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


1. Distinguishing the Filial and Familial Language of Scripture (continued)

Having outlined the three basic facts of adoption ~ the uniqueness of the biblical term huiothesia, Paul’s exclusive use of it (Rom. 8:15, 23, 9:4; Gal. 4:5; Eph. 1:5), and his utilization of the term to cover the whole scope of redemptive history (Eph. 1:5; Rom. 9:4; Gal. 4:5 [Rom. 8:15]; Rom. 8:23) ~ we now come to the unscrambling of the New Testament’s language of adoption and new birth.

This is necessary because, more often than not, theologians throughout church history have either not seen or chosen to override the specifics of the biblical language relative to each theme.  The effect of this two-way suffusion has been greatest on adoption. Firstly, because it is the more neglected of the two biblical themes, and, secondly, because its redemptive-historical contours have not been well understood. Generally, the conflation of the New Testament’s language of adoption and the new birth has required either the flattening out of Paul’s redemptive-historical unfolding of adoption, or the ignoring of it altogether in what is in effect a limiting of the scope of adoption to its application. These tendencies are very characteristic of Puritan treatments of adoption. They afford the neat inclusion of adoption in the order of salvation (ordo salutis), but they drop along the way something of the wealth of Paul’s redemptive-historical perspective and of Calvin’s exposition of it.

(ii) Basic Contrasts with the New Birth

The disentangling of conflated versions of adoption and the new birth is not as difficult as one might imagine. Consider that:

  • Whereas Paul uses filial or familial language chiefly in connection with adoption, John and others like Peter use it primarily in the context of the new birth. If John refers to adoption at all ~ and that is a big “if” ~ he does so but in passing in John 1:12 (“the right to become children of God”) and in Revelation  21:7  (an atypical use of “son” [see below]).
  • Whereas the adopted are said to have been slaves prior to their adoption (implicitly in Eph. 2:1-2; explicitly in Gal. 3:23-4:7), the new born are said to have been children of the devil (1 John 3:10).
  • Whereas the adopted become sons of God (hence huiothesia or “the placing of a son”), those born again are described alternatively by John as children of God (tekna theou).  The contrast is one of degree rather than of kind, for sometimes Paul refers to the adopted as children (e.g., Rom. 8: 16, 17, 21; 9:8), while John can refer to the new born as sons (Rev. 21:7).
  • Whereas there is at the heart of adoption a union of the Son (huios) and the sons (huioi), John distinguishes between Christ as Son (huios) and the new born as children (tekna). That said, those born anew as children of God are gradually conformed to the image of the Son. This likely explains why John eventually labels the born again as sons of God when anticipating the new earth (Rev. 21:7).
  • Whereas the adopted enter the household of God (e.g., Eph. 2:19), those born from above enter the kingdom of God (e.g., John 3:3).
  • Whereas the adoption motif is a graphic expression of the concept of divine acceptance, the new birth motif expresses the concept of regeneration or new life.
  • Whereas the motifs of adoption and the new birth have their distinctive features, the concepts they represent contribute harmoniously and coherently to the one gospel found in Scripture. The explanation of this gospel is summed up by the doctrine of salvation (soteriology).

In summary, I am not saying that the mantra “Adoption gives us the status of sons, the new birth the nature of sons” is wrong, but that the manner by which theologians have arrived at this equation has typically allowed the divineness of Scripture to absorb its humanness. To state things alternatively, the demands of a neat system of theology have led to the playing down of the history of redemption and the authorial diversity of the New Testament. These two features of Scripture are the sine qua non of a clear and accurate understanding of adoption.


[A more extensive consideration of the biblical data is found in Tim (J. R.) Trumper, "The Metaphorical Import of Adoption: A Plea for Realisation.I: The Adoption Metaphor in Biblical Usage," Scottish Bulletin of Evangelical Theology 14:2 (Autumn 1996), 129-45.]



For more from the ministry of Tim J.R. Trumper, go to: (personal); (church)

Orphans on a Bridge to Nowhere…

by Dan Cruver Published Jul 2, 2014

A must read. Bridge to Nowhere blog

Read More. It’s a must read..

Learn more about ChriStory

by Dan Cruver Published Jun 30, 2014

ChriStory Header

Lesson 1: Audio for “Jesus, The True Eden for Us”
Lesson 2: Audio for “Jesus, The New Creation for Us (Part 1)”
Lesson 3: Teacher Notes for “Jesus, The New Creation for Us (Part 2)”
Lesson 4: Audio & Teacher Notes for “Jesus is Eden” (John 9)
Lesson 5: Jesus is the New Creation (Part 3)

This class on Christology is one of the adult Sunday School classes at Redeemer Presbyterian Church of Travelers Rest, SC taught by Dan Cruver. This blog is for one of the Sunday school classes for June, July, and August at Redeemer Presbyterian Church of Travelers Rest, SC. Each blog post will relate directly to the weekly lessons.

Class Title: “ChriStory: The Epic Tale of Man’s Stunning Union with Christ”

Class Description: In Luke 24:13-35, Jesus teaches us to make sense of our stories and lives just as Jesus did of his: by reading our own lives in light of his life, death, resurrection, and ascension as witnessed to in the Scriptures. This Christological practice is exactly what the apostle Paul did when he wrote, “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Gal. 2:20). For the Christian, the study of Christology is learning to read and understand our own lives in light of Christ’s Story for his glory and our joy.

Dan is the director of Together for Adoption and the editor and primary author of <Reclaiming Adoption: Missional Living Through the Rediscovery of Abba, Father.

Register Now for T4A NatCon 2014

by Dan Cruver Published Jun 25, 2014

NatCon 2014 Blog Header

Online registration is now open for our October 17-18 Together for Adoption 2014 National Conference to be held in beautiful Greenville, SC.

Join the Conversation

Our primary objective for this year’s gathering is to maximize our time together by providing important conversations with people who are key leaders, thinkers, and practitioners in the global orphan movement. We want to facilitate extended conversations that matter — conversations that uniquely address the complex spectrum of care needed for orphans globally.

This year’s conference theme is Urgency & Complexity: Biblical & Ethical Approaches to the Orphan Crisis. If you join us, you’ll leave Greenville having thought deeply and biblically about family preservation and reunification, indigenous and international adoption, foster care, and domestic adoption. Every main session talk will be followed a 20 minute onstage conversation in which leaders within the evangelical orphan care and adoption movement discuss the topic and its implication for orphan care and adoption. We can make a difference for the sake of orphaned and vulnerable children…

Speakers include Brandon Hatmaker, Dr. Elizabeth Bartholet (Harvard Law Professor), John Sowers, Jedd Medefind, Jason Kovacs, Dan Cruver, Elizabeth Styffe, Mike Rusch, Dr. Susan Hillis, Chris Marlow, Johnston Moore, Rick Morton, Daniel Bennett, Scott Vair, Phil Darke, Alex Krutov, and many others. Visit our conference website to learn more about this year’s speakers and exhibitor partners.

Special Announcement

Note: Childcare is free this year. Space is limited, so signup soon! Learn more about childcare.

Visit our conference website to learn about T4A NatCon 2014.

Or . . . Register Now!

1. Distinguishing the Filial and Familial Language of Scripture

(i) Basic Facts about Adoption

Having committed ourselves to construct the doctrine of adoption from the ground up, and having mapped out the six issues necessary for a solid foundation, we now begin to consider the biblical data.

There’s historical and theological rationale for doing so. Historically, pastors and theologians have hurried their attention to the filial and familial terms the Bible uses. As a result they have too often confused the specifics of the filial and familial language of Scripture, typically ignoring along the way the distinctive structures of the images it portrays. Theologically, an insight into the Bible’s language of adoption reminds us not to make premature negations of its importance.

Three facts are essential for correct understanding.

First, there is only one term in Scripture for the adoption of the sons of God. The term is huiothesia, meaning literally “the placing of a son.”  Seen in the contexts of its New Testament usage, the term embraces both the act of God the Father in adopting his sons and the resultant state of sonship.

Some failing to perceive in huiothesia the richness of both the adoptive act and the adoptive state opt for the more general translation of “sonship.” Some others translate huiothesia as “sonship” in contexts where the adoptive state is intended (e.g., in the N.I.V. in Rom. 8:15 and Galatians 4:5). Others, concerned for the neatness of their system of theology, find the translation “sonship” more convenient than adoption, for it affords an easier connection to the New Testament’s language of the new birth with its references to the children of God. Still others, have found “sonship” a convenient translation en route to Universalism (Thomas Erskine of Linlathen) or to the redefining of justification (N.T. Wright).

Second, Paul is the only biblical author to make use of huiothesia. The term is not found in the Septuagint (Greek translation of the Hebrew Scriptures), nor is it used by other New Testament authors. Paul uses it in the follow order:

Romans 8:15: “For you did not receive the Spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, ‘Abba! Father!’”

Romans 8:23: “And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.”

Romans 9:4: “They are Israelites, and to them belong the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises.”

Galatians 4:4-5: “But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.”

Ephesians 1:5: ” . . . he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will . . .”

Third, these five references cover the entire history of redemption.  We’ll have more to say of this when we come to our dippings into biblical theology. Sufficient to say at this point that we can rearrange these “huiothesian” texts according to the respective chapters of redemptive history to which they refer. When we consider them as milestones along the trajectory stretching from the first things (protology) to the last things (eschatology), they line up as follows:

Ephesians 1:5: ” . . . he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will . . .”

Romans 9:4: “They are Israelites, and to them belong the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises.”

Galatians 4:4-5: “But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent for th his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.”

Romans 8:15: “For you did not receive the Spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, ‘Abba! Father!’”

Romans 8:23: “And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.”

A firm grasp on these three facts disentangles adoption from the filial and familial terms of other biblical writers, grants us a clear sight of what we are considering, and begins to reveal to us that adoption possesses an importance out of all proportion to the number of its references in Scripture. To borrow a thought from the Southern Presbyterian Benjamin Morgan Palmer, no other term embraces so much of the whole system of grace as adoption.

* All Bible verses are taken from the E.S.V.


For more from the ministry of Tim J.R. Trumper, go to: (personal); (church)


Let’s not be put off by the label “metaphorical theology”! The discussion of metaphor can be a lot more interesting than it sounds. Not only does it take us to places rarely considered in either theological or popular studies of adoption, it focuses on the way some of the most graphic images of Scripture work in conveying God’s truth.

Since the subject is deep, we’re proceeding slowly and methodically. Having explained our temporary transitioning away from our journey through the writings of the church, and envisioned several benefits of considering the particular biblical language of adoption (huiothesia or “the placing of a son), we now complete our preamble to the world of metaphor by identifying specific issues pertaining to the use of the term.

All we can do here is map out the order in which we’ll digest the upcoming nuggets. This is as useful to me as I hope it will be to you, as we seek to keep track of where we are going. While I don’t claim to have all the answers, and in some places will have few guides to rely on, it is nevertheless important that we ponder the most fundamental questions. After all, they relate to a profound matter: the manner in which believers in Christ are sons of God and members of his household.

“Why go so deep?”, you may wonder. Well, if the recovery of adoption in Christian belief is to amount to anything more than a rehashing of historic treatments of the theme, we must build from the very fabric of Scripture and not from some of the assumptions of historical interpretations. I do not say that these treatments were inevitably wrong, but we need to be sure that they were right, even if just for our own satisfaction.

Permit me to illustrate this from my pastoral visits to one of the local hospitals. If visitors enter from one side of the building and head for the elevator, they get in on the first floor. But if they enter the hospital from a different direction, they get into the elevator on the second. This may help them get to their visit quicker, but they won’t necessarily benefit from the receptionist on the first floor who passes out the hospital floor plan.

Now since most treatments of adoption begin on the second floor and not the first, they omit some fundamental questions. Such as:

1. Are all the colorful filial or familial terms of the New Testament speaking of the same doctrine or teaching? If not, contrary to many you read, how do we distinguish the terms utilized?

2. Are we to take terms like “adoption” literally, metaphorically, or in some other way?

3. If God’s adoption of his people is literal, what does that say of societal adoption?

4. If, alternatively, God’s adoption of his people is metaphorical, what impact does that have on our understanding of the way the Bible uses the language of adoption?

5. Furthermore, where did the metaphor of adoption come from? Among those understanding adoption to be metaphorical, it is either assumed or argued that it came from a Semitic, Roman, or Greek practice.

6. How do we make use of the language of adoption in getting to the heart of the matter and its devotional and practical application?

As different opinions prevail on a number of these issues, I will likely at points just present the pros and cons of each respective position. In some instances I imagine having to take a line in order to press forward. Yet, the holding of these discussions should at least instill the necessary humility and caution in advancing to the consideration of adoption in biblical, systematic, and practical theology.

All in good time!


For more from the ministry of Tim J.R. Trumper, go to: (personal); (church)

Living in the Story - Tabletalk

For those of you who may be interested, here is the most recent article I had the privilege of writing for Ligonier’s Tabletalk: “Living in the Story” by Dan Cruver.

Adoption – upside down: part one

by Dan Cruver Published May 23, 2014

*Originally posted at the blog “Copperfight Wood: living in the sacred place.” Blog post entitled, “upside down: part one” by Shannon.

I post this article because it needs to be read. If you want to know why I believe it needs to be read, please email me at Email Dan to ask.



She has a son, around six years old. His pictures are on the wall, near the sink and the dental equipment. She tells me a little about him – school, video games, toys.

“I hear you have a lot of kids,” she says. Friendly, casual.

“Yep, six.”

And then the conversation takes a sudden turn downhill.

“How many of them are your real kids?”

Exhale slowly, smile. “They’re all my real kids.”

I can see she senses she’s made a blunder. She tries to correct, or clarify, or something. “I mean, how many of them do you really have? Only some of them are actually yours, right?”

The misstep, over-corrected by a do-si-do, lands both feet firmly in her mouth.

“I really have six kids,” I answer. “Two of them are adopted, but they’re all mine. And they’re all real.” No wonder the dentist mentioned I clench my teeth.

Read the entire post.

HT: @Cruver_Steve


I don’t know about you, but I tend to gulp down my food, then take a breather, and then go again. The first stage of the meal is all excited energy, the second a satisfied rest for the purpose of digestion, and the third a readiness to polish off the rest of the meal.

It’s been like that with these adoption nuggets. We chewed on those dipped in historical theology until we completed the story of adoption in the first three centuries. By the time we reached the Council of Nicea (325 A.D.) it was time to take a breather. The rest-time useful for digestion was good for me, and, if you’ve been following these nuggets, it was likely good for you, too.

When returning to an unfinished meal there’s no obligation to restart with the same plate. It’s a daily habit of many to go back and forth between the main course and the salad. If our dippings into historical theology are the main sauce we’re tasting with the nuggets, we choose in returning to the meal to start dipping into the sauce we label metaphorical theology. We’ll come back again to the story of adoption in historical theology ~ there’s plenty more sauce in that sachet (covering the years 325 A.D. to the present to be exact) ~ but for now we’ll consider the most neglected aspect of the doctrine of adoption. Namely, how we are to understand  the language of adoption in Scripture.

For many ~ the theologian and the popular mind ~ the question of whether “adoption” is literal or metaphorical is rarely asked or even mentioned. Some assume the term found in Romans 8:15, 23; 9:4; Galatians 4:5; and Ephesians 1:5 is literal. Others assume it is metaphorical. Yet, little discussion is to be had as to which it is, and as to why we may assume one understanding or the other.

This question has intrigued me since first becoming captivated by Paul’s teaching in the early 1990s. The longer I have thought about the matter, the more conscious I am that the discussion brings us to the limits of what God has revealed. Needless to say, I do not have all the answers, and am not interested in crossing the border of revelation into the realm of speculation to come up with some. Rather, we shall tread gingerly through the subject, thinking aloud about the issues which impact the way we understand and apply Paul’s adoption motif.


If you are wondering the value of the discussion, three benefits come to mind:

  • Biblically speaking, it will help us to think through issues related to Holy Scripture. We know Scripture possesses divineness, for  it is breathed out by the Spirit of God (2 Tim. 3:16). Many of us, however, are less familiar with its humanness; that is to say, with the implications of God’s use of 45 authors over 1600 years, and what that means for our understanding of the varying figures of speech they use to depict essential elements of the one gospel.
  • Theologically specifically, the discussion will enable us to build an exposition of adoption from a reliable foundation. To build high we must first dig deep.
  •  Practically speaking, a fresh look at the language of adoption in Scripture promises to shed light on both the gospel and the practice of adoption in today’s world. We may ask, for example, whether God has revealed salvation in terms like adoption as an accommodation to the practices of man, or whether man adopts because he’s made in the image of God who adopts.

We may have to chew slowly, but I trust the nourishment will be rich.


For more from the ministry of Tim J.R. Trumper, go to: (personal); (church)


How to face death as a Christian

by Dan Cruver Published May 15, 2014

I’ve found Martin Luther’s thoughts on how to face death as a Christian to be very helpful. You’ll find his comments here on Gal 4:7 in his commentary on Galatians.

We are not the heirs of some rich and mighty man, but heirs of God, the almighty Creator of all things. If a person could fully appreciate what it means to be a son and heir of God, he would rate the might and wealth of nations small change in comparison with his heavenly inheritance. What is the world to him who has heaven? No wonder Paul greatly desired to depart and to be with Christ. Nothing would be more welcome to us than early death, knowing that it would spell the end of all our miseries and the beginning of all our happiness. Yes, if a person could perfectly believe this he would not long remain alive. The anticipation of this joy would kill him.

How should we navigate the drama of life?

by Dan Cruver Published May 14, 2014

Mountain Vista

“Worshipping God as Savior means that the most significant drama in my life is not what will happen to my marriage, children, possessions, or career, but what will happen to my sin. It means that the most wonderful thing that could ever happen in my life is my salvation. It means that the most wonderful thing that I could be called is not boss, or husband, or father, or friend, but ‘child of God‘” (Paul David Tripp, Lost in the Middle, 291-292).

Visit the Live in the Story website.

Why is fatherlessness such a tragedy?

by Dan Cruver Published May 13, 2014

*Repost from last year.

sunrise over earth from space

Do you know the primary reason fatherlessness is an absolute tragedy? It’s because ultimately fatherlessness turns reality into unreality.

In John 17, Jesus himself tells us that the Fatherloved [him] before the foundation of the world” (v. 24).  And then just two verses later Jesus says that his Father sent him into the world so that the love with which his Father loved him may be in us (v. 26).

What do these two verses in John 17 tell us? They at least tell us that before anything other than God existed, there was a Father who loved His Son and a Son who loved his Father. “Jesus Christ, God the Son,” Mike Reeves writes, “is the Logic, the blueprint for creation. He is the one eternally loved by the Father; creation is about the extension of that love outward so that it might be enjoyed by others. The fountain of love brimmed over. The Father so delighted in his Son that his love for him overflowed, so that the Son might be the firstborn among many sons” (Delighting in the Trinity, p. 43).

Commenting on Jesus’ words in John 14 about “preparing a place” for us, Andreas Köstenberger and Scott Swain write, “the ‘place’ that Jesus prepares for the disciples is his filial place in the presence of the Father, the place where he has eternally basked in the Father’s love” (Father, Son, and Spirit: The Trinity and John’s Gospel, p. 144).

Adding his voice to this glorious chorus of praise to the Father and the Son, Gerrit Dawson writes,

The universe came to be as part of the eternal love story of the Father and the Son. Before the worlds began to be, the Father loved his Son and the Son loved the Father. In a mystery beyond description, this love occurred in the ‘bonds’ of the Holy Spirit. The third person of the Trinity was the personal glue, the love (as Augustine said) that ever flowed within the triune being. Indeed, all things were made out of the overflow of this love between the Father and the Son in the Spirit.

“More simply put, the universe came into being out of a great love story. In the virgin’s womb, this love touched down in the midst of our darkened, broken world. The incarnate God showed his sacred face in the infant Jesus so that we could now enter this love. He tasted the sorrow of this world so that we might be taken into the joy of the eternal love of the Father and the Son” (The Blessing Life: A Journey to Unexpected Joy, pp. 92-93).

Why all this talk about the love between the Father and the Son? Because of its importance. Without the Father’s love for His Son and the Son’s love for his Father, God is not God and there’s no such thing as creation. 

Created reality absolutely depends upon the love between the Father and the Son. This is the primary reason I believe fatherlessness in our world is a horrific tragedy. Its temporal presence ultimately points to the turning of reality into unreality should the Father ever stop loving His Son (which, by the way, will never, ever happen!).

I am convinced that the eternal love relationship between the Father and the Son is the primary reason James says that visiting orphans and widows in their affliction is done “before God, the Father” (James 1:27). Therefore, not only do we love each because our Triune God first loved us, but we also love the fatherless because the eternal Father first loved his eternal Son.

Might it be that the Christian motivation for loving the fatherless is far deeper, higher, and wider than any of us realize?


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