Who Wrote Steps to Christ?

 

Charge:

A popular charge on many anti-Ellen White websites is that Fannie Bolton authored Steps to Christ, not Ellen White. Dirk Anderson (ellenwhite.org) claims “there is little evidence that Mrs. White actually wrote the book,” and Robert Sanders (truthorfables.com) touts a notarized statement from Edward Ballenger which states that Fannie told him in person sometime during the period 1895-97 that she did, in fact, write all of Steps to Christ.

Steps to Christ has been published in more than 135 languages and circulated worldwide. This slim volume, first published in 1892 by the non-Adventist publishing house of Fleming H. Revell (Dwight L. Moody’s brother-in-law), is a beautiful and moving presentation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Did someone else other than Ellen White write this Christ-honoring book?

Reply:

The evidence that Ellen White authored this wonderful little book is actually very strong. For those open to objective evidence, please note the following facts:

1. Steps to Christ is a compilation from Ellen White’s earlier writings. In 1890, Ellen White assigned her top literary assistant, Marian Davis, to compile from her earlier writings material for a book on how the sinner comes to Christ. Once this material was placed before Mrs. White, she provided transitions and added new material. Thus, all the writing came directly from Ellen White. For a more detailed history of the book, click here.

2. The White Estate has documented the parallels between Steps to Christ and Ellen White’s earlier published sources, ranging in date from 1857 to 1890 (Tim Poirier, “Exhibits Regarding The Work of Ellen White’s Literary Assistants,” 21-25, E.G.White Estate, Shelf Document). Furthermore, anyone can now search all of Ellen White’s published writings on the EGW CD Rom and verify that much of Steps to Christ came from earlier writings.

3. Fannie Bolton was employed with Mrs. White from 1888 to 1896. One will find after searching the EGW CD that much of Steps to Christ was written before 1888 when Fannie began working for Mrs. White---some of it was written even before Fannie was born! This is a point critics repeatedly fail to acknowledge.

4. Fannie claimed to have written several of Ellen White’s works (see the story of Fannie Bolton). Robert Sanders’ notarized letter from Ballenger is only as good as Fannie Bolton’s word. Based on Fannie’s own documented testimony, her word was not always reliable. She repeatedly apologized for making false claims about Ellen White’s writings (see The Fannie Bolton Story: A Collection of Source Documents, White Estate Self Document). For example, in a letter to Ellen White written July 5, 1897, Fannie confessed to Mrs. White:

“My eyes are opened to the way in which I hurt your work; for my spirit was not right. The enemy had magnified my supposed difficulties, and though I did not realize what I was doing, he knew exactly what he intended to do through me; but by the grace of God he has lost his tool” (Source Documents, 84).

An another point in the letter, she penned:

“Do all you can to break up every false impression. I have asked the Lord to root up every influence of mine that He sees is tending in the wrong direction” (ibid., 87).

In a significant open letter to church leaders, “A Confession Concerning the Testimony of Jesus Christ,” dated April 1901 (102-106), Fannie describes in detail her troubled employment with Ellen White, her wrong attitude, and extensive negative influence. She provides a heartfelt apology and confession:

“I have suffered terribly for my blind warfare against the Spirit of God through Sister White. . . Let my experience be a warning to others. I now ask you to forgive me, to pray for me. I cast myself on your mercy and the mercy of Him whose compassions fail not” (ibid., 106).

This testimony accords with the confession Fannie reportedly made at a camp meeting that she had circulated lies about Mrs. White and was sorry (G.B. Starr to W.C. White, August 20, 1933, ibid., 118).

5. The authorship of the first chapter of Steps to Christ is not really in dispute as critics assert. The evidence again points to Ellen White as the author. Tim Poirer of the White Estate explains:

“Outside the U.S., where Revell (the original publisher of SC) had waived publications rights, plans were laid to reprint the book at several of our publishing houses. Late in 1892 the manager of the International Tract Society in London requested that the author contribute some new material to the manuscript so that the book could be properly copyrighted in Great Britain. To meet this need request for a new British edition, Ellen White selected a manuscript she had only recently completed. “God’s Love for Man” provided a beautiful introduction to the theme of the book and from that point on, Steps to Christ contained 13 chapters” (“A Century of Steps,” Adventist Review [May 14, 1992]: 14-15).

6. The rhetorical structure (sentence and paragraph length, vocabulary, etc.) of Steps to Christ mirrors the rest of the Ellen G. White writings, which is strong evidence of a single author. It is noteworthy that the same authorship charge has been leveled against the Bible: Amos did not write Amos, John did not write John, etc. Just as evangelical (and Adventist) scholars reject these groundless allegations against the Bible, so Adventists reject allegations against Ellen White’s authorship of the books which bear her name. For more evidence that Ellen White’s authored her books, click here.

7. This charge was first circulated in 1932, six years after Fannie Bolton died, by critics of Ellen White:

“Just recently we received the best of evidence that Fannie Bolton wrote Steps to Christ without any dictation of assistance from Mrs. White whatever. It was her product in toto, but was published as Mrs. White’s production” (The Gathering Call, September, 1932, 20-21).

The White Estate provided a response in 1936 that remains unrefuted to this day:


“The facts are that he has no evidence whatever. On the contrary, it can be shown by ‘the best of evidence’ that this preposterous statement regarding the authorship of Steps to Christ is a willful slander. Much of the contents of this book can be traced back to articles published by Mrs. White in the Review and Herald or Signs of the Times, months or years before Fannie Bolton ever met Mrs. White. Anyone who has access to Testimonies for the Church, volume 5, may find on pages 635-641 an article from which the chapter on ‘Confession’ in Steps to Christ is entirely drawn. This portion of Volume 5 was first published in 1882, five years before Fannie Bolton first met Mrs. White” (Ellen G. White Estate document, March 23, 1936, 12-13; see also, Source Documents, 120).

8. In conclusion, the charge that Fannie Bolton wrote Steps to Christ instead of Ellen White is a groundless charge perpetuated by those who operate according to an anti-Ellen White bias rather than a serious research-based position. Why do the critics want to steal the authorship of Steps to Christ from Ellen White? Because her authorship of this wonderful little book refutes their charges that she was legalistic. Only a person deeply in love with Jesus Christ and His Word could have written this book (to read it online at the White Estate site, click here). That critics continue to circulate this old charge in the face of such strong counter evidence testifies to their questionable research methods. Like it or not, the evidence unanimously points to Ellen G. White as the author of the slim but powerful Steps to Christ.

Jud Lake, Th.D., D.Min.