Editorial : The Triumph of Grace in the Theology of Edward Fudge (2)

By Cecil Willis

Nearly every false religion has resulted from an unscriptural emphasis upon a scriptural doctrine, or from a perversion of a scriptural doctrine. History is replete with the instances of this very thing occurring. More than one hundred passages teach salvation by faith, but sectarians give undue emphasis to saving faith when they conclude that salvation is “by faith only.”

Certainly the Bible teaches that salvation is by grace. Obvious passages on this point would be Rom. 5:1; Eph. 2:8,9; Tit. 2:11. Instances of an unscriptural emphasis being given to the Bible doctrine of grace would be in Marcionism, Antinomianism, Perfectionism, Universalism, Protestant Reformationism, Neo-Orthodoxy, and now most recently among us, through the new “Unity Cult” lead by Carl Ketcherside, and his lesser lights of Leroy Garrett and Brother Edward Fudge, with their “Grace-Fellowship” heresy.

Some erroneous religious systems result from an unscriptural emphasis upon a scriptural doctrine. But even this much cannot be said for the doctrine of grace, as taught by Brother Edward Fudge. His doctrine of grace is not even scriptural; instead it is Calvinistic. Brother Fudge’s doctrine of grace entails the imputation of the perfectly righteous life of Christ to every Christian who seeks to be obedient. On January 4, 1971 Brother Fudge wrote a complimentary letter to the University church on Perkins Road in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. The occasion for the letter was to compliment them for having hired two part-time liberal preachers, Ken R. Durham and Lynn McCauley.

Brother Bill Wallace has been critical of the usage of correspondence to establish what a man teaches. Brother Edward Fudge stated in this letter, from which I am about to quote, that he wanted its contents made public. The first sentence of this letter addressed to the before mentioned Baton Rouge church said: “I do not know who opens the mail there, but would be happy for this to be either read aloud to the congregation on a Lord’s Day or posted so that all could see it, as it is to you all at Perkins Road.” So let us not have any crocodile tears about reading from a personal letter. Brother Fudge wanted this one made public.

Pertaining to God’s grace, and in view of this congregation having forced those who would endure sound doctrine to leave and then proceeded to hire a pair of liberal preachers, Brother Fudge said: “. . . we are saved ones because of God’s grace to us in His Son, and we are accepted by Him `in the Beloved!’ Not because we know it all, or do it all right.” Brother Fudge then adds: “Such blessings are not possible through works of righteousness which we may do, but by the grace of God. They do not come because of our perfect conduct or understanding, but because God understood our plight and His Son lived a perfect life in our stead! Praise God!”

Brother Fudge, in this public letter, proceeded to sympathize with. these brethren because of “vicious articles attacking you and your decision recently . . . .” He here refers to teaching efforts made by faithful brethren who sought to prevent a “take-over” of the Perkins Road church by the liberals. Fudge advises these liberal brethren that `fall who would live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.” Apparently Brother Fudge equates living godly with accepting liberalism and its false teachers. So he tells them that they should not “grow weary in well doing.”

Further he advises them, “we have the word of our Savior that when men revile us and speak evil of, us we are to rejoice and be exceeding glad, for great is our, reward in heaven. The prophets received similar treatment, as did the Son of God . . . . The cross precedes the crown. You are not alone!” Brother Fudge closes by saying, “I find comfort in knowing that throughout the country there are many, many good brethren (on both sides of the so-called `institutional issues’) who have their own convictions, but who are happy to recognize other brethren in the Lord who may differ in certain regards.”

Brother William Wallace wants us to believe that his Associate Editor, over whom Brother Wallace says he has complete and absolute authority and for whose position on the Gospel Guardian staff he solely is responsible, is sound in the faith and merely misunderstood by a few hundred of his brethren who are out to “get’.’ him. In the Baton Rouge letter, Brother Fudge does state that “it best honors the Lord” for churches not to contribute to human institutions, and not to become involved with sponsoring churches. But those who oppose what Brother Fudge would have us believe he believes to be “sinful,” Brother Fudge says are guilty of writing “vicious articles,” and that the liberals are being “mistreated,” and “slandered,” and are suffering for righteousness’ sake, like Jesus and His apostles, and that “great” will be their reward in heaven. If with these facts before him, Brother Wallace still believes Brother Fudge is a faithful gospel preacher, then I must confess that my concept of a faithful preacher and Brother Wallace’s concept of what constitutes a faithful preacher are not quite the same!

His Theology of Grace

The cornerstone to Edward Fudge’s softness and sympathy with false teachers is his doctrine of grace. Edward believes that the perfect life of Christ will be imputed to each of us. He believes that I will get credit for the perfect life of Christ in the Judgment. Pray tell me, “How could anyone to whose credit Christ’s perfect life has been accounted go to hell?” Let just this observation be made at the present: If Brother Fudge’s imputed perfect life position is correct, it then follows (1) either all men will be saved, which is blatant universalism; or (2) God is a respecter of persons, and will not impute Christ’s perfect life to some, which is equivalent to the Calvinistic doctrine of “Election and Reprobation,” and very closely akin to Calvin’s “Limited Atonement” position. Edward must either forsake his “imputed perfect life” position, or logically be forced to accept either Universalism or Calvinistic election. It is no wonder he has opted now to pull out of this discussion. It would not surprise me if he also were to opt to pull out of the Lord’s church, and to pull into some form of denominationalism. This has been the practice of the Anti-Legalists and Antinomians who infected the Lord’s church about 25 years ago. Nearly all of them ended up in the modernistic “Disciples of Christ.” It is the prayer of many who love Edward that this often-traveled road can be averted by the concerted efforts of many to teach him more perfectly the way of the Lord.

Karl Barth

About 1918 Karl Barth published his celebrated, Der Romerbrief (The Epistle to the Romans). For all practical purposes, historically this publication date might be called the beginning of Neo-Orthodoxy. G. C. Berkouwer, for many years Professor of Systematic Theology at the Free University of Amsterdam, wrote a book entitled The Triumph of Grace in the Theology of Karl Barth. Berkouwer probably was as competent to write a critique of Barth, as Paul King Jewett was of Emil Brunner, or Edward J. Carnell was of Reinhold Niebuhr. On the jacket of Berkouwer’s book, it is stated: “The tremendous debate centering around the theology of Barth touches a central concept of the Scriptures, namely, grace.” Berkouwer also speaks of Barth’s “dangerous approximation to universalism,” as I have just done in regard to Edward Fudge’s “imputed perfect life of Christ” doctrine.

Barth’s emphasis upon what was called the sovereign grace of God was the central theme in his theology, and thus was that which gave initial impetus to Neo-Orthodoxy. Berkouwer presents Barth “as the contender for a theology of triumphant grace which is moving in its imposing effort to restore to its due place in Christian thought and in the life of the Church the sovereign grace of God revealed in Jesus Christ” (p. iv). This triumphant grace is called by Berkouwer Barth’s “central theme” (p. 10), his “central thought” (p. 12), and his “dominant motif” (p. 19). Further stating this central theme in Barth’s concept of God, Berkouwer says, “This approach to Barth gives us the right to place central in theology and in proclamatior, namely the triumph of grace . . . . Unquestionably: the tremendous debate centering around the theology of Barth touches a central concept of the Scriptures, namely, grace” (p. 22).


Do not take these articles to imply that I am charging that Edward Fudge takes the identical view of grace as that accepted by Karl Barth. Instead, I am affirming that it was in a perversion of the Bible doctrine of grace that both erred. Both, as they began to promulgate their new doctrine, acted like they were the first ever to discover the word “grace” in the Bible. With a distorted view of grace, each proceeded to build thereon, and the theological superstructure digresses from Scripture in direct proportion to their additions to their basic errors on grace.

The Universalists got the love of God so out of Biblical perspective that they concluded that the love of God never could be defeated; hence, all, somehow would be saved. Those who pervert Biblical grace began to speak of legalists, when they refer to those who believe that faithful obedience also is necessary. Sin becomes simply “imperfect knowledge,” or a failure to get the atoms of the brain arranged properly. Surely, we are told, God’s triumphant grace will overlook such formalities!

These who emphasize grace also seem to think rather highly of their own humility. So they charge others with being “vicious beasts.” (This was what Brother William Wallace said in Louisville Edward Fudge viewed James W. Adams and me to be.) We are accused of being sectarians, making vicious attacks, of being legalistic and pharisaical. Barth warned of a new phariseeism. He says the new phariseeism is not only ” ‘self-justifying’ but humble to boot!”

Brother Fudge recently told us in the Gospel Guardian how the Lord’s servant must not strive, but to be meek and humble. But this, according to Brother Fudge, is no problem to him, since the Lord graciously bestowed by nature upon him such a spirit. On the other hand, Brother Wallace told us that Brother Fudge could not undergo the questioning which Wallace received in his effort to defend Fudge, “without blowing his cool.” And some report he did in fact “blow his cool” in one of the public sessions in Athens.

Keep in mind that Brother Fudge must logically give up his “imputed perfect life of Christ” doctrine of grace, or accept either universalism or Calvinistic election (and Calvinism makes God a respecter of persons). Which horn would you prefer, Brother Ed? There are three options, the latter two of which are to accept the logical concommitants of your erroneous doctrine of grace, but which two concommitants also are pernicious error. We much would prefer to see you give back to the Calvinists their “imputed perfect life of Christ” doctrine, and to see you return to “sound doctrine,” and cease to teach “a different doctrine” (1 Tim. 1:3). You say this 1 Timothy passage would suffice as a substitute for what you call our perverted use of 2 John 9. So we will ask you simply to abide by 1 Timothy 1:3!

Truth Magazine, XVIII:10, p. 3-5
January 17, 1974