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Peter Enns: The Bible: Cookbook or Compost Pile?


The Bible is sort of a compost pile.

I like this picture and I want I had considered it, but it surely comes from Walter Brueggemann’s Texts Below Negotiation.I got here throughout this many years in the past, and—regardless of the documented proven fact that I’m the worst gardener ever—it’s helped me see the Bible in a extra sensible and spiritually constructive manner.

The Bible is the compost pile that gives materials for brand spanking new life. I don’t use this determine as an irreverent metaphor to recommend that the Bible is “rubbish.” Slightly, I exploit it to recommend that the Bible itself will not be the precise place of latest development. Our current life, after we undertake new development, is usually insufficient, arid, and even barren. It must be enriched, and for that enrichment, we return to the deposits of previous development which were discarded, however that proceed to ferment and should include assets for a solution to new life. (Texts Below Negotiation, pp. 61-62)

Like Brueggemann, I don’t take the compost pile as a disrespectful metaphor, however a metaphor that explains what the Bible is suited to do—and the way individuals usually, instinctively, method it anyway.

Against this, an unhelpful metaphor is a cookbook.

Learn the Bible fastidiously, being positive to observe the instructions, and out will pop a superb, orthodox Christian along with his or her act collectively. If one thing goes fallacious—you probably have fallacious doctrine or do unhealthy issues—you’re not following the instructions fastidiously sufficient. Return and take a look at it once more.

I’ve discovered the Bible doesn’t work very effectively as a cookbook. In the end you wind up sifting by way of the Bible to select the elements that you simply like and ignore different elements that don’t style very effectively with what you are attempting to prepare dinner up. Plus the Bible is lengthy, difficult, and most of it seems such as you’re studying a novel with a number of plots and subplots, not a cookbook.

The compost pile works higher for me. It syncs with my research of Scripture, with my expertise over time as somebody attempting to determine this following Jesus enterprise, and with what I’ve discovered from the knowledge of others, dwelling and useless.

The compost pile analogy jogs my memory that focusing our gaze on the Bible is like trying expectantly on the compost pile fairly than the aromatic rose or luscious watermelon that’s ready to develop up out of the bottom. However nothing grows when our days are spent guarding the compost pile, defending it, protecting it up with a tarp of manicured sod to make it look extra civil.

Perhaps it is a paradox:

The Bible will not be the top, however a way to an finish. But, with out the vitamins the Bible accommodates, the soil stays arid.

“Making use of the Bible” doesn’t fairly get at it. That comes throughout to me as a bit quiet and clear. Gardening is filled with grunting, sweat, filth—and typically holding your nostril. Learn the Bible with a pitchfork, backyard rake, and shovel in your fingers—not with rubber gloves and tongs delicately turning over crackling pages of an historical e-book.

***The unique model of this put up appeared in December 2012. A theme in The Bible Tells Me So(HarperOne 2014) is the distinction between the Bible as a cookbook (or proprietor’s guide, working directions, area information for Christian life) and the Bible as a various mannequin for various non secular experiences.***

[I moderate all comments and allow all but the most nasty through. Please be patient as it can sometimes take me several hours or even a day to get to them.]

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