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Adopted into God's Family: Exploring a Pauline Metaphor (New Studies in Biblical Theology) Paperback – November 24, 2006
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Without question, Burke has provided a valuable contribution to a fuller understanding of this vital Pauline metaphor. He has also raised the contribution of the adoption metaphor such that it noe necessarily must be included in the larger metaphorical framework of soteriology. (James M. Howard, Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society, June 2008)
Burkes new book is a fine addition to the series by assembling and interpreting a great amount of data regarding the adoption of believers. (Thoughts and Meditations Blog, October 4, 2007)
"Burke offers a clear, precise and coherent study of what emerges as a major Pauline metaphor that has long been overlooked. . . . I believe this to be a very valuable addition to Pauline studies, one that I recommend to students and scholars alike." (Mary L. Coloe, Australian Catholic University, Melbourne, Australia, in Review of Biblical Literature)
"Not only the importance of God's family, but also the enormous privilege of belonging to it, are powerfully underscored by Paul's understanding of what it means to be the adopted sons of God. With such themes in view, a wide array of pastoral implications soon springs to light. In other words, this volume not only probes a neglected theme--it also edifies." (D. A. Carson)
About the Author
Trevor J. Burke (Ph.D., Glasgow) is professor of Bible at Moody Bible Institute, Chicago. He was previously lecturer in New Testament and head of the department of biblical studies at Pacific Theological College, Suva, Fiji. He is the author of Family Matters and Adopted into God's Family and coeditor of Paul and the Corinthians.
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Trevor Burke steps into this gap of information with a well thought out, and well written, treatise on Paul's use of the adoption metaphor. He begins with an examination of the adoption metaphor, providing a survey of thinking in this area. Here Dr. Burke argues that previous commentators have attempted to narrow the idea of adoption too much, considering it only within strictly limited legal grounds.
In the second section, Dr. Burke deals with a broad based view of the meaning of adoption as a metaphor within Paul's writings. He defines the concept of metaphor in great detail, and then provides the literary and social contexts of adoption. The author shows that adoption is not only one metaphor of salvation, but that it is the organizing, or underpinning, metaphor of salvation within Paul's writings.
In the third section, the author discusses the origin or social context of Paul's use of adoption. Greek, Roman, and Jewish law all three provide for different concepts of adoption; which one was Paul referring to when he used adoption as a metaphor for salvation? While this question might not appear to be all that important on the surface, the answer can radically impact our understanding of Paul's view of salvation. Was adoption primarily a function of providing children for a childless couple? Was adoption primarily oriented towards adult children or children before the age at which they could make a choice about accepting or rejecting adoption? Was the choice to adopt made in full view of the community, or in secret? Did the adopter fully know the prospective child, or was the choice made regardless of the merits of the child in question? The position taken by Dr. Burke is that we force a decision into the text that Paul didn't intend; that Roman and Jewish adoption are both in view, and that both fit, in different ways, the metaphor Paul is relying on.
In the fourth section, Dr. Burke considers the the relation of adoption to the meaning of God's family. Here he steps lightly into the space of predestination, though he doesn't try and force adoption into the mold of proving absolute predestination without any consideration of the attitudes or thoughts of the adopted child. Here he deals extensively with Roman law, bringing out an understanding of the process of Roman adoption that informs issues in salvation.
The fifth section discusses the differences between the Sonship of Christ and the adoption of believers, focusing on Romans 1:3-4. The sixth section discusses the relationship between adoption and the Holy Spirit. The seventh section provides a very interesting analysis of the concept of honor within the rule of adoption; the son was expected to uphold his adopted father's honor, much as Christians are expected to uphold the honor of God. This wasn't a matter of the father laying down strict sets of rules for the adopted child to follow, but rather a matter of the adopted son accepting and living by the norms and pattern of his adopted parents. This would normally include religious belief, membership in various societies, standing in a community, and etc..
Adoption considered against the idea of "now," and "not yet," is the focus of the eighth section. This section felt like it was written as possible support for a position of progressive dispensationalism; while it was well written, it wasn't as useful as the rest of the book. After the summary, the author includes an appendix on adoptions in the Tanakh, offered as support of the author's contention that Jewish adoption was not strongly defined enough to really provide a complete background to Paul's use of the metaphor. This appendix feels a bit "tacked on," and only does a half-hearted job of proving the thesis Dr. Burke puts forward.
Adopted into God's Family is well worth reading for the more technically minded Christian or reader who wants to explore the use and meaning of adoption by Paul. Recommended.
I must note that, before I had intended on purchasing this book, I had been struggling with legalism (the idea that, somehow or another, it is my duty to keep God's love for me by keeping his commandments, else I would perish in hell). Thanks be to God himself for sending his Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, to die for exactly that which I had thought was my duty to keep: God's law! But, no! No human being can keep God's law (James 2:8-11)! So, God, out of his love, sent his Son to deliver sinners from his wrath and from slavery under the law (1 John 4:9,10)!
This book is being a major blessing for me. Just to see - for example - that God the Father brought the Israelites out of Egypt - because of his love for them as his own children - and despite of their disobedience to him, is just amazing. And, did you know that when, in Exodus 4:22, the LORD says, "Thus, Israel is my firstborn son," he is actually pointing (by the word "firstborn") to another son (in that Israel was a nation, with the Israelites as sons and daughters of God, God is actually pointing to another nation of believers: non-Jewish sinners - Gentiles like you and me)? Oh the truth that God the Father determined before he created the universe that he would save a people to himself and adopt them into his family, with him as their loving Father (Ephesians 1:4-6)! It is glorious! How could we be so inclined to try to keep his law as a means of our being justified before him when he determined before the creation of the universe that his law would only serve to show us that we are sinners deserving of his wrath so that we may be bought by the blood of his Son out of slavery to the law and into his family and into his loving care and affection! This - and for many other reasons - is why I am being blessed by this book.
I suggest that you purchase and read this book. It is long, very detailed, and requires hours of reading, but you will be blessed by the book. I guarantee it. Whether you know God the Father and his Son in a personal relationship, or whether God the Father has brought you by his grace to an interest in who he is and what he is like and is drawing you to himself - as he so faithfully does to all those who come to know him and receive eternal life, this book will be a blessing to you. Take a chance, and take the time, to purchase and read it.
One of his essential premises is that the theme of adoption in Paul's letters has been historically misunderstood. Burke's goal is to help provide a balanced view of this theological theme and its implications for life.
His exegesis is stimulating and Trinitarian in focus, something which he clearly shows is directly from the text of scripture. All three Persons of the Trinity are in view considering the context of the five passages mentioning adotpion (though the Spirit occurs in four of the five).
Burke reveals an impressive grasp of Greek and the cultural situation of the times. And his vast knowledge of secondary literature surrounding the five passages in question is quite clear from the dialogue with contemporaries and also the footnotes and bibliography.
Finally to end with the beginning of the book, Burke's preface is excellent, providing an interesting glimpse into his own life and the impact that the concepts of adoption and sonship have had in his own life.
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