Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Congratulations! You're adopted!!

I was involved in a discussion on another blog, in which I claimed that God is humanity's Father from birth. I justified this with sections such as the Sermon on the Mount, where Jesus tells the entire crowd that God is their Father. The person discussing the matter with me claimed that God is only one's Father after one is "saved." You are then adopted into God's family.

I find the latter view interesting, simply on how adoption works. When a child is adopted, there are two parents involved in the process. Parent A is the parent who gave birth to the child. Parent B is the parent who then adopts and raises the child, and legally is entitled to all rights and decisions regarding said child. However, Parent A and Parent B are never the same person (to my knowledge. Someone with a better familiarity with the law might want to chime in). I know that Parent A could lose parental rights, but if s/he has the opportunity to regain those rights, it's not considered adoption, which is "to take voluntarily (a child of other parents) as one's own child."

So, if God must adopt us in order for us to be children, that makes God parent B. Who, then, is parent A? Who is God adopting us from? I'm fairly certain the standard answer here would be Satan or the world or the flesh or possibly a combination of all three.

But what does that mean? The very act of creation is attributed to God and only God. Satan didn't create us, nor the world, nor even “the flesh”. If we are here, it's because God has decided that we should be born in this particular time. If God didn't decide to embark on the act of creation, we wouldn't be here.

Yet somehow, that doesn't make God a parent, nor does that give humanity the right to consider God a Father (the other blogger's perspective). But why not? That is part of what makes a parent an actual parent – s/he played a role in your creation.

Only, per this viewpoint, that’s not enough. You must choose to be adopted into God’s family (assuming a non-Calvinist viewpoint here), and then you can call God Father.

Okay. We still come back to the idea of who was our original, or first, parent? If you go with the idea of something not-God, then that calls into question how much “ownership” God has over us, and how much right God then has to demand any sort of obedience or allegiance, if He’s not even the Creator in the first place.

If we take this metaphorically, and say that Satan is our Father until said adoption takes place, then at what point did Satan become our Father? Clearly not in the aspect of creation.

9 comments:

Jim Jordan said...

A great debate starter, OSS. While God is the creator, we must choose Him. Adam is our representative (Rom 5). Everyone has gone astray and it is up to them to turn to God. It really makes more sense that we should freely choose God -and, if we don't - we are choosing Satan to remain our father or representative. God's adoption of us, because w echoose Him, is more a reunion than our concept of adoption. Does that make sense?

DagoodS said...

A point to ponder…

Our society is different from that of First Century Greco-Roman. We are a society which focuses on an individual, whereas that society focused on themselves as a group. For example, if I asked, “Who are you?” today, many people would reply with their occupation, or certain position within the context—“I am a doctor,” “I am an elder in this church,” etc.

Then, the person would have replied with the group-status, “We are Judean,” “We are Essene.” They would never have thought of themselves in any individual manner, but rather as part of the group. Obviously, being part of a group was key. And if your group was shamed, or branded, this would be the worst social situation to be in—regardless of whether you were personally involved in any way.

It is very probable a Jew who became a Christian would be ostracized from his/her group. Particularly the immediate family. It is far less likely a Gentile would, but still possible. This ostracizing would be damning unless they find a new group to join—a surrogate family, if you will.

The books of the New Testament were (partly) written to re-assure the blossoming Christian community they were in a “new family.” They were part of a group. Now God was your “father” regardless of who you earthly father is. An outstanding example of this is found at Matt. 12:47-50. “Then one said to Him, ‘Look, Your mother and Your brothers are standing outside, seeking to speak with You.’ But He answered and said to the one who told Him, ‘Who is My mother and who are My brothers?’ And He stretched out His hand toward His disciples and said, ‘Here are My mother and My brothers! ‘For whoever does the will of My Father in heaven is My brother and sister and mother.’”

(A side note—the closest familial relationship was between a mother and her first-born son. Women received their social interactions with their children—NOT their husband. The men interacted with each other—NOT their wives. That is why Jesus refers to “mothers” and “brothers.”)

Another example of this is when a woman married a man; she became part of his family. We think of marriage as starting a separate household, whereas they would consider her integrating into his household. She, in essence “adopted” into his family, and became part of his family’s in-group.

The simple answer to your question, when viewed in the context of the time in which the books were written, is that Parent A was the person’s previous in-group. These books were written as assurance the person had found an appropriate new group to join; one in which God was their father.

Really must read Social-Science Commentary on the Synoptic Gospels by Bruce Malina to start to unpack the meaning of these terms within First Century framework. I can’t recommend this book high enough.

OneSmallStep said...

Jim,

**Adam is our representative (Rom 5). Everyone has gone astray and it is up to them to turn to God. **

The catch I would see here is that none of us chose to have Adam as a representative. He simply is. Also, none of us really "choose" to go astray, we simply do. The reason I say the latter is because of how evangelisim seems to work. It's never that you tell a person they're still a blank slate/good/perfect, and as long as they remain that way, they'll be fine. It is always presented as, "You're already sinful, and so make a choice as to have that sin covered."

Even if the person being evangelised wasn't aware of the sin at the time of committing said sin, they're still found guilty for it, and so must be saved. We are almost Satan's by default, and can either choose to remain in that default position, or choose God. We are never told that we are God's by default. I mean, even look at your next sentence -- if we don't choose God, we're choosing to let Satan remain our father. So that makes Satan parent A?


DagoodS,

I find it very funny that you offer a "simple answer" after around six paragraphs of explanation. :) Thank you for it, though, and the book recommendation. I'll add it to my amazon list.

To rephrase -- parent A is the previous group, be it physical family or social. Parent B is their new group, and part of this new group includes God as a Father.

How would this idea relate to Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount, in telling that entire crowd, still part of the old group, that God was their Father?

DagoodS said...

OneSmallStep,

Maybe 6 paragraphs is as simple as I get! *wink*

Since I recommended the book, I looked up where Jesus says “Our Father” in the Sermon on the Mount. The note is: ‘Our Father’ is a way to say ‘God.’ The phrase refers to the God of Israel specifically as Patron.* In Matthew ‘heaven’ is often a surrogate term for ‘God,’ hence the phrase ‘who are in heaven’ is yet another way to say ‘God.’ (page 48)

*The Patron system requires a bit more lengthy explanation. Fascinating take, though.

I would also note, we have to remember the Gospels were written after Jesus lived, and written to a specific audience with specific concerns. If the authors needed to encourage their readers, they could have Jesus say anything the author wanted.

SocietyVs said...

I think Dagoods make some strong points on this - from reading his comments - and even supplies a book to read (which seems like a worthwhile read).

The God as Father idea is an interesting thing to ponder and I enjoy your persepctive - you want to inculde more people into the relationship between God and humanity - I agree.

I think God is the parent all along irregardless if we can make the connection or not. I think turning to faith makes one more aware of this connection and looking to the creator.

OneSmallStep said...

Society,

**The God as Father idea is an interesting thing to ponder and I enjoy your persepctive - you want to inculde more people into the relationship between God and humanity - I agree. **

Thank you. :) I admit, I don't always live that spirit of inclusion. There are people who'd I prefer to have nothing to do with, or people who I look forward to eventually finding out they're wrong -- much like certain Christians do with the non-Christians faced with the truth in the lake of fire or something. There's a kind of glee there.

But then I keep asking myself if that's the kind of person I want to be, or if that's even the person I was created to be. Whoever I am, if God is as I view, then God is infinite times better.

Granted, sometimes this questioning comes a few days after the glee. ;)

arulba said...

I haven't been in that sort of discussion in so long that I had almost forgotten such discussions existed!

I'm not sure adoption would have ever made sense to me - not even in my more conservative mainstream years. If God is our creator, then he is the Father. Period. End of discussion. Whether we recognize it or not is another matter.

I guess those who claim we are created by and then have to be adopted by God allows them to feel special. But that certainly makes God look like an extremely irresponsible Creator.

Of course, many Gnostics claimed that God the Creator is flawed. I wonder if this is where a lot of Christians get trapped? It is very possible that Paul was a Gnostic or at least had been influenced by Gnostic thought. And if the gospel of John isn't Gnostic, it was purposefully written in gnostic lingo against the Gnostics. (I think those are the two texts where interpretations of adoption are made.) To worship the Creator God, in a sense, is to worship Creation rather than the "I am that I am".

Forgive me but I must post the Gnostic myth of creation - it's such an interesting twist!! (this is heavily paraphrased based on my understanding).

The True Ultimate Transcendent God wished to know himself. And so through self-limitation, acquired self-knowledge. This self knowledge is known as the Only Begotten. The Only Begotten was the comprehensible aspect of the incomprehensible.

In order to know itself better, the Only Begotten began emanating aspects of itself in masculine/feminine pairs known as Aeons (Ying/Yang). These Aeons longed to know the father/mother (transcendent God).

Sophia (Wisdom) was assigned the task of finding the transcendent God. Agitation began to grow at not being able to do so until it gained power and clouded the Only Begotten (mind/truth).

Sophia had made the error of not going through the son in order to know the father (or through the daughter in order to know the mother). Because truth was clouded by the power of Agitation, Sophia substituted beauty and from beauty, she emanated a being of flawed consciousness known as the creator God. From this creator God came the material realm which was created in the flawed image of the creator.

Human beings and the universe and all that is material are aspects of the creator God who is an aspect of Sophia (Wisdom) who is an aspect of the Only Begotten (comprehensible) aspect of the ultimate Transcendent God (incomprehensible).

Human beings ARE the ultimate transcendent God, but because we were created in the error of the Aeons we remain human because we have forgotten that we must first go through the only begotten son (fullness) to get to the father (emptiness).

And this is why Christ, a unification of ALL of the aspects of the Only Begotten - Love, Beauty, Wisdom, Understanding, Justice…… was created and made manifest: to save humanity from the error.

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