This diagram looks at the theology of adoption from multiple perspectives, from the perspective of eternity-past when all that existed was the Trinity to the perspective of eternity-future when we will live on a renewed earth as God’s beloved children. Here are brief explanations of each perspective.
#1 - The triangular diagram of the Trinity at the top is based on the ancient “Shield of the Trinity” diagram. The inside of the triangle represents the fact that each Person of the Trinity is fully and equally God and there is only one God. But the circle that cuts through the corners of the triangle tell us that the Father is not the Spirit, the Spirit is not the Son, and the Son is not the Father. Although the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are the one God, they are not the same Person. They are three distinct Persons. “Scripture teaches that God is a communion of Persons and has never been a solitary individual. The one triune God has always enjoyed perfect loving communion and joy as three Persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. For all of eternity the Father has loved the Son, the Son has loved the Father, and the Spirit has been the personal bond of that communion. The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit have eternally been and will forever be a communion of Persons” (Reclaiming Adoption, p 26). Perspective #1 teaches us that before God created the world or even “predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ” (Eph. 1:4-5), each Person of the Trinity went out to the others in perfect, reciprocal love, joy and delight. This is the reality that precedes all of human history and the story behind the theology of adoption.
#2 - Before we look at the incarnate life of the eternal Son of God, it is important that we look at the entire history of redemption through the lens of God’s work of adoption. Paul is the only author in Scripture to actually use the term adoption, and his uses of adoption can easily be arranged chronologically. When we arrange them chronologically, we find that they actually serve as very helpful guides through the story of redemption (click on the image below to read the actual texts).
It’s important that we realize that before Christ comes (Galatians 4:4-5), we are predestined for adoption as sons before the creation of the world (Ephesians 1:4-5) and adoption first appears within the story of redemption in the story of Israel, God’s first son through adoption (Romans 9:4). A long history unfolds before the Son of God becomes man in order that we might become children of God through adoption.
#3 - When the fullness of time arrived, the eternal Son of God became man (Galatians 4:4-6). As the eternal Son now become man, Jesus lived the life of sonship on earth that we should have lived and didn’t. In the fullness of time, God the Father sent His Son, the One with whom He enjoyed the eternal communion of delight and love, to become man. The Son who always enjoyed the love of His Father in eternity past entered into space and time as man, without ceasing to be fully God, in order that his Father/Son communion might be earthed in Himself among those who have rebelled against His Father. In other words, the eternal Son fleshed out perfect loving communion with the Father within our humanity so that by grace we who have been cut off from that communion because of Adam’s sin might be ushered back in (see John 17:21; 20:17).
It is within this context that the “Abba, Father” cries (as shown on the left and right sides of the diagram) are to be understood. Before the “Abba,Father” cry found its way into our hearts and onto our lips it was found in the heart and on the lips of Jesus. Scripture reveals that Jesus was the first man ever to cry “Abba, Father” (Mark 14:36), and it is very significant that he did so on the eve of his crucifixion. By waiting until Jesus approaches his crucifixion before we hear “Abba, Father” come from his lips, Scripture indicates that it would take Jesus’ death before it could come from our lips. Jesus cried “Abba, Father” and was forsaken in our place that we might cry “Abba, Father” and be accepted in him. If Jesus does not cry “Abba, Father” on his way to the cross, “Abba, Father” never finds its way into our heart and onto our lips, but by doing so Jesus ushers all who believe in him into his loving communion with the Father. This new reality is at the center of God’s work of adoption within the story of redemption.
#4 – One horizontal effect of what God has done in Jesus is that our communion with God as our Father moves us out as a people to care for the weak and vulnerable. I am convinced that it is this reality that is behind James’ words in James 1:27, “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world” (emphasis mine). It is as the family of God that we are to move out to care for the fatherless. Our objective as we serve orphans is to give them the loving communion of family. What that ultimately looks like for each child depends on the child’s particular circumstances (which are most often very complex).
That’s the CliffsNotes’ version! Questions? Comments? Shoot them my way!
[For more about the inseparable connection between the Trinity and adoption, read chapter 2 in Reclaiming Adoption. I did my best to flesh it out in only 3,600 words!]
[Don't miss the revised diagram at the end of this post. The collaboration has already helped. Thanks!] I’d love to get your thoughts on this diagram I put together on paper this morning. It seeks to visually represent the relationship between the Trinity and God’s work of adoption within the story/history of redemption. I’d really value getting your thoughts on what various aspects of it means and how I might tweak it to strengthen what it communicates in a biblically faithful way. If you jump in by providing feedback on this, I would be thrilled and honored. I’d love this to be as much of a collaborative effort as possible. One of the things I learned at !deaCamp last week is that the collective group is much smarter than any single person or presenter. So since I’m committed to communicating deep theological truth as faithfully and as simply as I possibly can, I need your help to do so. Therefore, let me thank you in advance for your willingness to contribute to this process. My hope is to put similar diagrams out there on a regular basis in order to increasingly foster collaboration with the growing and intelligent T4A community (no, I’m not patronizing you in the least!).
Click on the image below to see a larger version of the diagram (feel free to ask me about the meaning or significance of any particular part. I promise to respond to your question/comments in the comment section!). Please join this collaborative conversation with the objective of pushing toward Trinitarian solutions for the global orphan crisis. Note: the topic section of my diagram is based on the ancient “Shield of the Trinity” diagram.
My publisher, Cruciform Press, just released a sampler with excerpts from their first 6 books. It is 109 pages, downloadable and free! I don’t think it will take long at all for you to love what Cruciform Press produces.
Click on either of the two images below (the second of which is my book’s dedication page) to visit the landing page where you can download the sampler. It’s worth way more than free!!
You can do just that! As part of our partnership with Seed Adoption: Ethiopia, the book Reclaiming Adoption is being translated into Amharic, the most widely spoken language in Ethiopia. We believe that the gospel through the local church is the hope of the global orphan crisis. Therefore, in order to help address the orphan crisis in Ethiopia, Together for Adoption has partnered with Seed Adoption to translate Reclaiming Adoption into Amharic so that it can be placed into the hands of 250 influential Ethiopian pastors and their wives.
You can help us put the good news of our adoption in Christ into the hands of Ethiopia’s pastors for the fame of Jesus’ name and the great good of Ethiopia’s orphans. Will you partner with us in funding this translation project? If so, please click the button below to donate. Thank you for prayerfully considering partnering with us!
There are two giant theological words that most of us do not think or talk about often enough: transcendence and immanence. But they have everything to do—and I mean everything—with a life that overflows with satisfaction, contentment and joy, regardless of our circumstances.
When we speak of God’s transcendence, we are referring to His otherness, to the fact that He is above and outside not just this globe we call the earth but the universe as well. To call God transcendent is to say that He is in a class all His own. There is no one like Him in power and glory and wonder and beauty and holiness, etc. Think about it like this: God is so transcendent that a list of his transcendent attributes would extend far above and beyond our little blue planet.
Immanence, on the other hand, speaks of closeness, nearness. To be immanent is to be within creation, not outside it. Immanence is about proximity, relationship, and togetherness.
At first look, it seems that transcendence and immanence are completely incompatible. How can something be “entirely above and outside creation,” as Michael Horton puts it, and yet be “within creation” and intimately related to it? Can you say conundrum?
What makes this even more of a conundrum, and a desperate one at that, is that there is no ultimate satisfaction, contentment or enduring joy for us unless there is someone who in himself is both transcendent and immanent at the same time. Enter the Good News: the otherness of transcendence and the likeness of immanence fully and eternally embraced in Jesus.
The good news of the Gospel, and the good news of our adoption in Christ for that matter, is that in Jesus transcendence and immanence perfectly and fully meet. In Jesus we find both the wonder and awesomeness of the eternal and the tenderness and kindness of one who was made like us “in every respect” (Hebrews 2:17; 4:15) without ceasing to be the transcendent God for even a nanosecond. That, let me tell you (and me!), is the miracle of miracles. Only a God who can be both transcendent and immanent like this is someone who can save and satisfy eternally. Only a God like this can be our brother and give to us a loving Father who is like no other.
If you do not decide to make transcendence and immanence a part of your functional vocabulary today, at least look to Jesus today (and everyday) as the Lord and Savior of your heart’s satisfaction. In other words, spend time rejoicing in the wonder of your adoption as sons through Jesus Christ.
Northwest Arkansas was the home to Idea Camp (IC) February 25-26. With this year’s theme of Orphan Care, IC gathered hundreds of people and dozens of organizations all devoted to helping end the orphan crisis in our world. IC was also gracious enough to serve as the platform for Seeds Adoption to be officially announced to the orphan care community.
On a stage filled with leaders from The Idea Camp, Kidmia, Together for Adoption, The Gladney Center for Adoption, Help End Local Poverty (HELP), The Christian Alliance for Orphans (CAFO), and The Rooted Church, Seeds Adoption was boldly announced as a collaborative effort among them all.
A big thank you to Idea Camp for platforming Seed Adoption and for bringing together so many great people and organizations for the common purpose of caring for orphans by the power of the gospel and through the local church. A few more pics from a great weekend…
We would love to have you join us for this Christian Alliance for Orphans’ webinar!
Asking me to talk about the theology of adoption and its implications for the global orphan crisis is like asking a lion if he’d like to eat some red meat. I don’t even have to consider whether or not it’s something I’d “like” to do. So, when Mike Rusch asked me to lead a workshop on the theology of adoption at !deacamp, all I had to do before giving him my answer was to see if I had those dates open, which I did.
One of the main reasons why talking about this subject is such a no-brainer for me is due to what I think theology is. For the Christian, theology isn’t an add-on or a “take it or leave it” activity (Read “Do we really have time for theology when orphans need our help now?” – Part 1 & Part 2). Theology is life with God, and life with God is theology.
So, it is with much anticipation that I head to !ideacamp tomorrow to talk about this critical topic: “The Theology of Adoption and Pushing Toward Trinitarian Solutions to the Global Orphan Crisis.” Here is my workshop’s description: Our redemption and the renewal of all creation has a very definite trinitarian shape. By the gospel God has opened up his eternal triune life to us and will one day give us a renewed creation for our eternal home. This workshop will explore how the trinitarian shape of redemption and renewal should inform our care for orphans.
Kindle announced that it is now possible to follow an author’s notes on his/her own book. This new feature now allows for authors to interact with Kindle readers. So, if you have purchased Reclaiming Adoption on your Kindle, you can follow me and read and interact with my notes.
Seed Adoption is a pastoral training workshop that brings together influential pastors of evangelical churches from across a country to discuss (1) the plight of orphaned and vulnerable children, (2) a Biblical perspective centered on the gospel, adoption, and the local church, and(3) appropriate strategies to bring holistic and lasting change to the lives of orphaned children, all for the glory of God.
We believe that the gospel, when understood and applied, must work through the local church and in the lives of Christians to effect such change. Therefore, in order to help address the orphan crisis, the Seed Adoption training aims to create, maintain, and encourage a national conversation with the indigenous church.
Three two-day workshops will be held in June 2011 in 3 strategic cities: Addis Ababa (Ethiopiaʼs capital city), Nazareth (capital of the Oromiya Region), and Awassa (Capital of Southern Nations Nationalities and Regional State). A total of 500 people will attend the workshops: 250 influential senior pastors and their wives. All 9 of Ethiopiaʼs regional states will be represented.
YOU can help bring local adoption to Ethiopian churches. Just $70 covers ALL expenses for a local pastor and his wife to attend the Seed Adoption training. Click here for more.
We are praying that these workshops are a first step toward accomplishing a number of goals:
+ Create common understanding on the extent of the orphan crisis in Ethiopia and jointly identify the major root causes and consequences
+ Through biblical and theological training, deepen our understanding of Godʼs heart for the orphan as well as our biblical responsibility to holistically care for and adopt orphaned children
+ Design a joint strategy to address the orphan crisis at the national level through the cooperation of evangelical churches
+ Develop effective strategies that facilitate holistic care and local adoption of orphans into Christ-loving families at a local, grassroots level
+ Build a common forum of evangelical churches to share information, experiences, and best practices for sustainable orphan care and support
+ Raise financial and non-financial resources locally for orphan care and adoption
In sub-Saharan Africa, 1 out of every 8 children is an orphan. Of the 143 million orphans worldwide, more live in Ethiopia than any other country in the world. Just twice the size of Texas, it is home to five million orphaned children. While international adoption from Ethiopia has increased in recent years, at the current rate it would take 5 million families, $125 billion, and 2,500 years to solve the Ethiopian orphan crisis.
Even with 19% of the population being evangelical and 14 million members attending 30,000 local churches across the nation (a movement that is growing by 8.5% every year), there is no significant practice of local adoption in Ethiopia. The primary solution embraced thus far by the local church has been limited to child sponsorship. There is a lack of awareness concerning the orphan crisis, a lack of appropriate working strategies and systems to address it, a shifting of responsibilities to governmental programs and NGOs, limited resources, and a lack of faithful integration between the message of the gospel and its outworking through the local church and into the lives of orphaned and vulnerable children.
This is due in part to the lack of training available for the leaders of these churches. Fifty-two percent of church leaders have less than a year of training after graduating high school, 92% of which is not related to ministry or church leadership. There is only one graduate-level seminary in Ethiopia, and only 20% of denominations have access to it. In a country with 30,000 local evangelical pastors, it enrolls around 100 students per year. Many serve their churches for little or no income, and such training is simply unattainable.
Will you prayerfully consider joining us in this opportunity to serve Ethiopia’s churches and orphans? Learn more about the opportunity you have to join with us.
Have you seen the free 54-page Reclaiming Adoption Study Guide that we are providing? This study guide is worth having whether or not you have purchased the book. Each study is loaded with thought-provoking quotations that will certainly encourage you as you seek to live in the reality of your adoption in Christ.
If your church, small group, or adoption/orphan care ministry would like to use the study guide to work through the book, print copies of Reclaiming Adoption: Missional Living Through the Rediscovery of Abba Father are available for $7.45 each for 6–50 copies. You can purchase them here. Click on the image below to download the free study guide.
“But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, ‘Abba! Father!’” ~Galatians 4:4-6
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