Review: Sons in the Son

31243443David B. Garner is vice president of advancement and associate professor of systematic theology at Westminster Theological Seminary (WTS). Garner received his ThM from Dallas Theological Seminary and PhD from WTS. He is author of How Can I Know for Sure?: Christian Answers to Hard Questions (P&R Publishing, 2014) and editor of the influential work Did God Really Say?: Affirming the Truthfulness and Trustworthiness of Scripture (P&R Publishing, 2014). Garner is well-respected in the academic community and his many research interests culminate in a special concern for the interface of theology and missions. Most recently, Garner has written a classic theological exploration of doctrine adoption.

Sons in the Son: The Riches and Reach of Adoption in Christ is a groundbreaking examination of adoption in Pauline thought. Garner divides the study into three parts: (1) hermeneutic, history, and etymology, (2) exegetical and theological survey of key texts, and (3) biblical and systematic theology. This threefold division is intentionally oriented towards Garner’s goal of providing an examination of adoption that moves from divine revelation to theological refection, rather than social and cultural reconstruction to theological conclusion (p. xxv). It is also here that Garner offers a somewhat unique approach to the topic of adoption. In part one, Garner provides readers with a hermeneutical and historical-theological survey of adoption and an exceptional treatment of huiothesia. For Garner, huiothesia “captures the whole scope of filial grace enjoyed by means of the Spirit-wrought union with the resurrected Son of God” (p. 54). In part two, the readers are judiciously guided through the three major Pauline huiothesia passages, including Ephesians 1:3-6, Galatians 4:4-7, Romans 8:15-17 and 22-23. Finally, in part three, Garner gathers everything together and begins to uncover the systematic thread of adoption as it joins the doctrine of Christ, the doctrine of the Holy Spirit, and the doctrine of salvation in the Ordo Salutis and union with Christ.

Sons in the Son is a phenomenal work, full of rich theological reflection and practical wisdom. The organization is appropriate for road traveled and readers will appreciate Garner’s detailed knowledge of the subject. Because the majority of literature on adoption is saturated with social and cultural reconstructions, some readers may be slightly dissatisfied with Garner’s theological approach. There is something to be said about the social and cultural practice of adoption in the Greco-Roman world and how such informed the biblical metaphor in Pauline thought, but the approach that Garner takes seems to offer a more sustainable reflection upon the overall scope behind the metaphor rather than the metaphor itself. That is, these perceived shortcomings are actually a strength when taken within context of the purpose of Garner’s exploration.

Sons in the Son: The Riches and Reach of Adoption in Christ by David B. Garner is both timely and timeless. Garner is comprehensive, clear, and readable. I’m honestly flabbergasted that other contemporary Reformed theological minds haven’t attempted to write this book. It’s so basic to the heart of the gospel. But, then again, I’m so very thankful that Garner was the one to do it! It is without a shadow of a doubt that Garner has written one of the most important books of 2017. If you’re looking for a book that with alter how you view and think about the relationship between salvation and Christ, then Sons in the Son should be at the top of your list. I couldn’t recommend it more strongly!

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