adoption option

Last weekend I watched Slumdog Millionaire on Saturday, learned about my church’s new ministry to orphans on Sunday, and began reading Russell Moore’s new book, Adopted for Life, on Monday.  So I’ve been thinking a lot about adoption this week.  Should Christian families seek to adopt a child?  Are we being selfish if we don’t?

First, let me tell you about Moore’s book, which is the only book I know of which gives both a superb theological motive for adoption (Moore teaches at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary) and answers its practical questions, all told through his family’s journey of adopting two boys from Russia.  Anyone who has been adopted, has adopted, or is considering adoption should read this book.  Even those who have no plans for adoption should read it, as it will show them what they are missing and motivate them to get involved.

I was delighted to receive this book from Moore.  I had sent him a copy of DSB, along with a note explaining how much I enjoyed his chapter in Zondervan’s Understanding Four Views on Baptism and that I thought I was developing a man crush.  I usually only feel that way around anyone with the last name of Plantinga, and I feared that my confession might produce another restraining order.  Apparently Moore feels that Louisville is a sufficiently safe distance from Grand Rapids, and he sent me Adopted for Life as a gesture of goodwill (and a sign that he is confident in his manhood).

Enough back story.  Moore explains the theological rationale for adoption with the usual comments that we sinners have been adopted by God, but he adds an interesting twist that our spiritual adoption was also ethnic.  We Gentiles are united with Christ, who is Jewish.  This was more obvious in the first century, as Gentiles in fits and starts learned what it meant to join a predominantly Jewish church, but it continues even today in seminary students who study Hebrew.  As Moore succinctly states:  “I’m in Christ, and he’s Jewish, and therefore, so am I” (p. 157).

Moore persuasively joins adoption to the Great Commission (p. 19).  He invites us to wonder what it would mean if our churches were known as lovers of orphans; if our church directories were as diverse as the kingdom of heaven; if we made disciples of all nations in part by adopting their most at risk members; and if mothers considering abortion decided to give birth because they knew they could give their baby to any number of Christian homes. 

Reading a book like this makes me think that all Christians should either adopt or support those who are (through prayer, finances, and/or providing an extended family environment).  Moore concedes that “Not everyone is called to adopt” (p. 20), but he also argues that adoption is like the Great Commission.  We shouldn’t ask whether we are called to make disciples or adopt but how (p. 111). 

From Project 1.27 to www.hopefororphans.com, evangelical Christians are taking a renewed interest in adoption.  I’m usually reluctant to join any movement that is popular (I’m one of the few guys who didn’t attend Promise Keepers, mostly because everyone else did), but this one seems right.  What do you think?  Should every middle class Christian family support, either directly or indirectly, the adoption of a child or teenager?  

12 Comments

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  1. Should Christian families seek to adopt a child? Are we being selfish if we don’t?

    We do have the example of superstar evangelical author Ted Kluck who is using international adoption to start his own private army (and soon publishing a book about the subject, called, Hello, I Love You.

    Me, I’m gonna pass. I’ve got one-year-old Calvin. Where do you go from there? Maybe if I’d named the first one Luther, there’d be room to adopt one as well…

  2. Brian McLaughlin May 15, 2009 — 2:18 pm

    We understand. Andrew has a man-crush on John Piper. We had to hold him back when we went to Minnesota this past February. John’s harder to figure out, but earlier he confessed a man-crush on Gerhard Kittel…he just loves the sound of parsing Greek words.

  3. Brian McLaughlin May 15, 2009 — 2:19 pm

    Oh, on the topic of adoption: don’t forget foster care. I think that can have the same impact (and can lead to adoption).

  4. Mike,

    Not to split hairs, but didn’t Moore write a chapter for Zondervan’s book on the Lord’s Supper, not Baptism?

  5. Jonathan:

    You are splitting hairs, but you are also right. I use both books in Systematic 3, and forgot which one Moore contributed to. It’s hard to think straight under the rush of a man crush.

    Brian:

    Who would Kittel have a crush on? Probably a librarian.

    Z.:

    You don’t have to adopt, but you should pay for half of Kluck’s.

  6. It’s alright about the man crush…I assume almost everyone who checks out your blog here has a man-crush on you… perhaps aside from a few of the women and some emergent church friends… but even then, questions abound.

    Thank you for the recommendation on a book on adoption. As I have friends looking into this, I look forward to reading and passing this volume on to them.

    Just aside, has anyone told you that Christopher J.H. Wright’s latest book “The God I Don’t Understand” has a kind plug for “Heaven is a Place on Earth”? A kind footnote on page 215 made me want to read it all over again!

  7. Lisa Guinther May 16, 2009 — 2:52 am

    Well Justin honey, speak for yourself…I don’t do crushes…I more enjoy acting like your usual kindergartener and start fights with those I like!…so, do you want to fight? LOL

    Seriously though, It is a clear mandate through the OT and the classic verse in the NT is James 1:27 on the care for widows and orphans (pure and undefiled religion)…

    An interesting possibility in churches is to develop ministries to help widows work through there depression, and to help with a “work day”…collect a few(don’t overwhelm) people to go to the house and clean up…It does wonders to help kick start someone suffering from depression.

    I would use caution when counceling to either adopt or become a foster parent…those are special gifts…unless we are talking about adoption of an infant (a harder prospect) most of the needs are in the area of older children, many of whom have emotional damage and the adopting parents need to have some training on how to help very troubled kids process their issues…you can’t just go into these kinds of things blindly…just because you get the “warm-fuzzies” doesn’t mean you should jump on this with out “counting the cost”. This requires a huge amout of prayer…and a clear calling and gifting in this area. And allthough the agencys involved may tell you they will train you…They do have their own agendas and I would get my own training through independant agencies.

  8. I think that the vision of a multicultural church through adoption is a laudable one. But would it turn into a group of rich white people “saving” the poor ethnic children of the world and patting themselves on the back for doing it? I hope not, but…

    I know a number of people who have adopted internationally and they have all gone through a lot emotionally, financially, and time-wise to do it. They are very special people. Before we had Calvin we talked about adopting. But then when it came to the point of actually having a child, we both just automatically went to the traditional way without even discussing adoption again. (Oh, and if by chance we ever have another son, I’m pulling for “Luther.”)

    Perhaps adoption is for some rather than all, but of course all Christians should be supportive–in prayer, with their finances if they are able (I’m sure we will contribute to the next Kluck child, though probably not half), with a attitude of love and acceptance for those who don’t look like them, and with religious training.

  9. AN attitude. Not A attitude. Dang it.

  10. But then when it came to the point of actually having a child, we both just automatically went to the traditional way without even discussing adoption again.

    Yeah, compared with shelling out a bunch of money, filling out forms etc., the traditional way is much more fun.

    (You can either read that as a sarcastic comment re: labor and childbirth or a little piece of marital εὐτραπελία.)

  11. Mike,

    Thank you for posting those four little words I’ve been waiting for all my life. I can only imagine how hard that was for you. And while I’d love to debate a memorialist view of the Eucharist with you, I’ll wait until you actually blog about it.

    I would like to hear more on your theology of family, both practically and soteriologically. From the practical standpoint, are you advocating for all Christians to pursue adoption, or only those who cannot have children the “traditional” way? What are the boundaries you would place on the size of a family, i.e., financial, emotional, psychological, and social constraints? Soteriologically, if we adopt because God has adopted us, is my adopting a child an act of single or double predestination? Does my act of chosing one child over another an active or passive rejection of the children not chosen? Also, what criteria should I use when chosing a child to adopt, since we do not know what criteria God has used when electing some to salvation (unless, of course, you are advocating for universal adoption, in which case I need a bigger house)?

    In all seriousness, I do struggle with the idea of a biblical mandate to adopt, particularly if that mandate is constructed from the imagery of God adopting us in Christ. The Bible has a lot to say about caring for widows and orphans, but I think we are pushing Scripture too far if we teach that Christians are called to adopt. After all, Scripture also uses marriage imagery for salvation, but I don’t think anyone is making the case that Christians are called to marry widows because the church is the bride of Christ.

    All that being said, I’m sure I missed the point you were trying to make, but I see some wheat and some chaff in this idea, so I think it is good to thrash this concept vigorously.

  12. I haven’t read the book yet but found this blog while researching it. As the adoptive parents of two young adults, whom we adopted when our bilogical kids were late teens, we have long believed that while adoption may not be a mandate, it is entirely compatible with the Biblical mandate to welcome the stranger into our homes, especially since we adopted transracially and the OT instructions often referred to “foreigners”. Our adoption experience has been the most exciting, rewarding, painful, exhausting, demanding, gratifying, heart-warming, heart-wrenching experience of our lives. I highly recommend it, but not without urgent caution to, as Lisa says, “Count the cost.” Can’t wait to read Moore’s book.

    BTW, when my children were little I wrote them a book called “Twice Adopted” about how as adopted children, when they receive Jesus as Savior, they get the privilege of being adopted twice. It was long before Michael Reagan wrote his excellent and very adult book by the same title! I was having some success in having it published but got sidetracked. Some of the recent discussion in the Christian community about adoption makes me think I should pursue it again…

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