"Transforming Power and Comfort: The Puritans on Adoption"
Joel Beeke of Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary
Given on March 16, 2006
Joel Beeke, President and Professor of Systematic Theology and Homiletics at Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary, gave a lecture entitled “Transforming Power and Comfort: The Puritans on Adoption.” His lecture emphasized that the Puritan doctrine of adoption is amply developed in Puritan literature despite claims to the contrary from modern theologians including J. I. Packer. Dr. Beeke supportd his claim by showing how the subject of spiritual adoption is dealt with in Puritan literature. The following main points were discussed: the comparison with regeneration, justification, and sanctification, and the privilege and benefits of adoption. Beeke emphasized that if Christians embrace their identity as adopted sons and daughters, then they will embrace God’s spiritual power and comfort. Concerning the matter of the relation between sonship and ordo salutis, Beeke, in a clear and in-depth manner, dealt with regeneration, justification and sanctification. Beeke reinforced the notion that adoption is not justification. Justification is our most basic spiritual foundation for reconciliation with God.
Adoption is a richer blessing, because it brings us from the court room into the family. He used Gordon Cooke’s statement, “Justification is conceived of in terms of law, adoption in terms of love. Justification sees God as a judge, adoption as a father” (Gordon Cooke, The Doctrine of Adoption and the Preaching of Jeremiah Burroughs, p. 23). Beeke asserted that for Puritans, the status of adoption, like justification, is an act rather than a process. The relationship between sanctification and adoption, Beeke emphasized, can be understood as follows: sanctification is the process of acting like sons and daughters, and through sanctification, Christians are brought into a fuller experiential awareness of their adoption. Beeke concluded that the Puritans used the truth of adoption as a means of transformation for God’s needy children through powerful comfort. When believers were enticed by the world or alarmed by fears of death, the Puritans encouraged them to take refuge in their heavenly Father. Beeke ended his lecture with Willard’s statement (Willard, The Child’s Portion, p. 54, 66-70), “Let this joy dispel the mists of every sorrow, and clear up your souls in the midst of troubles and difficulties . . . you will dwell at the fountain, and swim forever in those bankless, and bottomless oceans of Glory”.
Billy (June Won) Yang
Th.M Student at Calvin Theological Seminary