Adoption Nuggets: (1) Introduction

These Adoption Nuggets were originally written at the request of Dan Cruver, President and Co-Founder of the adoption and orphan care ministry “Together for Adoption.” Go to for further information.

First Nugget

My wife’s introduced me over recent years to chicken nuggets. Naturally I’d heard of them before, but never tried them. Hers was not a difficult persuasion. They’re cheap, my favorite meat, smaller portions less congestive than super-sized burgers and fries, and blessed with different sauces that make the snack a varied experience.

When brother Dan Cruver invited me to start a blog at Together for Adoption, the thought of nuggets came to mind. A blog spot on a subject ready to hand, tasty in its appeal, of manageable size, with varied application. Adoption nuggets rather than chicken nuggets!

This nugget is but the opening piece. Time will tell the number to come. The nuggets have been readied in twenty years of research and will be dished out in different sauces: historical theology, biblical theology, systematic theology, practical theology. Naturally, those who’ll care for them will prefer some sauces more than others; but I hope all will be digestable and leave a taste that lingers. They won’t constitute the full meal we’ll get once home, but they may help to tide us over, and whet our appetite for the main course: bigger treatments of the theme, but ultimately the grand reality to come (Romans 8:22–23).

These nuggets were cooked on Presbyterian Ridge, Edinburgh, Scotland. The oven was first heated at the Free Church of Scotland College. The cooking was undertaken next door at New College, the Divinity Faculty of Edinburgh University, with some of the nuggets cooked at the Eberhard Karls Universität, Tübingen, in Germany. They first appeared as bigger pieces in the doctoral dissertation “An Historical Study of the Doctrine of Adoption in the Calvinistic Tradition from Calvin to nineteenth-century Scottish and American Calvinism” (University of Edinburgh 2001 [sometimes registered 2002]); a series of articles in The Scottish Bulletin of Evangelical Theology (1996, 1997, 2002, 2005); and a variety of chapters and other pieces, as well as in my book When History Teaches Us Nothing: The Recent Reformed Sonship Debate in Context (Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock [2008]). To these resources you’d need to go if you want to progress from nuggets to KFC slabs of chicken. They’ll explain the origin, feel, and taste of these nuggets.

It’s to Dan Cruver—publicist of adoption—that I am indebted for this opportunity to share these pieces. In none of my research covering, incompletely no doubt, two thousand years of historical theology, have I ever encountered such intense interest in the missional application of adoption. Doubtless, there are aspects of this fresh dimension which warrant further discussion and refinement; but, set in the context of the historical neglect of adoption, it is clear that God is doing something exciting in this moment of history. He’s helping us not only to recover adoption, but to better understand and to apply it. These nuggets will serve to raise some main unanswered questions, providing suggested answers. Why not try these adoption nuggets? They serve to proclaim the Father’s grace in Christ, to encourage ministry in the name of Christ, and to promote joy in “the adoption” of the coming Day of Christ!

Until next time . . .

Second Nugget

When chicken nuggets are served we receive them huddled randomly in their carton. There’s no particular order to them, and they look the same, shape excluded. It’s likewise with fries. Usually, I’m too peckish and insufficiently compulsive obsessive to place them in order, either standing them side by side or piling them up. Like other connoisseurs, I just eat them, working the tension between gulping them down and savoring their taste.

The thought’s occurred to me to dish out these adoption nuggets the same way. Web surfers after all will likely take the same approach to eating as a person rushing out of McDonalds, Burger King or the like; taking the nuggets which appeal most before moving on.

Yet, three practical considerations come to mind. First, these nuggets are bitesize pieces of a whole chicken: the doctrine of adoption considered in the various disciplines of historical theology, biblical theology, systematic theology, and practical theology. The random approach to the serving of the nuggets immediately begs the question as to where to begin and how to proceed. Would a stream of consciousness approach really prove satisfying? It’s likely to result in you not getting the whole chicken! Secondly, if a record of the pieces is stored on the T4A website, tasters might like to track their intake. An orderly serving would prove more useful to this tracking. Thirdly, it’ll be easier to publish the record when it comes to closing time.

With thanks once more to Dan Cruver and the valued colleagues of T4A, the blog posts will appear roughly every two weeks over the next few years, summarizing the various aspects of the doctrine of adoption necessary for a good overall view of the subject. The result, I pray, will be a useful primer to nourish the reader and practitioner of adoption.

It’s been a difficult decision, but the first portions will come with the historical theology sauce. By describing the historical neglect of adoption the interest reader will gain an understanding of why this is such an exciting time for the doctrine and its application. Next, Lord willing, the servings will come from the text of Scripture, specifically the thought of the apostle Paul. Thereafter we’ll proceed to the theological implications of the biblical theology sauce, in order to come lastly but not least to the sauce we call practical theology (what the doctrine of adoption means for us today).

Understandably, newcomers to the nuggets might want to sample the doctrine of adoption being served before going for the full portions. Manageable samples are found in my article “From Slaves to Sons” (first published in Foundations [U.K.] 55, 2006, 17–19), and Dan Cruver’s section “The Story of Adoption” in his chapter “Adoption and the Prodigals” in Reclaiming Adoption (Cruciform Press, 2010). A little more technical sample is found in my article “A Fresh Exposition of Adoption: I. An Outline” in The Scottish Bulletin of Evangelical Theology 23 (2005), 60–80).

Enough about how the nuggets will be served! Next time we’ll pick up speed as I get on with the actual serving.

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