Astute theological observers should have noticed by now that there are two important things happening with regard to adoption.
On the theological front, including biblical studies, systematic theology, and pastoral counseling, the doctrine of adoption is becoming more prominent and getting more attention. There are more books and articles devoted to various aspects of it, and more theologians are putting an emphasis on it. Though the idea of salvation as adoption by God is a classic part of soteriology, it has not previously received the emphasis it deserved. As long ago as 1864, Scottish theologian Robert Candlish predicted that the doctrine would be making a comeback:
I have long had the impression that in the region of that great truth there lies a rich field of precious ore yet to be surveyed and explored, and that, somewhere in that direction, theology has fresh work to do, and fresh treasures to bring out of the storehouse of the Divine Word.
And in recent years, his prediction has belatedly begun to be fulfilled.
The other important thing happening right now with adoption is a movement among Christians to actually adopt. A significant number of Christians have found that adopting children is one thing they can do that bundles together their most important personal and family decisions, their passion for evangelistic outreach, their commitment to social justice, their hearts for the lost, their sense of the church as the family of God, and, yes, their insight into the theology of salvation by adoption. It’s a decentralized, grassroots movement whose time just seems to have come, and networks of likeminded believers are forming independently all over the place.
I think these two movements are occurring on separate tracks, but when they come together, great things happen. When you get networks of believers committed to adopting children, and equip them with a vigorous theology of salvation by adoption, theology really gets its feet on the ground.
All of this is the background of a conference that is coming up in October in Louisville, Kentucky: Our Triune God and the Pastor. It’s Together For Adoption’s pastor’s conference, and if you are inclined to think it’s not for you because you’re not personally involved in adoption, think again. The speakers are Sinclair Ferguson, Michael Horton, Russell Moore, Robert Smith Jr, and me. Some of those speakers are recognizably involved in the practice of adoption, and some are not, but all of them are passionate about the theology of salvation by adoption and the difference it can make in the local church.