In this blog series, all lowercase occurrences of the word “adoption” refer to the practice of families adopting children. All uppercase occurrences (“Adoption”) refer to God’s work of Adoption within redemptive-history. Series synopsis: While lowercase “adoption” presents a cosmetic solution to the global orphan crisis, uppercase “Adoption” presents a cosmic solution. Read Part 1. Read Part 2. Read Part 3. Also, I appreciate Jen Hatmaker’s willingness to address this controversial issue on her blog (here and here).
“What is,” you ask, “the eschatological fatalism which Michael Funderburk detects in my theology and writing?”
Here’s his answer (see paragraph four in his blog post): “[B]ecause man is so sinful and because the brokenness of the world can only be ‘fixed’ by God’s supernatural power, then we might as well just accept the status quo as we wait for Jesus to come back and fix everything. This is God’s ‘cosmic solution’ to the brokenness we see all around us–including unethical adoption and child trafficking.”
Before I address his specific interpretation of what I mean and don’t mean, let me allow myself to speak for myself from the very post with which he interacts:
“You see, small stories rarely provide glorious endings when the plot of those stories is driven by “cosmetic” scripts rather than cosmic ones. All of us want ‘happy endings’ for orphaned and vulnerable children, but stories that find their origin ‘under the sun’ (Ecclesiastes 1:14) can’t and don’t transform life ‘under the sun.’ But the Story being written from ‘above the sun’ by the Son will climax with the renewal of all things. One day everything sad will come untrue for us and the fatherless. C.S. Lewis brilliantly wrote:
‘If you read history you will find that the Christians who did most for the present world were precisely those who thought most of the next. It is since Christians have largely ceased to think of the other world that they have become so ineffective in this”’ (C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity; emphasis mine).
“If we really desire to reform domestic and international adoption ethics in the present world, let’s follow the wisdom of Lewis and be a people who think most of the next one” (quotation and emphasis mine).
That quotation from my part 3 article was written from the perspective of eschatological optimism not eschatological fatalism. Yes, the world is getting worse, yet in spite of its worsening condition, the Gospel continues to triumph and incrementally increase its covering of the world as the waters cover the seas (think Habakkuk 2:14).
But although there are no comprehensive solutions to be found from life “under the sun” (Ecclesiastes 1:3), we are united to the Son who came to us from “above the sun” (Galatians 4:4). As Life itself, he and he alone “is making all things new,” comprehensively (Revelation 21:5).
The Story being written from “above the sun” by the Son, which is the Story in which we amazingly are participants, will certainly climax with the renewal of all things. That’s pure optimism; and it should empower our activism in the issues of social justice in the here and now and also for the foreseeable future!
Union with Christ Makes All the Difference
Too often we Christians think primarily in terms of our efforts to find solutions rather than primarily in terms of what Jesus is doing: “Behold, I lam making all things new” (Rev. 21:5). Did you notice that I used the word “primarily” and not “only”? Very few Christians think only in these terms, but many of us are daily tempted to think primarily in these terms.
The reality of our union with Christ means that we as Christians do “in his name,” we never do independently from him. Our union with Christ is indissoluble and unceasing. There is never the smallest fraction of a fraction of a second when we are not living and moving and having our being in union with Jesus. For the believer, union with Jesus is everything.
A while back, I read that “wherever Christ is, there is the church and her ministry.” Sometimes, though, we operate under the assumption that wherever the church is, there is Christ and his ministry. At first glance, we may not see much of a difference between these two ways of putting it. We may even think that we’re just playing the semantics game. But often underneath the second way of putting it hides the ugly notion that we are the ones who set the ministry agenda, not Jesus.
A New Better Way of Thinking
In an attempt to borrow from the above concept, I’d like to suggest that in light of the believer’s union with Christ, wherever Christ is, there is the Christian and his or her ministry. As the book of Hebrews teaches, Jesus is the resurrected and ascended Minister. He not only purifies and cleanses our service as Christians, but he also leads it. Because of who Jesus is and what he has done as our resurrected High Priest, he has gathered us up into union with himself. The Spirit of adoption unites us to Christ by faith! The upshot of this is that what Jesus does now, we do. Jesus ministers for us and in our place, and because we are in union with him, we participate in his ministry.
The reality of this astounding truth both humbles and energizes us at the same time. It humbles us because we’re reminded that orphan care is not our ministry. If it were our ministry, we’d be in trouble because we really don’t serve orphans all that well. But since we’re in union with God’s appointed Leader of orphan ministry (or any God-ordained ministry for that matter), Jesus gathers up all that we do “in his name” for orphans into himself, purifies, cleanses, and transforms it, so that all we do for orphans really matters and has eternal significance. Now that’s humbling — in a very good way!
But this truth also energizes us for the same reasons it humbles us. Since, rightly understood, orphan care is primarily the ministry of Jesus, what we do to care for and be a voice for orphans really, really matters. It matters, really matters, eternally. Even when we are not “on our game” when serving orphans, Jesus takes our five loaves and two fish (i.e., whatever he has gifted us with) and multiplies them exponentially. When we care for orphans, it’s never just us, or even primarily us. It’s Jesus! Now that’s energizing!
If anything will encourage and empower us to serve orphans over the long haul, it will be a deeper understanding and appreciation of our union with Jesus.
More to come in Part 5.
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