TRANSCRIPT: Should singles adopt?

March 14, 2014

Hello, this is Russell Moore, and this is Questions & Ethics, sponsored by the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, broadcasting here from our studio in Nashville. And this is the program, of course, where every week we take your questions, whatever is going on in your life situation. Maybe it’s something you’ve come across reading the Bible or something that you are facing in your neighborhood or in your school or in your workplace. And we try to look at it and say what should we do? How should we figure this out?

And this is a question that is coming from Tracy. Tracy says, “Dear Dr. Moore, I read your book Adopted for Life, and I have become very convicted on the issue of orphan care. I am interested in adopting a child. The issue is, I am single, and there is nobody in the picture. Is it a wise thing for me to do, to go through the adoption process?”

Well, Tracy, that’s a really good question. I am glad that the Lord is starting to move in your heart toward caring for orphans and adoption. I think this is probably the most controversial issue that I ever speak to, and I speak to a lot of controversial issues all the time. But people tend to become very emotionally involved in this question.

I remember being at an adoption conference one time, and a woman in your situation stood up and said, “Should I adopt a child?” And I said to her, “I think in your case, adopting right now, as a single person, is probably not the best course of action for you to care for orphans.” And there was a lady in the room who just was very hurt by that, and she said, “Well, what you are saying is since I, as a single woman, adopted a child, that means that you are saying that my child would be better off back in the orphanage or back in the group home.” Of course, that’s not at all what I’m saying, anymore than if someone were to say should I have a baby biologically out of wedlock. I would say no. That doesn’t mean that I am saying that everyone who was born out of wedlock would be better off not existing. Of course not! What we are saying is what is the best course in the best interest of children in order to care for them.

Now, in your case, what you are wanting to do is a good thing and a good motive. And I know what you are thinking is to say look, I am single, and we have all of these children out there in foster care and in orphanages and in institutions all over the place. It would be better for them to be in the home of a good, loving single mom than to be in a group home or in foster care. We are agreed on that. However, I think the best case scenario for a child is to come into a family with a mother and a father.

Now, I think there are some exceptions to that. I think there are some situations in which it is unavoidable. So, for instance, there is a grandparent adopting a grandchild whose parents were killed. I’ve seen that situation many times. But I think it is generally best for a child to be adopted by both a father and a mother. Again, there are all sorts of people who are raised by single moms or by single dads. Those single parents often do a very good job raising those children. But I think that every one of those single moms or single dads would say we did this because it was necessary providentially. Somebody died or somebody left or something happened. But we would have preferred to have had both mother and father involved.

When we think about adoption, think about this for a minute. Adoption doesn’t create an entirely different sort of family. In the Bible, the biblical imagery of adoption is rooted in the natural family. Adoption is something that creates a family that we already see designed by God in the natural order, a family that has both mother and father. So I would say to you, again, with some exceptions—so I’m not speaking to you here with a “Thus sayeth the Lord;” I am speaking to you here with “Thus thinketh Moore;” Those are two very different things. If God is leading you to adopt, then I think God is probably preparing you for marriage as well as for motherhood. So I would say to God, lead me in that direction toward marriage and then open up those opportunities for me to adopt. It may be that what God is calling you toward is to care for orphans, which doesn’t necessarily mean adoption. There are all sorts of ways that you can be involved in caring for orphans without coming to the point of adoption: Doing many, many other things caring for orphans, including some orphans who cannot be adopted right now.

Now, again, your motive is in the right place. The scripture says in James 1:27 to “care for widows and orphans in their distress.” If you adopt, I am not saying you are an evil person. I am not saying you are in a state of sin toward God. I am just saying that it is the best scenario for a child to start out with both mother and father. So that would be my counsel to you.

What’s your question? Give me an email, [email protected], or on Twitter with hashtag #askrdm, and we will take up your question here on Questions & Ethics. In the meantime, check out our website, erlc.com with lots of resources for you, for your family, for your church and following Christ. See you next time, this is Russell Moore.

Russell Moore

Russell Moore is a former President of the ERLC. He holds a Ph.D. in systematic theology from the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. His latest book is The Courage to Stand: Facing Your Fear Without Losing Your Soul. His book, The Storm-Tossed Family: How the Cross Reshapes the Home, was named Christianity Today’s 2019 Book of the … 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