How in heaven’s name could a supernova result in the church being one?
Last week I asked how the church will ever be one. Especially since the Enlightenment created a “nova effect.” A nova is an exploding star. The sixteenth century marks the beginning of an explosion in the Western world of individualized ‘takes’ on what’s true.
This became a “spiritual super-nova” in the twentieth century. A supernova is hyper-individualism permeating the Western segment of the church, fragmenting oneness. If you doubt it, read Divided We Fall: Overcoming a History of Christian Disunity by Luder Whitlock. He believes contemporary Protestants aren’t concerned enough about oneness. This is especially true of evangelicals, an especially entrepreneurial tradition that thrives in the “free market” environment of American Christianity, but often at the cost of oneness.
Whitlock sees ways that oneness might be restored. He’s a respected voice worth listening to. I’m not. But last week I did suggest a scenario where American Christianity never achieves oneness with the worldwide church. I got that from googling supernova. In a supernova, there are only two possible outcomes. The first is a black hole. This develops when the core mass exceeds three solar masses. The star implodes. The core’s gravitational field is so intense that nothing escapes. Not even light. The supernova disappears.
So might the modern Western segment of the church. It’s not that radical a thought. In the Western world before the Enlightenment, it was believed the visible world is an “image” or an “icon” of the invisible. Physics was a subdiscipline of theology. Physics tells us how the physical world functions. Theology tells us why it operate this way, what it depicts. In this model, a black hole could depict a spiritual reality, the Western church disappearing into a black hole in history. It could happen. Look at the ten tribes of Israel. They disappeared.
The second possible outcome is a neutron star. This forms when elements heavier than iron absorb rather than produce energy. An iron core is built up. When it becomes too massive, it collapses. If the core’s mass is less than about three solar masses, the collapse continues until the core consists almost entirely of neutrons which are compressed in a volume only 12 miles across but whose combined weight equals that of several Suns. A teaspoonful would weigh 50 billion tons on Earth. Such an object is called a neutron star.
A neutron star could depict a tiny core of Christians returning the church to oneness. How?
In his book “Against Heresies,” Irenaeus described the “core of the Tradition” held by the worldwide church. Note the word heresies. Before the Enlightenment, a heretic was someone who made their own decisions about what to believe. In a supernova, practically everyone makes their own decisions about what to believe. A tiny core of Christians, a neutron star, wouldn’t. They’d return to the Tradition. This could result in the church being one.
It could happen. The sons of Judah were a tiny core of Judeans. They recognized how for 500 years the nation of Judah had been making its own decisions about what to believe. They recognized the result: exile. This tiny core of Judeans returned to the ancient paths.
In like manner, for 500 years most of the Western segment of the church has been making its own decisions about what to believe. A tiny core of Christians, a neutron star, could return to the West to the ancient paths, to the Tradition. Oneness could result, the very thing Jesus prayed for. The world might believe God sent Jesus into the world.
You might think this scenario is nuts. At least I’m serious about restoring oneness. I haven’t been for most of my Christian life. For decades I sort of assumed, yeah, sure, God’s church, Jesus’ bride, we’re one. I was wrong. We’re not. Leaders like Luder Whitlock recognize our disunity. Advent, a season of repentance, is a good time to contemplate whether you recognize it as well.
 Charles Taylor, A Secular Age (The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2007), 300.
 Lesslie Newbigin, The Gospel in a Pluralistic Society (Eerdmans, 1989), 39-40.