The book with this title is a new book by Joel Beeke on the Puritan exposition of the doctrine of adoption. This book has a rather amazing amount of content for only 134 pages of text plus 16 pages of prefatory material. Adoption is almost ignored today in systematic theology. Certainly, it is not being given nearly the same amount of attention that it received in the Puritan era. The picture of this doctrine painted by J.I. Packer and Douglas Kelly is certainly true of most standard systematic theologies. However, the Puritans gave a great deal more attention to this doctrine than more modern theologians have.
The forward is by Dan Cruver, and it is a very helpful forward in and of itself. He says that “earthly adoption is horizontal…Heavenly adoption is vertical” (xi). “Adoption is heavenly before it is earthly…Adoption is something God has done and is doing before it is something we have done and are doing…If adoption is first heavenly before it is earthly, why do we Christians so often think of earthly adoption before we think of heavenly adoption?” (idem).
Dr. Beeke’s own study tells us of the personal impact the study has had on him: “This study of Puritans on adoption has blessed me more than any other, except perhaps my study of the assurance of faith.” I wish more authors would tell us how their study has impacted their lives as Beeke has. It makes the book much more personal and real. It tells us that Beeke didn’t just write this book to have another book on the market. He wrote it because it was a subject near and dear to his heart.
He starts with a bibliographical study of what the Puritans have written on adoption, as well as some more recent studies. It is a very helpful bibliography, with comments on the helpfulness and depth of many of the entries. He caps this section by telling us that the Puritans wrote about 1200 pages on adoption, and that no major study on the Puritan doctrine of adoption has ever been done. Certainly, Beeke himself has gone a long way towards filling that rather large gap in the literature. So important is adoption for the Puritans that they viewed it as “the climax of the ordo salutis” (p. 13).
Regarding the greatness of adoption, he notes David Garner’s conclusion that “adoption in Scripture is coterminous and nearly synonymous with union with Christ” (p. 19, quoting Garner’s Ph.D. thesis, done in 2002 at WTS). After a brief chapter on the comparison of adoption in the OT and NT, Beeke goes on to describe the distinctions between adoption and regeneration, adoption and justification (which I found to be the most helpful section in the entire book), and adoption and sanctification. In the section on adoption and justification, for instance, he says that “adoption is a richer blessing, because it brings us from the court room into the family” (p. 28). Of course, this is not to de-centralize justification, since justification involves the forgiveness of our sins, and nothing is more important than that. However, if a judge acquits a person, that does not necessarily mean that he is then going to invite the guilty-but-forgiven criminal into his home to be his own son. That is what adoption is. The rest of the book contains chapters on the Westminster definitions, the transforming power of adoption, pastoral advice, relationships, the privileges and responsibilities, motives, and warnings/comfort. In short, the book is a shot in the arm for encouragement, since the doctrine of adoption is so full of comfort. I highly recommend this book to anyone who is wondering whether he belongs to God or not. The importance of the book is only heightened when we consider that modern culture does not feel like it belongs anywhere. The rootlessness of postmodernism is biblically answered by the doctrine of adoption. We belong to God when we have faith in Christ. Buy it. It will be one of the best $10 purchases you can make this summer.