A Christian response to the Intercountry Adoption controversy

March 29, 2018

Recently, conversation has reached a fever pitch in the adoption community over what some are heralding as the beginning of the end of Intercountry Adoption in the United States. World Magazine, Baptist Press, and The Federalist have all carried articles that quote Adoption Service Providers (ASPs) and adoption advocates projecting the posture of the U.S. Department of State and the newly formed Intercountry Adoption Accreditation and Maintenance Entity (IAAME). The substance of these articles is consistent. They assert that U.S. government implementation and oversight of the International treaty governing international adoption will bring a swift and total end to international adoptions into the U.S.

Could this be true? Possibly. Should we do something? Certainly. The question is not “if” we should act, but rather “what” we should do. As followers of Jesus, we must respond in ways that are consistent with our King and his kingdom. Here are a few thoughts I have on a distinctively Christian response to the current state of affairs:

First, I believe that we would be well advised to take a deep breath and to not fall prey to hysteria. In times of great stress and confusion, we must remember both who we are and whose we are. No matter the political climate nor the confusion circling around international adoption, God has not abandoned his throne nor has his sovereignty diminished. Social media may be filled with doomsday predictions about the future of international adoption, but God is not shaken, and he will make a way to care for orphaned and vulnerable children because he is the Father to the fatherless who has called us to join him in this work. Jesus commands us to trust him and not to worry. It is tempting to be like Peter and focus on the size of the storm raging around us, but Jesus tells us that our worry and fear are misplaced. Our role is to press in to the call to seek Christ and his kingdom, and God will accomplish his purposes (Matt. 6:25-34).

The writer of Proverbs declares that, “The king's heart is a stream of water in the hand of the Lord; he turns it wherever he will” (Prov. 21:1). In other words, God directs the paths of governments according to his plan. As Christians, we have assurance that God, in his sovereignty, stands over the Department of State and the Hague Convention just as he reigns over us. His purposes will not be thwarted. We must pray and work hard for the good of vulnerable children because we are Christ’s ambassadors to the world (2 Cor. 5:20). I believe this means both praying and advocating for healthy governmental policy, but we must do so in a way that reflects and honors our King.

Defaming others can be a major temptation in a struggle. In our flesh, we want someone to blame or a villain to be at fault. We must not succumb to the temptation to demonize others who may disagree with us. We have to respond differently to conflicts because we are the adopted children of God. Paul declared that “we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places” (Eph. 6:12). Those with opposing viewpoints or even those with evil intent are not our enemies, and we can never stoop to treat them as such. To be sure, we are in a war, but our war is fought on a spiritual battlefield against Satan himself and not other people, and we can trust that Jesus has already secured our victory.

The question of how we respond in this crisis is one of worldview. We must recognize that God’s agenda to protect and provide for vulnerable children is much greater than ourselves, and God’s purpose is even greater than our methods for helping to accomplish it (even adoption). God loves these precious children much more than we could ever conceptualize, and he will prevail in the effort to “bring the lonely into families” no matter what.

Second, we must speak up the way King Lemuel’s mother tells him to in Proverbs 31. “Open your mouth for the mute, for the rights of all who are destitute. Open your mouth, judge righteously, defend the rights of the poor and needy” (Prov. 31:8-9). We must speak prophetically to call the world (including our government) to care for orphaned and vulnerable children because our defense of them puts the redemptive character of God on display. We must act on their behalf because God has acted on our behalf in Christ and his gospel. We must not be silent because the lives and eternities of children hang in the balance, but we must speak in a way that honors God.

Above all, our response to this issue must be aligned with the heart of God. Jesus calls us to a way of response to conflict and strife that is neither comfortable nor intuitive. Jesus said, “And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles . . . love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matt. 5:40-41; 44). In fact, Jesus takes it a few steps further. “But I say to you who hear, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you” (Luke 6:27-28). For the record, I don’t see the State Department as an enemy just because we may have substantial disagreements. Jesus’ point remains. We are to meet difficulty with prayer and service, not contention and sharp rhetoric, no matter how impassioned we may be about the disagreement.

So, how can we better reflect Christ in this difficult discussion? Here are a few questions to ask for accountability in the midst of the struggle:

Finally, we must pray. We are called to respond in a way that is decidedly countercultural and counterintuitive. We are to meet offense with love and maltreatment with prayer. We are to go out of our way to extend grace to those who hurt us. Why? Because we acknowledge that Jesus is enough. We pray because we have been forgiven, and we acknowledge that our King is sovereign. We respond this way because we are citizens of another kingdom who testify to the supremacy of Jesus in our lives and over his world.

We must resist the urge to ply the tools of politics or personal attack in how we respond to the State Department even when we vehemently disagree with their policies. God wants us to turn to him when we face opposition or attack. We have the promise that what Satan means for evil in the lives of children and families, God can and will use for good. Let’s be persistent in both working to see lonely children placed in families through international adoption and to leverage every opportunity, including this one, to show the world Jesus, in all of his glory.

This article originally appeared on Lifeline's website. 

Rick Morton

Rick Morton is the vice president of engagement at Lifeline Children’s Services.  Morton is the co-author of Orphanology: Awakening to Gospel-Centered Adoption and Orphan Care and the author of KnowOrphans: Mobilizing the Church for Global Orphanology.  He and his wife, Denise, have been married for over 30 years and have … Read More

Article 12: The Future of AI

We affirm that AI will continue to be developed in ways that we cannot currently imagine or understand, including AI that will far surpass many human abilities. God alone has the power to create life, and no future advancements in AI will usurp Him as the Creator of life. The church has a unique role in proclaiming human dignity for all and calling for the humane use of AI in all aspects of society.

We deny that AI will make us more or less human, or that AI will ever obtain a coequal level of worth, dignity, or value to image-bearers. Future advancements in AI will not ultimately fulfill our longings for a perfect world. While we are not able to comprehend or know the future, we do not fear what is to come because we know that God is omniscient and that nothing we create will be able to thwart His redemptive plan for creation or to supplant humanity as His image-bearers.

Genesis 1; Isaiah 42:8; Romans 1:20-21; 5:2; Ephesians 1:4-6; 2 Timothy 1:7-9; Revelation 5:9-10

Article 11: Public Policy

We affirm that the fundamental purposes of government are to protect human beings from harm, punish those who do evil, uphold civil liberties, and to commend those who do good. The public has a role in shaping and crafting policies concerning the use of AI in society, and these decisions should not be left to those who develop these technologies or to governments to set norms.

We deny that AI should be used by governments, corporations, or any entity to infringe upon God-given human rights. AI, even in a highly advanced state, should never be delegated the governing authority that has been granted by an all-sovereign God to human beings alone. 

Romans 13:1-7; Acts 10:35; 1 Peter 2:13-14

Article 10: War

We affirm that the use of AI in warfare should be governed by love of neighbor and the principles of just war. The use of AI may mitigate the loss of human life, provide greater protection of non-combatants, and inform better policymaking. Any lethal action conducted or substantially enabled by AI must employ 5 human oversight or review. All defense-related AI applications, such as underlying data and decision-making processes, must be subject to continual review by legitimate authorities. When these systems are deployed, human agents bear full moral responsibility for any actions taken by the system.

We deny that human agency or moral culpability in war can be delegated to AI. No nation or group has the right to use AI to carry out genocide, terrorism, torture, or other war crimes.

Genesis 4:10; Isaiah 1:16-17; Psalm 37:28; Matthew 5:44; 22:37-39; Romans 13:4

Article 9: Security

We affirm that AI has legitimate applications in policing, intelligence, surveillance, investigation, and other uses supporting the government’s responsibility to respect human rights, to protect and preserve human life, and to pursue justice in a flourishing society.

We deny that AI should be employed for safety and security applications in ways that seek to dehumanize, depersonalize, or harm our fellow human beings. We condemn the use of AI to suppress free expression or other basic human rights granted by God to all human beings.

Romans 13:1-7; 1 Peter 2:13-14

Article 8: Data & Privacy

We affirm that privacy and personal property are intertwined individual rights and choices that should not be violated by governments, corporations, nation-states, and other groups, even in the pursuit of the common good. While God knows all things, it is neither wise nor obligatory to have every detail of one’s life open to society.

We deny the manipulative and coercive uses of data and AI in ways that are inconsistent with the love of God and love of neighbor. Data collection practices should conform to ethical guidelines that uphold the dignity of all people. We further deny that consent, even informed consent, although requisite, is the only necessary ethical standard for the collection, manipulation, or exploitation of personal data—individually or in the aggregate. AI should not be employed in ways that distort truth through the use of generative applications. Data should not be mishandled, misused, or abused for sinful purposes to reinforce bias, strengthen the powerful, or demean the weak.

Exodus 20:15, Psalm 147:5; Isaiah 40:13-14; Matthew 10:16 Galatians 6:2; Hebrews 4:12-13; 1 John 1:7 

Article 7: Work

We affirm that work is part of God’s plan for human beings participating in the cultivation and stewardship of creation. The divine pattern is one of labor and rest in healthy proportion to each other. Our view of work should not be confined to commercial activity; it must also include the many ways that human beings serve each other through their efforts. AI can be used in ways that aid our work or allow us to make fuller use of our gifts. The church has a Spirit-empowered responsibility to help care for those who lose jobs and to encourage individuals, communities, employers, and governments to find ways to invest in the development of human beings and continue making vocational contributions to our lives together.

We deny that human worth and dignity is reducible to an individual’s economic contributions to society alone. Humanity should not use AI and other technological innovations as a reason to move toward lives of pure leisure even if greater social wealth creates such possibilities.

Genesis 1:27; 2:5; 2:15; Isaiah 65:21-24; Romans 12:6-8; Ephesians 4:11-16

Article 6: Sexuality

We affirm the goodness of God’s design for human sexuality which prescribes the sexual union to be an exclusive relationship between a man and a woman in the lifelong covenant of marriage.

We deny that the pursuit of sexual pleasure is a justification for the development or use of AI, and we condemn the objectification of humans that results from employing AI for sexual purposes. AI should not intrude upon or substitute for the biblical expression of sexuality between a husband and wife according to God’s design for human marriage.

Genesis 1:26-29; 2:18-25; Matthew 5:27-30; 1 Thess 4:3-4

Article 5: Bias

We affirm that, as a tool created by humans, AI will be inherently subject to bias and that these biases must be accounted for, minimized, or removed through continual human oversight and discretion. AI should be designed and used in such ways that treat all human beings as having equal worth and dignity. AI should be utilized as a tool to identify and eliminate bias inherent in human decision-making.

We deny that AI should be designed or used in ways that violate the fundamental principle of human dignity for all people. Neither should AI be used in ways that reinforce or further any ideology or agenda, seeking to subjugate human autonomy under the power of the state.

Micah 6:8; John 13:34; Galatians 3:28-29; 5:13-14; Philippians 2:3-4; Romans 12:10

Article 4: Medicine

We affirm that AI-related advances in medical technologies are expressions of God’s common grace through and for people created in His image and that these advances will increase our capacity to provide enhanced medical diagnostics and therapeutic interventions as we seek to care for all people. These advances should be guided by basic principles of medical ethics, including beneficence, non-maleficence, autonomy, and justice, which are all consistent with the biblical principle of loving our neighbor.

We deny that death and disease—effects of the Fall—can ultimately be eradicated apart from Jesus Christ. Utilitarian applications regarding healthcare distribution should not override the dignity of human life. Fur- 3 thermore, we reject the materialist and consequentialist worldview that understands medical applications of AI as a means of improving, changing, or completing human beings.

Matthew 5:45; John 11:25-26; 1 Corinthians 15:55-57; Galatians 6:2; Philippians 2:4

Article 3: Relationship of AI & Humanity

We affirm the use of AI to inform and aid human reasoning and moral decision-making because it is a tool that excels at processing data and making determinations, which often mimics or exceeds human ability. While AI excels in data-based computation, technology is incapable of possessing the capacity for moral agency or responsibility.

We deny that humans can or should cede our moral accountability or responsibilities to any form of AI that will ever be created. Only humanity will be judged by God on the basis of our actions and that of the tools we create. While technology can be created with a moral use in view, it is not a moral agent. Humans alone bear the responsibility for moral decision making.

Romans 2:6-8; Galatians 5:19-21; 2 Peter 1:5-8; 1 John 2:1

Article 2: AI as Technology

We affirm that the development of AI is a demonstration of the unique creative abilities of human beings. When AI is employed in accordance with God’s moral will, it is an example of man’s obedience to the divine command to steward creation and to honor Him. We believe in innovation for the glory of God, the sake of human flourishing, and the love of neighbor. While we acknowledge the reality of the Fall and its consequences on human nature and human innovation, technology can be used in society to uphold human dignity. As a part of our God-given creative nature, human beings should develop and harness technology in ways that lead to greater flourishing and the alleviation of human suffering.

We deny that the use of AI is morally neutral. It is not worthy of man’s hope, worship, or love. Since the Lord Jesus alone can atone for sin and reconcile humanity to its Creator, technology such as AI cannot fulfill humanity’s ultimate needs. We further deny the goodness and benefit of any application of AI that devalues or degrades the dignity and worth of another human being. 

Genesis 2:25; Exodus 20:3; 31:1-11; Proverbs 16:4; Matthew 22:37-40; Romans 3:23

Article 1: Image of God

We affirm that God created each human being in His image with intrinsic and equal worth, dignity, and moral agency, distinct from all creation, and that humanity’s creativity is intended to reflect God’s creative pattern.

We deny that any part of creation, including any form of technology, should ever be used to usurp or subvert the dominion and stewardship which has been entrusted solely to humanity by God; nor should technology be assigned a level of human identity, worth, dignity, or moral agency.

Genesis 1:26-28; 5:1-2; Isaiah 43:6-7; Jeremiah 1:5; John 13:34; Colossians 1:16; 3:10; Ephesians 4:24