The Importance of the External Word

Steve Martin (not the banjo-playing comedian) published a thought-provoking blog post today, discussing how important the external Word of God is to faith, as opposed to placing our faith in our own emotions and thoughts. An excerpt:

Lot’s of Christians speak of the grace of God. “He is our all in all.” He has done it all.” “There is nothing we can add.” That is a good thing.  But there is nothing for many of these Christians to grab hold of. Their beliefs inhabit the nebulous territories of heart and mind. Yes, we believe them. But now what? How can we be SURE that they are true, and real, IN OUR LIVES, at this moment?

It seems that because of the kind of creature that we are, a tactile, tangible, experiential being, our faith must land somewhere. The rubber must meet the road,  somewhere, somehow.

If there’s nothing to grab a hold of that is tangible, that comes to us from outside of ourselves, then we will internalize this desire for solid proof. We will rely on our emotions, our deeds, our thoughts, our knowledge, even our own faith. Welcome to ‘religion’ in the 21st century. Look familiar? It ought to. It’s no different than the religion that humans have practiced for as long as they have been around. It hides behind the pious words and works of those who have no assurance of their salvation, other than what they are able to muster up of their own volition. Then you end up with holiness churches where people are movin’ on up.

But the external Word, which includes the Sacraments of Holy Baptism and Holy Communion, are different. They do not eminate from inside of ourselves and are not dependent on anything that comes from our side of the equation. They are real events that happen in real places with real earthly elements in real time. And the action in these events is not our action, but God’s. His Word is attached to them. Otherwise they just remain earthly elements. And these actions of God are apprehended by the very gift of faith that God also gives to us, in these Sacraments and in the hearing of His Word.

Now we have something that we can HOLD onto. Something that has been given to us with NO strings attached. Something that is REAL…and NOT subject to the winds that blow in and out of our often weak frames, hearts and minds.

We often forget that Christianity is an incarnational faith; that is, it relies on the belief that the “word became flesh” and that Jesus turned real water into real wine and used real mud to heal real eyes. He was baptized with real water, told the disciples to remember him through drinking real wine and eating real bread, and had his real body executed and resurrected.

With regard to his teaching, he said, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear,” not “look into your heart to find the truth.” And, yet we want to spiritualize our faith today, making it dependent upon our own understanding and feelings. No wonder so many fall into doubt and despair.

As Proverbs 3:5 says, “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.”

How positively archaic.

One thought on “The Importance of the External Word”

  1. “As Proverbs 3:5 says, “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.”

    How positively archaic.”

    Your one line is better than all my blathering!

    Thank you, Alden!

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