December 2014


Passion for the FatherlessWhile adoption has been going on for a long time it has enjoyed a recent spike in attention within Evangelical circles. The accompanying wave of recent books on adoption has been good for both to-be adoptive parents and families as well as the children whom they adopt. Parents can be better equipped and children can be better cared for with their varying needs.

In 2011 Daniel J. Bennett wrote A Passion for the Fatherless: Developing a God-Centered Ministry to Orphans. Now in its 2nd printing, the book seeks to provide a robust theology of adoption along with many practical applications, specifically as it pertains to families considering adoption and churches having adoption ministries. Bennett writes from the perspective and heart of a pastor and adoptive father. This enables him to write in such a way as to reach ministry leaders and adoptive families.

Being an adoptive father myself, I have read numerous books on adoption by both secular and Christian authors. While all of these books have their benefits, there are several reasons why A Passion for the Fatherless is the best book on adoption that I have read yet.

First, Bennett’s book has some of the best theology of adoption in print. He treats aspects that other books simply do not. He roots adoption in the glory of God saying, “What makes a Christian orphan ministry unique is its focus on the glory of God.” (37) He continues, “Our primary desire for orphans is to see them burst forth in worship of God.” (53) While acknowledging that many non-Christians adopt, he stresses that they do not do so for the purpose of seeing God glorified in the process and the life of the adopted child. It is because of what the gospel has done for us that we adopt and it is for what the gospel can do for the orphan that we adopt.

On page after page Bennett dives into Scripture and applies it to adoption. He draws attention to the compassion of God for the orphan as the source of our compassion, he explores the aspects of suffering, reliance on God, good and bad reasons for adopting, the role of the family and church in adoption and wise decision making in adoption.

Second, Bennett rightly roots the logic for adoption, especially international adoption, within the Great Commission. “Both proclaim the gospel.” (91) This is one thing I keep returning to in my mind every time someone asks me why we adopted internationally and not domestically (in the US). The answer is the same answer we give for overseas missions – because the spread of the gospel calls us to it. When we take the gospel to the world we bring their needs back home with us. God is not color blind when it comes to evangelism and neither is He when it comes to adoption. Through our salvation God adopts people from every tongue, tribe and nation into His family. If we properly root our theology of adoption in the adoption we receive in salvation then we will come out with the same thoughts towards adoption.

Third, Bennett brings to the forefront the reality of suffering that is involved in adoption. While it is good to talk about the joys, blessings and rewards of adoption, there needs to be more discussion on the suffering and heartache in adoption. We need discussion on the suffering of the orphan as well as discussion on the suffering experienced by families who do adopt. That’s right, there is suffering on the other side of adoption. It is the reality of loving anyone, especially those who have had to live for years without a loving father and mother. Just like a spouse who brings baggage into a marriage, orphans come into your home with baggage that will take years to unpack.

Bennett points out that it is our “worship of the idol of ease [that] prevents us from caring for the orphan.” (115) For Americans who believe they need to give their kids everything, buy them a new car when they go to college, give them an extravagant wedding, take expensive family vacations and subject them to as little suffering and hardship as possible, they will have a very hard time being convinced that they should consider adoption. But adoption involves suffering. This is no less than what Christ did for us on the cross. He suffered that we would live in Him. When you adopt you bring suffering and hardship into your family for the sake of giving life to another. This is what God did for us in Christ.

Finally, Bennett gives great detailed advice on the aspects of an orphan ministry for your church. Here is one place where his role as a pastor shines. He discusses how to approach your church with the ministry idea, how to use parachurch ministries and how to structure the ministry itself. There are several helpful outlines of forms for churches and prospective adoptive parents to use for things like applying for aid and figuring out the projected costs of adoption. I have filled out many of these myself and Bennett’s content is up to date.

A Passion for the Fatherless is the best book I know of for prospective adoptive families and churches looking to start an orphan ministry in their church. The theology is rich and deep and the application is real and relevant. The end of each chapter has a complete study guide to lead a group through the book. Bennett gets adoption, its rooting in the gospel and the role of the family and church in adoption. I cannot recommend this book enough.

I received this book for free from Kregel for this review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

 

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People, the Land and the Future of IsraelThe debate over the future of Israel will last until its future has come. With all of the ink spilled on both sides of the debate it tends to entrench supports further into their positions than it does convince the other side. There are few books that really make advancements in the discussion and too many of them rehash the same thoughts under a different book cover.

Meeting to address issues surrounding the future of Israel, a group of pastors, theologians and biblical scholars met at Calvary Baptist Church in 2013 to host a conference on the future of Israel. With an impressive line up of contributors such as Darrell L. Bock, Craig Evans, John S. Feinberg, Walter C. Kaiser Jr. and Eugene Merrill, this was an great opportunity for the leaders of Dispensationalism to advance the discussion. Since the conference, the addresses were put in book form named after the conference title, The People, the Land, and the Future of Israel: Israel and the Jewish People in the Plan of God with Darrell L. Bock and Mitch Glaser as editors.

What Is Good

For Dispensationalist’s there is much to like about the book. There is an impressive line up of contributors who have contributed to the discussion elsewhere as well. There is also diversity in the streams of Dispensational thought as seen by more classically minded theologians such as Eugene Merrill and John Feinberg and more progressive types like Darrell Bock and Craig Blaising. There are also chapters by some pastors. The book is fairly comprehensive (as touted on the top of the back of the book) in that it addresses both testaments, hermeneutical issues, theology, church history and practical considerations. Despite the shorter length of the chapters many of them are good and the Old and New Testament sections have a fair amount of continuity.

What really stood out to me was the emphasis, especially in the Old Testament, on the covenants as the driving interpretive grid rather than the dispensations. In fact, there was little to no mention of dispensations. This will bother some but it encouraged me. The emphasis on the dispensations over the covenants has been, in my mind, one of the biggest problems for Dispensationalism.

On the Old Testament, Walter Kaiser Jr. has the best chapter with “Israel According to the Writings” and does a great job addressing the Davidic covenant, Daniel and Esther. For the New Testament Michael Wilkins has the best chapter with Israel According to the Gospels” in which he primarily works with Matthew. While he does see Jesus as the fulfillment of the “OT hopes, prophecies, and promises” he does not see this as Jesus replacing the content of the Jewish covenant promises (i.e. land) or the church replacing Israel as God’s people (see whole chapter). For instance he states

The twelve disciples/apostles symbolize the continuity of salvation-history in God’s program, as Jesus sends them out to proclaim to the lost sheep of the house of Israel that the kingdom of heaven has arrived. But there is a form of discontinuity as well, because the Twelve will sit on twelve thrones judging the house of Israel. The twelve disciples/apostles have continuity with the twelve tribes of Israel, yet they do not replace Israel. But they will form the foundation of a new community of faith, the church that Jesus will build. (92)

Craig Blaisings’ chapter on hermeneutics is the best of the third and fourth sections. While I think his fourfold evaluation (comprehensive, congruent, consistent and coherent) of supersessionist theology (borrowed from David Wolf) can cut both ways, he manages to get himself beyond the standard classic dispensational accusation against it of spiritualizing the text (see Renald Showers There Really Is a Difference for an example of simplistic critique) and is able to present a more reasoned and accurate of the hermeneutical principles of covenant theology.

What Could Have Been Better

When I first saw this book was coming out I was looking forward to it. Given the list of contributors I had high expectations for the book. Specifically, I was hoping the book could advance the discussion over the future of Israel. While there were several shining chapters in the book, in large part, I think it failed to do what it could have done.

First, while you cannot judge a book by its cover, the cover does not help the book with images that are reminiscent of a sensationalist Dispensational eschatology. To go with the cover, the Foreward by Joel Rosenberg was out of place with its alarmist and over-realized eschatology against the back drop of a book full of scholars.

Second, while there are a number of good contributions much of the content moves too fast and is a shortened rehashing of the same stuff you find in most books about Israel. Simplicity can be good depending on the audience but I think a big opportunity was missed with this book. The authors were not afforded enough time in their chapters to expand on some of the ideas which could have made the book much more productive. The book gives good interpretation of the biblical texts but it could be better.

Conclusion

The People, the Land, and the Future of Israel seeks to address a wide range of issues related to the future of Israel. Given the structure of the book I would say this would be a good entry level book into Dispensational theology for college students and as a secondary source book for graduate level studies. Biblically literate laymen and women will benefit from it as well.

I received this book for free from Kregel for this review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”