Why Theology Matters for Orphans

Mom and Dad taught me not only to love God, but to seek Him in study and memorization of God’s Word.  I look back on this as an unparalleled blessing.  But as I explored the wider world in college and beyond, I was struck by how often I saw obsession with theology producing little but pride, abstraction and endless debate—not only among others, but sometimes even in myself.  Over time, I concluded that a stripped down “love-God-and-neighbor” Christianity was all anyone really needed.

This wasn’t all wrong.  To love God and neighbor are the greatest commandments, summing up perfectly the entire Law and the prophets.  In truth, a life that really lives this is all we need.  And endless squabbles over minor doctrinal points certainly show the world nothing of God’s heart.

But what I’ve come to realize—or perhaps re-learn—is how powerfully the things we think about God influence our character, thoughts and actions.  We inevitably begin to live out toward others the assumptions we have about God and his attitude toward us.

Truth be told, from the fundamentalist to the atheist, we all hold a theology.  We each have ideas about God—whether we see him as a holy-but-loving father, a distant clockmaker, a doting Santa Claus, a deadbeat dad, or a capricious judge.  These ideas, in turn, shape not only how we approach “religion” but all of life beside.  Whether or not we “like” theology, we are all theologians.  Our choice is simply whether we’ll form our ideas about God with wisdom and intentionality…or merely be influenced by opinions that we thoughtlessly absorb.

This reality carries consequences for all facets of life—perhaps especially the realm of adoption and orphan care.  If our theology envisions an absent or indifferent God, then we have no reason to be anything but absent or indifferent when it comes to children that don’t share our genetic material.  But if we truly grasp that every soul bears the image of God, everything changes.  If God pursued and adopted us at infinite cost to himself when we’d been left destitute by sin, then we can do the same…with joy at getting to mirror the heart of our Father.

This is why I so value the work of Dan Cruver and Jason Kovacs at Together for Adoption.  Their work is nothing less than a theological engine for the blooming Christian orphan care movement.  That’s not to say that every wise Christian must agree with them on every point.  It is just that their efforts—from blog posts to the T4A conference to the exuberant theological treatises contained in Reclaiming Adoption—represent the single most important factor rooting and re-rooting the Christian orphan care movement where it must always remain: in joyful response the Gospel.

The Christian Alliance for Orphans is thrilled to provide a number of upcoming opportunities to learn from Dan directly.  This includes this week’s Alliance webinar, “Rediscovering a Theology of Adoption and Orphan Care,” (register here now).  Dan will teach a workshop at Summit VII on this theme as well.  He will also lead a half-day pre-Summit Seminar on May 11 titled “Live in the Story:  Rediscovering Adoption for Everyday Life.”  (You can register for it as part of your Summit registration.)  If you’ve come to realize the significance of theological foundations for living and loving well, you won’t want to miss any of these.

Yes, Christians must always keep in mind that it is not orthodoxy alone that most delights God, but rather a heart mirroring that of Jesus.  We are to love not “with words or speech but with actions and in truth” (1 Jn 3:18).   But we will be motivated and wisely guided in this kind of love not by avoiding serious thought on the character of God.  Rather, this will come only in grasping through thoughtful study, prayer, and reflection “how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ…” (Eph 3:18).