Podcast: What Adoption Is and Isn’t

Mere FidelityAfter a week off, the latest Mere Fidelity podcast has just gone online. This week we are discussing what adoption is and isn’t, both within Scripture and in society today. We take our starting point in the following quotation from page 40 of Oliver O’Donovan’s Begotten or Made?

Adoption is not procreation, and does not fulfil the procreative good of marriage. It is a charitable vocation indicated to childless couples by the personal tragedy of their deprivation in this area. And although it may richly compensate for the sorrow and satisfy the desire to nurture and educate children, it is still a substitute for procreation rather than a form of procreation. This is not to belittle or demean the adoptive relationship. Indeed, it might be said to praise it on altogether a higher level, inasmuch as it points beyond the natural goods of marriage to the supernatural good of charity. But adoption cannot be taken as a precedent for interpreting procreation as a simple enterprise of the will.

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About Alastair Roberts

Alastair Roberts (PhD, Durham University) writes in the areas of biblical theology and ethics, but frequently trespasses beyond these bounds. He participates in the weekly Mere Fidelity podcast, blogs at Alastair’s Adversaria, and tweets at @zugzwanged.
This entry was posted in NT Theology, Podcasts, Society, Soteriology, Theological. Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to Podcast: What Adoption Is and Isn’t

  1. stephanie says:

    i would read a transcript but as a busy mom, listening to a podcast is super hard! Please post transcript if it’s available? 🙂

  2. Philipp says:

    That’s an interesting (and, I think, an insightful) quote from O’Donovan, but surely he wrote ‘childless couples’, not ‘childless copules’!

  3. Andrew says:

    ‘It is a charitable vocation indicated to childless couples by the personal tragedy of their deprivation in this area.’

    By ‘indicated’ does O’Donovan mean that adoption is an option that is suggested, or presented, to childless couples?

    Adoption might be this; that is it is a way for childless couples to have the blessing of parenting parentless children. But it might not be. For instance, a couple may have biological children and seek out adoption not because of deprivation (age, medical condition &c). In which case the range of possibilities indicating adoption must be greater than the deprivation of childlessness (either the inability to have children at all or at/from a particular point in time).

    If this is so, what does it mean for the claim that adoption is substitutive of procreation and not a form of it. It still wouldn’t be a form of procreation but would it be correct to call it ‘substitutive’?

    One possibility is it is substitutive of procreation because a couple capable of procreating children decide to adopt *instead*. But this would seem to beg the question of what adoption is and the range of possibilities that indicate it.

    • The larger context of the O’Donovan quotation is a distinction between the way that artificial insemination by donor functions for childless couples and the way that adoption does. That might help to answer some of your questions here.

  4. Andrew says:

    The context is helpful. I suppose I’ll have to buy the book for more of it? 😀 I do think ‘some’ is an important qualifier.

  5. Thank you all for your really interesting debate, which opens up many questions I had not hitherto considered.
    I’m particularly interested in this phrase in the O’Donovan excerpt:
    ‘Adoption…is still a substitute for procreation, rather than a form of procreation.’
    My interest is more human than theological and I’m more focussed on the perspective of adopted children rather than that of adoptive parents.
    In my experience, which is inevitably limited, many adopted people, no matter how nurturing their adoptive parents may be/have been, seem to have a great longing to find out about their biological parents and to understand why they were adopted. They seem to have a sense of belonging in their adoptive families, and yet also a sense not belonging. This is in no way a criticism of adoptive parents.
    As adopted children of God, we do have that sense of belonging. I think this was mentioned in your debate, but without listening again, I can’t remember the details – I’m sorry!
    There must be reasons why the identities of their biological parents apparently matter so much to adopted people and I have more questions than answers but I think this might be relevant to your debate.
    Or not?

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