About a thousand years ago, there occurred an event long known as “The Great Schism.” And it has impacted much of the world ever since.
No, it was not an earthquake of magnificent proportion. Nor was it a volcanic eruption that split the surrounding terrain with a gaping chasm.
It was not the sudden collapse of the earth that results in a massive sinkhole, swallowing everything which stands on it.
It wasn’t even a great war or violent uprising or breaking apart of a glorious civilization.
Instead, it was the splitting of the “Christian” church into two branches: the west and the east.
The west one we now know as the Roman Catholic Church and its leadership emanates from Rome. Its current head is Pope Francis. The east one, which is really a collection of some 14 independent bodies, is referred to as the Eastern “Orthodox” church and is led by Bartholomew I, Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople.
Though some will say this is an oversimplification, the split essentially occurred because of a dispute over the primacy of the western pontiff or the eastern patriarch. There were other issues, such as differences of opinion over the origination of the Holy Spirit and some other arcane theological disagreements, but, essentially, it boiled down to a fight over who was really in charge.
Over the millennium since the split occurred in 1054, relations between the Catholic church and the Orthodox churches have been strained at best and downright bitter at worst.
The reason this is important is that we’re talking about major world forces here.
The Roman Catholic church claims 1.2 billion adherents. The Orthodox churches include more than 300 million. That’s 1.5 billion, virtually equal to the total number of Muslims in the world.
That’s a lot of people in the world who have been directly impacted by this schism. What’s more, that doesn’t include the close to 1 billion Protestants around the globe, who are not led by either the Pope or the Patriarch, but who claim the same spiritual heritage, i.e., the Lordship of Jesus Christ.
So “The Great Schism” has potentially impacted the lives of more than 2.5 billion people and may have prevented that number from being even larger.
It makes one to wonder what would happen if those 2.5 billion people — more than a third of the world’s total population — were actually united under the leadership of a single, powerful figure. That would be an immensely powerful force — if not unstoppable, at least unimaginably influential — in our world.
Of course, that could never happen because, in the first place, 1.5 billion of them already can’t agree as to who their leader is and the other almost-billion don’t believe that either the Pope or the Patriarch represents theologies with which they can identify.
But… what if….?
In 1969, I wrote about this very question in the closing pages of my book, The Late Great Planet Earth.
The fact that over the last few years the Popes have been extending olive branches to the Orthodox Patriarch brings this “what if” into sharper relief. Further, a few days ago, Pope Francis traveled to Istanbul where he prayed with Patriarch Bartholomew I, then signed a joint declaration of unity between the two churches.
When you add to this list the dismaying reality that many of the mainline Protestant denominations are abandoning their historic theological roots and frantically embracing a more “ecumenical” worldview, the latest efforts by Pope Francis (who has singlehandedly introduced more unsettling doubt into traditional Catholic theology than any Pope in recent memory), I felt it was time to revisit these questions and see what Bible prophecy has to say about these developments.
This week, I’ll examine what “Unity at All Cost” means in these closing days of the Age of Grace.
God Bless, Hal Lindsey