December 17, 2007

Interview with Dr. Robert Peterson

PetersonOur next interview of a theologian is with Dr. Robert Peterson, professor of systematic theology at Covenant Theological Seminary in St. Louis, Missouri. In addition to teaching on the seminary level, Dr. Peterson has extensive experience as a pastor, including church planting efforts, and has preached in Uganda and Peru on short-term mission trips. His pastoral experience is reflected in the practical emphases in his systematic theology classes.

Dr. Peterson is the author of Adopted by God: From Wayward Sinners to Cherished Children. In it he considers the beauty of God's grace through the lens of the wonderful doctrine of adoption. His treatment of this great doctrine is accompanied by moving personal stories of father-child relationships. You can listen to him lecture in seminary on union with Christ and adoption here.

1. Dr. Peterson, why did you write this book about theological adoption?

I wrote Adopted By God because the Bible’s teaching on adoption was so neglected. In 1688, an important theology book by Francis Turretin was published in which he subordinated adoption to justification. This book became a standard theology text, whose example other writers of influential theology books followed, including Charles Hodge, Louis Berkhof, and Millard Erickson. These books are partially responsible for adoption’s neglect by teachers and preachers who studied them. Justification is vitally important, but adoption deserves more attention than it has received.

2. What do you cherish most about the doctrine of adoption?

I cherish the fact that it powerfully communicates the grace of God to believers, as powerfully as any biblical teaching. “See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are” (1 John 3:1). Adoption intimately communicates the Trinity’s love for each individual believer as well as for the people of God as a whole. “But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, ‘Abba! Father!’” (Galatians 4:4-6).

3. What’s your favorite biblical text on adoption and why?

That is hard to answer because so many verses speak of adoption. The two primary passages are Romans 8:14-17, 23, 29 and Galatians 3:26-4:7. My two favorite texts may be Romans 8:16 and Galatians 4:7. I love the first because it tells that the Holy Spirit testifies in our hearts that the Father loves us as his children: “The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God” (Romans 8:16). I love the second because it contrasts our former state of spiritual bondage to our present one of being God’s sons (or daughters) and heirs: “So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God” (Galatians 4:7)

4. What’s the relationship between Christ’s Sonship and ours?

Christ’s sonship is by nature and is eternal. He always has been, is, and always will be God’s Son. In fact, he is God the Son. By contrast, our sonship is by grace through faith. We, who by fallen human nature are children of the devil (1 John 3:10), by God’s undeserved favor become his children when we trust his Son as Lord and Savior (Galatians 3:26). Christ’s unique divine Sonship is the basis for ours. We trust the Son to become sons (John 1:12; 1 John 5:11-12).

AdoptedByGod5. What difference should the doctrine of adoption make in a Christian’s spiritual life on a daily basis?

It should make a great difference because it is one way that God impresses upon us our new identity in Christ. We are his children and as such we bask in his love, live for him (what else can we do in response to such love!), and eagerly await his Son’s return, when our spiritual resemblance to Christ our older Brother will be complete (1 John 3:1-3; Hebrews 2:11-12). Knowledge of our adoption should fill us with patient hope that God that will raise and redeem our bodies (Romans 8:23-25) and grant us a glorious inheritance (Matthew 25:34; Romans 8:17; Galatians 3:29).

6. How does being adopted by God impact someone who has been adopted by a family? Or someone who has adopted a child?

I have found that people who have adopted or who have been adopted understand the Bible’s teaching on adoption best. This is because in their own lives they actually know a little of what it is like to play God’s role (I say this reverently) or our part as adopted children. Those who adopt have special experiential insight into God’s adoptive love for us. Those who are adopted have the same, this time from the children’s perspective.

7. In addition to your book, what other resources on adoption would you recommend to our readers?

Sinclair Ferguson’s Children of the Living God (Banner of Truth, 1989), J. I. Packer’s Knowing God (IVP, 1973) and for a more in-depth treatment, Trevor J. Burke’s Adopted Into God’s Family: Exploring a Pauline Metaphor (IVP, 2006).


0 comments on “Interview with Dr. Robert Peterson”

    1. hahahaha, . clever Emily!! Grown us are just like there thatb4s why Peter and Suzana didnb4t come back to nnriaa we loose the magic feeling.Itb4s not just the world or the church itb4s life. We get more intelectual, nominating everything for the sake of economical thinking (not talking about money, but about echo-nomics, nominating the environment), instead of echological (knowing the environment (and Ib4m not taking about rare plants and birds, but of our closest environment, the surrounding area of our lifes).My daughter asked me why I donb4t laugh when she tries to tickle me I answer thatb4s because I grew up sad but true (as Metallica would say).I donb4t know if Ib4ll be able to relate to God anymore without humanizing him, mainly because he seems to having a odd taste for human condecorations (father, comforter, good, only-son, son of man). Maybe when I get Alzheimerb4s disease, when my concienceness will turn into porridge Thatb4s why I agreeded with David.

    2. I think I do need to be defensive, eleicpasly when someone is telling me that certain words describing murder of all things are subjective. I don't care whose murder we're talking about, it is vile and disgusting. And I happen to be someone who believe that an unborn child of that age is a true murder and not just a side effect of killing its mother. I do believe in abortion and a woman's right to choose but I think it's only fair for people to understand where I'm coming from when I get defensive about the death of an unborn child. It's not as though Laci wanted to end her pregnancy. In fact, from all accounts I've heard, she was head over heels for her child. And even if you don't view this fetus to be a living thing, I don't see how you couldn't mourn it just as so. How would you feel if you were eight months pregnant and someone came up to you and started beating you in the stomach, therefore causing you to lose your child? It's a tragedy. I know many people who are unable to have children which is one of many reasons why I am so defensive about a full-term, unborn fetus being treated almost like a living being. I'm not even trying to say that killing an unborn fetus should be counted as first degree murder, I'm simply explaining from one moral point of view that it's pretty fucking sick. I feel like everyone has this wrong idea that I don't care about the fact that Laci was killed. I do care, I care a whole hell of a lot. But I care more than a defenseless being was killed in some way. It's like the murder of Jessica Lunsford. I'll be the first to say that I believe that is more disgusting than the murder of Laci because this was a child. She was defenseless.As far as media reports on Scott Peterson being a baby killer, I think that's completely untrue. I watch CNN and local news stations. I watch Court tv and read the paper and I rarely, if ever, come across a major media source proclaiming Scott as being just a baby killer. Every time I hear it, they do call him a double murderer or a man who killed his wife. Everyone cared about Laci. The point at hand was that Laci was murdered. No one put as much focus on the death of the baby because of the very views that it seems everyone who reads this journal holds. Everyone chalks it up to nothing short of an abortion. But the truth, at least the way I see it, is that it was more. It was more than an abortion because there was far too much emotion behind this. When Scott killed Laci, he knew, if just in the back of his mind, that he was killing his child too. Whether or not that child was alive outside of the womb isn't the point. Scott knew that he was killing his own flesh and blood by killing his wife.

  1. Hey Dan,

    This is a really great interview. I posted and linked back to this on my blog. Thanks for the usually good thoughts on adoption - both theological and practical. I've enjoyed reading your blogs this past year.

    Chris G.

  2. The opposite is true. When I was a child and new nohtnig of Christian theology, God was far less anthropomorphic and I naturally felt Him within nature and within myself. It wasn't a matter of belief or relationship, He was just there so much a part of me as to be undeniable. I never even thought of the possibility of Him not existing. I say Him now, but I didn't experience God as being like a person let alone a man. God was an inner force in myself and a power in nature, the Creator.

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