Posted by: connie | April 23, 2008

Gaining a Biblical perspective on the adopted child’s “early years”

How blessed is the man who finds wisdom And the man who gains understanding. Proverbs 3:13

Because we are adoptive parents of older foreign-born children, our theology has been put to the test in ways that most parents would never imagine, much less consider! 🙂

Take for instance the fact that our children came to us already equipped with a “worldview” of their own–survival at any and all cost. Their worldview was shaped and molded much like yours and mine, but theirs had an interesting twist–how does one respond to relentlessly being sinned against by people who are supposed to love, protect and care for you?

Within the first two to three years of parenting our daughters, I came to understand that I had to remind myself that I/we were responsible for retraining sinful habits in our girls that were brought about by people OTHER than us! We often received the brunt of their anger and hurt that previously had been acted out toward people we never knew–and would likely never meet. Sin damages relationships, and our daughter’s had experienced plenty of “damaged” relationships.

Recently, while preparing for my NANC exam, I read the following in the Christian Counselor’s Manual by Jay Adams,

“‘But,’ someone contends, ‘how can you hold a four-year-old responsible for the life style that he develops under the strong home influences of his childhood? For instance, doesn’t extreme abuse by his parents disadvantage him for life?’ Would not abuse cause a child so to deviate from normal living patterns that inevitably he would become abnormal? Part of the answer to the question of permanent effects of extreme child abuse doubtless lies in the physical (organic) abuses which so often affect later life. Much abuse also may occur in forms similar to the types of communist brainwashing that combine organic and psychological factors. Here too, where organic damage occurs, the effects may be lasting.

While recognizing that any discussion of childhood responsibility evokes an undue amount of emotion from some, first, nevertheless, we must be bold to assert the biblical fact that God does hold children responsible for sin from the very first day of their lives. ‘By nature’ (i.e., that corrupted deposit with which they were born) they are declared to be ‘children of wrath’ (Ephesians 2:3b). They are guilty in Adam (Romans 5). In addition, they express this sinful nature by living ‘in the lusts of their flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind; (Ephesians 2:3a). The extent to which God holds a child responsible may be hard to measure, but the fact that He does so is certain. David said, ‘Behold, in sinful state I was born and in sin did my mother conceive me’ (Psalm 51:5, Berkeley). Elsewhere he wrote: ‘The wicked are estranged from the womb; these who speak lies go astray from birth’ (Psalm 58:3). The fact of infant mortality in a world in which God has declared, ‘The wages of sin is death,’ substantiates this doctrine of the moral culpability of infants before God. They are both held guilty for sin (because of Adam’s sin–cf. Romans 3:23; ch. 5) and polluted by sin. Their corrupted nature expresses itself from birth (see passages above) in acts of actual transgression. So, there can be no doubt about it; God holds children responsible for their sin.

The question, therefore, is not whether the sinful life styles developed by children with sinful natures in response to sinful influences or even acts of abuse against them are wrong or not. They are. Sin is sin, whether the sinner is young or old. Nor is it a matter of whether they are responsible. Again, they are. The very fact that children are not considered to be morally neutral in the sight of God means that they may be held responsible for making whatever righteous responses that it is possible for a child to make at any given age. As unredeemed sinners, children will fail to respond as they should. For this they are accountable.”

Clearly, a Biblical understanding of our children’s early years and how we can and should respond Biblically is key to Godly parenting. God, as always, has made a way–even for the adoptive parent who is parenting a “challenging child”!



  1. Connie,

    I am friends with the Edwards from Grace Church. I saw your reference to the NANC exam preparation. I have been involved with NANC training and activities since the early 1990s. Your goals of NANC certification are commendable. Let me encourage you to see your endeavor through to the end. You will gain so much! Way to go!

    For the Master,
    Tim K.

  2. tim: Thanks for your encouragment! As you might imagine, since becoming a mom 5 years ago my pursuit has slowed a bit, but I can still ‘see’ the goal on the horizon!

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