Q&A: Russell D. Moore on his new book, Adopted for Life: The Priority of Adoption for Christian Families & Churches (Crossway)

Communications Staff — May 4, 2009

Question: Do you think it’s fair to say that adoption is a summary of the entire biblical story of redemption?

Russell D. Moore: Yes. Adoption tells the story of the universe, and it encompasses everything about what God has done for us in Christ. Some people misunderstand what the apostles mean when they speak of adoption. We assume the Jewish Christians in the early church were the “biological children” of God and the Gentile the “adopted children” of God. No such distinction was made, since both received the adoption (Rom 9:4). Abraham, after all, wasn’t a “natural born” child of God. He was born in paganism, and brought into the household of God.

We were all orphans. Jesus became an orphan for us so that we might be brothers and sisters of Christ. Adoption is a gospel issue also at the missional level. We care for orphans through adoption and foster care and mercy ministries not simply because it helps those who are hurting. We do so because the satanic powers hate babies, and Jesus loves them. Jesus pleads for the widows and the fatherless, and so we (if we share his Spirit) find ourselves doing the same, loving him by loving the least of his little brothers and sisters.

Q: This book is obviously a very personal work for you. How did it grow and challenge you in the Lord?

RDM: The book took me longer to write than anything I’ve ever written. It’s not because I had to spend so much time thinking and researching, it’s just that it was so intense emotionally. In giving counsel to churches and families about adoption, I had to be confronted, again, with some hard things about myself. I was the man who wouldn’t go with my wife to the local adoption seminar because I wanted “my own kids.” I see that now for what it was—satanic—but it doesn’t make it any easier to face.

On the other hand, the book was more than a book for me. It is my life’s passion. I believe it is a calling. And every time I see my two little boys—and remember the orphans they were—I’m reminded of the number to great to be numbered of orphans languishing in the shadows right now. Writing the book then became, for me, an act of wrestling with demons, fighting for orphans.

Q: What role did your wife Maria play as you developed the arguments of the book?

RDM: As I wrote each chapter, I’d give a copy to Maria and I would walk away and let her read it. She would help talk me through some counsel that she would have wanted as she was praying about adoption and orphan care, and that helped a lot.

She is the one, after all, who taught me to love orphans. And she didn’t do it by needling or preaching. She did it by submitting to my leadership, while praying for me and winning me “without a word” as I saw her “respectful and pure conduct” (1 Pet. 3:1-2).

You know, the book helped us to learn gratitude to God, and not just for the happiness adoption has brought to our home. We grappled for years with infertility and miscarriages. Those are horrible things, aspects of the curse of Eden, and they left us battered. But God works all things to good—even horrible things—and that’s just what he did here.

Our Father knew that I wasn’t able to be a godly Christian father. Sure, I would have loved my children, read to them, prayed with them, done family devotions, evangelized them. But I would have taken my children for granted. I would have seen them as the “natural” part of the next step of my “life stage.” I would not have received my children as gift. I would have assumed, “Well, we’re ready to have children and here they are.” And that’s pitiful.

The Lord—as he always does for his children—disciplined me. He made me hunger, that I might know that man does not live by bread alone but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God, and man doesn’t have children to whom to give bread except by the blessing and mercy of God.

Now, that’s not the case for everybody’s who is infertile, but it is the case that God in his wisdom knows what is best, and he is up to something, even in the most painful of circumstances.

Q: How would you like to see this book impact local churches?

RDM: This book is for several kinds of people. First, it is for people who are in the situation we were in at the beginning of this decision about adoption. I want to have a word with the guy who doesn’t really want to think about adoption—because I’ve been where he is. I want him to be able to get alone with this book—maybe hiding it under the covers of a John Grisham novel—and hear from a brother in Christ about how his life could change for the better.

I want to visit with the wife who doesn’t know if her husband will ever “come around”—and to the couple who can’t imagine how they could afford to adopt, or how it would affect their other children.

I also want to talk to the single man or woman, or the older couple, or the people that God isn’t calling to adopt. I want to show them how God could be leading them to care for orphans, maybe by something as simple as praying with a couple or babysitting some children or foregoing a trip to Disneyworld to help fund someone’s adoption.

The book is also for the extended families and church families of adopting families. It’s there to teach them how to encourage, how to equip.

I’d also like this book to help pastors learn how to preach the heart of God for orphans, and to help church members to create a gospel-focused evangelistic adoption culture in their local congregations. A lot of the things necessary for this don’t have anything directly to do with adoption! How—and how often—your church comes to the Lord’s Supper, for instance, says something about your adoption culture. The book will show you how.

And I’d like the book to speak to parents who’ve adopted and children who were adopted (not “adopted children”; there’s no such thing and the book will show you why) to understand how to live in the spiritual warfare that can ensue after the glory of adoption.

(Moore serves as dean of the School of Theology and senior vice president for academic administration at Southern Seminary)

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