since it follows a consistent pattern in his life. But notice the similarity between the following words and the above statement from brother Fudge:
"Now, I think we run into a problem when we say "must," one of these views must be correct. And I've got a good brother friend who said one place that these must be long ages, and I can't say that. But on the other hand, I can't say they must be 24 hour ages. There were some arguments made for that like Exodus 20 and some arguments I didn't have time to deal with that I did have them in my notes here. And you can argue, you know, you can make a good case either way for that, all of those things like that.... And there is nobody in our brotherhood who can say, "This is it, and you've all got to agree with my view." Now brethren, that's the history that we come from. And I'm sad to say that those who are younger and who may only be 10 years old or 15 or 20 years old, because it's been always a certain way in your life doesn't mean its always been that way. And its time people who were older spoke up and said, "Look, what goes around comes around." Not to be wishy-washy, not to compromise on any biblical truth, but to say there are just some things so difficult that I may not be able to draw the same conclusion you've drawn on those and then to give that opportunity for people."
And who made the comments above? It was Ferrell Jenkins speaking in a class at last year's Florida College lectures. How far is brother Jenkins willing to travel on this uncertain trail? Is the administration at Florida College ready to travel with him? How about the Bible faculty? Will they eventually catch up with brother Fudge who has heralded the same path? We hope and pray that our brethren will see the danger in their present path and renounce as they return to the old paths of truth. The will of the Lord is not a road of uncertainty and supposition. It is a way which can and must be known (Ephesians 5:17).
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