The topic of adoption has been a contentious one because Bill, perhaps uniquely, has raised some concerns about the scriptural basis of our modern day practice. Part of this is his position that some family problems involving adopted children who are in a destructive spiral cannot be solved without a permanent separation of the adopted child from the family. Separating out of control young people from the family is in itself not an unusual recommendation, but the fact that he believes that God intends this in some cases and cannot bless either the child or the adoptive family until it is done is what gets some folks upset.
Invariably we are challenged with the thought that God adopts us all, those of us who are saved, hence adoption is universally correct, if not mandated. And we are quick to respond that believers are BORN into the family of God, a completely new genetic makeup, as opposed to “adopted”, which implies the old “us” is simply given a new status and “improved”. The Roman adoption – term is “sonship” in the Greek – to which Paul refers is the practice of taking an adult slave and granting him a standing in the family with rights and an inheritance. The most famous depiction of this is in the classic novel “Ben Hur”, movie screen shot above. The point is that this is a limited analogy that refers to our rights as believers in the family of God, “grafted” in where we do not belong. The analogy is limited and incomplete – in any case it did not refer in Bible times to the modern practice of taking a child, even baby, out of one family, and adopting them into another.
To open this topic, we received the following question from Chris in response to this position being mentioned in another context:
“On what authority did Bill recommend this [removal of an adopted child]? please cite the specific text”
To this we answered:
“I did cite the story, but I will give more specifics:
“10 Wherefore she said unto Abraham, Cast out this bondwoman and her son: for the son of this bondwoman shall not be heir with my son, even with Isaac. 11 And the thing was very grievous in Abraham’s sight because of his son.
12 And God said unto Abraham, Let it not be grievous in thy sight because of the lad, and because of thy bondwoman; in all that Sarah hath said unto thee, hearken unto her voice; for in Isaac shall thy seed be called. . . . And Abraham rose up early in the morning, and took bread, and a bottle of water, and gave it unto Hagar, putting it on her shoulder, and the child, and sent her away: and she departed, and wandered in the wilderness of Beersheba.”
Ishmael was Abraham’s “adopted” son, based on the rule that the son of the handmaid of his wife, if the baby was born “on her knees” (the wife), it would be legally considered his child. Yet things were not working out, the older son Ishmael was disrupting the family . . . and God directed a very hard solution, sending him and his biological mother away.
Bill has dealt with a lot of tough family situations over 50 years. There have been times where he has recommended that an adopted son or daughter be separated permanently from the family. Based on the account of Ishmael, this actually was better for both sides of the equation. Ishmael never acheived his personal potential until he was out on his own, and Isaac could not find his destiny with Ishmael in the house.
There are those that feel with every fiber of their being that this must never be. A “forever family” is “forever”. In defense of Bill, the “God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ” engineered a different solution which in hindsight was best for everyone. “
He then wrote:
“That is an interesting interpretation however I have consulted quite a few commentaries none of which either in the exegesis nor the form of language refer to Ishmael as adopted. Ishmael was a biological son of Abraham nowhere does the text refer to him as adopted. It does however point to him as not being part of the seed (faith) Promise that was given to Abraham. Ishmael was cast out along with Hagar because they were not believers (especially Ishmael. The passage in its context has nothing to do with adoption. It does appear to be almost exclusively a Bill Gothard original. Just some noteworthy observations: Ishmael was not an infant when he was cast out he would have been at least 14 or 15. Isaac was born when Ishmael was 14. Once more Bill if you have correctly transmitted his belief on this matter misses the whole point of the text being one of belief in the covenant. and in Ishmael’s non belief. How does this give validation to abandoning adopted child who is unruly? It doesn’t! In terms of who would be more authoritative on the meaning of this text and its true application I will take the dozen or so scholars I consulted on this issue over someone whose approach borders on naturalism at best and Christianised mysticism at its worst.”
So here is where we will start this thread.