Providing gospel-centered resources to mobilize the church for global orphan care.


Stop giving your life to Jesus. Stop it!

by Dan Cruver Published Jun 23, 2015

It’s not unusual for me to meet orphan care advocates, foster care and adoptive parents, and orphan prevention activists who feel burned out. The energy and enthusiasm that once characterized their efforts to advocate for orphaned and vulnerable children has all but evaporated. They are weary and heavy-laden (Matthew 11:28).

Being an orphan-caring, orphan-loving, orphan-serving advocate is eternally significant work. James tells us that the actual practice of true religion involves caring for orphans and widows in their distress (James 1:27). To selflessly give yourself to orphaned and vulnerable children is really good work. There’s no doubt about that. But there is danger lurking in any and every good work we do (see Luke 15:11-32). We can do immense good “in the name of Jesus”—like caring for orphans with radical commitment, like giving our lives to Jesus for the sake of the fatherless—and yet subtly lose sight of what Christianity actually is. 

The heart and soul of Christianity is not you giving your life to Jesus or doing things for Jesus. Christianity is the uncomplicated news that Jesus has given, is giving, and will forever give himself to you! It’s really that simple. [Tweet""The heart and soul of Christianity is not you giving your life to Jesus. It's...""]

Do you ever wonder why you have become weary in well-doing? Are you on the verge of feeling bone-deep weary because of all you do “in Jesus’ name”? If so, here’s what the good news of the Gospel says to you: “Stop giving your life to Jesus!” What we often forget is that the Gospel is always counter-intuitive: When we stop “giving our lives to Jesus” but begin to rest in the reality that he gives himself to us and for us, we actually become increasingly refreshed and empowered to walk in the good works for which we were created (Ephesians 2:10). If what I’m saying isn’t sinking in, you’re in luck. In just 8 minutes, Glen Scrivener’s spoken-word video will begin to refresh and rejuvenate you with the simplicity of Jesus for you (I’ve included the text below the video). Enjoy!

Stop giving your life to Jesus – Glen Scrivener from Youthscape on Vimeo. (Download the PDF of the spoken word text)

I gave my life to Jesus about a thousand times,
At teenage shrines of rare experience,
They’d blare Delirious then dare obedience,
I’d swear allegiance, soul-bared and serious,
Each prayer more daring than the previous.

On stage, the preacher saw we staunch hard core,
who flocked to the fore to knock, knock knock on heaven’s door.
He claimed salvations like he was keeping score.
Yet none were sure but he…
And none doubted more than me.

So I prayed again, to firm cement it,
Making sure I really meant it.
Vowed my life to be amended,
Willed my all to dust descended,
Gave my heart to be expended.
Then when all my prayers were ended…
Nothing, but my self lamented…
Oh I pretended all was mended and extended lifted hands
But within I could not understand:
What more could He demand?

I gave my life to Jesus a thousand different ways,
No single day would pass without this act.
I would contract to yield my every part,
To make one more fresh start,
To be more set apart,
And in return I’d yearn for Him to impart the merest trace
of grace into my heart.

I gave my life to Jesus, though faith continued flagging,
though doubts were ever nagging, zeal sagging
dragging down to duty’s basement.
But at least I had my bracelet!
O dear bracelet, give me strength anew.
The bracelet counseled: What Would Jesus Do?
And to answer all I could think was that He would sink
to His knees in passioned pleas,
like at Gethsemane.
And with almighty self-surrender,
there He rendered ALL to God who, silent, let Him fall.

So what should I do?
I too would heed that call,
and likewise sprawl before the Splendor.

This crawl became my pattern,
each new day I’d flatten self
before the Lord, pressed down to gain reward
that never came. But all the same I’d call.

And all the while the preachers told me
“Give control, not part, but wholly,
Give your heart, your life, your all.”
But rarely do I recall
Being told what He gave, my Lord to save.
Except… they slipped it in… to conscript us they gripped us
With “Jesus whipped, our Saviour stripped,
the blood it dripped from the cross,” but they ripped it from it’s gospel frame
To say “Now YOU. YOU DO THE SAME.”
And thus Christ’s offering was flipped, we were guilt tripped
by the very act that saved us.
So it was engraved, instilled:
The cross was a standard unfulfilled by us.
Oh but we’d try, my how we’d try, we’d bow the knee and bear the load,
It was the very least we owed.

I gave my life to Jesus… but somewhere down the road I slid,
my faith undid even amid my church, my prayers,
even as I bid for heaven’s care,
beneath the lid, the venom hid.
I was your youth group’s keenest kid,
But no-one hated God more than I did.

With Him it’s just take, take, take, there’s no break,
His thirst for blood who can slake?
At least vampires get you just once,
But this God held perpetual hunts.

I gave my life to Jesus but I guess it was no good.
I did what I could to appease Him,
but no pleasing seemed probable,
So this elder brother turned prodigal.

And I could chronicle the years headed east.
A far country unpoliced,
It was a famine disguised as a feast,
A pig-sty passed off as release.

But there… at the end of the track, with life out of whack when all was pitch black…
THERE – what brought me back?

Cos THIS BOOK, as I read, didn’t say what they said,
To those with bowed heads, under piety’s dread, by their leaders misled,
The KINGDOM of God is at hand.
There He stands in your stead,
your King lifts your head,
He has shouldered your dread,
arms outstretched till they bled.

As I read, I met HIM: the Father’s sheer Gift,
now offered to lift us from cowering,
The feeble empowering,
The filthy clean showering,
the lowly now towering in Him.

So that night on His knees? Gethsemane’s pleas?
Those prayers they were said for me.
Cos I am not Jesus there in the garden, begging for pardon,
I’m Peter.
Despite all my boasts, I’m asleep at my post,
And Jesus does it all for me.

Can you give your life to Jesus? Talk about cart before horse.
Can we resource the Source who flows like a river
He is the Giver and we just receive, that’s what it means to believe.

So I’ll leave an appeal. To the preachers who feel
that they must stir up zeal, then let it be His we reveal.

You say “Give your heart”
This says “Christ is the donor”

You say “Yield your life”
This says “He was always the owner”

You say “Get on fire.”
This says “You are the Light.”

You say “Keep running to God.”
This says “Walk in Christ.”

You say “Dare to be a missional, intentional, incarnational, contextualised, no-compromise, counter-cultural, radical, red-letter, fully-devoted, disciple.”
This says “Follow.”

You say “Get hungry for God.”
This says “Take, eat, swallow.”

You say “Press into God”
This says “You’re hidden in Christ”

You say “Be a world changer”
This says “Lead a quiet life.”

You say “Surrender all.”
This says “You’re not your own.”

You say “Step up to the plate”,
This says “You’re raised to the throne.”

You say “Burn out”
This says “Shine”

You say “Work on your relationship with Jesus.”
This says “I am my beloved’s and He is mine.”

Folks, look at the book and unhook from this wearisome, will-driven view
Stop giving your life to Jesus, He’s the Giver delivered for you.

Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal_Comp

“When the eternal Son of God became man, he ushered his infinite, flawless communion with the Father into the depths of our sin, pain, and suffering (see Mark 14:36), not impersonally but in a profoundly personal manner. Jesus’ communion with the Father and the Spirit did not detach or distance him from the brokenness of our world. To the contrary, it thrust him into the darkest depths of our fallen world in order that he might heal and deliver us through his death, burial, and resurrection.

“At what point did the Father declare, ‘This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased’? It was just before the Spirit led Jesus ‘into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil’ (Matthew 3:17-4:1). The Trinitarian enjoyment of communion did not lead Jesus away from suffering but into it. According to T.F. Torrance, ‘[W]e learn from [Jesus’] incarnate self revelation that God does not will to exist for himself alone and does not wish to be without us, but has in his eternal purpose of love freely created a universe, within which he has placed human beings made after his own image and likeness in order that he may share his love with them and enable them to enjoy his divine fellowship’” (emphasis mine).

Anderson Cooper of CNN interviews Angela Tucker (a speaker at T4A this year) about the current use of the word transracial in the media over the last few weeks. Listen to her spot-on take on it.

Join Angela Tucker at our November 5-7 conference in Durham, NC.


Question #4: What impact does the belief that God’s adoption of his people is metaphorical have on the way we understand Paul’s language? 

Our endeavor to clear the ground for a fresh perspective on the biblical teaching of adoption has led us to engage a series of questions. In answering the first three, we have disentangled the filial or familial language of the New Testament relevant to the new birth from that of adoption. Adoption, it is now clear, is the explicit teaching of the apostle Paul alone. His unique use of huiothesia ~ the sole New Testament term for adoption ~  is, we reckon, metaphorical.

This fourth question, vague as it is at first sight, offers us an opportunity to consider what we mean when we say that the language of adoption is metaphorical. The answer is more involved than we might imagine. Accordingly, in the postings to come, we speak of one facet at a time, taking up the following in turn:

The character of the adoption metaphor: How metaphors differ from other figures of speech such as similes.

Summary: It is the fact that adoption is a metaphor which nullifies fears of moving away from a literal reading of the language.

The power of the adoption metaphor: Why Paul makes use of huiothesia on only five occasions.

 Summary: The argument that adoption is not very important in Paul’s theology is based on a want of awareness of how metaphors function.

The substance of the adoption metaphor: Whether it is better to categorize adoption as a model (robust metaphor) or a metaphor?

Summary: The long-established habit of mixing the metaphors of Scripture (notably the new birth and adoption), without explicit exegetical warrant for doing so, can be explained in part by the belief that adoption is more akin to a one-time analogy than to a substantive and coherent framework for understanding the believer’s acceptance in Christ.

The uniqueness of the adoption metaphor: How the character, power, and substance of adoption all confirm the inappropriateness of mixing biblical metaphors and models where Scripture does not do so.

Summary: Establishing this inappropriateness is essential to considering Paul’s language of adoption on its own terms. Such a consideration offers us a chance to exchange some of the muddled exegesis of the past for a view of adoption that is more historically, linguistically, biblically, theologically, and practically aware.

Doubtless, some of this sounds cryptic right now, but I trust clarity will come as we look at each aspect of a metaphorical understanding of adoption in turn, beginning next time with a discussion of the character of the adoption metaphor.



To follow the conversation from the beginning, go to:

For more from the ministry of Tim J. R. Trumper, go to or follow him on Twitter @TimJRTrumper


Switch blog post image
Pushing for change in your non-profit

About Switch:

  • #1 New York Times and Wall Street Journal bestseller
  • Translated into 24 languages
  • Led by Susan Heath Hays. Susan has 20+ years experience working with non-profit organizations. Currently, she consults with Head Start programs across the country with a focus on improving leadership and engaging families. Susan is a Switch Certified Trainer specializing in change efforts within school systems and non-profits.
  • “Any leader looking to create change in his organization need not look beyond this little book. It is packed with examples and hands-on tools that will get you moving right away. And it really is a fun read.”
    Business Week


  • Why some changes are excruciating and others are easy.
  • Why most organizational changes never generate the momentum they need.
  • How to break through the “decision paralysis” that can doom a change effort.
  • How to spot and clone the “bright spots” than can point the way forward.
  • Why knowledge is not enough to spark change—and what will spark it.
  • How tweaking the environment is minor ways can trigger big changes in behavior.
  • Whatever the major change challenge you need to tackle as a pre-adoptive or adoptive parent, a foster child advocate, foster parent, advocate of family reunification, adult adoptee, or a non-profit or church ministry that works in the orphan care/adoption worldyou will receive tools in this 3 1/2 hour workshop to spark and achieve breakthrough change.
  • Join us for this Together for Adoption Pre-Conference Switch Workshop, November 5, from 1:00-4:30pm at The Summit Church, Brier Creek Campus (2335 Presidential Dr., Durham, NC 27703). Register for just $35 per person.

    Note: You do not need to register for the November 5-7 Together for Adoption National Conference in order to register and attend this Pre-Conference Switch Workshop.

    Learn more about this pre-conference workshop.

    Want to be a main session speaker at T4A 2015?

    by Dan Cruver Published May 20, 2015

    Speakers Screen Shot

    If you have a great idea about orphan prevention, family reunification, orphan care, foster care, domestic adoption, international adoption, or about the kind of adoption language we should use, here’s your opportunity for a chance to share your idea in a main session at this year’s Nov. 5-7 Together for Adoption Conference in Durham, NC.

    Learn more about this first-ever T4A opportunity

    Want to be a main session speaker this year?

    Will it be you

    Do you have an amazing idea that you’d like to share in one of our main sessions?

    This year’s conference will be the second consecutive conference we’ve added quite a few 10-minute main session speakers. These 10-minute talks were so popular last year, we’re doing them again. But this year we are saving one of those 10-minute speaker spots for you. We know there are a lot of you out there with amazing and simple ideas of ways we can more effectively care for at-risk or fatherless children. We want to give someone who wouldn’t otherwise have the opportunity or platform to speak at a conference the opportunity to do just that in one of our main sessions.

    If you want the opportunity to be an “orphan care strategy-shaper,” here’s what you need to do:

    First, click the following “Click to Tweet” link: 

    Second, copy and paste the following text into a Facebook status update: Join us Nov. 5-7 at Summit Church (Brier Creek Campus) in Durham, NC for Together for Adoption 2015. Solutions to the global orphan crisis are closer than you think.

    Third, if you want the opportunity to be selected as our new 10-minute speaker, submit your 200-300 word essay on this online form. Do your very best to sell us on your idea of a solution to a challenge we face in one of the following areas: orphan prevention, family reunification, foster care, children aging out of the foster care system, the adoption language we use, domestic or international adoption, orphan care, or the deinstitutionalization orphanages. If the Together for Adoption team thinks your idea is the best one submitted, you’ll be our newest 10-minute main session speaker. Submit your essay on this online form.

    Fourth, make sure you check the boxes on the online form to let us know that you’ve told others about the conference both on Twitter and Facebook.

    Contest Deadline is Friday, June 13th at Midnight EST.

    *Note: Contest winner will receive a free conference registration but will be responsible for all his/her own travel, lodging, and food expenses.

    Learn more about this unique opportunity.

    Simple. Jesus didn’t swing for home runs.

    by Dan Cruver Published May 15, 2015

    Simple. Solutions closer_blog_post_header

    Jesus didn’t try to change the world in a day. He didn’t even swing for home runs every time he stood at the plate to perform miracles. From what we can tell from the four New Testament Gospels, Jesus didn’t wake up every morning thinking, “What’s the big thing I can do today to solve the world’s biggest problem?”

    As far as the number of actual miracles of Jesus recorded in the four Gospels, we find just 37 of them. Just 37 miracles on record. If you consider the fact that Jesus’ public ministry spanned just 3 years, Jesus only performed a recorded miracle about once a month; the first of which was a miracle Jesus performed behind the scenes: turning water into wine (John 2:1-11).

    But we also know Jesus performed hundreds, even thousands of miracles that the Gospel writers only give a passing mention. Take Matthew 4:23-24 for example:

    “And [Jesus] went throughout all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction among the people. So his fame spread throughout all Syria, and they brought him all the sick, those afflicted with various diseases and pains, those oppressed by demons, epileptics, and paralytics, and he healed them. And great crowds followed him from Galilee and the Decapolis, and from Jerusalem and Judea, and from beyond the Jordan” (emphasis mine).

    Most of the miracles of Jesus recorded in the Gospels were for individuals too: healing an official’s son (John 4:46-54); driving out a demonic spirit (Luke 4:31-36); healing Peter’s mother-in-law (Matthew 8:14-15); cleansing a man from leprosy (Mark 1:40-45); healing a Centurion’s servant (Luke 7:1-10); healing a paralytic (Mark 3:1-6); healing a man’s withered hand (Matthew 12:9-14); and many other similar miracles. If you ask me, if the Father had asked Jesus to do so (John 5:19), he could have simply said, “Everyone who suffers from a disease in the land of Israel, be healed!” and everyone in Israel would have been made well. But Jesus never swung for home runs like that. Sure, Jesus feds thousands of people a day here and a day there, but those miracles never came close to solving world hunger. That wasn’t his objective. Jesus wasn’t swinging for the fence when he multiplied the fish and loaves.

    Someone might counter, “But when Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, he sure seemed like he was swinging for the fence.” But such a sentiment misses the bigger point of the Lazarus miracle. Jesus wasn’t swinging for a home run when he raised his friend from the dead. I actually believe what Jesus did by raising Lazarus from the dead is more akin to a batter warming up in the batter’s box.

    Jesus’ raising of Lazarus was pointing to the future out-of-the-park day ”when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice and come out” (John 5:28-29). Raising Lazarus wasn’t Jesus swinging for the fence. If I can put it this way, Jesus was “simply” doing good in that moment with his end game in mind: the restoration of all things (Acts 3:21). What I find instructive of Jesus’ end game as described by Luke in Acts 3:21 is that just a verse earlier, Acts 3:20, Luke says that for those who believe in Jesus, from his very presence comes “times of refreshing.” What this simply means is that Jesus’ miracles provided an advance taste, a refreshing taste of the future restoration of heaven and earth (Acts 3:21). “[Jesus] went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him” (Acts 10:38), and from the healing presence of Jesus the people experienced wonderful “times of refreshing.”

    What’s my point in all this talk about Jesus and his miracles? Jesus went about doing simple deeds of good with his end game in mind: the restoration of all things. He wasn’t swinging for a home run every time he stepped up to the plate to do good. No, Jesus didn’t hit the home run until he actually rose from the dead. The “times of refreshing” Jesus provided through doing good moved him closer, step-by-step, to the home run of his resurrection from the dead and to the yet future restoration of all things.

    If we as Christians have Jesus’ end game in mind, an ongoing series of simple actions can make a world of difference for an orphaned or vulnerable child. We, too, can provide times of refreshment in Jesus’ name. Yes, the global orphan crisis is incredibly complex. But if we learn to think simple, I think we’ll find solutions are closer than we think.

    Learn more about Together for Adoption Conference 2015.

    Simple. Solutions closer_blog_post_header

    Orphan Justice

    Orphan Justice Weekend is designed to be a weekend that engages an entire church with the opportunity to get involved in orphan care at some level, opportunities to get involved immediately, educate your ministry team in biblically based and proven strategies for better orphan care, and inspiration from God’s Word.

    pre-weekend events:

    Johnny is willing to host two Skype meetings with the ministry team (orphan ministry team, justice team, or which ever is appropriate) to help them prepare for the weekend. He will talk through the plan and answer any questions. Your church orphan/justice ministry team should read Orphan Justice before these meetings are scheduled.

    weekend events:

    worship service – On Sunday morning/Saturday evening Johnny will preach a message that focuses on special needs adoption. However, other issues within the book will also be discussed and referenced in his sermon. Johnny will work with your church orphan/justice team to prepare them and ensure a maximum return on the weekend.

    luncheon – The church should host a luncheon where Johnny will answer questions and also have adoptive/foster/safe families share their testimonies.

    training – Johnny will lead a training for your church orphan/justice ministry team. You may invite leaders of other churches to this training. This training will focus on an ongoing ministry within your church to adoptive/foster/safe families and biblically based best practices for international orphan care. This will typically take place on Sunday evening.

    book signing – Johnny is open to doing a book signing if you so desire to have one.

    post-weekend events:

    information meeting:
    One mistake many churches have made following a weekend like this is not giving the opportunity for people interested in becoming an adoptive family to actually meet with a professional. I am happy to connect you with a Christian agency that can work with your families to lead a meeting. The meeting should be held within one week of the event.

    Learn more.

    Work Harder (Better) by Resting More

    by Dan Cruver Published May 13, 2015

    Too Much Work to Do to Rest?

    You can work harder (better) by resting more. No, this is not a snake-oil scam.

    It’s been clinically tested, tried, and irrefutably approved.

    Before you “Bookmark” this blog post into that black hole of a Bookmark Bar — (you know, the one into which most blog articles live and die without ever being read) — stop and read this one. Now. Or during an upcoming break time.

    Immediately before Jesus said these words in Matthew 11:28-30:

    “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

    He said these do-not-enter-unless-invited words in Matthew 11:27:

    “All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him” (emphasis mine)

    Jesus posted a “Do Not Enter” sign on the door of his relationship with the Father, a “lock-everybody-else-in-the-universe-out” kind of sign. If you’re like me, I don’t crash parties like that.

    But Then There’s a Game-Changer (for us)

    But…Jesus follows his “Do Not Enter” words, (“and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him” – Matthew 11:27) with these words, ”Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28).

    What? Is this too good to be true? Yes, this news is too good to be true, except when it’s not.

    The kind of good news God gives is news that is too good to be true, only it’s not. It turns on its head the way we think things ought to work and, as a result, actually changes everything. 

    When Jesus says, “no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him,” he’s talking about a knowing of the most profound kind imaginable. An infinite Person alone can know another infinite Person fully and infinitely. Nobody else has a shot. Not one.

    Unless, of course, by some “eucatastrophic” turn of events everyone suddenly has a shot.

    What if we were somehow joined or united to the Son in such a way that we actually participated in his very own relationship with his Father? What if we actually found ourselves in the middle of the love the Father and his Son shared with each other, and we found ourselves there for free and forever? Might that be good news?

    Maybe Mike Reeves’ words will resonate with you, as they have with me:

    “[What I want people to know is that] Jesus is not the God of their imagination, but infinitely better. [My desire is to explore] why people who know Jesus best are always so full of love and joy… Why do they see things about him that are so good that it makes them rejoice?

    “Because there are people who do [rejoice like that]…[And] I want to speak that message about who [God] is, what he’s done, and what he thinks of you right now.

    And I want to speak that particularly to broken people right now, who know their failures, who feel they’re certainly not worthy of any God, and they fear God would be purely judgmental among them, not kind, not compassionate. And I want to speak about an entirely different God, a very different God, the God of Jesus. Who is so kind.

    “One of our terrible problems as Christians is everyday we mar Jesus in our minds. And I find I do this the whole time.

    I find that I hear about Jesus…and just in the course of one night, I find that even if I got some facts about him right–he died, he rose, he ascended to heaven, the kindness of Jesus is unconditional love, historically rooted–in what he’s done for us and I get all the objective facts about him correctly in my mind, but I start to mar JesusAnd I start making Jesus out to be demonic, subtly, subtly, in my mind.

    “So I find I wake up in the morning and I don’t desire him. So, everyday I need to hear afresh what Jesus is truly like” (What’s the full Vimeo video of this interview here).

    If you want to work harder (better) for Jesus for the sake of the fatherless (or for the sake of anyone for that matter)rest in Jesus more, not less.  If all who labor and are heavy laden wish to freely enter into the love between the Father and the Son, simply take Jesus up on his invitation to “Come to me…and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28).

    Jesus has NOT given us an empty promise! He’s giving us a promise that gives life! He’s given us himself! And you can believe it now. Just look afresh at him and believe. The Spirit of adoption will do the rest


    T4A NatCon 2015 sidebar logo 210x210



    Will you join us for our November 5-7 T4A Conference at The Summit Church in Durham, NC? Learn more.

    Switch for blogWe at Together for Adoption have never been more excited about one of our pre-conference workshops. In light of last year’s conference theme (Urgency & Complexity: Biblical & Ethical Approaches to the Orphan Crisis), this year’s pre-conference workshop could not be more relevant and is the perfect compliment to our conference theme this year: Simple. Solutions are Closer than You Think.

    Whatever the major change challenge you need to tackle as a pre-adoptive or adoptive parent, a foster child advocate, foster parent, advocate of family reunification, adult adoptee, or a non-profit or church ministry that works in the orphan care/adoption worldyou will receive tools in this 3 1/2 hour workshop to spark and achieve breakthrough change.

    Our workshop trainer is Susan Heath Hays (sister of Chip and Dan Heath, authors of New York Times and Wall Street Journal bestselling books Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die and Switch: How To Change When Change is Hard). Susan is the Heath brothers’ #1 Switch trainer. She’s also a member of Brandon and Jen Hatmaker’s church in Austin, Texas (Brandon is one of our speakers this year).

    “In a compelling, story-driven narrative, the Heaths bring together decades of counterintuitive research in psychology, sociology, and other fields to shed new light on how we can effect transformative change. Switch shows that successful changes follow a pattern, a pattern you can use to make the changes that matter to you, whether your interest is in changing the world or changing your waistline” (from the publisher of Switch). Solutions to challenges in orphan care, foster care, and adoption are closer than you think.

    Learn more about this year’s November 5th life-changing pre-conference workshop. It’s only $35 per person!


    These dippings are intended to clear away some of the muddled thinking inherited from the historic neglect of adoption. They offer us a taste of the doctrine’s substratum ~ a foundation touched on in passing in some biblical studies of adoption, but consistently omitted from theological and practical treatments. I am offering not a final word on the subject of adoption as a metaphor, but what is  to most readers a first word. I venture into this area not because I have all the answers (nor all the correct ones), but because certain questions need to be posed if the church of Christ is to dig deeper into the doctrine of adoption and to get to the key issues which help us understand the substratum.

    In answer to the first question posed, we broke ranks from the assumed legitimacy of conflating the filial terms of Paul and of John (especially). This practice has been typical throughout the history of the church, but it is consistent neither with the authorial diversity of the New Testament (notably the fact that Paul alone uses the term adoption [huiothesia]), nor with the way the theological models of Scripture function.

    Since, however, the discussion of the functioning of Paul’s language of adoption is rare (and certainly less than comprehensive), we have taken up a second question; namely, whether the reality of huiothesia is literal or metaphorical. The issues are complex and render dogmatism inappropriate. Remaining open to further light and making no pretensions to have offered a definitive answer, we have drawn what commonalities we can between the two readings (both regard the language of God’s Fatherhood to be divinely inspired and to convey reality), but have gone with the metaphorical understanding.

    Accordingly, we come to the third question: If God’s adoption of his people is literal, what does that say of societal adoption? This question was posed hypothetically at the outset of these dippings, pending the outcome of the discussion arising from the previous question. Although we have opted for the metaphorical understanding, there is merit in perceiving how the advocate of the literal reading might answer.

    He or she likely considers human practices of adoption evidence of the image of God in man. We adopt, in other words, because we are made in God’s image and after his likeness. On this understanding, God’s image in us is not simply moral (man was created possessing knowledge, righteousness and holiness) but natural. By this we mean that man, notwithstanding his Fall, retains vestiges of rationality, creativity, communality, etc. While his adoptive practices cannot exactly replicate God’s adoption ~ for he is neither God nor upright ~ he nevertheless does adopt. He cannot ordinarily adopt the children which he has brought to birth, as does God, and is not bound by one practice of adoption or another (whether Greek, Roman, contemporary, etc.), and yet he does adopt.

    Advocates of a metaphorical understanding surely welcome such reasoning. We question not what the literal reading says of societal adoption, but the assumption that because man adopts, God must have literally adopted to begin with. Admittedly, this parity is simpler to grasp, and is attractive for that reason. Yet it does not answer other upcoming issues relevant to the way Paul uses the term huiothesia, nor does it prove the necessity of equating the communality of God with his act of adoption per se. God is certainly communal because he is eternally triune, and is definitely accepting because he has sovereignly and freely decreed and acted to accept sinners when under no obligation to do so. Yet, since there is nothing in Scripture (explicitly in Paul), so far as I can see, to oblige us to regard the truth of our divine acceptance as a literal adoption, it is feasible to argue that man’s practices of adoption are an unwitting and varying interpretation of his creation in the image of God, rather than a necessity of it. In this regard, the absence of the term huiothesia from the Septuagint and the uncertainty of the adoptive practices of the Hebrews ~ whether enacted essentially or formally ~ is of potential significance. The metaphorical reading, it is worth noting, considers man’s adoptive practices to be a humanly constructed expression of his imaging of God’s communality. Consistent with this, the expression varies from culture to culture and from era to era, some adopting and others not, some in one way and some in another. The apostle Paul for example, living in the first century A.D. and exposed to the Semitic and Graeco-Roman influences of his time, ran under the inspiration of the Spirit with the idea of adoption, using it to explain the believer’s acceptance with God in ways which otherwise would have been impossible, certainly in any substantive or colorful way. We believe him to have spoken the truth of our acceptance with God, but to have done so in a metaphorical way.

    For all that we have discussed here, it is doubtless God has more light to shed on the functioning of biblical language. How this light is dispersed ~ whether through other minds, the ongoing recovery of adoption, or the ages to come ~ we shall see. Evidently, we peek through a glass darkly at the present, ever so dependent on the Spirit for his illumination. In this state of tension we proceed next time to answer the fourth question. We shall find, Lord willing, that the study of metaphor casts at least some light on Paul’s use of huiothesia.



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