A Matter of Foundations

In my last post, I drew attention to the ways that Empowered to Connect (ETC) and most other adoption resources label the backgrounds and behaviors of these kids as not “normal” or as “unhealthy”. My criticism of any resource that uses those terms is that it has to ground them is something objective, something timeless, an authority that stands outside of our foolish selves. As followers of Jesus, the only thing that could be that objective rule is Scripture.

Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash. -Matt 7:24-27

Now, in saying “these words of mine”, Jesus certainly means all that he taught, which is in harmony with the full testimony of Scripture. Thus the words “breathed out by God” are useful for “teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training.” God’s word is our objective truth, the standard or the ruler by which everything else is measured.

To press the parable from Jesus a bit, the two houses built both had nice floor plans, all brick with lovely shutters and a spectacular back deck. So, you understand, the two houses end up looking quite similar. But after a while, you realize the second house looks a little crooked. And some of the mortar is starting to crack. And then the first big storm comes and waylays the whole house. See, it’s an easy thing to confuse lives (or in our case, resources) that have a lot of the same appearances of biblical truth and living that a follower of Jesus has with an actual follower of Jesus. But the foundations are incredibly different and that makes the difference between a house still standing and a pile of rubble. Just give it a little time…

The trouble with ETC is that it explicitly states that The Connected Child (TCC) should be the main resource to consult: “I believe you will gain most from this resource if you spend meaningful time reading and reflecting on what we have written in The Connected Child (from the Study Guide).” In fact, the study guide “Created to Connect” at ETC states that its purpose is “to illuminate the biblical background and parallels that support the guiding principles set out in The Connected Child” and “is designed as a companion to The Connected Child.” To be clear, TCC is not a Christian book. There is no mention of anything even remotely religious in it, much less Christian. So the main guide here is TCC and ETC stands as a “companion to” TCC. Thus the foundation is the content of TCC and from that the biblical explanations follow.

That sounds completely backwards. TCC literally has no solid foundation to it because it’s not rooted in the timeless truth of Jesus as the Word. Furthermore, every single bit of justification or grounding in TCC is based upon the understanding that “these” kids haven’t had the “normal” upbringing they “should have had” and thus they must have those “needs” met. But that only works so long as we agree on the “normal” and the “should have had” and the “needs”.

Now, perhaps I misunderstand their intention. Maybe the biblical truths were always there and always part of the foundation of both ETC and TCC. And perhaps they removed that biblical undergirding in order to make a book that would appeal to both Christian and non-Christian audiences. Two responses here: First, that sounds a lot like giving a baking recipe book to a friend, but saying, “I removed flour from all the ingredients because of your gluten intolerance.” Except that removing such a foundational ingredient destroys every single recipe and the only option to salvage anything is substitution, which will never match the quality of the original. Second, if TCC can stand alone without any biblical basis then Jesus is really nothing more than an add-on, the “optional” ingredient in the recipe that some take and some leave behind. And I just don’t get how the king and lord of the entire cosmos (and beyond!) could be an optional ingredient when he’s supposed to be the core element of the approach.

Either way, ETC comes across like taping Bible verses to methods. Instead, we should be looking for the principles to come from Scripture through which we discover our methods, even if some of those methods come out looking pretty similar in the end. The foundation sets the course for the rest of the house and if that foundation isn’t firm, the house will eventually show it. So while I have no doubt that many have found the perspectives and methods of ETC/TCC helpful, I think the trajectory being set is troubling. Because of that lack of grounding, I see some glaring problems which I’ll highlight in the next few posts.

Here are all the posts in our adoption series:

  1. Getting Real About Adoption
  2. Loving the Unlovable
  3. Sin in the Adopted Child
  4. Support for the Adoptive Parent
  5. Broken-Hearted Parents
  6. Some Clarifying Thoughts on Our Adoption
  7. Examining Adoption Resources (reviewing The Connected Child, Pt 1)
  8. Normal and Healthy? (reviewing The Connected Child, Pt 2)
  9. A Matter of Foundations (reviewing The Connected Child, Pt 3)
  10. The Sins of Neurology  (reviewing The Connected Child, Pt 4)
  11. Idol Swapping  (reviewing The Connected Child, Pt 5)
  12. Setting the Course  (reviewing The Connected Child, Pt 6)
  13. Another Way Forward (reviewing The Connected Child, Pt 7)
  14. The Therapy Our Children Need
  15. Who Are You Calling Normal?
  16. Optional Adoption
  17. How to Adopt for Almost Free (And No Fundraising!)
  18. What About “Those” Kids?
  19. Trying to Make Them Lovable
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