Archive for November 27th, 2007

We are in the midst of a series of interviews that seek to address adoption-related issues from a theological perspective. I am interviewing theologians, authors, adoptive parents, and a few adult adoptees about a number of adoption issues. Carolina Hope is committed to helping Christians think theologically about all things adoption. We believe that this interview series will help us accomplish this.

Today’s interview is our second one dealing with the issue of transracial adoption. Our guest is J.B. Watkins, Senior Pastor of St. Roch Community Church, a multi-cultural congregation called to serve the St. Roch and St. Claude neighborhoods of New Orleans. Desire Street Ministries planted St. Roch Community Church in an effort “to replicate its model of incarnational ministry and indigenous leadership development.” Danny Wuerffel, Executive Director of Desire Street Ministries, writes: “Desire Street Ministries exists—to revitalize impoverished urban neighborhoods through spiritual and community development. As a part of that mission, we consciously try to combat injustice and to share God’s heart for the poor.” St. Roch Community Church was launched in January 2007 as a result of this mission. It is a community of believers that is committed to preaching the gospel in word and deed, discipling children, youth, and adults, and addressing the felt needs of these New Orleans’ urban communities.

1. J.B., tell us a little about yourself and your ministry in New Orleans.

My name is J.B. Watkins and I am the Pastor of the St. Roch Community Church plant. Having been planted by Desire Street Ministries, we are a diverse body of believers affiliated with the Presbyterian Church in America and located in the inner-city of New Orleans, Louisiana. St. Roch, as a core group, began meeting in February of 2007 for bible study with but a handful of people and plenty of children. Currently on average, we have about 20 adults and depending on the location, anywhere from 25-35 children attending our Sunday evening bible studies. As for myself, I recently joined St. Roch as the Pastor in August of 2007 by way of a previous ministry in Memphis TN. As a church, it is our desire to see the whole of the community by which we reside (St. Roch/ St. Claude), become transformed in every sphere of its existence by the gospel of Jesus Christ.

2. My wife and I adopted two black boys as infants. They are now five and three. How important do you think it is for white parents to connect their black children to the black community and their black heritage?

I believe that it is very important. As a child with black skin, he will somehow or another always be identified with those of the same skin color. As such, the opportunity should be afforded them to connect with the black community as well as their black heritage. This can have a very positive affect upon the child in that he will be enriched with the different experiences of being raised by white parents and yet having full access and awareness of his black identity. Not only would this prove beneficial for the children but for the different-race parents as well.

3. How can different-race parents help their adopted children deal with racism?

For one, I believe that it is very important to be truthful and upfront about it. The sad fact is that racism, though not as open or blatant as times past, is still very much so alive. This need not be hidden nor denied but carefully and sincerely explained.

But not only is it important to be truthful and upfront about racism, I also believe that this issue must be handled and addressed from a biblical perspective. I believe that the children should from an early age be made aware of the beautiful diversity of God’s creation, which includes ethnical backgrounds. And any attempt to discredit or deny such beauty must be attributed to the devastating effects of sin. In addition to such, different-race parents must help their adopted children to see and appreciate the culmination of the gospel—namely that day in which all types of people will equally, as it pertains to race, stand before the throne of the Lamb giving praise and thanks for what he has done. And not only will this be the case, it should likewise be reflected here and now.

4. Many different-race children struggle with the differences they discover between themselves and their different-race parents. How might the gospel influence how parents address this struggle?

As a biracial child with predominantly African-American features (skin complexion, hair, etc.), I have often struggled with such differences myself—my mother being biracial with predominantly Euro-American features and my father being African-American). One way in which the gospel may influence how parents address this struggle is to help their children to see that the gospel allows for certain differences and likewise celebrates them. It is an all-too common error to associate the reality of differences with problems. And this need not always be the case. Different-race children must be helped to understand that the gospel allows for differences and as such to be different in many aspects by all means ok.

5. Many multi-ethnic families live in non-integrated neighborhoods. They often fear that this will have negative effects upon their transracially adopted children. Is this a legitimate concern? If so, what can multi-ethnic families in this situation do to address this?

I believe that most concerns as they relate to transracial issues are legitimate, this particular fear included. While it would be a wonderful and profitable experience for transracial families to live in integrated neighborhoods, those who do not live in such can offset such fears in a number of ways. The most obvious would be to move to an integrated neighborhood. Another avenue would be to provide a way of access in which different-race children could be connected to environments or neighborhoods akin to their race. This could be done in a number of ways as well. Different-race children could be sent to schools that have a mixed population. Different-race parents can see to it that their different-race adopted children have opportunities to play with some children of the same race, which would open an opportunity for white parents with black children to meet black parents of black children, and that will in turn provide other opportunities to offset raising different-race children in non-integrated neighborhoods.

6. Some black pro-lifers began a website that addresses the impact of abortion upon the African American community (blackgenocide.org). Here’s what their website’s intro page says: “Although black women constitute only 6% of the population, they comprise 36% of the abortion industry’s clientèle. The leading abortion providers have chosen to exploit blacks by locating 94% of their abortuaries in urban neighborhoods with high black populations.” Are you aware of any efforts within the black community to establish crisis pregnancy centers in urban areas and/or to encourage Christians to provide homes for these African American children?

I am not aware of major efforts within the black community to do such, though there are a few. This problem can be the result of a number of issues including, political and religious views as held by some black leaders. Yet it is my belief that amongst the major programs and agendas being set within the black community, such efforts should be included.

7. How receptive is the black community to transracial adoption in general? What are some areas of concern that they might have and how does the gospel address those concerns?

I believe that the answer to the first part of this question depends upon what sector of the black community one is considering. The reality is that there is a major gulf between the African-American community of the middle class and the African-American community of poor urban areas. Nevertheless, I believe in general, that the black community taken as a whole is cautiously receptive—if not in action, in mindset. As to the concerns, I believe that they do not differ much from that of the white community. For it would be equally as hard, if not harder, depending on who you ask (in light of the history of this country), for black parents to raise white children. What will whites think about black parents raising white children? What will other blacks think about black parents raising white children? How can black parents keep their adopted white children connected to the white community and identity? These are questions that will naturally arise in transracial adoption.

The answer to such concerns of the black community regarding this issue is basically the same as that which is and should be given the white community. And that is that the gospel of Jesus Christ is for all ethnic backgrounds to celebrate and to also share with one another.

8. Some supporters of transracial adoption believe that being a Christian obliterates all of our natural differences. They believe that Christianity ought to be blind to all ethnic distinctions and differences. What are your thoughts about this? Wouldn’t it be better to say that Christianity relativizes them?

I believe that Christianity ought to be blind to all ethnic distinctions and differences only as it pertains to salvation and Christ being offered to all (Galatians 3:28). I do not believe that Christianity ought to be blind to all ethnic distinctions and differences simply for the sake of unity; which is where this line of thinking often comes from. I do believe that Christians should strive for unity by recognizing, utilizing, and celebrating various ethnic distinctions and differences. I am reminded of the various people and positions that God used in Scripture to bring about his plan of salvation. He used, prophets/prophetess, priests, kings, men, women, Jews, Gentiles, with their various personalities and backgrounds. It is my belief that we are to likewise relativize not only our various positions and gifts but also our various ethnic distinctions and differences in advancing the Kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Interviewed by Dan Cruver.


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If you’ve ever wondered how important spiritual adoption (i.e. God adopting us as His children) is to God, take a look at Galatians 4:4-6.

“When the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, ‘Abba! Father!’”

Consider the lengths to which God the Father went to give us adoption as sons and daughters. First, He sent His eternal Son—the one with whom He enjoyed eternal communion—into the world to redeem those who had committed cosmic treason against Him. It’s not just that He sent His Son to redeem the weak and helpless (though we are those things). No, God the Father sent him to redeem those who were in utter rebellion against Him (Colossians 1:21-22), those whom Scripture describes as “children of wrath” (Ephesians 2:3). We could go on and on, but I think it’s already clear that the Son’s redemptive mission was no small undertaking. He was sent to deal decisively with our cosmic treason and rebellion in order that “we might receive adoption as sons” (Galatians 4:5). He came not to condemn us (John 3:17) but to graciously give us the unbelievable status of sons and daughters.

Second, because we have been given the amazing status of sons (Galatians 4:6), God the Father sent the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” Did you notice God the Father’s two sending actions? Both of them concern our adoption. He first sent His Son to give us the status of children (Galatians 4:4). He then sent the Spirit of His Son to give us something else in addition to status, namely, the experience of our family relationship. God the Father sent the Spirit of His Son—His only-begotten Son—into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” Jesus is the only one in Scripture who ever cried out, “Abba! Father!” (Mark 14:36), and, get this, he did it on the eve of his crucifixion in the Garden of Gethsemane. So, I think we can safely say that this expression carries with it deep, profound, heartfelt affection and emotion. No one loved the Father like the eternal Son. His love for the Father was and is infinitely greater than the vast universe in which we live.

So, when Scripture says that God sent the Spirit of His Son into our hearts to cry “Abba! Father!”, it’s telling us that we have been brought into something that is far greater, far more wonderful than we can even begin to imagine. This is what God the Father has done in adoption. He was not content merely to give us the status of sons, to bring us in but keep us at arms’ length. No, His intention was to bring us in to share in His most precious communion with His eternal Son. If we meditate on this so that it works itself down into our hearts, it will deeply enrich our understanding of orphan ministry and adoption. It will also mobilize the church to reach out in ministry to orphans.

Article by Dan Cruver.


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An important biblical theme often overlooked by Christians is the sonship of Israel. When we hear the expression, son of God, we think of Jesus (as we should), but we forget that the first son of God mentioned in Scripture is the nation of Israel.

Through the correspondence of two of Israel’s privileges listed in Romans 9:4 (”They are Israelites, and to them belong the adoption, the glory, the covenants, and the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises.”), we learn that God adopted Israel as His son at Mt. Sinai when He gave Israel the law. Israel officially became God’s son through adoption when He constituted Israel a nation at Mt. Sinai.

It was common for ancient Near Eastern nations to boast of having a father-son relationship with their gods. Most ancient religions believed that the gods bore their sons through consorts. These nations considered themselves to be the “natural” born sons of their particular god(s). This was the religious and cultural context in which Israel entered into a Father-son relationship with God. The difference was that Israel entered into this relationship through adoption. Romans 9:4 makes that clear.

Although Israel was not a “natural” son of God, they were not to demean their adoptive sonship or consider it a second-class sonship in any way whatsoever. Rather, Israel was to cherish and value its adoptive sonship. They were not to look at the sonship status of the other nations and think of theirs as somehow inferior because they were adopted. In other words, Israel’s adoptive sonship was not to be viewed negatively at all, even though there would have been pressure from the surrounding nations to do so.

Given the religious and cultural context of the ancient Near Eastern world and Israel’s adoptive sonship, it’s significant that God tells Moses to go to Pharaoh to inform him that Israel is His firstborn son (see Exodus 4:22). This declaration to Pharaoh was followed by Moses’ warning that God would kill Pharaoh’s firstborn son if he refused to let Israel go (Exodus 4:23). Here’s why this is significant: God treated His adopted son, Israel, as if he were the firstborn son. In other words, God did not treat Israel as if Israel’s sonship were inferior. The implicit message of Exodus 4:22-23 is that Israel was the same to God as Pharaoh’s firstborn son was to him. It is clear from Moses’ words to Pharaoh that it was God’s great pleasure to give His adopted son all the rights and privileges enjoyed by a firstborn son.

God demonstrated His Father-son love for Israel not only through His deliverance of them from their affliction in Egypt (cf. James 1:27), but also through His unfailing care for them in the wilderness. The subsequent history of Israel, as God continued to deliver and guide them providentially, was a display of God’s deep love for His son.

The New Testament teaches us that God was so committed to Israel, His adopted son, that He sent His natural Son (see the wording of the Heidelberg Confession on adoption) to deliver him (i.e. Israel) from his habitual sin and prodigal unfaithfulness. Jesus, God’s natural Son, became a curse for God’s adopted son so that He could redeem him (Galatians 4:13-14). On the shoulders of His natural Son God the Father laid the responsibility of bringing His unfaithful son back, succeeding where His adopted son had failed, doing the Father’s will where Israel had rebelled.

So the Scriptures – Old and New Testament together – elevate the status of “adopted child” by showing God’s unswerving commitment to Israel, the son He adopted.

Something to think about: Should this theological truth have any bearing on our adoption language? There are many who are opposed to calling a child who has been adopted an “adopted child.” They believe that the expression implies that the child is a second-class member of the family – whether or not the child is actually considered to be one. The line of reasoning goes like this: “adopted child” speaks of identity, whereas “child who was adopted” simply relates a historical fact about how the child entered the family. Opponents of the phrase “adopted child” say that a child’s entrance into a family through adoption is no more relevant to that child’s personal identity than the fact of a child’s coming into a family through C-section. Given this context, what bearing, if any, should the theology of this article, “Israel, God’s son through adoption,” have on our adoption language? We hope to address this issue in future posts.

Article by Dan Cruver.

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Adapted from my journal – July 8, 2005, Fuling, China

“Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans…in their affliction” (James 1:27).

I spent the early morning thinking about James 1:27 (couldn’t sleep!), specifically about what “visiting orphans in their affliction” means. I probably should have given this serious thought years ago since James says that visiting orphans in their affliction is an essential mark of true Christianity, but I had not. There is something about spending several days in an orphanage in the middle of China that forces you to think about the meaning of James’ words. So there I sat at 4:30am on July 8th, 2005, in Fuling, China wondering what “visiting orphans in their affliction” might really involve.

Two cross-references came to my mind fairly quickly—Psalm 8 and Hebrews 2. Psalm 8:3-4 says, “When I look at the heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you visithim?” I found it interesting that the Greek translation of the Old Testament uses the same Greek word translated “visit” in James 1:27 to translate the Hebrew word behind “visit” in Psalm 8:4. In Psalm 8:4, it is used to refer to God’s gracious care for man. In James 1:27, it is used to refer to the Christian’s gracious care for orphans in their affliction. As I sat on the side of the bathtub in my hotel room that early morning, I wondered if James intended for us to see a connection between what he wrote in James 1:27 and what David wrote in Psalm 8:4. It seems to me that if in merely reading James 1:27 David’s words in Psalm 8:4 came to my 21st century, non-Jewish mind, it’s very possible that Psalm 8:4 would have been in James’ 1st century, Jewish mind as he penned the final verse of chapter 1.

This is where the second cross-reference, Hebrews 2, proves very helpful. In quoting Psalm 8:4-6, Hebrews 2:6-8 reads, “It has been testified somewhere, ‘What is man, that you are mindful of him, or the son of man, that you visit him? You made him for a little while lower than the angels; you have crowned him with glory and honor, putting everything in subjection under his feet.’” What I find helpful in filling in our understanding of James 1:27 is what the writer of Hebrews does after quoting Psalm 8. He clearly identifies Jesus as the ultimate fulfillment of David’s words (verse 9). The writer essentially tells us that Jesus was “for a little while made lower than the angels” (i.e. he was made man in weakness) in order that he might accomplish the climax of God’s redemptive purposes. Notice the purpose-indicating “so that” in verse 9.

“But we see him who for a little while was made lower than the angels, namely Jesus, crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone” (Hebrews 2:9).

The writer of Hebrews tells us that Jesus became man in order that he might redeem us from our fallen condition, that he might rescue us from the power and fear of death (Hebrews 2:15). According to Hebrews’ use of Psalm 8:4, Jesus is the one in whom God the Father’s redemptive work is accomplished.

It’s also helpful to briefly consider a couple examples of Hebrews 2’s stress upon suffering and death within this redemptive context. First, the writer states that although Jesus was for a little while made lower than the angels, he is now crowned with glory and honor (i.e. he’s been exalted). Question: Why is he now crowned with glory and honor? Answer: Because of his “obedience to death, even death on a cross” as man (cf. Philippians 2:8-9). Second, verse 10 not only states that Jesus tasted death in order that he might bring “many sons to glory,” but also that as the founder of our salvation he was “made perfect through suffering.” Suffering is a very important redemptive theme in Hebrews 2. When we look at Hebrews 2:4-10 together, we find that it is within the context of Jesus’ redemptive suffering, death, and exaltation that David’s words are quoted. Keep this in mind as we continue.

Now, if Psalm 8 in general has been fulfilled in Jesus, how has verse 4 in particular (”What is man…that you visit him?”) been fulfilled in him? In other words, how is it that God has ultimately visited man within human history? I think Hebrews 2 provides an answer for us when it tells us the Jesus was made man in order that he might redeem us through his own suffering and death. Psalm 8:4 was fulfilled within human history through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. Think of it this way: Through the incarnation of His eternal Son God entered into the very heart of our misery and brokenness (i.e. our affliction) in order that he might redeem us. I think we’re very close to seeing how this connects with James 1:27.

Hebrews is clear that when the Son of God became man he did not assume a humanity that was untouched by the Fall. To state it positively, the eternal Son assumed a humanity that was subject to decay, pain, misery, suffering, and death. In other words, he took up a humanity that had been affected deeply by the Fall yet he himself was without sin (Hebrews 4:15). Hebrews 2:17 says that the Son was made like us “in every respect.” Why was this the case? In order that he might redeem us from the profound misery of our condition (i.e. from our profound affliction) from the inside out. Jesus visited us in our affliction by entering into the very heart of our brokenness in order that he might restore our humanity to its originally intended wholeness. God brought Psalm 8:4 to its climactic fulfillment not by merely meeting our superficial needs but by a real and profound entering into our affliction in order that He might deliver us from it. T. F. Torrance sums it up well.

In Jesus God himself descended to the very bottom of our human existence where we are alienated and antagonistic, into the very hell of our godlessness and despair, laying fast hold of us and taking our cursed condition upon himself, in order to embrace us for ever in his reconciling love. He did that in such an incredible way that he pledged his very Being incarnate in Jesus for us as the immutable ground of our salvation and peace against all the onslaughts of the forces of evil (The Mediation of Christ, 43-44).

Now, with all this in mind, what might it mean for us to “visit orphans in their affliction” (James 1:27)? We can certainly agree that it involves much more than a superficial meeting of needs. Surely God’s example of visiting us in our affliction should inform our understanding of what it means to visit orphans in their affliction. So, what might entering into the affliction of orphans involve? We must say that it would involve the following: holding them in their less than suitable, non-absorbent diapers; allowing ourselves to be wet upon without reaction or visible displeasure in order that they might enjoy tender affection; and playing with them even when we are sweating profusely because of high temperatures and suffocating humidity. Visiting orphans in their affliction certainly involves meeting these important physical and emotional needs. But if we consider how it is that God entered into our affliction in order to deliver us from it, we must conclude that visiting orphans in their affliction necessarily and ultimately involves adoption (clarification). Can you think of a better way to mirror the embrace of God’s gracious care for man in his profound need than through adopting orphans?

Let’s take one last brief look at Hebrews 2. I think it is significant (and wonderfully beautiful!) that the writer of Hebrews uses adoption related terminology. In verse 10, he says that it was God’s intention to bring “many sons to glory” through Jesus’ redemptive suffering (Hebrews 2:10). God did what He did through Jesus in order to add sons (and daughters) to His family. The writer then states, in verse 11, that Jesus is not ashamed to call us brothers. Did you get that? Jesus is proud to call those for whom he suffered and died brothers. What an amazing thought! So how can we read Hebrews 2:10-11 and not think in terms of adoption? Is this not what the writer of Hebrews is implying? It is a truly stunning thought that the eternal Son of God became man, suffered, died, and was crowned with glory and honor in order that rebellious sinners might become his brothers! What are we that God is mindful of us (see Psalm 8:4 again) in this way?!

If visiting orphans in their affliction ultimately means adopting them, and if James identifies visiting orphans in their affliction as an essential mark of true Christianity, shouldn’t churches seriously consider (at the least) actively encouraging and facilitating adoption? Not every believer is called to adopt an orphan, but every believer is called to somehow participate in visiting orphans in their affliction at some level. And what a wonderful calling it is! Adoption is a breathtakingly beautiful way to live out the gospel of Christ among the afflicted. It provides another way for the church to bring the gospel to those who, like we once were, are without God and hope in this world (Ephesians 2:12).

We at Carolina Hope Christian Adoption Agency are committed to helping Christians live out James 1:27.

By Dan Cruver.

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