Pateriology: Study 7

26 11 2008

So Many Orphans

Globally, there are approximately 14 million orphans, with the vast majority (approx 9 million) living in Africa. These children are among the most vulnerable in the world. They have decreased access to education, healthcare and possibilities for future employment.  They are at increased risk of living in poverty, working in exploitative child labour, and becoming victims of abuse.

The plethora of reports from media, concerning human suffering, can desensitise or numb us to such news. Perhaps the shock and grief of this state of affairs, evokes helplessness before the enormity and complexity of it all.  Such horror, absence and neglect of genuine fatherhood, has roots in a sinful race.

The gospel teaches that God so loves the world, that he sends Jesus Christ into this world to bring salvation, where there is desolation, despair and loneliness. Jesus comes to effect redemption, and to work the Father’s triumphant grace and hope amidst all the pain, and evildoing that humanity knows. Nothing is too difficult for God. Our Father sends and brings his Word to bear upon our global pain. Christ comes, to the world, with—among all others—orphans in his mind and heart. It has been said that ‘to be an orphan is perhaps the most lonely of all states’. So many people – so much loneliness! So many resources to meet human need, yet so much inequity and unfairness and brutality, and sickness and squalor. Of faith in Christ, James writes that ‘religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to care for orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world’ (James 1:27). The Apostles did not teach withdrawing from society (1Corinthians 5:10). Rather they exhort us to take up genuine service in the life of the cosmos. This involves resisting the godless ‘world system’, while exercising a diligent participation in the unseen kingdom of God.  This is life.

Destined For Adoption

Creation groans awaiting future freedom. The Father has in love, destined redeemed humanity for adoption (Rom. 8:23; Gal. 4:4-8). He chose us in Christ, before the foundation of the world, for adoption as his children (Ephesians 1:5).  Baxter Kruger writes:

Adoption! Adoption! Adoption! This is the first thought, the mystery the secret of the entire universe. This is why this world is here, why man, humanity, the universe, history exists. Delete this purpose and there simply is no creation, for there is no reason to call it forth nor to sustain it.

Jesus is Immanuel, ‘God is With Us’ (Matt. 1:23). Jesus said, ‘I am with you always’  (Matt. 28:20). The Lord has promised ‘I will never leave you or forsake you’ (Heb. 13:5; Josh. 1:5). John Wesley, once said, ‘The best of all is this, God is with us’. The mystery of the Gospel is that the Everlasting Presence comes to dwell within our world, our life, our lot, as human flesh, forever. He walks our streets and feels our pain:

Immanuel! Immanuel!

God in our flesh forever,

You walk our streets, and feel our pain

With love that none can sever.

Our eyes had never seen our God

Nor known that He would shed his bloo

I will not leave you orphaned

Jesus spoke of the ‘must’ ‑ the necessity of his death, and of his resurrection (Matthew 16:21; 17:23; 20:19; cf. Mark 8:31; Luke 9:22). In John’s recounting of Jesus teaching, he spells out the conversations in greater detail. Jesus anticipates his resurrection appearances, and his ongoing Presence as God with us, by the Holy Spirit, following his crucifixion, resurrection and ascension:  Jesus said I am going to the Father (John 14:12c). He also said, concerning his care for his friends, the disciples, I will not leave you orphaned; I am coming to you (John 14:18).

The outpouring of the Holy Spirit is for the making known of both God’s fatherhood, and Jesus Presence, as the everlasting God. Jesus did not leave the disciples to figure out the Gospel. He came to them, Risen from death. They were not left orphans. The Gospel comes to the world, to incorporate the isolated, lonely and abandoned into the family of God. The Gospel comes to rebels, to forgive the sin of unbelief, and of all anti-family, anti-nation ways, that all nations, might constitute the love community. The Gospel comes to us where fatherhood is absent.

Faith of the Fatherless

In an intriguing book Faith of the Fatherless, psychologist Paul C. Vitz examines the lives of many well-known atheists. Some who’s dad’s died when they were quite young including: Friedrich Nietzsche, David Hume, Jean-Paul Sartre, Bertrand Russell, Albert Camus, Arthur Schopenhauer. Those with an abusive or weak father included: Thomas Hobbes, Jean Meslier, Voltaire, Jean d’Alembert, Baron d’Holbach, Ludwig Feuerbach, Samuel Butler, Sigmund Freud and H.G. Wells. Vitz discovers that most of these atheists had an absent or abusive father.

As a control group (similar era), Vitz considers some theists, and their fathers: Blaise Pascal, George Berkeley, Joseph Butler, Thomas Reid, Edmund Burke, Moses Mendelssohn, William Paley, William Wilberforce, Francois Rene de Chateaubriand, Friedrich Schleirmacher, John Henry Newman, Alex de Tocqueville, Samuel Wilberforce, Soren Kierkegaard, Baron Friedrich von Hugel, G.K. Chesterton, Albert Schweitzer, Martin Buber, Karl Barth, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Abraham Heschel.

The results have been criticised as merely anecdotal and hardly scientific. However, they certainly indicate that earthly fatherhood matters!

Where fatherhood is absent

Sociologist Ronald Conway probingly evaluated the dynamics of Australian society, in 1971, and highlighted the long-term effects of a conspired ‘mateship’ as the major expression of masculinity. An anti-authoritian attitude has been perpetuated, which fails to adopt any substantial grasp of true fatherhood. A matriarchal society often forms, where true fatherhood is neglected. Many SNAGS (sensitive new-age guys) of today once took their brief for fatherhood from the mantras of feminism (often following Marx, Freud or both). The failure rate in marriage of 50%, and children scattered across the continent often in deep agony, indicates a lack of genuine perception.

Q. What type of society might develop where wise, creative fatherhood is practised?

The following points belong the John Piper.  He has, together with his wife and family, adopted a new child into their own family. He is a biblical theologian, who has reflected upon the whole matter of adoption, in the light of Scripture and experience. It may well be that churches, as the family of God, would benefit, from thinking more often in terms of adoption, (than say, in terms of nuclear families, primarily). This means embracing those who are new and different, and even difficult, in the love which is Christ’s, and extending the grace of true family, to the wider community. The message of faith, and new life in the Spirit, would, still, of course, be paramount. Here are Piper’s great insights:

Adoption of us by the Father (cf. Adoption of children by us)

1. Adoption was (for God) and is (for us) costly (Gal. 3:13)

2. Adoption did (for God) and does (for us) involve the legal status of the child (Gal. 4:4-6)

3. Adoption was blessed and is blessed with God’s pouring out a Spirit of sonship (Romans 8:15-16)

4. Adoption was (for God) and is (for us) marked by moral transformation through the Spirit (Romans 8:14)

5. Adoption brought us, and brings our children, the rights of being heirs of the Father (Romans 8:16-17)

6. Adoption was (for God) and is (for us) seriously planned (Ephesians 1).

7. Adoption was (for God) and often is now (for us) from very bad situations (Ephesians 2)

8. Adoption meant (for all Christians) and means (for Christian parents) that we suffer now and experience glory later.

May these biblical insights, thoughts and suggestions, press us to know the Father, and to enjoy and embrace the adoption as Sons and daughters (technically we are all Sons, and simultaneously members of the Bride of Christ!!!), which the Gospel proclaims and bestows.

Geoffrey C. Bingham, I love the Father, NCPI, 1974, 2008, p. 65

Baxter Kruger, [God] Is For Us, Perichoresis Press, 1995, p. 4

Geoffrey C. Bingham, New Creation Hymn Book, No. 282 (1993)

Paul C. Vitz, Faith of the Fatherless, Spence, Dallas, 1999

Ronald Conway, The Great Australian Stupor, Sun, Melbourne, 1971 p.55   

John Piper, Eight Similarities Between God’s Adoption of Us and Our Adoption of Children, Micah Fund Adoption Enrichment Seminar, 2007.

See: http://www.desiringgod.org/ResourceLibrary/ConferenceMessages/ByDate/1991_Adoption_The_Heart_of_the_Gospel/

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2 responses

3 12 2008
Jenna Howard

Hello
I just wanted to stop by and tell you thank you for for all you are doing. I think it is amazing how you wrote straight from scripture and took time to do it! My heart is with orphans, street children and well, basically just children in general and I was so excited to hear that you are in agreement with me for the cause and cry of the orphan, abandoned and widowed. Your words were inspiring and I am encouraged that I am not alone in this fight to help orphaned and abandoned children. I am the Director of Public Relations for a non-profit organization called World Orphans. We build church based orphan homes all over the world and our mission is simple E3 to reach each church…each child…each community. I would love for you to take a look at our website and let me know if you have any questions. (www.worldorphans.com) thank you again for your heart and words that you have written. I hope you will have a glorious blessed day!
Jenna M. Howard
-Director of Public Relations
http://www.Worldorphans.org
Jennah@worldorphans.org
http://www.JennaMarieHoward.com

4 12 2008
nwcc

Thanks Jenna,
I do appreciate your comments. Your work, from the Web site, looks very good. All the best with it, and may many orphaned children benefit from it.
The home based work through indigenous churches seems like an excellent model. May the Father, bless the your work. And may the grace of Christ Jesus keep you, as the Spirit leads the great mission, restoring hope. TF

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