Adopted for Life: The Priorities for Christian Families & Churches. By Russ Moore. Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2009. 230 pages. Paperback, $15.99.

The question for Russ Moore is simple: “What if we as Christians were known, once again, as the people who take in orphans and make of them beloved sons and daughters?” Adopted for Life is a moving manifesto designed to awaken the church from her slumber and become active again at the intersection of theology, ethics, and gospel. For Moore, while adoption is not a calling for every family, it is a calling for the church as a whole and a reflection of the transformative reality of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Adoption must become normative in our congregations if we are to reflect the heart of our God and Savior.

From the outset of the volume, Moore equates physical adoption with spiritual adoption that changes our status before God. We become family. Just as children from differing biological families or even races can become one family through adoption, Christians become brothers and sisters with those who also are adopted permanently into the family of God. It is something bigger than biology. It is more about identity.

With this foundation, Moore demonstrates how essential adoption must be for Christians as we engage a secular world where men like Alexander Sanger argue that adoption works counter to evolution’s natural processes. (80) Moore reflects on issues like this and contends that the pro-life argument ultimately rings hollow if adoption is not part of the picture.

Moore does not pull any punches in chapter four as he lays out the very personal pain of loss he and his wife experienced in their journey through infertility. He lovingly presents the difficult questions that need to be asked as adoption is considered. He also takes the time to look at the different reasons why a family that already has children might consider adopting. Chapter five looks at some of the practical considerations when going through the arduous process of adoption and offers encouragement to families in the waiting process as they think through some crucial issues.

For many, chapter six may be the most challenging as Moore seeks to expose the subtle racism and age-bias that infects many in the church and secular world when it comes to adoption. He confronts the hesitancy of many adopting families in considering an older child or a child with a different skin color and advocates being realistic, but open to whatever children God may bring to a family. He extends this concept further to challenge families to look even at the possibility of adopting children considered as those with “special needs.” Moore’s conclusion? “Let’s be the people of Christ, and, like him, let’s teach ourselves to welcome children into our homes, even those our culture tells us we’re not supposed to want.” (166)

Moore concludes the book by reminding Christians that adoption must be the work of the church as a whole. While not every family will adopt, those who do not can support those who do. Each adoption should be celebrated by the congregation as the family brings a child into their home. In the final chapter, Moore reminds readers that the term “adopted” is meant to be a past-tense verb, not a defining adjective. Children go through the process of adoption and become a part of a family. From that point on, they are permanently integrated into that family—there is no difference between “biological” or “adopted” children. Churches and individuals would do well to heed his advice on this point.

Moore’s prose deftly moves between emotionally moving stories and theological reflection making Adopted for Life an engaging read. Even for those for whom adoption may not be on their radar, very few will walk away unconvinced of the necessity for the churches to be involved in this essential movement. Readers should note, however, this is not a “how-to” book on adoption. There are plenty of seminars and practical volumes to help families cross that border. Instead, Moore challenges readers to move beyond the limited thinking that adoption is about infertility or personal issues. It is a church issue and a gospel issue. Whole congregations can and should be involved in bringing a life altering change to the life of a child.  As such, Adopted for Life provides an essential resource for churches and leaders as we think theologically through the issues surrounding adoption. It belongs in your church library and on your pastor’s bookshelf.

John M. Yeats

Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary