Ellen White’s writings published by other Christians
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Published on: 05-02-2018
Ellen White’s writings have been a blessing to me. Millions of people around the world can probably say the same. Nevertheless, both her claim to divine inspiration and her refusal to have her writings added to the biblical canon have sometimes created in me a certain uneasiness to share her writings with other Christians.
Consequently, I was surprised to find stories of Christians of different faith backgrounds who appreciated her writings and shared them with the wider Christian community, and society at large.
Evangelical Publishes Steps to Christ
When Ellen White’s manuscript of a small book on the Christian experience was presented to leading Adventist ministers in July 1891, they immediately exchanged ideas about how the book could receive the widest possible circulation. George B. Starr, who had worked alongside the famous Christian evangelist Dwight L. Moody in Chicago in 1875, suggested offering the manuscript to Fleming H. Revell, brother-in-law of Moody and a Christian publisher in Chicago.1
Revell established an independent publishing company in 1870 after seeing the need for books that help transfer Christian faith into practical everyday life. Starr’s suggestion was interesting for at least two reasons. First, Revell had become “the most significant publisher of evangelical books in North America.”2 Second, he had previously published Seventh-Day Adventism Renounced (1889) by the former Adventist minister Dudley M. Canright, a blatant critique of Ellen White and Adventist beliefs.
Ellen White was pleased with the idea and offered the manuscript to Revell, who accepted it and published the book. Revell considered it a practical spiritual work that was “unique in its helpfulness” and apt “to guide the inquirer, to inspire the young Christian, and to comfort and encourage the mature believer.”3
Steps to Christ became an instant bestseller, running through seven editions in the first year (1892).4 Revell appreciated his interaction with White and wanted to publish more of her books. Through his influence Steps to Christ, this masterpiece on learning how to walk with Jesus, benefitted many people who otherwise may not have known about it.
Steps to Christ Published in Hungarian
One year after Steps to Christ was published in the United States, Ludwig R. Conradi, president of the European field, sent a copy of the book to the prominent Reformed minister and journal editor József Szalay in Austria-Hungary. Szalay felt that as most people in Hungary were not really converted, he would have to make changes to the text and add explanations. Conradi requested to see one chapter with Szalay’s changes and explanations marked for his approval.
After Szalay had finished translating the first chapter, he replied, “I cannot change it, it is so good, so accurate, one line flows from another so that men cannot change it, not a word. . . . The Lord can use this work very much to the edification of the saints.”5
After it was published, Szalay advertised the book in his journal: “I never read any piece of writing which is better; one which discusses spiritual life, practical Christianity, more thoroughly and clearly, than this. I recommend it to everybody, really, to everybody. My fellow Christian believers, if you cannot afford to buy it any other way, sell your coats in order to buy this book; it is worthy of such sacrifice. If anyone does not even have a coat, but has a strong desire to own this book, for him I will send it free, paying for it out of the missionary fund.”6
Education in Serbian
Another interesting episode is the translation and publication of White’s book Education into the Serbian language in 1912. Originally published nine years earlier by Pacific Press, the book somehow caught the attention of Paja Pavle Radosavljević (1879-1958), a native of Serbia and a close friend of Nikola Tesla (1856-1943).
At the time, Radosavljević was assistant professor of experimental pedagogy and director of the pedagogical laboratory at New York University. Later he emerged as a prominent reformer of American education and leader in the field of experimental psychology and pedagogy.7
Radosavljević was fascinated by the ideas and principles laid out in the book Education, and he provided a literal Serbian translation of the entire book. He added three short chapters of his own, in which he applied the principles to the context in his native country and the Serbian Orthodox Church.
Surprisingly, Radosavljević claimed authorship of the book and made no mention of White.8 His readers may have been interested in other works of Ellen White had they known her name. Although his conduct was unethical, the book’s teachings reached people who otherwise might never have encountered it.
Of Benefit to Many More People
We Seventh-day Adventists believe that Ellen White’s visions and dreams were true manifestations of the modern-day gift of prophecy (Rev. 12:17; 19:10). We appreciate the spiritual insights given through her writings. Although Ellen White wrote many of her books for members of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, she also wrote others with a wider audience in mind. Her Conflict of the Ages series, Christ’s Object Lessons, and particularly Steps to Christ are concrete examples.
People who do not belong to our faith community may not share our position on the divine inspiration of Ellen White, yet these three examples show that some may appreciate the deep, personal spirituality promoted through her writings, even to the point of becoming instruments in spreading her writings.
Through their influence Ellen White’s works have benefited many people in their personal relationship with Jesus. It is an encouragement for us to share those publications with all those who yearn for a closer walk with Christ.
1 Tim Poirier, “A Century of Steps,” Adventist Review, May 14, 1992, p. 14.