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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 1Part 2Part 3. Part 4Also, I appreciate Jen Hatmaker’s willingness to address this controversial issue on her blog (here and here).

Connecting the Theology of Adoption with Practice

Adoption is so important to Scripture’s story of redemption that Dr. David Garner argues that the Apostle Paul’s use of Adoption (Eph. 1:3-6; Rom. 9:4; Gal. 4:4-6, Rom. 8:14-15, 23) gives us strong warrant to speak of “redemptive history as Adoptive history, where in the unfolding of the Father’s revelation he carries out his Adoptive-historical plan for his fallen created sons” (Adoption in Christ [Ph.D. diss., Westminster Theological Seminary, 2002], 248; emphasis mine).

God’s work of Adoption within human history, therefore, is a drama of cosmic proportions. From Adoption’s pre-temporal foundation in the love of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (Eph. 1:3-6) to its climactic consummation in the New Heavens and New Earth (Rom. 8:23), Adoption is God’s comprehensive redemptive activity to free the created order from its bondage to decay, once and for all time (see Rom. 8:18-23).

What is often missed when looking at Paul’s Adoption texts is the strong Exodus imagery that surrounds the three occurrences of Adoption in Paul’s letter to the Romans (Rom. 8:15, 23; 9:4). God’s deliverance of Israel out of Egyptian bondage is the echoing story behind the cosmic story of Adoption in Romans 8. We find Exodus imagery all throughout this great chapter: “set you free” (v. 2); “led by the Spirit of God” (v. 14; cf. Exo. 13:21); “the spirit of slavery” (v. 15); “subjected to futility” (v. 20); “will be set free” (v. 21); “bondage to corruption” (v. 21); “obtain the freedom” (v. 21); “groaning together” (v. 22; cf. Exo. 2:23); “redemption” (v. 23); and “firstborn” (v. 29; cf. Exo. 4:22). The evidence is overwhelmingly compelling: God intends for us to understand his work of Adoption as his redemptive-activity to free us and all of creation from every effect of the Fall, as far as the curse is found!

How should the climax of Adoptive-history as told in Romans 8 inform our understanding of James 1:27 (“to visit orphans and widows in their affliction”)?

The story of the Bible is the story of God visiting us in our affliction, like he once visited Israel (Exo. 4:31), in order to deliver us from it.

So, how should this play out with James1:27? To visit orphans and widows in their affliction means that we work hard for orphan prevention through family reunification and preservation, and when reunification is not possible, we actively support indigenous adoption efforts. For some children, though, adoption becomes the way we “visit” them.

This blog post was adapted from an article I originally wrote for the JOURNAL OF CHRISTIAN LEGAL THOUGHT.

More to come in Part 6.

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