One thing is certain about this timeline. It’s hard to deny it.
To be sure, anyone can ignore it. Someone might avoid it, and another might say, “Who cares about all that ‘old’ history stuff!” “We are the ‘new’ Christianity that we’ve shaped to suit us (and me) and our times. A hip, cool, modern version of the ‘outdated’ old ways… yadda, yadda.” Still another person, might draw the timeline differently to make their “brand” or “tribe” of Christianity as the source or fountain of truth. But the historical reality remains, and an important question needs to be answered: “What will I do about this information?” and more importantly what will we do with Jesus’ words:
“…I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word. That they all may be One, as You Father are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be One in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me. And the glory which You gave Me I have given them, that they may be One just as We are One; I in them, and You in Me; that they may be made perfect in One, and that the world may know that You have sent Me, and have loved them as You have loved Me…” John 17:21f
It’s not hard to understand the desire of our Lord’s heart in all of His teaching for He spoke of: One Lord, One Faith, One Baptism…One Body – His Church. He also said, “…I will build My Church (singular), and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it…” So what do we say in response to this? How do we respond to Christ’s call for oneness, when we are confronted with statistics like this? (That are actually 29 years old – imagine how many more denominations there are today?) According to the Dictionary of Christianity in America( Intervarsity Press 1990) As of 1980 David B. Barrett identified 20,800 distinct denominations worldwide…” (Denominationalism pg. 351)
So what is the bottom line? If the Church, as the New Testament teaches, is the Body of Christ, “How can that One Body be broken into 20,800 distinct individually interpretive parts of that one Body? ” If Christ is the second Person of an undivided, and one in essence Trinity, again we must ask, “How can the Trinity be broken into so many variations?”
Once a number of years ago, in order to come up with a visual example to explain the effects of this deconstructionism. I took a black and white art design, and then proceeded to make a copy of the original. Then I took the copy, and made a copy of the copy, and then a copy of that copy… and so on. Continuously copying a version that was a copy from the one before it. After about 40 copies, I compared what I had – to the original.
What do you think we saw?
Something that resembled the original, but was clearly not the original. It was fuzzy, flawed, and blurry, and if I would have kept up the process for 20,800 copies of a copy, God only knows what might be left. So the point remains: “How, in a world that will increasingly be intolerant of Christ and the Gospel, how will the Church stand strong and remain as One? “ Are we stronger divided or united? And when will Christianity become so watered down by denominationalism, reductionism, and by “non”-denominationalism, before we can hardly recognize it as the Church?
In closing, let me say that I’m not an expert. Forgive me. I may write like I appear to be one, but I am not. I have no degrees in historical theology, or in World History. But that is beside the point! The point is – I can read! And I did read, what the Church Councils, what the Church Fathers, and what the Church has taught over two millennia. I read from all angles and viewpoints, and with a cautious discerning eye, but the bottom line is this: “…the evidence demands a verdict…” The timeline above demands a response.
“So what do you say?” Does the Church that was born in the Upper Room in Acts 2 exist today? Does that One church teach the apostolic faith, and receive the Divine Mysteries (Sacraments)? Is that your church? Or perhaps are you still on the journey to finding that fullness? Be open. Read without pre-judging and without pre-conceptions; and like me you will get to the point where you will say: “Lord, to whom shall we go?” Like me, perhaps you will return to the original church, the Orthodox church, because it’s still here today in all of its fullness and beauty.
is a great place to start: May God bless us as we journey!