Howard on the Incarnation

Howard observes that if a group of Christians bought an old welding shop or strip joint to use as a worship location, they’d remodel it.  “All Christian groups…attach some dignity to the church building…Forms and colors matter…If we want simplicity, dignity, and quiet, then let us make the building answer to these unseen qualities in the very bricks, wood, and paint that we choose.  If we want to cry out, ‘Ad maiorem Dei gloriam!’ then let us make the building answer to this acclamation in the very stones, wood, and colors that we choose.”

Why use the physical to represent the unseen?  Because of the Incarnation.

God is Spirit, and in Jesus Christ, God was made flesh.  Therefore, says Howard, “the terrible and tragic rip in the fabric of Creation is being reknit.”  Eden, according to Howard, was a place where the physical and spiritual were knit together, and through the Fall, the two were assundered.  Our death turns us into “two pitiable horrors, a corpse and a ghost.”  The Incarnation announces the restoration of true humanity: flesh and spirit are “knit once more into perfect integrity.”

This is why Christians must not keep “physical” and “spiritual” things walled away in separate rooms, as if the one were bad and the other good.  For Howard, evangelical worship spends too much time in the room of the “spiritual.”

The Incarnation changes everything.  It’s not just a key to unlock the door so we can traffic both the “spiritual” and “physical” rooms.  It’s actually a sledgehammer that knocks the wall down — a wall that we’ve built between the spirit and the flesh , the sacred and the secular, what’s God’s and what’s ours.   These opposite categories are really illusions, because all things belong to God.  The sin, says Howard, is claiming them for ourselves.

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