Before addressing the theology, you need to know that there was a heresy emerging in the 8th century Spain called “adoptionism.” It was called the “hispanicus error.” Cool name for a bad heresy.
If you know your history and you guessed that Islamic influence in Spain beginning in AD 711 had something to do with this error, you would be correct. Islam holds that Jesus Christ is a mere man. If you blend that with Christianity, you might come up with “solution” to have Jesus adopted by God.
However, we know that the the Second Person of the Trinity is the Divine Son of God. God the Father and God the Son are consubstantial. Hence, the Son is “eternally begotten” of the Father. They share the same nature.
This “hispanicus error” or “adoptionism” held that the “man Jesus” was adopted by God the Father. The problem is that Christ is ONE divine person who assumed a human nature. There is only one Jesus Christ. There are not two Jesus’ – one co-eternal with the Father and the other who was adopted – like two brothers, one natural and one adopted.
If you just said to yourself, “Dang, that sounds like the Nestorian heresy!” then pat yourself on the back. If you don’t know what Nestorianism is, please consult our “Heresy Checklist” by clicking here.
You see, Jesus is eternally the Son of God. He was not later adopted, either at His incarnation or His baptism. He has a human nature, but it is hypostatically united to His divine nature. His human nature was united – not adopted.
But what about you and me? Are we adopted?
We humans are not consubstantial with God. We are of a different nature. Saint Paul and the Catholic Church teach that we are adopted by God through Christ when we are baptized. Baptism is an adoption ceremony. We become sons and daughters of God through Christ.
Saint Paul teaches:
But when the right time came, God sent his Son, born of a woman, subject to the law. God sent him to buy freedom for us who were slaves to the law, so that he could adopt us as his very own children. And because we are his children, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, prompting us to call out, “Abba, Father.” (Gal 4:4-6)
Christ is naturally the Son of God, and through the Son we become adopted sons. We are sons in the Son. Jesus was not adopted. We were.
We are connected to God the Father through His natural Son Jesus Christ. This is why you should be amazed when you hear that Jesus taught us to pray, “Our Father.”
Are you interested in learning more about “soteriology” (the study of salvation)? If so, please take a loo at a sample from my book The Catholic Perspective on Paul.
Taylor Marshall makes an incredibly compelling argument for understanding St. Paul in light of the entire corpus of his New Testament writings. Taylor’s work is timely as it interacts with the latest Pauline scholarship, but it is also faithful to the 2000 year history of the Catholic Church, where Paul has always been understood as the defender of the one, true, Apostolic faith. Although the book engages the highest levels of Pauline studies, it is also an easy read as Taylor approaches the subject in a personal, witty, and thoroughly enjoyable manner. Most importantly, this book points beyond Paul himself as it directs the reader to the one whom this great saint lived to serve.
-Jeremy Tale, Called to Communion
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