I am impressed by the logic of Brian’s argument. It sheds light on why the fastest growing Church of England congregations, by and large, are Cathedrals. Following it up would involve reimaging our context in a more realistic, low-key, creative and rooted direction. I think I’m up for it.
One service that +Alan Wilson did provide is a photo of McLaren’s famous “bridge to nowhere” (right.) As somone who has spent most of his working life as a professional engineer and involved in major civil works projects, I can finally make an intelligent critique of the analogy which he tirelessly propagates.
It’s not unusual for bridge approaches to settle or otherwise fail more than the main span of the bridge. Many bridges have the “bump at the end of the bridge.” That’s due to the fact that the bridge is generally on some kind of deep foundation such as driven piles or drilled shafts, which are generally designed these days to withstand axial (vertical, such as the weight of the bridge and the traffic) and lateral (such as seismic and scour loads.) The approaches are generally not on deep foundations but on (hopefully) compacted earth.
The upshot of this is that approaches are generally more susceptible to settlement than the bridge itself. In this case, they are also more susceptible to scour damage, i.e., loads from fast moving water. In the case of this Honduran bridge, the scour loads driven by Hurricane Mitch were simply too much and washed the approaches away, leaving the bridge.
The difference that McLaren misses is this: the bridge was built on a firmer foundation than the approaches. Jesus himself emphasised the importance of a firm foundation, but McLaren isn’t enough of a civil engineer (and won’t bother to ask one) to make the analogy. The core problem presently in Christianity in general and the Anglican Communion in particular is that we have spent so much time trying to make people feel good about themselves that we have not bothered to properly disciple them in the essentials of the faith, which is one reason why we feel like a “bridge to nowhere.” McLaren’s questionable orthodoxy only exacerbates the problem.
In a comment on MissionalCOG on why it’s not wise to revise the Church of God’s Declaration of Faith, Louis Morgan made the following observation:
… but I have to say I’m reluctant to mess with the DoF as it now stands. I understand how it may be slightly more binding than scripture in some areas, but I’m afraid any change at the moment could make room for more fanatical doctrines within our movement– and, thus, make it even more binding than scripture. To be honest, I don’t think the majority of our church has a solid understanding of the foundation of the basic tenants of Christian faith and practice and their historical development. If we had a better grasp on such, then I would be less reluctant for us to re-examine our doctrinal statements within genuine spiritual community.
And this doesn’t even get into some of the really serious deviations we see in the Anglican Communion!
The importance of a firm foundation cannot be underestimated. Using a scripture which Clarence Dunham cited in part in the front matter of his Foundations of Structures:
In fulfillment of the charge which God had entrusted to me, I laid the foundation like a skillful master-builder; but another man is now building upon it. Let every one take care how he builds; For no man can lay any other foundation than the one already laid-Jesus Christ. Whatever is used by those who build upon this foundation, whether gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay, or straw, The quality of each man’s work will become known, for the Day will make it plain; because that Day is to be ushered in with fire, and the fire itself will test the quality of every man’s work. If any man’s work, which he has built upon that foundation, still remains, he will gain a reward. If any man’s work is burnt up, he will suffer loss; though he himself will escape, but only as one who has passed through fire. (1 Corinthians 3:10-15)