DH: So should I call you Dr. Thompson, Alden...Mr. T.?
AT: Whatever you feel comfortable with.DH: I still remember the conservative uproar over Inspiration: Hard questions, honest answers from my college days. What has been the reaction to Escape From the Flames?
AT: At this point, I have heard no negatives. Of course that could be because the Adventist sub-culture that is not good at disagreeing openly. There were a couple of comments that came out of advance readers copies that were encouraging. Retired secretary of the Ellen G. White Estate, Bob Olsen, said he wished he'd read the book 40 years ago. But in general, it is amazing how much mail I don't get.DH: Your books that I've read (Who's Afraid of the Old Testament God, and Escape from the Flames) have a strong autobiographical component, especially Escape From the Flames. Why did you decide to include so much of your personal experience in this book?
AT: I'm hoping that it will make it possible for some of the ideas to be more palatable. The German translator of Inspiration said he was hoping to read a book about Ellen White but instead read a book about Alden Thompson. But Americans seem to appreciate that style.DH: The main question the critics of your ideas seem to have is How can I retain the authority of inspired writings in my life while applying the casebook approach? That approach, as I read it in Escape from the Flames, sees scripture as primarily descriptive as opposed to prescriptive.
AT: I see The one [law of love], The two [greatest commandments: love God; love your neighbor], and The ten [commandments] as the umbilical cord. That's where the line is drawn in Deuteronomy 4:13,14. The enormous change I would like to see take place is recognition that the whole purpose of scripture is practical application. The law is our anchor, Jesus is the wind in our sails, and the rest are illustrations that point us toward the kingdom.DH: When negotiating moral dilemmas with the help of scripture and spirit of prophecy, should we look to those cases which represent the highest possible standard or those that best fit our current context?
AT: What I would like to see is that we consult all the cases that have possible application; this gives us parameters and data. Identify the ideal, and then you plot a course from where you are. Acts 15:28 provides a model where the apostles say, "It seems good to the Holy Spirit and to us that...", so community needs to be involved in the process.DH: Escape From the Flames seems to build on the ideas presented in Inspiration. How can someone who missed the boat the first time around get a copy of that book?
AT: The Review Publishing Association decided not to reprint it, even though it has gone as high as $135 for sale on the internet. But they took a lot of flack for that book. I am hoping another publisher will pick it up.DH: Are you working on any other projects that we can look forward too?
AT: Escape is the first in a four-part series on Ellen White. The proposed title of the next one is "Small Bonnets, white bread, and strong cravings: Ellen White and the Adventist Life Style". After that will be one about Ellen White and scripture called "But Sister White Says..." And the final book will be about Ellen White and doctrinal development.Escape From the Flames is a valuable contribution to the current Adventist debate about how inspiration works and the kind of writings it produces. Thompson articulates a theology of inspiration that can withstand critical attacks on scripture, while keeping it relevant to the church. I would not recommend this book to someone who is not yet asking the questions it addresses, because many have lost faith over these issues. But for those who do have serious questions about scripture or Ellen White it is not to be missed.
UPDATE (2-27-06): Corrected the proposed title of Thompson's next book. The post originally read: "I'm next one will be on Adventist lifestyle, and the title will probably be 'Tight Bonnets, White Bread, and Strong Cravings'." Apologies to Alden for butchering the title and his articulate diction.