Christian Adoption: Disavowals and Affirmations

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Significant Christian push-back was unleashed in recent months by Kathryn Joyce’s criticism of the abuses in evangelical adoption efforts: The Child Catchers: Rescue, Trafficking, and the New Gospel of Adoption.

Melanie Springer Mock documented some of that push-back and gave her appreciative take on Joyce’s book. I have been surprised at some undiscriminating criticism of evangelical adoption.

As I pondered how to respond to the criticisms of adoption, it seemed best that I try to formulate constructive commitments rather than reactive complaints. I’m not in a position to know the extent of the abuses. I’m not claiming they don’t exist. But I do know some of the key voices in the evangelical adoption movement, and I know that their commitments are contrary to the abuses. See, for example, the core principles of the Christian Alliance for Orphans.

Here is my effort to express the kind of commitments that would, I think, guard us from the kinds of abuses that have marred this otherwise beautiful movement of compassion and conviction in our day. I believe that the vast majority of Christian adoption advocates would agree with these disavowals and affirmations. These should be understood within the biblical and theological framework for adoption I have developed elsewhere on this site.

Christian Adoption: Disavowals and Affirmations

1. Christian adoption disavows that any state or agency or family is ever entitled to other people’s children.

Rather, we affirm that nurturing, teaching, disciplining, protecting, and providing for our children are God-given rights of parents, whether by birth or adoption (Ephesians 6:1–4).

2. Christian adoption disavows that putting a child in a Christian home justifies taking a child away from his or her non-Christian home.

Rather, we affirm that trying to exert Christian influence by contravening the God-given right of parents to bring up their children is tantamount to “doing evil that good may come,” which God forbids (Romans 3:8; 6:1).

3. Christian adoption disavows that any coercion or deception or monetary enticement should ever be used to remove children from their birth family.

Rather, we affirm that coercive removal of children from their birth family is forbidden by the prohibition of kidnapping (Exodus 21:16; 1 Corinthians 6:8, 10). Deceptive removal is forbidden by the prohibition of lying (Exodus 20:16; Ephesians 4:25). And removal by monetary enticement is forbidden by the prohibition of bribery (Proverbs 17:23).

4. Christian adoption disavows that growing up Western and middle class is necessarily better than growing up non-western and poor.

Rather, we affirm that there is no sure corollary between prosperity and character, “high” culture and human happiness, Western values and wise living; God can and does make poverty a garden of love (2 Corinthians 8:1–2).

5. Christian adoption disavows that living with two adoptive parents is necessarily better than living with one biological parent.

Rather, we affirm that there are too many variables to be able to say ahead of time that two parents will always lead to the greater good for children; God’s sovereignty can redeem any difficult situation for good (Genesis 50:20).

6. Christian adoption disavows that children should ever be viewed as commodities to be bought or sold.

Rather, we affirm that the value of a human soul is of incalculable worth (Matthew 16:26) and carrying on trade in humans is expressly forbidden (Exodus 21:16).

7. Christian adoption disavows that adoption is always better than assisting a birth family to raise its children.

Rather, we affirm that the birth family has priority of claim to raise their child, and that Christian love would, therefore, seek to help them do that rather than taking the child away (Romans 12:13).

8. Christian adoption disavows that biological connectedness is insignificant or negligible in the life of the adoptive child or in the birth family.

Rather, we affirm that there is a God-given bond by blood, which, though not ultimate, is significant in the way we live our lives (Romans 9:3).

9. Christian adoption disavows the romantic notion that the challenges of adoptive parenting are small or painless, and the naïve notion that the human flourishing of an adoptive child is guaranteed by sufficient parental love.

Rather, we affirm that all parenting is painful and most adoptions are preceded by some measure of trauma that affects a child’s maturing later on, and makes the challenges of parenting all the greater (Proverbs 10:1; 17:25).

10. Christian adoption disavows the inference that the failure of some agencies and persons to act with integrity and wisdom incriminates the vast majority of Christian adoption agencies.

Rather, we affirm that where there is much good, there will almost always be an intermixture of evil; and we must be vigilant not to implicate the good while purging out the evil (1 Corinthians 6:7).