There used to be three ecclesiologies (teachings as to what the Church is), but last month we saw the birth of a fourth. What are these ecclesiologies?
- Orthodox Ecclesiology (‘Christianity’)
This is the ecclesiology of the Holy Trinity, Unity in Diversity. It is the ecclesiology of the Family of Churches, which together form the Body of Christ, of which obviously Christ is the Head. In practical, that is, incarnational terms, this results in the existence of a family of Churches, like those described by the Apostle Paul in his letters to the Corinthians, the Ephesians, the Thessalonians, the Philippians, the Romans etc. Their differences and problems are regulated by Councils. Indeed, this conciliarity, in theology and history called Catholicity, is one of the four basic signs of the Church, together with Oneness, Holiness and Apostolicity. Therefore, a ‘Church’ which does not have this Catholicity is not the Church, certainly not the fullness of the Church, as it is deficient in one of the Church’s four essential qualities.
- Papal Ecclesiology (‘Papocaesarism’)
Papal or Roman Catholic ecclesiology asserts that the Church is centralist and imperialist. There is only one Pope, Who as the Vicar of Christ is the Head of the Church. This is the ecclesiology of centralism, which cannot survive without the Pope, Who is Infallible, as He is the source of the Holy Spirit on earth. This is the ecclesiology of the Crusader, the Inquisitor and the Conquistador.
- Protestant Ecclesiology (‘Caesaropapism’)
As a reaction to centralist Papism, this says that you can make your own church, everyone is a pope, everyone is the head of their own church: ‘Make it up as you go along: we are all popes now’. If you disagree, you go off and start your own church. Inevitably, and from the very start, this leads to small, weak and divided groups being taken over by States, kings, princes, presidents and politicians, a process known as erastianism, whereby the State controls the Church. Inevitably, and from the very start, this has led to State Churches, phenomena like the Church of England, the Church of Scotland, the Church of Norway. These are all State-controlled organizations, which inevitably end up adapting their doctrines to the demands of the secular State.
- Phanariot Ecclesiology (‘Eastern Papism’)
This power-grabbing ecclesiology, which has been a century in the making in the Diaspora has just now been born in all its fullness in the Ukraine. It is in effect not Orthodox ecclesiology, but a mixture of Roman Catholic and Protestant ecclesiologies, Papocaesarism and Caesaropapism. On the one hand, it is centralizing Papism: all must be gathered together under the Patriarch of Constantinople, who is the ‘Eastern Pope’ (not ‘Western Pope’). On the other hand, it gives what it calls ‘autocephaly’, in reality only a diminished autocephaly or minor measure of independence, to any Church within any nationalist organization or ‘State’ – even though that ‘State’ may be new, temporary, artificial and tyrannical or even already have an authentic Orthodox Church on its territory.
In other words, this new imperialist/nationalist ecclesiology is a combination of the worst of both the Papal and the Protestant worlds. It is a pastiche of authentic Trinitarian Orthodox ecclesiology. On the one hand, it is centralizing, able to exploit its new ‘churches’ as subservient cash cows. On the other hand, it provides a measure of independence to pseudo-autocephalous entities, but no protection for them from the local dictatorship, even in dogmatic questions. For the local ‘State’ can demand and force changes in doctrines in accordance with its own demands, which subordinate Christ to its nationalism. Thus, Phanariot ecclesiology does not affirm Local Churches, it only affirms, Protestant-style, the right of ‘States’ to have their own ‘Churches’. In other words, it merely uses Protestant-style nationalism to increase its own power base. Therefore, this is a double heresy.