Thursday, March 13, 2014

WCF vs. 3FU Adoption

There is another difference between the two that is more of a difference in emphasis and omission.  And that can be found in the Westminster Confession of Faith Chapter 12 echoed in the Larger Catechism 74 and Smaller Catechism 34.  This chapter is on adoption.

Again it is not that the Three Forms of Unity deny adoption.  But they simply move past it quickly as a given or merge it into justification.  The Heidelberg Catechism assumes this doctrine as the phrase “my Father” is used in many places such Question 1 or more prominently HC#26 where the answer states, “That the eternal Father of our Lord Jesus Christ . . . is for the sake of Christ, his Son, my God and my Father”.  But the force of HC#26 is about the providential control of the God the Father Almighty, and is not specifically addressing adoption.  Clearly it is believed, but not explained.  The Belgic Confession has no chapter on Adoption, and it is only briefly mentioned in the chapter on Baptism (34) as God being our Father. 

The Westminster is unique in its emphasis on Adoption.  The French Confession of Calvin does not discuss it, the Second Helvetic Confession of Bullinger does not discuss it.  Even Turretin’s Elenctic Theology does not have a separate section for adoption.  Rather there it is discussed as a subset of justification.  And the famous “ordo salutis” as advocated by Louis Berkhof does not include adoption.  And so it would seem flowing out of the Dutch creeds, adoption has not been stressed. 

However, the Westminster does seem to put Adoption into the ordo salutis.  The chapters of the Westminster go from Effectual Calling to Justification to Adoption to Sanctification and eventually to Perseverance to the end.  The Westminster stresses it by giving it is own chapter.  And it points out that adoption is a free grace and is a legal action that by which we are given the liberties and privileges of being a child of God.  This beautiful chapter in the Westminster is only one article, but by going against the flow of Reformed Creeds and giving adoption its own chapter makes it an important chapter.

I think you could probably argue that adoption still does not get the emphasis that it needs in the Reformed world today.  However, only the Westminster can rightly claim to have given adoption a place of importance and stress. 


Jeremy B said...

Thanks Lee

Adoption seems to come through in Heidelberg Catechism #33 as well as in the Canons of Dort, First Head, Articles 7 & 10, and the Fifth Head, under article 6

Lee said...

I don't think that adoption is denied in any of the Reformed creeds, but even in HC #33 it is not the emphasis. The emphasis is that Jesus Christ is the Son of God by his nature, and we only through grace for Christ's sake. I do believe the point is the divine nature of Jesus, not so much our adoption.
The same is true for the Canons, which were obviously written to handle other doctrinal problems than adoption.
Ultimately the Reformed tradition as a whole has not focused so much on adoption. I think it an under emphasized theological point.

Jeremy B said...

Agreed, adoption is not the emphasis in any of those points