As part of our blog’s adoption interview series, I’m interviewing several theologians about the doctrine of spiritual adoption and its implications for earthly adoption. I believe that the practice of earthly adoption will be significantly enriched as we grow in our understanding of what it means to be adopted by God.
Our fourth theologian interview is with Dr. Timothy Trumper (you can read the others here). Dr. Trumper is a native of Wales (UK). He was converted at the age of 15 and felt constrained to preach God’s Word while he was as a student of politics at the University of Wales. He then trained for the pastorate at the Free Church of Scotland College, Edinburgh (1989-1993).
While studying theology Dr. Trumper he was captivated by the doctrine of adoption (Eph. 1:5; Gal. 4:4-6; Rom. 8:15, 23; 9:4). As a result, he enrolled in doctoral studies at New College, University of Edinburgh. It is there that he gave himself to a concentrated study on adoption. His dissertation is “An Historical Study of the Doctrine of Adoption in the Calvinistic Tradition” (Ph.D. thesis: University of Edinburgh, 2001). Dr. Trumper taught at Westminster Seminary from 1999-2003. He is presently Senior Minister at Seventh Reformed Church, Grand Rapids, MI.
Because of the length and richness of Dr. Trumper’s answers, his interview will be posted in six parts. If you are interested in deepening your understanding of the doctrine of adoption significantly, you will want to take the necessary time to carefully read his answers. Here are a few excerpts from the interview to encourage you to read all six parts as they are published:
“The recovery of adoption would help us express what we are saved to as much as what we have been saved from. The great Princeton theologian B. B. Warfield summed up this imbalance by reference to what he called ‘Miserable Sinner Christianity’. Now, undoubtedly, we are miserable sinners. That is after all why we come to Christ. But is this the final word on who we are as God’s people? Surely not! The NT mentions a number of themes depicting the new standing we have in Christ, one of the richest of which is adoptive sonship. The recovery of this motif would enable us to even out our respective emphases on the retrospective and prospective aspects of the atonement. Stated alternatively, it would help us to be as forthcoming about what we are in Christ as about what we have been in Adam.”
“The recovery of adoption would help us prioritize the identities we Christians share in Christ over against other identifying factors that threaten division within the household of God (Eph. 2:19). We are not predestined (literally pre-horizoned [Eph. 1:5]) first and foremost to be male or female, Jew or Gentile (Gal. 3:28; Eph. 2:11-22), or even to be educated or uneducated, or rich or poor, but to be sons of our God. This should be our primary consciousness. This prioritization has massive pastoral ramifications. I think, for instance, of second-generation ethnic Americans who are confused as to whether their primary identity is American or Chinese, Korean, Polish, Dutch, African, Hispanic or whatever. Christians have a way out of the dilemma. They can think of themselves first and foremost as sons and/or daughters of God. For in his family, rightly understood and outworked, race and color is put in its place. Differences in both are accepted, yet neither can legitimately overshadow the ultimate basis of the unity we possess in Christ.”
“Adoption speaks of hope. This hope Paul depicts by means of the word “inheritance” (Rom. 8:17f.). Not only has God given his family members a promise of the inheritance, in granting us his Spirit he has also given us a downpayment on it (Eph. 1:13-14). We come by the inheritance not because of what we do, but because of who we are in Christ. The inheritance is, then, a free gift of the grace of adoption. This we shall come into in its fullness on the day of redemption (“the adoption” [Rom. 8:23]). From that day on we shall experience the consummation of God’s saving purposes, and shall do so as much in our bodies as in our souls.”
Here’s part one of the interview with Dr. Trumper. In it he surveys the history of the doctrine of adoption within the church. It’s lengthy but worthy of a careful reading.
1. One of your desires for the church is that she would recover the doctrine of adoption. You’ve written elsewhere that adoption has not received its due attention within the history of the church. Why do you believe that adoption has been overshadowed by other doctrines? Continue reading