In the years since I began reviewing books, I have read titles on a wide variety of topics. But it occurred to me as I considered Russell Moore’s title Adopted for Life that I had never read a book that dealt entirely with adoption. Sure, adoption has factored into books on family and books on theology, but never had I read a full-length treatment of the subject. Having heard so much positive press surrounding Adopted for Life I thought it might be wise to give it a read. I’m glad I did.
It might be easy to write off a book like this one, assuming that it only has relevance to families who are actually considering adopting a child. But Moore’s ambition goes beyond asking young families to adopt orphaned children. “In this book I want to call us all to consider how encouraging adoption–whether we adopt or whether we help others adopt–can help us peer into the ancient mystery of our faith in Christ and can help us restore the fracturing unity and the atrophied mission of our congregation.” As Moore explains, “The gospel of Jesus Christ means our families and churches ought to be at the forefront of the adoption of orphans close to home and around the world.” It is the gospel that calls us to adopt but it is also the gospel that teaches us how to understand adoption. In fact, “as we become more adoption-friendly, we’ll be better able to understand the gospel.” And so this book is for anyone and everyone.
It is important to note that this is not a how-to book; it does not provide step-by-step instructions for adopting (since there are already plenty of books that do just that and do it well). “Instead I want to ask what it would mean if our churches and families were known as the people who adopt babies–and toddlers, and children, and teenagers. What if we as Christians were known, once again, as the people who take in orphans and make of them beloved sons and daughters?” No one can claim that every person is called to adopt. But it does seem that all Christians are meant to think about the issue since we all have a stake in it. After all, God himself has a stake in it as the “Father of the fatherless” and the One who tells us that pure and undefiled religion is to comfort orphans.
Through nine chapters, Moore first lays theological groundwork for adoption and then turns to matters that are perhaps just a bit more practically applicable (not that I wish to draw too firm a line between theology and practice). In the first chapter he explains why you ought to read the book, even if you do not want to. In chapter two he explains what some rude questions about adoption taught him about the gospel of Christ. After that he turns to what is at stake in this discussion and then gives pastoral counsel on how to know if you or someone you love should consider adoption. He looks to practical aspects of navigating the adoption process (reassuring readers that it is not nearly as bad as most people seem to believe it is) and then covers some of the uncomfortable questions that arise–health concerns, racial identity, and so on. The seventh chapter explains how churches can encourage adoptions and the eighth shows how parents, children and friends can think about growing up adopted. He closes with some concluding thoughts which tie theology and practice into his own family (in which he and his wife adopted two boys before the Lord opened the womb and granted them two more, though he playfully insists he can no longer remember which of his sons are adopted and which are not!). In fact, Moore and his family figure prominently throughout the book as he describes the joys and challenges of welcoming adopted children to his family.
I know from talking to friends who have adopted that there are good books detailing the practicalities of adopting, whether that involves fund-raising or family integration or any other of the many factors involved. I know as well that there are many good books on the gospel and the doctrine of adoption. But I do not know of any that so perfectly put one within the context of the other. This book would make a valuable read for any Christian; perhaps I say that for too many books; I don’t know. But I do know that every Christian stands to benefit from reading this one. I believe it is a must-read for anyone who has ever considered adoption and for anyone who has a friend or family member who is in the midst of it. It is a must-read for any young couple, even those who have never thought about adoption. And it ought to have a place in every church library.
When watching sports you sometimes hear a coach tell his players to “leave it all on the field (or on the court or on the diamond).” This coach expects his players to give it their best effort, to walk into the locker room at the end of the day knowing that they could not have done any better. And I really felt this is what Moore did here; I felt like he put a lot of himself into this book, that it took a lot out of him to write it, and that it really does represent a passionate effort on his part. And it shows. The book perfectly combines the theological foundation with the practical outworking of that theology. It has wisdom for the adopter, the adopted and the families, friends and churches of both. It is undoubtedly one of the best books I’ve read this year. I hope you’ll consider reading it too.