When chicken nuggets are served they come to us huddled randomly in their carton. Not only is there no order to them, they look the same, the shape excepted. Like other customers I just eat them, working the tension between gulping them down and savoring their taste. Those interested in these adoption nuggets will likely eat them the same way.
Nevertheless, I’ve chosen to serve them in orderly fashion. I do so, first, because these bitesizes derive from a whole chicken. They’re insights drawn from the disciplines of historical theology, biblical theology, systematic theology, and practical theology. A random rather than a sequential approach might not get you the whole chicken. Secondly, if a record of the pieces is stored on the T4A website, tasters might like to track their intake. Orderly servings would prove more useful to this tracking, for the servings will be coming, Lord willing, every two weeks for the foreseeable future.
We’ll begin with adoption nuggets dipped in historical theology. These give us a taste of the longstanding neglect of adoption, and explain why the present is such an exciting time for the doctrine and its application. Next, they’ll come from the text of Scripture, specifically the thought of the apostle Paul. These nuggets dripping in biblical theology will be followed by those tasting of systematics. We’ll then close out the order with the source we call practical theology (what the doctrine of adoption means for us today).
Understandably, some might want to sample the doctrine of adoption up front before deciding to take in the full portion. Manageable samples are found in my article “From Slaves to Sons” (first published in Foundations [U.K.] 55, 2006, 17–19), and Dan Cruver’s section “The Story of Adoption” in his chapter “Adoption and the Prodigals” in Reclaiming Adoption (Cruciform Press, 2010). A little more technical sample is found in my article “A Fresh Exposition of Adoption: I. An Outline” in The Scottish Bulletin of Evangelical Theology 23 (2005), 60–80.
Central to the biblical understanding of adoption summarized in these resources are three facts. First, that huiothesia (literally, “the placing of a son” [i.e., adoption as son]) is the only Greek word for adoption. Secondly, that Paul alone uses it in Scripture (the term is not found in the Septuagint). Thirdly, that Paul’s five uses of huiothesia are more important than we might at first realize. On the one hand, they cover the entire history of redemption from eternity past to eternity future (look up in turn Ephesians 1:4–5 [adoption predestined]; Romans (9:4 [adoption foreshadowed]; Galatians 4:4–6 [adoption fulfilled]; Romans 8:15–16 [adoption experienced]; Romans 8:22–23 [adoption consummated]). On the other hand, Paul’s uses of the term are compatible with how a robust metaphor like adoption should work. Paul mentions it frequently enough to guarantee its entrance into the vocabulary of the faith, but not so frequently as to rob it of its color and power.
Bearing in mind these three premises we are ready to start eating. Let’s reach for the sauce historical theology.
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