The title of my book, Eden’s Bridge, may seem obscure given that I do not explain it plainly in that text. But the name has relevance on a couple of levels. About a year before I finished my master’s degree in World Mission and Evangelism at Asbury Theological Seminary (Wilmore, Kentucky), I began to seek the Lord’s direction for what would come after. Having been in business, one of the two most apparent options was to start or buy another small business. The other option was to continue my studies and pursue a doctoral degree. Interestingly, everywhere I turned asking, “Should I do ‘A’ or should I do ‘B,’ the answer was always ‘Yes.’”
Admittedly, that was a bit confusing so I continued to pray. The impression that I eventually held was that I needed to do both, an admittedly formidable prospect. In any case, a year after graduation, my wife and I launched our third business enterprise but I continued to read and research in my spare time. Three years into that endeavor, the business failed amidst the economic collapse and I suddenly found myself with time on my hands. I revisited the idea of pursuing a doctoral degree and was met by the fact that I did not have the financial resources to do it. But I also encountered two professors, one a mentor and one a friend, who both recommended that rather than pursue the degree, I should simply write a book.
As I studied, I found that there had been a fair amount of scholarship on theologies of work and theologies of stewardship (both grounded in Genesis 2:15) but there was little, and that typically superficial, written on the theology of the marketplace. I also repeatedly was confronted by a divide between Christian commitment by Church members and how they perceived and practiced business. It was reminiscent of a conversation from years past when I attended a United Methodist Church in Crawfordsville, Indiana.
I had been invited to take part in presenting a three-part series of adult Sunday school lessons on the Holy Spirit. The other two participants were the church’s youth pastor, who was raised on the mission field in Venezuela, and a particularly charismatic friend who came from the ranks of a non-denominational church but found himself led to join the United Methodist Church.
The charismatic friend gave his testimony the first week before the assemblage of all the adult Sunday school classes plus the high school class. His testimony was deeply related to his experience of the Holy Spirit as an active agency in his life and his previous church life. When he finished speaking, I realized he had, in effect, presented half the material I had prepared for the third week of this lesson series. The second week, our youth pastor shared how his upbringing in the Wesleyan tradition was all about knowing and following the Bible with little or (seemingly) no interaction with the voice of the Holy Spirit. You may have just guessed that, when he finished, I turned to my wife and said, “He just gave the second half of my material. I need to build the bridge between the two.”
After Sunday school, on the way to the sanctuary, the woman who oversaw the adult Sunday school program stopped me in the hall, took hold of my arm and said, “You know what you have to do. You have to build the bridge between the two.” I went home, scrapped all my material and started afresh.
Just so, God spoke to my heart about building a bridge of marketplace theology that would help the pulpit and the pew reconnect on the spirituality of the marketplace. I set out to overcome that divide between Sunday morning and Monday morning, to build a bridge between “doing business” and “following Jesus.”
So, confronted with such a challenge, I wanted to know more about God’s agenda concerning business. Somewhere along the way of several years’ research, I became convinced that “business” was God’s doing, that is, business was a created institution, something God intended from the beginning. If that were to prove true, I surmised, the evidence was surely locked away somehow in the creation narrative of Genesis1-2. So, I went looking.
What struck me first was the economic impact of many of the created elements – the sun for primary energy, land for plant production and grazing, time as a measure of dividing activities, seasons, and so on. But the hinge came when I “discovered” that Eve was created from the notion of Adam needing a “suitable helper,” a co-worker. The division of labor, which implies cooperation, and encourages collaboration and specialization, is the fundamental building block of market economics, of doing business. Many argue that exchange is the foundation but you must have exchangers, and them agreeing to exchange, before that activity takes place.
So, there I had it. The name Eden’s Bridge emerged from the context of the biblical and theological origins of business – created in Eden – and clarifying the connection – the bridge – between God’s purposes for and means within creation for 1) glorifying himself, 2) bringing many sons (daughters) to glory by providing the cooperative, worshipful (in the sense of koinonia) opportunity of social cohesion, that is, a place to practice holiness in community, and 3) providing the elements necessary to sustain human life and to bless it in abundance.