I recently listened to an episode of the podcast “The Bible for Normal People” in which they interviewed Walter Brueggemann. At a point in the discourse, Walter referred to the Bible as a “compost pile.”
At first this may come off as an offensive statement to anyone who holds the Bible to have authority and worth.
But I think it might of been the best description of the Bible I’ve ever heard.
According to dictionary.com, compost is defined as “ ”
When it comes to composting the important aspect isn’t so much what you put into the pile, as long as it is organic. But the real impact of it has to do with what it is used to fertilize.
Both thistles and flowers grow better when fertilized.
The impact of composting is not about what goes into the pile. It is about what results.
Now, in the case of the Bible, the issue shouldn’t be as much what stories, myths, or facts are present within the text as long as they are authentic. When I say authentic, I don’t mean necessarily true, although it could be that. Rather, I am referring to the author trying to reveal something true about his or her experience of the world, of God.
Authentically a believer.
Authentically a non-believer.
It doesn’t matter so much what they are openly and honestly trying to get across but rather that they are open and honest.
God is openness. God is honesty.
I’m sure I’ve written it before on this blog, but I am not taken with the Bible because I believe it happened thousands of years ago. I read the Bible because I believe it is happening now.
The abuse of power.
The neglect for the poor.
The deification of certainty.
All of these things can be seen (pretty easily I might add) in our lives today.
So, for me, the Bible is a compost pile of authentic stories, written by real people, at real times, about some real experiences of this life, some experiences of God that they are trying to communicate to others.
Just as a compost pile is foul and offensive to smell, the Bible can be offensive to read. There are stories that definitely should cause us to be angry, to doubt, to question, to contemplate, and to grow.
And that is the key.
The Bible should cause us to grow.
But just as compost can fertilize thistles, so can the Bible be used to inseminate hate, anger, injustice, greed, racism, blindness, and fear.
Yet, that same fertilizer causes flowers to grow and bloom.
It can bring forth plants that bear delicious fruit.
It can bring life and life to the full when used to fertilize the right ideas.
I personally believe the compost pile that is the Bible is made up of stories, poems, and myths that, although they seem outdated and foul to some, hold the potential to bring new life to this world.
They hold the potential to evoke mercy and inspire grace.
When implemented properly, they have the vital nutrients for feeding peace and growing love.