I have posted this article before, but it is so good that I’m posting it again. This time, I am going to try to define its central terms. I want to do this because the article is long and extremely complex. Not easy or light reading for sure! The author goes into a lot of detail that is super interesting, but a bit distracting. Even so, he gets to the heart of the matter, and in order to understand him, the most important terms need to be clearly identified and defined. By so doing I think I will be able to convey the argument.
1) Ecclesial means “pertaining to the church.” It comes to us from Greek.
2) A quick summary of the terms “deism” and “theism.”
Deism is the belief that God exists, but he doesn’t care about us. He created us and the whole universe, but leaves us alone to manage our lives on our own.
Theism is the belief that God exists, but he is a personal God who cares deeply for us and for all of creation.
An easy way to remember the difference between deism and theism is in this expression: “God is in control.” That can only be said by somebody who is a theist. A deist would never say such a thing.
3) When we put “ecclesial” together with “deism,” as we see in the link above, we have the idea that an impersonal God created the church but then left her to manage her affairs, her heirarchy, and her authority on her own. An ecclesial deist does not believe that Christ remained in control of his church from her inception, keeping her from error. Since Christ is not in control of the church according to the ecclesial deist, she can fall into error in regards to Christ’s teachings on faith and morals.
4) When we put “ecclesial” together with “theism,” we have the idea that Jesus Christ, who is God, created the church and has always been with her, guiding her and caring for her deeply. He did not ever leave her, but remains with her forever. Like her husband Christ, she is both human and divine. We see the human parts easily; the divine parts are harder to discern. Being perpetually guided by her husband Christ, she has never erred in her teachings on faith and morals.
The author never puts the terms “ecclesial theism,” together in the article, but I think these definitions get to the heart of the matter pretty well.