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How Ellen White Grew from Fear to Joy:
New Resources for Pastors

by Arthur Patrick

A pervasive challenge for many pastors is how to lead diverse congregants to experience fellowship and invest their talents and energies in the mission of Christ. To enable our people to transcend conflict, trusting each other and cooperating in local church settings is seldom easy, but it is vital.

The writings of Ellen White are an invaluable aid in congregational life but they can also be, if misunderstood, a source of divisive controversy. A book from Pacific Press is now available to support pastors who wish to enhance their members’ understanding of Ellen White’s life and writings.

Entitled Escape from the Flames: How Ellen White grew from fear to joy—and helped me to do it too, this jargon-free, 191-page book presents profound thinking in everyday language.

Author Alden Thompson is well known for his five-part “Sinai to Golgotha” series in Adventist Review (December 1981), as well as his books Who’s Afraid of the Old Testament God? (fourth edition, 2003) and Inspiration: Hard Questions, Honest Answers (1991). (A wide range of related materials are on Thompson’s website: <>.)

The “growth model” espoused in Escape from the Flames was conceived in 1979 when Thompson was first assigned to teach Adventist history. Fresh from reading the nine volumes of Testimonies for the Church, he began to test and apply his understanding of biblical inspiration with reference to the writings of Ellen White.

There were 80 students in that first class. Devout conservatives “rejoiced because they sensed that God’s hand was clearly leading in Ellen White’s growing experience,” whereas left-leaning liberals found “a model that allowed them to be absolutely honest with all the evidence.” Now Thompson confesses: “In that class, I glimpsed something that I sensed could work for the entire Adventist family” (Escape from the Flames, page 31).

Only an ardent devotee of Scripture could paint the picture that Thompson’s words portray. It is of a loving God that meets the needs of His people through inspired writings for Israel (Old Testament), the early Christian church (New Testament) and Adventists (through Ellen White). The strengths of his book are many, with several standing tall: its solid foundation in Scripture; its wide and deep understanding of Adventist heritage; its penchant for listening actively to everyone in the Adventist community, even those who disagree sharply.

The theme of inspiration is presented honestly, insightfully, believably. Both the Bible and Ellen White’s writings are thereby illumined; especially do her principal historic statements on inspiration glow with fresh meaning. So here is a book that can draw Adventists into unity of understanding and, therefore, better equip us for life together (fellowship) and witness (mission) to a world that needs to know the love of God and respond to His last-day message.

hose who want to understand Ellen White’s spiritual gift must read this stimulating book if they are to stay abreast of the vibrant, ongoing conversation within Seventh-day Adventism. The pastor who reads Escape from the Flames will be stimulated by Thompson’s wisdom, distilled from years of intense study, classroom discussions, seminar exchanges and pulpit reflections. Church members who use the book to hone their individual perceptions and enliven congregational dialogue will be enriched in faith and drawn toward a sustainable understanding of God’s leading in the Adventist past. Such experiences have the potential to facilitate a joyous sense of community, willing service and enthusiastic witness.


Arthur Patrick
Research Fellow,
Avondale College
11 April 2005

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