Adoption

The Researching of Adoption

Since the early 1990s it has been a wonderful privilege to research the biblical doctrine of adoption. This research began at the Free Church of Scotland College (now Edinburgh Theological Seminary), and continued at New College, the Divinity Faculty of Edinburgh University. Work continues on researching the doctrine and publishing the findings. Over the years the study of adoption has crystallized into six concerns:

1. To document and to narrate the historical neglect of adoption.
2. To look afresh at the biblical data.
3. To disentangle the filial or familial models or portraits of the New Testament.
4. To recover a more biblically-sensitive understanding of adoption.
5. To apply the doctrine individually and communally in a way consistent with the biblical data.
6. To apply the recovery and biblically-sensitive understanding of adoption to the expression of the Reformed faith today.

The work is ongoing, but the research is available to date in the following areas and places:

The Theological History of Adoption

“An Historical Study of the Doctrine of Adoption in the Calvinistic Tradition” (Ph.D. Diss.: University of Edinburgh, 2001).

A version of the Introduction to the dissertation was published in the Scottish Bulletin of Evangelical Theology (SBET) in a couplet of articles:

“The Theological History of Adoption: I. An Account,” Scottish Bulletin of Evangelical Theology, 20:1 (Spring 2002), 4–28.

“The Theological History of Adoption: II. A Rationale,” Scottish Bulletin of Evangelical Theology, 20:2 (Autumn 2002), 177–202.

There is an updated account of the loss of adoption between the mid-seventeenth century and the early nineteenth century in:

When History Teaches Us Nothing: The Reformed Sonship Debate in Context (Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock, 2008).

The Exposition of adoption

Foundational

At the start of the research it became apparent that if informed evaluation was to be made of the contributions of various pastors and theologians to the theological history of adoption, then some sense of the biblical details of adoption would be needed. Soon the research revealed how the historic neglect of adoption had resulted in a less than precise appreciation of the scriptural data. Specifically, the discipline of systematic theology has paid inadequate attention to the humanness of Scripture; notably to the redemptive-historical setting of doctrinal development, the authorial diversity of the New Testament, and the distinctive structures of their soteric models (robust metaphors).

The following articles appeared in the late 1990s as the beginning of a personal attempt to get back to the fount of Holy Scripture (ad fontes):

“The Metaphorical Import of Adoption: A Plea for Realisation (I) The Adoption Metaphor in Biblical Usage,” Scottish Bulletin of Evangelical Theology 14 (1996), 129–145.

“The Metaphorical Import of Adoption: A Plea for Realisation (II) The Adoption Metaphor in Theological Usage,” Scottish Bulletin of Evangelical Theology 15 (1997), 98–115.

Expositional

“A Fresh Exposition of Adoption: I. An Outline” Scottish Bulletin of Evangelical Theology (SBET) 23:1 (Spring 2005), 60–80.

“A Fresh Exposition of Adoption: II. Some Implications” Scottish Bulletin of Evangelical Theology  23:2 (Autumn 2005), 194–215.

Briefer

“From Slaves to Sons!” Foundations [U.K.] 55 [2006], 17–19.

“Our Bodily Hope,” Reformation Today, 210 [March-April, 2006], 19–22 [www.reformation-today.org].

The Implications of Adoption

Some publications which touch on the implications of the recovery of a biblically-sensitve approach to adoption for the discipline of systematic theology and the shape and feel of Reformed theology are listed above. They include especially:

“A Fresh Exposition of Adoption: II. Some Implications” Scottish Bulletin of Evangelical Theology  23:2 (Autumn 2005), 194–215.

When History Teaches Us Nothing: The Reformed Sonship Debate in Context (Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock, 2008).

Additionally, see:

“Covenant Theology and Constructive Calvinism,” Westminster Theological Journal 64 (2002), 387–404.

“John Frame’s Methodology: A Case Study in Constructive Calvinism,” in Speaking the Truth in Love: The Theology of John M. Frame. Edited by John J. Hughes (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R, 2009), 145–172.

For an overall flavor of the findings of the research on adoption, see Dan Cruver’s interview with me on behalf of the adoption and orphan care ministry Together for Adoption.Currently, I am in the process of summarizing all the research and adding to it in my blog postings “Adoption Nuggets.” These are available piecemeal on the Together for Adoption website, but in continuous succession at From His Fullness (see the tabs connected to this “Adoption” page). 

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