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The Story of Steps to Christ: The Compilation, Sources, and Setting of the Book – Denis Fortin

Date: 21 January 2017
Speakers: Dr. Denis Fortin
Position:  Prof. of Historical Theology; Former Dean of SDA Theological Seminary
Topic: The Story of Steps to Christ: The Compilation, Sources, and Setting of the Book
Venue:  Garber Auditorium, Chan Shun Hall
Attendance: 86

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Intro:    Today’s meeting began with a formal thank you and presentation of plaques and gift cards to Gary Gray and Brian Strayer for their 12 years of service to the Michiana Adventist Forum as Chapter Vice President and Chapter Secretary respectively.

Program:  Dr. Fortin began by noting that “Good books change people’s lives,” using as examples the impact of written works on Luther and Wesley.  A French copy of Steps to Christ (SC) given to him in Quebec when he was young had a similar impact on him.  After seeing annotated versions of other classics, Fortin thought about SC, realizing that 2017 would be the 500th anniversary of Luther’s 95 Theses and the 125th anniversary of the publication of SC.  He hopes that Adventist churches can give copies to pastors of other churches.
The annotated version includes a historical introduction regarding the origin of SC.  In summer 1890 a group of Adventist pastors urged EGW to prepare a booklet discussing the plan of salvation.  A Christian non-SDA publisher printed the first edition in early 1892, referring to SC as an “eminently helpful and practical work…to guide the inquirer, to inspire the young Christian, and to comfort and encourage the mature believer.”  Later EGW and the General Conference bought the copyright and the first Review & Herald edition came out in 1898.
Fortin explained that all EGW books after 1880 are in fact compilations of earlier EGW writings, most of them compiled by Marian Davis.  A 1932 claim that Ms. Fannie Bolton was the real author of SC is demonstrably false.  Davis used a system of Planning (both general and specific); Gathering (materials from earlier books, unpublished manuscripts, letters); and Arranging (into rough topical categories).  Davis also made needed transpositions, minor word substitutions, and deletions.  She regularly conferred with EGW, including suggesting the need for bridging material to close gaps in the narrative, but she did not engage in original writing.
Fortin checked every sentence of the book against the database of EGW writing and unpublished EGW letters, finding that 90% of the book is included in earlier EGW writings.  The homiletical tone of SC probably is because much of the book is drawn from articles in the Review or Signs that originally had been EGW sermons.  Only a couple chapters include a larger quantity of material not found elsewhere.  In the Appendix Fortin lists sentences of the book and where he found them in earlier EGW writings.  Fortin did not, however, compare SC to non-EGW writings to see what might have been drawn from elsewhere.  The annotated version does not alter the text of SC at all, and includes the original pagination.  There also are pictures of 19th century paintings.
Fortin shared several of the passages most meaningful to him.  He noted that the book is written from a Protestant point of view, and as such there were parts of it that he, as a young Catholic, simply did not understand.  Toward the end of the book, however, there are discussions of things that a believer can “Do” and that struck a chord with him as a Catholic.  The quote that “Prayer is the opening of the heart to God as to a friend” also resonated with him.

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