In December, Christianity Today editor at large Collin Hansen put evangelicals' growing attention to adoption as number six on his "Top Ten Theology Stories of 2009" for our website. It made a lot of sense: The Blind Side put the spotlight on adoption for moviegoers, while Russell Moore's Adopted for Life created buzz among Christian nonfiction readers.
The way 2010 is going, adoption is likely to rank higher than sixth place by year's end. Rick Warren devoted this year's Saddleback Civil Forum to orphans and adoption, joining popular conferences like Together for Adoption, the Christian Alliance for Orphans Summit (which will be posted next week), and Moore's own Adopting for Life.
The trend goes beyond dedicated gatherings, however: Nearly every conference we've attended recently devoted attention to orphans, adoption, the fatherless, and so on. Church leadership conference Catalyst gave a major push to adoption at its main gathering in October and continues to highlight it at regional meetings. The keynote presentation at Q (a conference for Christian culture leaders) focused on fatherlessness, with calls to establish foster-care ministries, support adoptive families, and build orphanages abroad.
Adoption even became a main issue at this year's Wheaton Theology Conference, which was somewhat unlikely since it focused on the work of N. T. Wright. But theologian Kevin Vanhoozer argued that the theology of adoption was the key to reconciling Wright's views on justification with his Reformed critics'. The law court that finds us justified in Christ, Vanhoozer said, is less of a criminal court than a family court.
Socio-political reasons abound for why we're hearing more about orphans and adoption today. I have friends who, faced with the seemingly countless ways to pursue social justice and compassion, are starting with the "orphans and widows" of James 1:27. Other friends praise the focus on adoption for being an important family issue that sidesteps the ceaseless debates on "gay stuff." Then again, other friends see adoption as the new battleground over homosexuality.
But more often, I hear people talking theologically about adoption, highlighting it as the act that most directly mirrors God's actions toward us. I don't hear many guilt trips or apocalyptic warnings. Instead, I hear echoes of one of J. I. Packer's comments in Knowing God: "Our understanding of Christianity cannot be better than our grasp of adoption." Moore helps us grasp it much better, starting here.
Next month: We look at the life and theology of Beth Moore, the most popular Bible study teacher in America; we hear what sociologist Robert Wuthnow thinks about fear; and we learn how atheism led Rob Moll to Christ.
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Previous articles on adoption from CT include:
210 Million Reasons to Adopt | Haiti's devastating quake reminds us that orphans matter to God. (April 7, 2010)
State Department: Now's Not the Time for Haitian Adoptions | Official says first priority should be placing Haitian children with Haitian families. (February 10, 2010)
Idaho's Impact | Haiti scandal overshadows bigger threat to evangelical adoption efforts. (February 7, 2010)
Orphans on Deck | Adoption steps to the front lines of the culture wars. (January 5, 2010)
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