Hugh Halter’s Flesh: Bringing the Incarnation Down to Earth does just that: it grounds our high, holy ideas about why Jesus was “God with skin on” in the life and ministry of the Denver pastor. Like a good teacher, Halter lays out where he’s going from the get-go: he wants to show us how Jesus was God’s process to show the incarnation, God’s reputation, a God-humanity conversation, a confrontation, and, finally, transformation. Halter succeeds in doing this, both theologically but also literally, taking us on a written journey that is equally engaging and challenging.
Now, let me just say that reading a pastor’s theological reflections and finding Jason Mraz lyrics and references to The Word on the Street paraphrase of the Bible in the first few chapters is pretty refreshing. Finding that in a setting where the pastor wants to make the doctrine of the incarnation approachable to everyone is… incarnational. Honestly, if we’re expecting that people are going to grow spiritually, we have to be able to convey ourselves in a way that they can read it, consider it, and digest it, and Halter does that here.
Not only does Halter set up the progression as promised but he also gives us three steps of homework after each chapter, to “think,” “feel,” and “do.” Frankly, as I’ve been reflecting on the “love the Lord your God…love your neighbor…” a lot lately, I find that combines the two, because to Love God requires thinking about it and feeling it, and doing is the natural result of getting there! In that regard, Halter presents theological truths but also makes them practical and applicable to our lives, earning him not just heady seminary-level praise but a vote for “I could use this in a small group or with my college students.”
A few of my favorite passages…
“People are not pagans to reconverted, projects to be preached at, or demographics to be reprogrammed. Humans should never be generalized, categorized, dismissed, judged, or underestimated. Every person is a story, rich with history, experiences, creative potential, strengths and weaknesses, clarity and blindness. And although spiritual vertigo is universal, we must not put everyone in the same box” (38).
“As you consider a fleshy life that matters, ponder who you will fight alongside with and what you will fight for. Find things that make you mad or sad, to the point where your blood boils and tears fall, and get a plan to move forward” (139).
Ultimately, as a person of faith, I liked that Halter’s book isn’t just for ‘baby Christians’ or ‘weathered veterans,’ but that it recognizes that a journey of faith has several stages, stops, starts, rest areas, etc. We’re not all at the same place in our journey (regardless of how we may be hash tagged and boxed in by the media) and we all need something different at different stages.
That’s the beauty of the incarnation: Jesus didn’t come to live a moment of your life, but he came to live a human life, from beginning to end. So, we can’t say, well, God didn’t see ‘this’ or ‘that,’ because he did. Jesus came, having emptied himself of all but love, to show us that God wanted to be with us. In the flesh, and down to Earth.