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Title: An historical study of the doctrine of adoption in the Calvinistic tradition
Author: Trumper, Tim J. R.
ISNI:       0000 0004 2701 5712
Awarding Body: University of Edinburgh
Current Institution: University of Edinburgh
Date of Award: 2002
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The main aim of the study is to narrate and critically analyse for the first time the theological history of "the good news of adoption" in the Calvinistic tradition - from John Calvin to nineteenth-century Scottish and American Calvinism. The history reveals not only the importance of adoption for Calvin but also its overwhelming neglect among later Calvinists. Not only so, it also reveals that even when adoption was expounded by later Calvinists their treatments were characterised by historical and methodological detachment from Calvin's more biblical-theological approach. In the first of two parts, the study establishes the evidence of adoption in the annals of Reformed theology. In Section One of the first part there is provided the most substantive treatment to date of Calvin's theology of adoption. Although not exhaustive, it begins with an investigation into the origin of the reformer's use of the motif, but concentrates in chapters two to four on the salient features of Calvin's understanding, which embrace the entire scope of redemptive-history from protology to eschatology, and includes themes such as the Fatherhood of God, predestination, covenant, union with Christ and duplex gratia, the Christian life and the church. In Section Two there is an investigation of the other main source of adoption in the Calvinistic tradition, namely, the Westminster Standards (ch. 5). While acknowledging the Westminster commissioners' differing approach to the doctrine, notice is nevertheless taken of the fact that the Westminster Confession of Faith was the first confession in the church's history to include a distinct locus on adoption. Moreover, the methodological discontinuity notwithstanding, the statements on adoption in the Standards mirror in embryonic fashion much of what Calvin says of the doctrine. In Part Two the study examines the legacy of Calvin and the commissioners by uncovering first the decline and then the stillborn revival of adoption in later Calvinism. The sixth chapter accounts for the reasons why adoption faded from theological discourse among Westminster Calvinists, and how the increasingly lopsided juridical emphasis of orthodox Calvinism eventually gave rise to the birth of revisionist Calvinism in Scotland through the influence of Thomas Erskine of Linlathen and John McLeod Campbell (ch. 7). Faced with the paradigm shift towards a more familial expression of the gospel, Robert S Candlish sought to counter the sentimental universalising tendencies characteristic of Victorian liberalism by addressing the new familial focus from within the framework of Reformed orthodoxy. While ignored by the Broad Church movement he was seeking to rebuff, Candlish was challenged ironically from within his own Calvinistic constituency by Thomas J Crawford who took umbrage with his positions on Adam's status in Eden and the connection between adoptive sonship and Christ's sonship (ch. 8). While such issues were left unresolved in Scotland, across the Atlantic they were taken up by the Southern Presbyterians John L Girardeau and Robert A Webb (ch. 9). Webb in fact remains the only Reformed author of an explicitly doctrinal monograph on adoption (Girardeau's short treatment aside), yet his claim that Calvin made "no allusion whatever to adoption" concludes the history, thereby demonstrating the extent to which Calvin's rich theology of adoption had been left to languish unknown of even in that wing of the post-Reformation church that gave greater theological consideration to the doctrine than any other. The thesis ends, therefore, not only with an appeal for the recovery of the doctrine in the Calvinistic tradition, but with a discussion of the implications of its recovery for Westminster Calvinism, and a suggestion that the retrieval of adoption be shaped by a biblically regulated synthesis of historia (Calvin) and ordo salutis (later Calvinism) approaches to the doctrine. In short, the study claims that the doctrine of adoption is crucial to the constructive revamping of Westminster Calvinism.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available