The Theological Motifs Undergirding the Book Steps to Christ: a Study of the Leading Motif in Ellen White's Approach

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The Theological Motifs Undergirding the Book Steps to Christ: A Study of the Leading Motif in Ellen White’s Approach

Bela Djulai

Submitted to Dr. Gunnar Pedersen and Jan Barna In partial fulfilment of the requirements for the module Principles and Methods of Theology

23 June 2009

Newbold College in Partnership with the University of Wales, Lampeter

INTRODUCTION Stating the Problem of the Paper It is well known that Ellen White1 is coming from a Wesleyan background.2 In recent years some Adventist theologians suggest that there is an influence of Wesleyanism on Ellen White’s theology.3 Therefore, this paper investigates the question of the nature and degree of this influence, particularly in the book Steps to Christ. I will try also to access Ellen White’s theological motifs and her leading motif with some of Wesleyan background and compare it. Stating the Purpose of the Paper The purpose of this paper is to investigate Ellen White’s leading motif and to uncover possible influences behind the structure and content of Steps to Christ from Wesleyanism. Therefore the main research question is to what degree has been the structure, the content and the leading motif of the Steps to Christ influenced by Wesleyan soterology. Methodology of the Paper In this paper I will analyze the structure and the content of the Ellen White’s Book Steps to Christ in the light of a proposed leading motif. Then, I will research for possible Wesleyan influences behind the book. Finally, in the light of discovered similarities I will provide a critical comparison in order to point out Ellen White’s leading motif. Limitations and Delimitations of the Paper I will limit myself to the Ellen White’s book Steps to Christ and only in a limited way go beyond the message of the book to illustrate some of the points. In terms of Wesleyan theology I will not cover in detail the Wesleyan theology, but only its soteriological aspect. 1

Ellen White (1827-1915) the most prominent Adventist writer. Regarding her life, work and ministry see in general Arthur L. White, Ellen G. White, 6 vols (Hagerstown, MD: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1984). 2 See in general John Kent, Wesley and the Wesleyans (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002). 3 See e.g. Woodrow W. Whidden, ‘Adventist Theology: The Wesleyan Connection’, Biblical Research Institute, (2005) [accessed 15 January 2009].

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INVESTIGATION FOR LEADING MOTIF AND OTHER SOTEROLOGYCAL MOTIFS IN THE BOOK STEPS TO CHRIST Proposed Leading Motif in the Light of the Book’s Formation Background Amongst Ellen White’s books probably the book Steps to Christ is the most popular.4 In it the author treats the doctrine of salvation on a simple, but powerful way. This little volume has come out in 1892, and with a hope of wider circulation it was published by the nondenominational Fleming H. Revell Company (Chicago, New York).5 All expectations have been surpassed, since the volume becomes an instant success from the beginning.6 It can bee meaningful for our study, that the first editions of this remarkable volume contained only 12 chapters in its contents.7 Some years later, the author added the ‘God’s Love for Man’ chapter at the beginning of this volume.8 After a close reading of the book I would suggest that the ‘God’s love’ theme is present through the whole book. The fact that Ellen White later

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The book Steps to Christ has been multiplied all over the world in the tens of millions copies and according to Ellen G. White Estate ʻin 2005 Steps to Christ crossed the 150 mark in terms of languages into which it has been translated.ʼ Some other books on Christian living are: Thoughts from the Mount of Blessing (1896) on the Sermon on the Mount, Christʼs object Lesson (1900) on parables of Jesus and The Sanctified life (1937) on biblical sanctification. 5 ʻThe Revell publishing business was established in 1870 by D. L. Moody and his brother-in-law, Fleming H. Revell. The two men...
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