Thomas Goodwin on Adoption

Thomas Goodwin, in his Ephesians sermons, makes this point about salvation: that there are two kinds of benefits: benefits of reputation (consisting of God’s actions upon us and towards us), and benefits of real change (the working of God in us). See volume 2 (of his complete works), pp. 314-316 for this distinction. He argues against the Roman Catholic understanding of adoption in a way that is unique to theology, I believe. Maybe others who know more can correct me on this. Here is what he says:

They (the Roman Catholics, LK), to maintain that we are justified, not by being accounted righteous, but by being inherently righteous, say that our adoption doth not consist in a relation to God as a Father, but in the image of God wrought in us. Why, if that adoption did imply a real change in the person that is made a son, it must make a real change in the father, for father and son are relatives; and so when God becomes a Father to us, you must make a real change in him, for always for things that are relata there is the same reason, as we use to say.

A very interesting argument, I think. What say you?


  1. pduggie said,

    April 17, 2007 at 12:51 pm

    Doesn’t Adam start out a son of God (Luke 2) by his creation? That isn’t an adopted relation.

  2. thomasgoodwin said,

    April 17, 2007 at 8:36 pm

    Adam was not created in a covenantal relationship. Instead, he was created for a covenantal relationship. Cocceius taught this as well. You’ll have to read his Summa for his defense of it though as I don’t have time. I think Van Asselt’s excellent work on Cocceius mentions this as well.

    Also, the doctrine of adoption is perhaps the most prevalent doctrine in Goodwin’s writings; it structures a lot of his thought on various loci. Historically, many of the Reformed have spoken of adoption in terms that would place it above justification in its importance. For example, James Buchanan’s classic work on justification has a section on adoption in which he mentions how it might be possible to have adoption without justification, but never justification without adoption (I’m open to correction since it has been a while since I read it, but he does mention the importance of adoption over justification).

  3. David said,

    April 17, 2007 at 9:12 pm

    Someone wanna paraphrase Goodwin for me? I find his logic inscrutable. (Because father and son are relatives, a change in someone to become a son necessitates a change in the father?)

    If in Christ we gain adoption, what happened at the fall when we lost sonship in some measure? Was it just a judicial un-adoption, or was there also a change in our nature? Would Goodwin’s logic also apply here?

  4. pduggie said,

    April 17, 2007 at 9:26 pm

    Sonship and imago dei is a representational idea anyway. The Son represents the Father relationally is exactly equal to say the Son is the image of the Father

  5. greenbaggins said,

    April 18, 2007 at 10:33 am

    Mark, you are correct in your assessment of Buchanan. The argument is found on pp. 262-263 of the justification book. Thanks for your thoughts on the architectonic nature of adoption in Goodwin’s thought.

    Paul, Goodwin is clearly talking about the context of the Fall, and the disinheritance that the Fall brings, necessitating a new adoption as sons.

    David, Goodwin is arguing against Roman Catholicism, which says that adoption involves a *real* change in the person. Goodwin is arguing that adoption is not a real change *in the person,* but is a change in how that person is thought of. So, his argument goes like this: if adoption involved a *real* change in the person, then it would of necessity involve a *real* change in the Father who adopted, since a son is like his Father. However, to suppose a change in the Father is blasphemy. Therefore, it cannot be a real change in the son, but only a change in how that person is seen. Goodwin’s division of salvific benefits is identical to Calvin’s, it seems to me. Goodwin uses the language of “reputation” changes and “real” changes, whereas Calvin uses the language of justification-type benefits and sanctification-type benefits (duplex gratia). I think they are getting at the same point, however.

  6. john darcy said,

    March 13, 2008 at 5:04 pm

    Council of Trent clearly states justification is the translation by which we are adopted and receive divine grace through the second Adam, Jesus Christ. The regeneration is accomplished here,and we receive divine sonship through Christ as a gift of grace. So our sonship differs from Christ insofar as we receive our adoption by grace, not by nature. Of course, we are given a share in divine life and the Father changes us radically- transforming us into children of God and we are made righteous as Romans 5:18 states, bringing us both acquittal and life in grace. The Father communicates his life to his creatures but this in no way detracts from his fatherhood but perfectly manifests it. Grace in the Catholic understanding is given because of the infinite merits of Christ being applies to our souls not just legally, but actually. The Father declares us righteous but also makes us righteous in justification.
    Peace of Christ,

  7. GLW Johnson said,

    March 14, 2008 at 2:48 am

    John D’Arcy
    This justification in the Catholic tradition can be lost,no? In which case God’s declaration, as you put it, is entirely probationary, no? And since this justification is not directly connected with imputation ,then it is not forensic, no? In other words, this justification is dependent upon sanctification, no?

  8. GLW Johnson said,

    March 14, 2008 at 3:45 am

    You know after further reflection it dawned on me that one could replace ” in the Catholic tradition” in the above comment with “in the Federal Vision tradition” and end up with the same answers to my questions. Think about it.

  9. JohnD'Arcy said,

    March 14, 2008 at 8:59 pm

    The gift of divine sonship is pure gift, the gift of divine life
    which constitutes us as children of God (1Jn3:1,7) and gives us
    the righteousness of Christ. The regeneration and union with
    Christ is effected in justification. God does what he declares_
    in calling us his children, he effects it and does so. It is the
    initial justification and is not primarily forensic or is more accurately described as impartation or
    infusion of divine grace–which sanctifies us. So the
    distinction is between a passive, static, juridical
    righteousness vs. The idea of a dynamic relationship and life
    principle. The bottom line as I understand it is the differing
    understanding of what grace we receive the unmerited gift
    of favor or the unmerited gift of God’s life? Of course, the
    View is that justification is sonship and therefore must be
    progressive ..sons are expected to become what they are;they are
    expected to grow up and obey. Of course,cooperation with grace
    is essential. Whether in faith,hope,or love , every act from
    beginning to end is God’s grace enabling the growth as a son in
    the family.
    In regards to the assertion of the author in question, the event
    is familial but the creator-creature distinction is never

  10. JohnD'Arcy said,

    March 14, 2008 at 9:08 pm

    And adoption is referred to as the seed of glory alive in the believer.
    Soli Deo Gloria ! The Gospel is so intimately connected with adoption, as we recall in Galatians 4:4-7:
    4But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law,
    5To redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons.
    6And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father.
    7Wherefore thou art no more a servant, but a son; and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ

    Grace of Christ to you,
    John D’Arcy

  11. GLW Johnson said,

    March 15, 2008 at 7:27 am

    ” cooperation with grace is essential”- a defining feature of all forms of semi-Pelagian synergism. Please consult the chapter on “Autosoterism” in B.B. Warfield’s little gem of a book ‘The Plan Of Salvation’ ( contrary to the sentiments of Doug Wilson, Van Til considered this book a masterpiece- but it appears you do have alot in common with DW).

  12. john darcy said,

    March 15, 2008 at 2:11 pm

    I consulted the chapter on auto_soterism (self-salvation). Of course, as a Catholic, I don’t count myself among the pelagian heretics or the heathen as B.B. asserts. I’ve been asserting the sufficiency and necessity of grace as Augustine and Aquinas would both emphasize. In my opinion,The Council of Trent and The Council of Orange at the time of Pelagius both serve to refute the legalist works righteousness scheme.
    From the Catholic standpoint, every act of the son of God is God’s grace enabling him. It is from beginning to end God’s saving power working in and through him. Not only can I do all things through Christ whom strengthens me, but without Him I can do nothing. Please tell me what in the Council of Orange is not seen in the Gospel message? Which would bring more glory to God..for him to simply declare the sinner just..or for him to recreate the sinner and fill him with His own divine justice?
    John D’Arcy

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