Stream: The Coming Christian Unity
There is disunity in Christendom, and has been since at least the gnostic Cerinthus around 100 anno Domini gained a small following by teaching that Jesus and the Christ were two separate people.
Bifurcations increased through time, and we now have the Big Three, Catholicism, Protestantism, Orthodoxy, but also such sects as Christadelphians, Nestorians, and Iglesia ni Cristo. Some might even class Jews and Muslims in the list, with their incorrect, but correctable, beliefs about our Lord and with their better understandings of God the Father.
Thinking about it, the ability to assent to the phrase “incorrect beliefs about our Lord” might be a good marker for who counts as Christian.
The Great Unity
The good news is that our unhappy disunity will at some point in the future dissolve. The bad news is that the coming reunion is not going to be painless.
Peter reminds us of what must someday happen:
But the day of the Lord shall come as a thief, in which the heavens shall pass away with great violence, and the elements shall be melted with heat, and the earth and the works which are in it, shall be burnt up…But we look for new heavens and a new earth according to his promises, in which justice dwelleth.
No man knows when, but there is a rich tradition in literature in imagining how the end will come.
Enter Vladimir Sergeyevich Soloviev
One such work is by Vladimir Sergeyevich Soloviev (sometimes spelled Solovyov), a Twentieth Century Russian philosopher and theologian. A contemporary and friend of Fyodor Dostoyevsky, he was Russian Orthodox who advocated Christian unity through the idea of sobornost, the “spiritual community of many jointly living people”.
In his 1900 apocalypse A Short Narrative About Antichrist, he explored our coming final Christian unity (quotations come the Natalie Duddington translation). Actually, he spoke of many different unities.
The story opens with Antichrist, a man who, like Satan himself, believes in Christ, but who believes in himself more. With Satan’s dark blessing, Antichrist becomes a master and teacher of self-love. He quickly gains worldwide admiration for his book The Open Way to Universal Peace and Welfare. This global glow is the first unity.
The wonderful writer carried all with him and was acceptable to everyone, so that Christ’s word
were fulfilled: “I am come in my Father’s name, and ye receive me not: if another shall come in his own name, him ye will receive.” For in order to be received, one must be acceptable.
Soloviev foresaw European history correctly. He has the “European States Union” convene a constituent assembly which “decided to concentrate executive power in the hands of one person”, Antichrist, who was recognized as the “man of the future.” Antichrist healed the many great secular divisions (which even now surround us). Peace was upon the land.
Christianity had greatly diminished: “there were not more than forty-five million Christians on the whole of the globe.” The missing Christians, i.e. the great apostasy, is the (unfortunate) unity of the second kind.
A Test of Faith
There is still time to click here and read the rest.
Special thanks to Fr Rickert and Ianto Watt for introducing us to Soloviev.