David Murray of Head, Heart, Hand reviews Brian Borgman’s After They Are Yours: The Grace And Grit of Adoption. He writes:
If you don’t want to cry, don’t read After They Are Yours: The Grace And Grit of Adoption. What a powerfully moving, deeply personal, and transparently realistic story about the challenges of adoption.
With the permission of his now 18-year-old adopted son, Alex, Pastor Brian Borgman narrates the struggles and successes of adopting Alex as a young child with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome.
The beautiful glory and grace of adoption is present throughout; but so is the grit and grime that the devil often throws in and stirs up in adoptive families. It reveals “the other side of adoption” that some adoption advocates and some adoption books ignore, minimize, or gloss over.
*Click on the image below to download the PDF.
*This is a guest post by Tony Merida.
Can you name an orphan?
That’s the only question on this quiz, but I failed the test.
I was never opposed to orphan care or being generous to the poor. I was just very indifferent. Sure, I had a sense of sympathy toward those who were weak and powerless; I saw the pictures and was moved. But I rarely acted.
Inevitably, I had to face the fact that sympathy is no substitute for action. My sporadic, momentary experiences of sympathy (for Ukrainian orphans and enslaved girls in the Philippines) didn’t help vulnerable children one bit.
Worse yet, I considered myself spiritually mature. I could name a lot of authors and famous preachers, and even knew many of them personally, but I couldn’t name an orphan.
Bad maturity metrics
In light of my orphan-less lifestyle, I began to reevaluate how I evaluate spiritual maturity. Spiritual maturity isn’t merely something you do with your mind. It’s not about the books you read. It’s not about the conferences you attend or speak at. It’s about the life you live.
It’s possible to listen to ten podcasts weekly, and to sing with the hottest bands, and be in four Beth Moore Bible studies, but miss the call to care for the least of these—and all the while live in a deceived state of thinking you’re mature.
Shouldn’t we be looking at the life of Jesus and the heart of God as revealed in Scripture, instead of whether or not we are keeping up with the Christian subculture?
“The highest privilege that the gospel offers”
The doctrine of adoption is the Cinderella doctrine of Pauline theology. Books about salvation often emphasize justification, redemption, reconciliation, and propitiation, but speak cursorily—if at all—about adoption. This is unfortunate, because the doctrine of adoption is, in the words of J. I. Packer, “the highest privilege that the gospel offers” (Knowing God, 207).
When we fail to ponder the privileges of adoption, we miss so much. It provides incredible hope and assurance to God’s people. The doctrine of adoption also inspires prayer and worship to God. And it reminds us of how we should relate to one another in the church: as adopted brothers and sisters.
Paul uses the word “adoption” in Ephesians, Galatians, and Romans, though the concept is taught elsewhere (including in the Old Testament—Israel was “God’s son”). Paul shows us that God the Father administered our adoption, God the Son accomplished our adoption, and God the Spirit applied our adoption, giving us a new nature, a new position, and the indwelling presence of God that enables us to cry, “Abba! Father!” (Gal. 4:6).
God is an adoptive Father—by choice. Adoption was never Plan B for God. It wasn’t an alternative solution. It was Plan A. Before the universe existed, God planned on adopting us into His family (Eph. 1:5).
Why did God adopt us?
Because He is gracious and merciful. God didn’t adopt us because of our attractive merits, but because of His amazing mercy. Therefore, when Paul tells us to “be imitators of God, as beloved children,” part of that means reflecting the adopting love of God to a world in need (Eph. 5:1).
Certainly, not everyone is called to adopt, and not every orphan is available for adoption; but every believer is called to imitate God.
More hard questions
Considering all of this led me to take a more honest look at my own life. If God is a father to the fatherless, and I am to reflect Him in every way, then doesn’t that mean I should care for the fatherless too?
If “true religion” involves caring for orphans in their affliction, as James 1:27 says, then what kind of religion am I practicing if it doesn’t involve some measure of orphan care?
Am I neglecting “the weightier matters” of doing justice and mercy like the Pharisees that frustrated Jesus (Matt. 23:23)?
Have I turned into a polished professional pastor whose public life is far more impressive than my own personal life?
These questions haunted me. I began to see that in many ways the poorest of the poor were orphans, and there are millions of fatherless kids, not to mention the “functionally fatherless” in our neighborhoods.
This reality, coupled with the weight of numerous passages on the subject, led me to repentance and some life-altering decisions.
Long story short, my wife and I set out to meet some orphans. We ended up bringing a few home with us.
Sometimes people look at me funny when I’m with my Ukrainian son and my Ethiopian son, since they both call me “Papa.” Observers often have questions. As I talk with them, and eventually share that we have five adopted children, the most common question is “Why?”
What moved my heart the most was the doctrine of adoption. Of course, this isn’t what most people expect to hear. They expect to hear about infertility. But my wife and I were led to adopt because of theology not biology.
We’ve now passed on “the adoption bug” to our kids. Recently I was taking my son Joshua to baseball practice. He said, “Papa, when I get old, I want to adopt from every country. I want to adopt from Ukraine, Ethiopia, China, and Kentucky.”
He doesn’t understand everything about adoption, but Joshua already has a sensitivity to others in need. His little heart has already grasped the idea that those adopted should extend adopting love to others.
I don’t tell every Christian to adopt children. I do tell them to elevate their view of adoption, and to seriously consider it. Here’s my simple application: Every Christian must do something to care for the orphan.
Whether you’re involved with adoption, foster care, respite, or simply caring for the functionally fatherless in your community, the question every Christian must ask is, “What can I do to practice James 1:27?”
We all are not called to become adoptive parents, but we are all called to care for orphans. Orphan care is not for the exceptional Christians. It’s for the ordinary ones.
Get to know an orphan and get to know the God who adopted you.
For more on this topic, see Tony Merida’s new book Ordinary: How to Turn the World Upside Down.
Tony Merida is the founding pastor of Imago Dei Church in Raleigh, NC. Tony is the author of Ordinary, Faithful Preaching, co-author of Orphanology, and serves as a general editor and as contributor to the Christ-Centered Exposition Commentary series along with David Platt and Danny Akin. He is married to Kimberly, with whom he has five adopted children.
“At a time in history when so much attention is rightly focussed on the child, and all that children suffer—from war, poverty, abuse, and loss of family—it comes as glorious good news that God does not leave us as desolate orphans (Jn. 14:18) but promises…through the Spirit, a home to dwell in of true belonging and abiding love. But it is equally a rebuke to our society, which thinks of itself as come of age, and in which all too many who are disturbed, insecure, and immature try to prove their adulthood by the abusive exercise of power over the vulnerable young, that a child is precisely what each of us must be in order to be whole. And that child, regenerate, adopted, neophyte, on the way at last to maturity and full stature (Eph. 4:13ff.), is what we may become by simply saying Yes to the one who for our sakes risked his Sonship on the cross and yielded to the orphaned grief of Fatherlessness on Easter Saturday” (Alan E. Lewis, Between Cross & Resurrection: A Theology of Holy Saturday, p. 445).
Fundamental Question #2: Is Paul’s Language of Adoption to Be Taken Literally or Metaphorically? (Answered)
Finally, we come to the point of decision. To be clear, we are not deciding whether Paul’s language of adoption bespeaks a reality or not, for as those holding a high view of Scripture we understand it does. Rather, we are deciding whether Paul writes of this reality directly ~ meaning that God has actually or literally adopted us, or indirectly ~ meaning that the language of adoption helps us to speak of our acceptance with God in ways which, apart from this language, would be either limited or impossible.
The literal reading has its attractions. It spares us a number of challenges: first, the impression that because something is metaphorical it cannot speak of reality; secondly, the uncertainty of wondering what the believer’s acceptance is in Christ if it is not, literally, an adoption; thirdly, the complexity of figuring out what aspects of Semitic, Greek, or Roman adoption Paul had in mind when writing of adoption in Romans, Galatians, and Ephesians; and, fourthly, the need to explain both Paul’s and Calvin’s silence pertaining to the nature of the language of adoption.
After weighing the issues cautiously, thoughtfully, and evenhandedly, I opt, despite these attractions, to stick with the metaphorical understanding I first assumed in print in 1996 and 1997*. Four main reasons preclude a change of mind:
1. The general reason: The literal reading does not guarantee a complete view of reality any more than the metaphorical reading.
Scripture throughout indicates that there is more to God and his ways than has been revealed. Deuteronomy 29:29 states: “The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things which are revealed belong to us and to our children forever.” Accordingly, the literal reading can only give access to the reality of adoption to the degree God has chosen to reveal it. His understanding of the believer’s adoption remains qualitatively better than ours, for he knows considerably more about it than we do. Thus, the literal reading can give us the pure but not the full essence of what it means to be adopted. The metaphorical reading, by contrast, owns this limitation but goes one step further; namely, to say that it is because the wonder of our acceptance with God is beyond articulation that he has expressed it through the apostle Paul in terms of adoption. Accordingly, it would be mistaken to assume that the literal and metaphorical readings offer us, respectively, high and low views of adoption. Since both views hold to reality we are choosing in actuality between two high views.
2. The biblical reason. The metaphorical reading is consistent with the nature of Scripture.
On the one hand, the divineness of Scripture indicates that God is able to speak forth his truth, and that he has initiated both the revelation of his truth and the manner of it. Simply stated, God has accommodated his revelation to our finite capacities. This proverbial baby talk helps us, then, to understand God’s truth in ways we would not be able to otherwise. In this light, metaphors function as one of God’s ways of speaking to us in our own language. On the other hand, the humanness of Scripture reminds us that although the metaphor is chosen and inspired by God, it is drawn from our earthly realm. The Spirit breathed out on holy men who were located in particular times and places, societies and cultural milieu. In the mystery of the inspiration of Scripture there transpired a concurrence of God’s will and man’s experience, in which the believer’s acceptance with God (known fully only to God) became couched in terms of adoption (practiced in society by man). Thus, we may say that Paul’s language of adoption is both top down (from God) and bottom up (from man), in that order.
3. The textual reason: Too much weight has been placed on Ephesians 3:14-15 (“I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named”).
Paul prays to the first person of the Godhead by means of his personal name, “the Father.” To him he attributes the naming of either ”every family” or “all fatherhood” (pasa patria) in heaven and on earth. Clearly, the Fatherhood of God is original or archetypal and thereby the source of the derived or ectypal fatherhood of man. While God’s Fatherhood is above and beyond, prior to and determinative of, human fatherhood, there is nothing in the text to insist that God’s Fatherhood must of necessity be taken literally. Writes T. F. Torrance, “there is certainly a figurative or metaphorical ingredient in the human terms ‘father’ and ‘son’ as they are used in divine revelation” (The Christian Doctrine of God, One Being Three Persons [Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 1996], 157). The name “Father” helps us speak of the first person of the Godhead in a way more informative and colorful than the description of him as unbegotten or unproceeding. It also guards us from thinking of God as male. The name “Father” is rather intended to express the priority, love, security, and care of the first person of the Godhead than an engendered relationship toward his children. That is why God is revealed in Scripture as Father, and yet his love is also expressed in maternal ways. Were this all a literal rather than a metaphorical reality, we might be tempted to think of God ~ dare I say it ~ in transgendered terms. When, however, we understand the reality of God and his children to be metaphorically expressed, we also discover how God can function as Father to children who are at one and the same time both born to him (John) and adopted (Paul) by him. This is highly unusual in the literal realm, but clearly possible when understood in terms of two juxtaposed metaphors.
4. The Literary reason: Arguments from silence used to support the naive-realist literal understanding are not strong.
For Paul, the critical point is that the Father and the adoption of his sons is real, not how they are real. Paul’s point is rather that we should believe on the Son for acquaintance with the Father, than that we understand how the language of Fatherhood works when we can call God Abba.
It is more challenging to explain why Calvin attaches no literary category to the language of adoption, when, obviously, he was very familiar with various biblical figures of speech, and was not shy in identifying them (e.g., similes). At least three explanations are possible: First, that we are yet to come across a place in Calvin’s corpus where he clearly enunciates a metaphorical understanding of the language of adoption; secondly, that he simply overlooked explaining how the language of adoption functions; or, thirdly, that he believed adoption to bespeak a literal reality. If this third explanation turns out to be the case, then evidently I have taken the unusual step of differing from our hero in the faith.
Reflecting on these four reasons for the metaphorical reading of Paul’s language of adoption, I do not doubt that there are questions to answer and points to clarify. We’ll come to some of these at least. It is sufficient for now to underline as we close two essential truths which must not be forgotten. Firstly, that Paul’s language of adoption is inspired by God even if taken from a human practice, and is therefore top-down first and bottom-up second. Secondly, that Paul’s language of adoption is expressive of reality, even though couched metaphorically. In other words, Paul speaks of our acceptance with God other than in terms of actual literal reality, but only in order that he may write of the reality of that acceptance at all. In the purposes of God, the language of adoption enables Paul to extol the wonders of the believer’s acceptance with God infallibly, powerfully, and colorfully!
In response to such a revelation we can but say, all glory be to God! The “How so?” we will come to again.
* Tim [J. R.] Trumper, “The Metaphorical Import of Adoption: A Plea for Realisation. I: The Adoption Metaphor in Biblical Usage,” Scottish Bulletin of Evangelical Theology 14:2 (Autumn 1996), 129-145.
Tim [J. R.] Trumper, “The Metaphorical Import of Adoption: A Plea for Realisation. II: The Adoption Metaphor in Theological Usage,” Scottish Bulletin of Evangelical Theology 15:2 (Autumn 1997), 98-115.
To follow the conversation from the beginning, go to: www.fromhisfullness.com
As an adopted teenager, I think there is a fine line between being curious and being nosey, especially when it comes to personal issues such as adoption. Most kids will point out the obvious: “Oh, that girl/boy does not look like their parents, they must be adopted.” While many people will observe that I look nothing like my parents (observation skills 100+). To a certain point, the finger pointing and stares get up my grill.
I believe there is a certain etiquette and code of conduct, when it comes to being curious and asking a person about their personal life (in terms of being the adopted or foster child of that family).
Fundamental Question #2: Is Paul’s Language of Adoption to Be Taken Literally or Metaphorically? (Continued)
Since, to my knowledge, there is no source to which we may go to compare in full the arguments for the naive- and critical-realist readings of Paul on adoption, we have begun to identify the respective cases which may be made in favor of their literal and metaphorical approaches.
The naive-realist could, I’ve posited, defend the literal reading on four grounds:
1. Paul’s view in Ephesians 3:14 that “every family in heaven and on earth is named” from the Father. This process, we note, is top down not bottom up, meaning that the naming ~ a matter worth exploring ~ comes from God and not from man.
2. The absence of a definitive identification in the New Testament of the societal practice influencing Paul’s language of adoption.
3. The absence in Calvin, to my knowledge or remembrance, of the categorization of adoption as a figure of speech.
4. The freedom the literal reading affords us to expound Paul’s uses of huiothesia on his own terms; that is to say, without having to:
A. Identify throughout, and without available guidelines, the influence of Semitic, Greek, or Roman practices of adoption.
B. Determine how the possible influence of background and the actual teaching of Paul’s letters correlate.
In short, the naive realist proceeds to a straightforward exposition of Paul’s use of huiothesia, believing adoption to begin with God and not man. The parallels between God’s adoption of the believer and man’s adoption of another are explained in terms of the vestiges of the divine image in man. Although fallen, man has gotten his societal practices of adoption from God. In a nutshell, God’s adoption is archetypal (original to him), but man’s is ectypal (derived from his). Thus, to the naive realist the concern to identify the social practice of adoption influencing Paul ~ whether Semitic, Greek, or Roman ~ is largely irrelevant.
The Case for a Metaphorical or Critical-Realistic understanding of Adoption
We would be naive ~ excuse the pun! ~ to think that the critical-realist has no response. Three main arguments come to mind, each forming a step in the journey from the literal to the metaphorical reading of Paul’s use of huiothesia.
Firstly, the critical-realist stresses that the ways of God are ultimately beyond the language of man. Accordingly, the literal reading of adoption is very limited. While God and man view the same grace of adoption, they do so very differently. Whereas God considers adoption from his infinite, eternal, and all-knowing vantage point as the dispenser of this grace, man requires revelation in order to learn of it. Once he has, he can only ponder the grace from a finite, temporal, and limited perspective, and, in contrast to God, as one who is a potential or actual receiver of the adoption. Certainly, the perspectives of God (the adopter) and man (the adoptee) overlap, but, argues the critical realist, we get above ourselves if we think of a literal reading of Paul’s references to adoption as a full or exhaustive account of what God has done in accepting his people. We can know of adoption only to the degree that God has spoken of it, and to the extent we have experienced it. The naive realist would not disagree.
Secondly, I anticipate the critical realist claiming that God’s revealing of adoption is accommodated to our human capacities. Those familiar with John Calvin will immediately recall his belief that God accommodates his interaction with man to human sinfulness on the one hand and to human limitations on the other. Thus, notwithstanding Calvin’s silence about how we are to read Paul’s language of adoption, his general thought opens up the possibility that Paul’s use of huiothesia is accommodated to our limitations. On this understanding, the language of adoption is God’s baby-talk version of how he accepts believers as his children. He has not actually adopted us, but by describing our acceptance in terms of adoption, God is able to convey to us in a graphic and powerful way what his embrace means to him and to us. The baby-talk, then, enables God to get through to us, despite our mental and spiritual limitations, the genuine truth of acceptance in Christ. Without the language of adoption (or of other comparable metaphors or models), we would be left with the bare concept of acceptance, and unable to speak of its wonder except in the briefest, dullest, and most repetitive way. The concept permits us to say “I am accepted in Christ!”, but that’s about all. Its metaphorical garb ~ in this case the rich teaching of adoption ~ enables us to say so much more, and in ways which light up the mind and grab the heart!
Thirdly, the critical realist would have us remember that the metaphors or models of Scripture are consistent with what we know of the Bible. Holy Scripture is God’s Word, but it possesses both divineness and humanness. The Bible is inspired by the Holy Spirit, and yet the Spirit made use of the differing life experiences and styles of writing of the authors who contributed to Scripture. It follows that there is no contradiction between the influence of the Holy Spirit on Paul, and his depiction of the believer’s acceptance by God in terms of a societal practice of one ancient form or another. Accordingly, a metaphorical reading of Paul’s use of huiothesia is both legitimate and feasible. Adoption is such an appealing motif because it decorates the wonderful fact (but bare concept) of our acceptance in Jesus. A product of the inspiration of the apostle Paul, adoption also grants us increased insight into what the acceptance means for those united through faith to Christ.
All this begs the question “Which reading shall we endorse, the literal or the metaphorical?” It’s a tough call! Each case compels, but each raises questions meriting further consideration. Do join me in praying for further light, and in pondering whether we are obliged to embrace one reading to the exclusion of the other.
To follow the conversation from the beginning, go to: www.fromhisfullness.com
Yes, the orphan crisis is complicated, but there are simple steps to move us toward attainable solutions. When we think of the world-wide orphan crisis, one way to motivate ourselves to action is recognizing there really are simple solutions!
Believe it or not, we are already closer to solutions that will help orphaned and vulnerable children than we might have thought. Don’t be paralyzed by the complexity of the crisis. Be energized by simple solutions each of us can take. Each person, each church, each organization, and even each of our children can make a real difference.
Together for Adoption is working to finalize Five Simple Steps you can take that can help significantly in orphan prevention, family preservation and reunification. And when those efforts are not possible, you can have a part in facilitating ethical indigenous, domestic, and international adoption.
Your support makes the difference in helping orphaned and vulnerable children both in the U.S. and around the world. Together for Adoption exists to provide gospel-centered resources that magnify the adopting grace of God the Father in Christ Jesus and mobilize the church for global orphan care. With God’s sustaining grace and your help, we can achieve our year-end goal of $50,000 and you can contribute easily to this goal via our secure website. Thank you for standing with us. We look forward to a great year of ministry in 2015.
We are amazed and humbled to look back on the last 8 years to see what God has done through T4A. Our team begins each year unsure of what God has in store for us next. We are learning that each new year is in His sovereign, kind, and gracious hands. Looking back, we have seen God bring about:
—13 conferences (domestic and international in 5 continents)
—4 Live in the Story Events | Theological Boot Camps
—2 full-length books
—Over 1,200 posts and print articles
Many of you may not know that no member of the T4A team receives a salary. We have donated much of our own resources and time and have also relied on the generous contributions of friends and donors. By God’s grace the conferences have covered themselves.
In addition to our conferences, in 2015 we hope to continue to provide gospel-centered resources and training to churches and leaders in the US and around the world. This is where we need your help!
—online training in gospel-centered orphan care
—translate Reclaiming Adoption into Spanish
—development of resources to equip the church (both in video & print)
Would you consider partnering with us this year to help make this happen? The donating process is user-friendly, whether it is a $5 or $5,000 gift.
Yours in Christ,
Dan, Jason, and the T4A Team
By the way, our 2015 national conference is November 5-7 at The Summit Church in Raleigh, North Carolina.
Scott Crawford, longtime T4A volunteer staff member, lost his father last week to a long battle with cancer. In honor of Scott’s father, I wanted to share the beautiful eulogy that Scott wrote for his dad.
A eulogy by son, Scott Crawford
He stayed true to his wife and best friend for nearly 50 years. A covenant “to have and to hold, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health” breached only by his passing over into the presence of the one true King…that which we celebrate today.
He parented 3 children, watching 2 of them follow in his footsteps serving their country in the U.S. military. He, along with our mother, Pat raised and supported us through thick and thin, never begrudging…always forgiving.
As the son of Pearl and Stanley, he knew of his father’s service in the Great War and his ultimate sacrifice for liberty. What may come as a surprise to many of you, he was adopted at the hospital the day he was born, never to know anything of his biological parents.
As the much younger sibling to his older, adopted brother he became an uncle at a very young age. Walt moved to the Virginia coast near Norfolk – I can still remember the trip to visit the warships at the port and spending time with my cousins, the youngest of his multiple children.
Many of you present today knew my father, Stan as a loyal, selfless, big-hearted (and light-hearted), cheerful friend. Always the jokester, dad was the eternal optimist and knew how to brighten the conversation no matter the subject matter.
Some of you came to know him as the stalwart, devoted patriot who spent 8 years of his life serving in the Armed Forces. He loved this country, the liberty and values he defended while serving and all his years after.
Lastly, revisiting this list of adjectives, the legacy dad would want to leave behind is not one of his accomplishments or accolades. He would love to tell and retell stories of his experiences, of both failures and successes. On the contrary, he would rather tell you about how his marriage covenant was a three-way covenant between himself, Pat and God. He would want to tell of how he came to know the Father, and his love for Stan. Dad would want you to know that he became a son of the living God, co-heir with Jesus the Son…of the brotherhood of the saints through his redemption and reunification into God’s family. How he has now joined friends and fellow soldiers who have also accepted the free gift of salvation and now rejoices in heaven with his Savior. My father would want you to know that the same Father that has welcomed him home is the same Father of the lost, the fatherless, the broken-hearted, the sick, the lame, the poor, the rich and everyone in between….that he loves you as well and is waiting for you to respond to His message of mercy, grace and forgiveness.
Fun picture of Scott’s father when he was the lead singer in a band a “few years” ago. Looks like they should have rivaled The Beatles!
Note: Theologically, adoption is both (1) placement in the family of God and (2) reconciliation and reunification. We’re not looking for a complete paradigm change away from child placement but a shift to include and stress reconciliation and reunification. This is not a new position for Together for Adoption (see this 2010 post). It’s not either/or but both/and. We believe making this shift to include reconciliation will strengthen the practice of domestic, indigenous, and international adoption.
But I still don’t automatically think of adoption as reunification. I think over the last several years as we’ve been talking about this conference and just praying, we’ve even been struck [with how Paul's uses 'adoption'—I realized you've said this for years, that I was even convicted that maybe I wasn't fully understanding what you were [teaching on adoption as reconciliation] last few year or something. But we’ve heard it, but as we planned this conference we thought, ”Let’s say [adoption is first reconciliation] as clearly as possible. I’d love to hear your thoughts as to way this has not been shard more clearly taught and understodd in the evangelical church?
I don’t have all the reasons, but two of the reasons is I think we grow up in a culture, and when you grow up in a particular culture, a Christian culture, you hear words being used since you’re young over and over, so that, that really shapes and informs how you think about that word. So anytime a word, um, comes to the point where that word comes to a significant difference in meaning…words, you define words by how they are used in particular contexts.
So when you hear the word adoption heard in the context of a child being placed in another family—and that’s what I’ve been hearing since I can remember—that’s how we primarily think. And then when you start looking at Scripture—and I think when of the seminal moments for me was (I left it somewhere) that book there by Herman Ridderbos, Dutch Theologian, um, he had , ah, a chapter entitled, ‘Reconciliation’, and then he said several sub- titles, sub- sections, and one of them was adoption.
So when I read that, that’s when it first clicked that there’s got to be a relationship between reconciliation and adoption. I think [Ridderbos] is one of the first to ever really think hard about how it is that Paul is actually using the world within his historical context. Because what Paul was not doing was taking the Greco-Roman practice and using that to fill in his use of the word adoption; but what he was doing was looking at all of redemptive history, Old Testament history, and Israel being God’s son, and the firstborn son, even though [the word adoption] is not found [in biblical texts] when he delivers Israel out of Egypt, [Paul’s] telling us in Romans 9:4 that what was happening there was actually setting the stage for how he’s using the word now. So he filled [the word] adoption with what he was doing redemptively to fix the problem of the fallen son of Adam (Luke 3:38).
So, I think with any, with any shift theologically in a way society uses any particular or word or words and go back 300 years, and the way they defined it then was unrecognizable to how we define it now. So I think we’re now in one of those periods, particularly when it’s given so much prominence in the media and the kind of media we have that it makes it very difficult for us to speak into it from a theological perspective and be heard.
So I think in conferences like this is where we have an opportunity kind of a family gathering to say, “Alight, let’s think hard about this, and let’s see…what is it that Paul us really thinking about? And how should that shape the way we make application to our current cultural context?
I think about one of the themes that struck me about what you said, and even as I look at the landscape right now, I think the things into which we are called as believers is we are entering into a more pluralistic society. I think the importance of what you’ve done to outline here is that we don’t need to be looking at this movement and judging Scripture by our experiences, [Don’t think this way] “This is what we’ve experienced, so let’s find Scripture that backs it up.” We need to be looking at the Word of God to help us identify what our experiences mean. Um, I and think as I’ve seen this landscape, because of this pluralistic mindset, we can easily believe we’re the bigger part of the story, and it’s all about our needs, our wants, our desires. ‘I’m the part of the story.’ ‘I’m the rescuer.’ ‘It’s what I need.’ And I think when you looked at reconciliation and redemption, and one of the things I’m thinking about is that we’ve got a class in Birmingham right now for 15 birthparents trying to reconcile to get their children back out of foster care.
And as we’ve walked through that, we’ve identified there are several families that are not going to be able to get their kids back. But does that mean our journey of redemption and reconciliation ends with those birth families? And I believe the Gospel would say, “No!”
So, I guess, what I would love for you to just clarify in the words of saying adoption—and this theology of adoption—is about reconciliation and redemption, how does the Gospel lead us, even in a adoption scenario where there is a placement to continue with reconciliation and redemption?
Adoption is always about family. So we can never forget family. So when reconciliation and reunification with all of our best efforts can’t happen, it’s an impossibility, we are still thinking family. We are still thinking [family], whether that’s indigenous adoption within the child’s country of origin; or we’re thinking—depending upon their laws of adoption or what they practice—we are thinking permanency in fostering. We always need to be thinking in terms of family.
So even if they are placed in a family that is not their family of origin, there is a reconciliation happening there. Because what did not exist before, which is the embrace of family, is now happening for that child and that family, there is reconciliation of sorts that’s happening—as real as the reconciliation with the birth family (explanatory note: a real family has been formed). So, I think that’s a really important distinction to make.
*Click the image below to “Flip the Script” with Alex Krutov, from St. Petersburg, Russia.
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