It has been 125 years since Ellen G. White’s Steps to Christ, a book read all over the world, was first published in 1892. On Saturday, Jan. 21 at 3:30 p.m. in Garber Auditorium, Denis Fortin, Professor of Theology at the Seventh-day Adventist (SDA) Theological Seminary, presented “The Story behind Steps to Christ After 125 years,” detailing Fortin’s journey in completing an annotated version of Steps to Christ, as well as providing insight on how this short and simple book came to be.
Fortin started the seminar with these words: “Good books change people’s lives.” According to Fortin, Steps to Christ is one of those “good books.” He was around the age of sixteen when he was introduced to the Seventh-day Adventism. Growing up Catholic, Fortin would tune in to a SDA program that soon led him to seek more information about the church. Little did he know, there was a SDA church only five city blocks from where he lived. After receiving information about the church, he was sought out by the pastor from that church who gave him a copy of Steps to Christ. It was a tiny book with thirteen chapters and a picture of Jesus knocking on someone’s door. Fortin states that he has kept and treasured that same book to this day.
According to Fortin, for years each morning he would recite the prayer on page 70 of Steps to Christ: “Take me, O Lord, as wholly Thine. I lay all my plans at Thy feet. Use me today in Thy service. Abide with me, and let all my work be wrought in Thee.” White’s book, Fortin said, helped him learn his failings and need for spiritual growth.
Fortin said that his spiritual journey sparked an annotated version of Steps to Christ. After seeing so many classics at Barnes & Noble one day, Fortin wondered which of White’s books could get an annotated version. This had never been done before with any of White’s works. He decided that he wanted a simple book that SDA pastors could give to non-Adventist pastors so that they could understand what the Seventh-day Adventists believed and practiced.
In his seminar, Fortin described that the original edition of Steps to Christ came about in the summer of 1890 when a group of church leaders suggested that White prepare a booklet for people who did not yet know about salvation. The book had to be simple to read and easy to understand and would be distributed by evangelists. White and her literary assistant, Marian Davis, got right to work and finished the compilation now known as Steps to Christ within a year. The first edition, published in 1892 by an evangelical publisher in Chicago, had only twelve chapters. White received a few suggestions for a title and finally chose Steps to Christ, believed to be an allusion to Jacob’s ladder, which White references often in her work. Within a year, Steps to Christ was published overseas with thirteen chapters. The first edition did not include with the first chapter of later editions, titled “God’s Love for Man.”
Kaydra Bailey (senior, biochemistry, pre-med), who attended the seminar, said, “Fortin’s talk was very enlightening. I learned many things that I didn’t know before.”
To celebrate the 125th anniversary of Steps to Christ’s publication and the 500th year of the Protestant Reformation, Fortin’s annotated edition of Steps to Christ will be released on Feb. 7.