If present trends continue the future of Christianity is bleak (at least in the West).
If secular Leftism triumphs, then I would foresee all church hierarchies being completely subverted to Leftism - or else crushed.
Therefore Christianity will survive but only in an extreme protestant form, dispersed in small and secret groups (such as 'home churches'); without the aid of sacraments and priests, based on scripture (perhaps memorized? if printed copies are suppressed) and prayer.
If another religion triumphs, then Christianity will survive but only by submission, and by acceptance of permanent second class (and exploited) political status.
This would require that Christians be cohesive, and they would necessarily be coerced into a single (small 'c') catholic denominational unit - and the Christianity would therefore be episcopal and sacramentally based (the church controlling the sacraments).
But Christianity will survive, that we have been promised, by the prophecies - however these also say Christianity will, by the end, be small - Christians will be few.
What 'few' means in terms of actual numbers is unknown - but certainly implies a small minority of Men.
Will those few be few and scattered? Or few and a single cohesive unit? Who knows...
I question whether the furtive house church scenario means no access to the sacraments. It is admitted by all Christians, I think, that lay-administered Baptism may be valid, true Baptism -- at least in the case of emergency. Isn't that so? Roman Catholicism and perhaps Orthodoxy contend that only a man consecrated to the priesthood may confect the Sacrament of the Lord's Supper and that valid priestly orders descend only through the lineage of those who have themselves received such orders, going back to the apostles. It is to be questioned whether this is the biblical doctrine. Rather, may not the Christians in some place appoint for themselves some man and appoint him to the sacramental ministry? (See Titus 1:5.) It is agreed that no one should simply announce that he is going to celebrate the Sacrament of Holy Communion; he must have a valid call from the church. But must that necessitate the laying on of hands from a priest or bishop?
It is also sometimes said that episcopacy is necessary for valid ordination, but this is questionable; it is at least arguable that the distinction between bishop and priest, however venerable, is not something that is of the very Faith itself. I think even St. Jerome and other Fathers recognized this.
I thus believe it is possible that, in a scenario of secrecy and persecution such as you propose, the Faithful will continue to gather together to receive the Sacrament, even if the clergy in their area have all been killed or imprisoned. Extreme circumstances will compel new looks at what the Bible and the ancient Church say, and perhaps some things that seem non-negotiable now will not prove to be so. Conversely, the Christians of those times may also come to see that some things that, at present, seem debatable, are not, the matter having been settled long ago as attested in the prophetic and apostolic Scriptures.
I think also that, in a time of secrecy and persecution such as you propose, Christians who are now outwardly separated may be brought together by the Spirit and that they will learn from one another, sharing their best and receiving from others correction of their faults.
@Dale - I agree with you. This would count as a third way, perhaps - a re-foundation which could be approached either from a protestant or a catholic direction; or both simultaneously, as a reunification in extreme adversity.
You need a name for these oppressed Christians. I propose "Copts".
I feel greatly honored by your comment...
When I traveled to Egypt, I spoke with a cousin of mine who wished to immigrate. I asked him what was wrong was Egypt, he told me "It is fine, but there are many problems between the Christians and the Muslims here. The good thing about Europe and America is that everyone is Christian."
I didn't have the heart to tell him that things are rapidly changing. Indeed, depending on how things pan out, persecution in Western countries may be even worse than in Egypt...
If anything though, hard as it is believe, I do agree that this may be an opportunity for Christians to reunite. So perhaps there is a blessing hidden under all of this in the end.
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