A doctrine that taught that Jesus of Nazareth was a mere man until his baptism where God the Father adopted him as his Son. Wayne Grudem explained that “[a]doptionists would not hold that Christ existed before he was born as a man; therefore, they would not think of Christ as eternal, nor would they think of him as the exalted, supernatural being created by God that the Arians held him to be.”(Grudem 1994: 245)
Adoptionism was rejected and exposed to be a false teaching because it failed to square with passages that explicitly demonstrated the preexistence of Christ Jesus (e.g. John 1:1, 8:58 and Phil. 2:6). This teaching failed to portray Christ Jesus as David’s Son and David’s Lord (Matt. 22:45 Luke 1:43) that is clearly taught in God-breathed Scriptures.
Gerrit C. Berkouwer informed as that,
Felix of Urgel, for instance, taught that the human being adopted by the Son of God must be sharply distinguished from Christ who, as God’s own Son without adoption, was the second person of the Trinity. The man Jesus was predestined to be united with the Son of God. This Adoptionism was condemned by the Western Church in 792 (Regensburg), in 794 (Frankfort), and in 799 (Aken), because the church regarded this as a doctrine of two persons and spoke explicitly of the Nestorian impiety by which Christ was divided into two persons: God’s own Son and the adopted son.(Berkouwer 1954: 322)
He wonderfully remarked that “in order to find Adoptionism in the New Testament, one must make a radical selection in Scripture—a selection which obscures the mystery of the person and work of Christ.”(Berkouwer 1954: 176) Berkouwer explained that the Gospel does not present Jesus Christ as a man who was adopted as Son of God as a reward for his work on earth but a person whose work and person direct us to His divinity.
Millard J. Erickson noted that the doctrine Adoptionism recurrent appearances throughout the Church history but “[t]hose who take seriously the full teaching of Scripture, however, are aware of major obstacles to this view, including the preexistence of Christ, the prebirth narrative, and the virgin birth.”(Erickson 1998: 748)
Question To Skeptics: What case could you offer against preexistence of Jesus of Nazareth?
Berkouwer, G. C. (1954). The Person of Christ. Grand Rapids: W. B. Eerdmans Pub. Co.
Erickson, M. J. (1998). Christian theology (2nd ed.) Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Book House.
Grudem, W. A. (1994). Systematic theology : An introduction to biblical doctrine. Leicester, England; Grand Rapids, Mich.: Inter-Varsity Press; Zondervan Pub. House.