Category Archives: Excerpts from Eden’s Bridge the Book

The Division of Labor in Creation

The thesis of Eden’s Bridge: The Marketplace in Creation and Mission (Copyright © 2011 David B. Doty) is “The marketplace is an institution of God to facilitate (by way of material provision) an enduring relationship between humankind and the godhead, to foster holiness within human experience and relationships, and to advance the plan of redemption of all creation.”

The following essay, one of a series of word studies, is adapted from Eden’s Bridge (release pending, January, 2012).

To Help (`ezer): Mutual Interests and Community (Genesis 2:18)—Strong’s 5828

“Then the Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone; I will make him a helper (`ezer) suitable for him.” The Triune God recognized the benefits of human community. Eve is designated as `ezer neged before being called wife (Genesis 2:22–24, ‘ishash, as the opposite of man and his mate).(i) This first reference says a great deal about God’s intention for the relationship. An `ezer is a helper, a partner, one who aids and helps protect. The modifier, neged (Strong’s 5048), is translated as suitable only in Genesis 2. Literally, it means in front of (before), conspicuous, in the presence of, or opposite (as in, facing). The opposite aspect may be most clear with Eve as Adam’s sexual counterpart.

Wives share the joys and burdens of life with husbands and vice versa. God expresses concern that it was not good (towb, meaning beneficial—Strong’s 2896b) for Adam to be alone (bad, not bad as in evil—Strong’s 0905). The Hebrew word bad means solitary, separated. It is the term used several times in Exodus for the poles (staves) designed to carry the Ark of the Covenant, as they were individual branches separated (bad) from trees. Allegorically, the lifelessness of a cut branch is not dissimilar to the lonely man cut off from the benefits of being in community. Fellowship in common cause is vital to sustaining human life and increasing the ease with which life is made more tolerable and enjoyable. The deeply intimate social and co-creative aspects of the Trinity were endued to God’s human family in the male and female likeness.

Elijah bemoaned his solitude (bad) in the lonely cave and feared for his life without the company of fellow believers (I Kings 19:9). In Hebrews 3:3, Christians are exhorted to come alongside one another daily to battle falling back into sin. The birth of the church occurred on the day of Pentecost as the 120 were gathered in the Upper Room, likely in deep fear, to encourage one another in light of the recent Crucifixion of Christ and their dismay as to the uncertainty of the future despite Jesus’ already revealed resurrection. Fellowship encourages us, whether in the home, at work, or at leisure with friends, and helps hold us accountable for ungodly behavior. The division of labor, and cooperation and collaboration in the marketplace enhance our quality of life.

The marketplace is where the majority of our social interactions occur. The practice of worship, as trusting and obeying God, was not institutionalized in Genesis 1–2 before the Fall but was experienced in direct fellowship with God. Worship, like marriage and the marketplace, was established in the Garden and was contingent upon the appropriate, submitted relationship of Adam and Eve to God. The earliest form of worship was no more than walking in obedient fellowship with God.

God’s intent for Adam and Eve to work, steward, and procreate (multiply—Genesis 1:28) imply the sacred nature of these activities.(ii) As created and ordered systems, marriage and family, along with business,(iii) were instituted simultaneously with the introduction of Eve as a suitable partner. The ‘ezer neged (suitable helper) facilitated productive partnership. That partnership promoted the expansion of the human family by procreation and of weal,(iv) as the quality of life was improved through increased efficiency making their work more productive.

Worship, marriage (and by extension, family), and business are the original and intended institutions of God in creation. Similarly, theocratic governance, to maintain social order in communal living, is instituted as obedient response to God’s ownership (lordship) and the generous provision of the Garden in the single “rule” (to not eat of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil) of the pre-Fall Edenic covenant.

The `ezer neged, Eve with Adam, was an echo of the equality and fellowship within the Trinitarian Godhead, completing an acute communal reality of being made in the image of God, male and female. Communalism is a spiritually and temporally (economically) unified reality, hence our mutual human interdependence as emulating and in harmony with God.(v)


i. On humankind created male and female, Genesis 1:27 uses the Hebrew neqabah (female) to note the genitalic sexual distinction.
ii. This is discussed in Eden’s Bridge, 5.2 Sacrament: Sacred versus Secular.
iii. This is discussed in Eden’s Bridge, 4.2 Redefining Business—as mutually beneficial exchange between cooperative laborers to facilitate and enhance relationship.
iv. Weal, welfare or well-being, is defined as prosperity, happiness, the general good, and welfare of the community. In effect, true weal is shalom. In the modern sense, wealth (abundant material provision) provides for creature comfort so can be easily understood in the sense of its root, though it can lose its communal character to individualistic greed and material insecurity.
v. Such that communalism not be misunderstood outside the context of the whole of Eden’s Bridge, godly communalism is an uncoerced social construct, that is, living with the regard for all willingly out of the character of one’s spiritual nature rather than as a legal condition created by governmental edict.


Filed under Excerpts from Eden's Bridge the Book, Faith in the Marketplace

Business as Sacrament: On the Sacred versus the Secular

(This essay is a close adaptation of an excerpt from the book Eden’s Bridge: The Marketplace in Creation and Mission, © David B. Doty, 2011, which is due to be released in January, 2012 by Wipf & Stock Publishers.)

Two statements made at a 2010 summer conference undermine the Christian’s role in the marketplace. Both were made by mature Christian business practitioners and in response to pointed questions after speaking to a largely Christian gathering of theologians, business practitioners, students, clergy, and administrators.

The first concerned the role of business in God’s mission in the world (paraphrased): “Business is not ordained of God. It is only a vehicle for doing good.” This would hold true if it were qualified that business is only for the purposes of financial gain. But business serves numerous and far more important purposes.

Experience validates that those in agreement with the speaker are generally uncomfortable trying to reconcile the extensive abuses of the marketplace to the character of God. This concern with the “corrupt nature” of the market, therefore it must not be “of God,” is quickly undone if marriage is held to the same purity test. The corruptions of marriage and the marketplace are due to human sinfulness, not God’s design or intent for either institution. An obvious parallel is God’s allowance for the sin of divorce. Jesus addressed the Mosaic divorce decrees as acquiescence to the hardness of the human heart. God hates divorce (Mal 2:16) just as He hates unjust scales (Prov 16:11; Prov 20:10; Prov 20:23) because both are violations of just relationship.

Marriage is a covenant, an earthly model of the marriage of Christ and His bride (Eph 5:22–33). The household, as marriage and family, serves as a microcosmic model of the marketplace as a unifying and provisional social community. God’s relationship to humanity is covenantal. God did not destroy humankind when the (pre-Fall) Edenic covenant was broken. Grace remained for human provision and to provide the opportunity for restored relationship with God. In the marketplace, formal contracts are legal covenants but we seldom witness grace (forgiveness) from the world when contracts are broken, further evidence of sin’s corrupting presence.

The human social (informal or cultural) contract, as a manifestation of God’s stated moral laws and naturally-ordered law in creation, is fundamentally concerned with economic issues. Law and culturally-based behavioral norms contribute to peace of mind and body and stability to society as they broadly serve the common good. Economics appear to have played a dominant role in God’s indictment and judgment of Sodom, as they did not “help the poor and needy” (Ezek 16:49), and Tyre, where they “did not remember the covenant of brotherhood” (Amos 1:9). The abhorrent acts under indictment were, in the view of God and the godly, clearly unacceptable and violated the shalom of society.

Parts of the human social contract and the pursuit of the common good are upheld by law. But God-followers are morally obligated to do good (Isa 1:17; Mic 6:8), delighting in kindness (Hos 6:6), and preserving justice by doing what is right (Isa 56:1; Zeph 2:3), especially for the poor, orphans, widows, the weak, and afflicted (Ps 82:3; Jer 22:3). These are the sacrifices pleasing to God (Heb 13:16; 1 Pet 2:5) which may go beyond the letter of the law, as Jesus often taught. The focus is toward social equilibrium and flourishing, shalom such that all in society are well provided for.

God commands His people to do good. Business is one means for doing good and in fact does a great deal of good (i), even as it is carried out by non-believers or operators from other faith traditions. Whenever business is carried out justly, it does good and is God-ordained because we are assured that all good things “come from above” (Jas 1:17). God created the marketplace to serve several positive ends. Human provision, facilitated by the beneficial exchanges of the marketplace, is a fundamental function of creation. Commerce can also be, at least informally, a means of revelatory grace, specifically as immanent charis, the kindness, mercy, and goodwill of God in the world, as business generates wealth that can be used to pay wages, feed the hungry, clothe the naked, and care for widows and orphans. Business can be evangelizing witness to the glory of God as operators share their lives and hope with their employees (by paying fair wages), vendors (by being credit-worthy), customers (by giving excellent service), communities (by supporting and participating in civic activities), and to all by their profession of faith and general congeniality. Christ is present in the marketplace when the devout carry out their business in accordance with God’s will, purposes, and character.

The subordination of the marketplace to “worldly” status, as a form of dualism, is an offense to the Scriptures and God. God decreed the cooperative relationship between Adam and Eve and in all its inherently economic, spiritual, social, relational, and ecological nature. We undermine God’s design when we disallow God’s ordination of the marketplace as part of the proper created order.

The second comment came when the other businessman referred to his “secular” business. When that description was challenged from the audience, he claimed that the business was “secular but not secularist.” I admit freely that I did not and do not understand what that means. I believe that, like the first speaker, this man views business as not ordained of God and under God’s ownership and operation, but meant that as the operator of the business he has godly intent and aims. I cannot disagree more vehemently with drawing such a distinction.

How Christians perceive the division of secular and sacred is important. The popular definition of secular absolutely divides temporal and spiritual matters (dualism). Several Biblical and theological concepts, however, reinterpret that definition. In addition to God’s people, all of creation is being redeemed in Christ, as waiting in earnest expectation (Rom 8:19). Is being redeemed, an active process, is the operative phrase. The functional reality of the Christian life is tension between the worldly (fallen temporal) and the heavenly (restored spiritual). Paul sees this as normal when telling the Corinthians that “we will all be changed” (future passive—1 Cor 15:51–52) and that we “are changed” (present passive—2 Cor 3:18). The first is in reference to the bodily resurrection, the second to taking on the image of Christ. Charles Cranfield, the author of the commentary on Romans published in The International Critical Commentary series, argues that this tension is not resolved between Romans Chapters 7 and 8, but rather that the war between the flesh and spirit is the ongoing conflict of the Christian disciple, striving to serve God in holy living yet recognizing how they continue to fall short of his glory.(ii) Both personally and systemically, the Kingdom of God, the growing reign of Christ in individual hearts and the ongoing redemption of social institutions, is already-but-not-yet, now in imperfect operation yet looking to a future, perfect fulfillment.

This moves the discussion toward issues of eschatology, the study of the last thing (eschaton) or last things (eschata).(iii) Mortals peering into the future certainly see “as through a glass darkly” (1 Cor 13:12). The views on what is to come in this world and in heaven run across a broad spectrum. Western orthodox Christian traditions—Roman Catholic, Reformed and the majority of Evangelical—lean toward forms of a post-millennial view that holds Jesus Christ’s earthly reign will occur when He returns (the Second Coming) at the end of a long period of time: a period in which the church is spreading the Gospel throughout the world and leading the transformation of social institutions and cultural norms toward God’s will. These Catholic, Reformed, and Evangelical traditions hold an optimistic view of the future, drawing on Scripture, and the advancement of human institutions in the West, including democratic government and liberalized markets, and the Christian calling to godly ethics in all spheres of life.

The validity of these views is defensible in much of the Old Testament prophetic expectations and the New Testament witness, and poignantly expressed by Jesus’ petition in the Lord’s prayer: “Thy Kingdom come, they will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven” (Matt 6:10).

Eschatology is fundamentally concerned with God’s reign in the last days in the world, from Jesus’ Ascension until His return. The presence and guidance of the Holy Spirit for the Christian life advocates for a significant degree of Kingdom presence in the world as adherents live in obedience, doing good as the agents of God. Kingdom speaks to ownership and rule as it is under the authority of God’s sovereignty that good works are carried out.

Here the discussion shifts to issues of stewardship and sonship. Two strong arguments in Scripture for pursuing the sacred in Christian life are that “the earth is the Lord’s, and all it contains, the world, and those who dwell in it” (Ps 24:1), “and whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father” (Col 3:17). Adam’s appointment as steward (to keep) the Garden was clear. The Bible is filled with considerations of the moral responsibility and character of godly (and ungodly) stewardship.

But more than stewards, Christians are the children of God which involves the important elements of inheritance, ownership, and dominion. It is helpful to remember God’s original intention in creation to create a family for Himself, to ultimately bring “many sons to glory” (Heb 2:10). As any good father would, the heavenly Father wants to bestow a rich inheritance on His children, not just of material blessing but, more importantly, of character. Christians anticipate that inheritance explicitly in being called joint heirs of the glory of God with Christ (Rom 8:17) and look to being changed step-by-step, from glory to glory, into the image of Christ (2 Cor 3:18) as the “event” of receiving the inheritance.

The nature of the glory of Christ and of the heavenly Father is summed up by the four living creatures in adoration before the throne of God: “Holy, holy, holy.” As God followers, Christians live under the hortatory “Be holy for I am holy” (Lev 11:44b), “like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior, because it is written, ‘You shall be holy, for I am holy’” (1 Pet 1:15–16). The call to holiness presents challenges for Christians in the marketplace, in particular by the phrase “in all your behavior” here and Paul’s “do not be conformed to this world” (Rom 12:2). Holiness (hagios—Strong’s 40) is determinative of character in all aspects of Christian practice. To be holy is to be morally upright by intrinsic or divine character. Holiness is available to Christians only through the power and presence of the Holy Spirit.

Christians in the marketplace, feeling pressed by worldly circumstances, may impose an unholy bifurcation on market decisions to allow excuse for ungodly behavior. The nature of holiness has been defined as otherness. God’s glory is so far from our fallen state, for example, that it is understood that we cannot be like God. We cannot be omnipotent, omniscience, or omnipresent. We can, however, seek to know and practice the will of God. Accepting and loving one another, taking on the mind of Christ (Rom 15:5), willingly deferring and sacrificing for one another, submitting ourselves to lives of humble service—these attitudes and acts may challenge the logic of worldly pragmatism (human wisdom) which is limited by the narrow vision of human knowledge.

Holiness may oppose what appears to makes sense: “let no man deceive himself. If any man among you thinks that he is wise in this age, let him become foolish that he may become wise. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness before God. For it is written, ‘He is the one who catches the wise in their craftiness’; and again, ‘The Lord knows the reasonings of the wise, that they are useless’” (1 Cor 3:18–20).

It easily follows that, beyond any limited righteousness “enforced” by the world’s legal documentation and contracts, businesses operated by Christians are to be held as sacred trusts, set apart for the glory and worship of God. That set apartness means these endeavors are sacramental with a small s, having a sacred nature. Any lesser view relegates the marketplace and the workers’ efforts to the profane.

A major influence dividing the spiritual and the secular in Western Christian minds is one hallmark of Platonic dualism: the view that the material world is inherently evil. While creation has been corrupted, this dualism leaves no room for redemption except as an escape from the material realm. This view of the material world encourages false eschatological notions and stands against an already-but-not-yet realization of the Kingdom.

Such isolation of secular and sacred even clouds the argument that God’s glory is demonstrated in nature (Ps 19:1). For example, consider the pending birth of a child. Secular humanism wrestles with the essential nature of a fetus (“When does it become a person?”). Yet logic is not troubled that the fetus is present and possesses the potential of a fuller realization. It is at once a thing living though in a transitional state and as yet unfulfilled. Before I was married, I had the potential to be a father (conceptual), but when my wife became pregnant I was in a state of flux until the child’s birth actualized that role. In a real way, I was already-but-not-yet a father during her pregnancy.

Compartmentalizing our spiritual and temporal natures is a slippery slope excusing and even justifying the necessity of ungodly policies and practices. Profit, for sustainability and increasing wealth, is ordained of God (Deut 8:18), but that ordination remains only as God is obeyed in both generating wealth (means) and using it appropriately (ends). The primary function of the marketplace in creation is for the facilitation of just relationships toward adequate universal provision, the Edenic shalom as both means and ends.

Marketplace Christians are under enormous tension because it is easy to live with just one foot in God’s Kingdom. Compartmentalization is enabling and pragmatism can be self-justifying. Greed and power are strong temptations and compromise easily leads to hypocrisy and dishonors the glory of God.

The false divide of sacred and secular presents difficult disciplines and choices for marketplace Christians. That is why personal and systemic economic issues arise in every section of the Bible. In the Torah we find laws and commandments pertaining to the treatment of the poor (Lev 25:35–55) and the valuation of property (Lev 27). In the historic books, we find the military and economic oppression of Israel by Midian (Judg 6:1–10), Boaz leaving gleanings in his field for the poor (Ruth 2:1–9), and the abolishment of usury (Neh 5:1–13). In the wisdom literature, we see that a righteous man does not exact usury (Ps 15:5), that honest scales are of God (Prov 16:11), and that the Lord hears and responds to the cries of the poor (Ps 34:6).

And so it goes, throughout the prophets, the Gospels and Acts, the Epistles, and Revelation. Creation is economic by design, and economic justice (equilibrium, shalom) is a primary aim of God’s mission.

i. Kennedy, Robert G. “What is the Good That Business Does?,” in The Good That Business Does, 67–85. Grand Rapids, MI: Acton Institute, 2006.
ii. Cranfield, Charles E.B. Romans: A Shorter Commentary, 168–72. Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1992.
iii. See Walls, Jerry L., ed. The Oxford Handbook of Eschatology. Oxford: The Oxford University Press, 2008, as an excellent resource for studying eschatology generally.


Filed under Excerpts from Eden's Bridge the Book, Faith in the Marketplace

To Work (`abad): To Work, Serve, and Worship (Genesis 2:15)

There has been a great deal written about the dignity of work, and rightly so. The following is adapted from Eden’s Bridge: The Marketplace in Creation and Mission (©2011, David B. Doty – pending publication under contract to Wipf & Stock Publishers of Eugene, Oregon).

“Then the Lord God took the man and put him into the garden of Eden to cultivate (`abad) it and keep it.” `Abad is an especially poignant word in Scripture. In this passage, it is translated into a variety of familiar terms: to dress (KJV), to cultivate (NAS), to work (NIV), and to till (RSV). According to Strong’s Concordance, `abad means to work but also, by implication, to serve, or to till.

But `abad also carries a sense of worship. In Exodus, `abad is used repeatedly in the dialogs between Moses and Pharoah about Israel going out to the desert to serve the Lord. In Numbers, the Levites served (`abad) in the Tabernacle of Moses.

It is easy to understand this multi-leveled term. Consider ownership retained by an investor who pays wages in return for the labor necessary to fulfill the purposes of the thing owned, whether a field or factory, a store or the whole world. Moving into the idea of worship is no more difficult to understand than embracing the idea of honoring one’s master and provider as a matter of respect, in humble and ardent gratitude for benefits bestowed.

The Bible exhorts that God-followers do all things as unto the Lord (Col 3:23). We honor God by how we serve His aims in following His commands. Just and righteous works are acts of worship. In undertaking our work as worship, the holiness of God will manifest in our daily lives, witnessing Christ’s glory in the marketplace and the home.

Interestingly, God did not command Adam to work and keep the Garden. To work and keep it was simply part of the DNA of being human, of our function and purpose in the universe. Our work is part of the design of creation and disseminates the redemptive grace of God in the marketplace. How we anticipate the marketplace as an ordained institution in God’s created moral order, and act accordingly in all we do, helps clarify the sacred nature of our commercial endeavors.


Filed under Excerpts from Eden's Bridge the Book, Faith in the Marketplace

A Brief Theology of Profit-Making

Adapted from Eden’s Bridge: The Marketplace in Creation and Mission (© 2011 by David B. Doty, publication pending with Wipf & Stock Publishers).

Some Christians wrestle with earning profit, questioning whether it should be pursued at all. Some consider profit “onerous,” meaning “troublesome or oppressive; burdensome.” Others take a more neutral stance citing numerous biblical passages and arguing along principled lines that profit is inert, being neither evil nor good. The bottom line: profit is good and an ordinary product of God’s creation.

If we ask “should Christians seek making profit?”, the discussion may be launching from the middle of the conversation. Better questions to ask are “what should Christians pursue?” and “what does the Bible teach on the origin and nature of profit?”

Eve was created as `ezer, a help to Adam, before she was called wife. The creation of human community established the division of labor. Workers can attest that most tasks can normally be done with greater efficiency with a helper than if working alone. The bigger the task, the more division of labor, the greater the efficiency.

The division of labor fosters collaboration, specialization, and innovation. The natural outcome of these is increased output, which we can label increase, gain, or profit. Corporations, for-profit and not-for-profit, are collective human efforts toward producing outcomes more efficiently (gainfully) and effectively.

The physical union of Adam and Eve and the multiplying effect of planted seeds demonstrate that God’s created ecosystem is productive in a positive trajectory. The procreation of the first couple has led to a global population nearing seven billion souls. Corn and wheat reproduce toward the multiplied blessing of the thirty, sixty, or hundredfold return.

Nature itself, which glorifies God, shows that gain is intentional in God’s plan for all creation, including humankind. Many Christians practice righteousness in business—paying good wages, paying their bills on time, offering quality products, etc. Their profitability and increasing wealth demonstrate that material gain is a natural outcome of righteous relationships and the just exchange of goods and services. Profit (increase) comes when creation, including us, acts in harmony with God and the created order (aka natural law).

In Kingdom economics profit is not to be the aim but will be a natural outcome of the pursuit of righteousness. Jesus taught, “Seek first [God’s] Kingdom and His righteousness, and all these other things shall be added to you” (Matt 6:33).

As Christians we have but one priority: to worship God. Our worship is wrapped up succinctly in the single Hebrew word, `abad, which in various contexts means to work, to serve, and/or to worship. Our work, service, and worship are inextricably linked and together, in our pursuit of God, will draw us toward holiness.

Profit is a desirable outcome but it is not the primary pursuit for a Christian in business. Discipleship at the feet of Christ is our first aim. By obedience to God and trusting in His promises, we will profit. A growing knowledge of Christ and righteousness fostered in that relationship will guide us to worthwhile employment and grant us wisdom for the use of our gains.

God affirmed this when reminding Israel in Deuteronomy 8:18 that it was not by their efforts but His, acting on His covenant, that they would grow wealthy: “But you shall remember the LORD your God, for it is He who is giving you power to make wealth, that He may confirm His covenant which He swore to your fathers, as it is this day.”

God gave us work, responsibility, relationships, and the call to holiness. But “what does it profit a man to gain the whole world, and forfeit his soul?” (Mark 8:36). Christians are to pursue Christ in every aspect of life, including doing business. Profit will come as God sees fit. It is an intended function in a well ordered universe.

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Filed under Excerpts from Eden's Bridge the Book, Faith in the Marketplace