Adopted for Life: The Priority of Adoption for Christian Families
by Russell D. Moore
Wheaton: Crossway, 221 pages
reviewed by ANDY NAGAL
In a time of anxiety about the future and vitality of the church, a powerful new movement has emerged: “young, restless, and Reformed” believers advocating Gospel-centered adoption and orphan care. Blogs, books, conferences and nonprofits have rediscovered the theological doctrine of adoption (or “vertical adoption”), and with it a summons to the church to respond by literally adopting children or otherwise supporting “horizontal adoption.” Russell Moore, professor and dean at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky., is a spokesman for this movement, and “Adopted for Life” is its manifesto. Be careful: This book might change your life, and that’s even if you don’t have a conversion experience as you read it.
It is a unique book — part family story of an international adoption, part theological reflection on the doctrine of adoption, part nuts-and-bolts advice about the practice of adoption. It is a wise and challenging exhortation to Christians to more fully understand, embrace and experience the reality of adoption in both its vertical and horizontal dimensions. Moore shows convincingly that the good news of the Gospel isn’t only that in Christ sinners are forgiven by God, but that in Christ spiritual orphans are truly welcomed into the family of God. In other words, the Gospel itself — election, justification, sanctification, reconciliation — is best understood as a story of adoption. This clarified understanding of the Gospel leads to an expanded vision for the mission of the church: “Adoption is not just about couples who want children — or who want more children. Adoption is about an entire culture within our churches, a culture that sees adoption as part of our Great Commission mandate and as a sign of the gospel itself.”
Along the way, Moore describes the emotional and practical challenges of adopting children with compassion born of experience. His recollection of meeting his sons in an eerily silent orphanage will remain with you long after reading, but so will his reflection on the rescuing love of the Father. His anecdotes of inappropriate questions will make you cringe (“Are they really yours?”), but the conclusions he draws from these experiences about the nature of the church will make you cheer.
Moore’s voice is bracing and might, for some readers, be daunting. How often have you heard of adoption described as “spiritual warfare”? However, this Southern Baptist preacher’s passion is matched by impressive biblical and theological insight. How did I overlook the centrality of adoption in the work of redemption (Galatians 4:4)?
The theological reflection alone would make “Adopted for Life” a very interesting and worthwhile book. Moore’s experience and wise, compassionate advice is salutary for anyone considering adoption. What makes the book transformative, however, is its call to take seriously the missional implications of our adoption in Christ.
By the time you finish this book, your question will no longer be if Christians should adopt but how diminished the church’s witness will be if we do not.
ANDY NAGAL is associate pastor at Neelsville Presbyterian Church in Germantown, Md.