In this article, Ong challenges the concept of a "post-Christian era."  He states that the term is misleading and should be referenced as "post-Christendom."  To paraphrase Ong, Christendom is an inculturated, Eurocentric, Christian worldview closely allied with power, politics, and the advanced technology of war and conquest, roughly originating with Constantine prior to the Dark Ages.  Essentially, this worldview visualized a mechanistic universe in which time was discarded as "disposable waste," while Christians awaited an eternal life after death.  Ong claims that difficulties are inevitable in the attempt to dissociate essential Christianity from its cultural artifacts.  While Christendom may represent a soon-to-be obsolete worldview, Christianity continues to evolve as the human species gleans more knowledge, through technological (electronic) advances, from its own planet and the cosmos.  Indeed, Ong states "human consciousness is the point at which the universe becomes and remains self-conscious, aware of its own existence in the consciousness of each individual human being, and thereby becomes capable of receiving the Good News of Jesus Christ as human beings, Lord and brother and redeemer."

Ong claims youth for the Church and Christianity and announces that in many ways we live in a "pre-Christian era."  Real time in the real cosmos is a constituent of matter.  Life only exists in "old matter."  Christ became Incarnate in a cosmos 1.5 billion years old, in a species that is approximately 150,000 years old.  Thus a Christian theology, of necessity, must be ecological, evolutionary, and ecumenical.  Ong advocates a "theology of religions," which recognizes Christianity’s continuity with and supplementation by other religious worldviews.  Ong states:  "Christian theology is not a walled fortress but, necessarily expressed in language, is necessarily open to dialogue with others."

Ong envisions further expansion of Christianity through an organic process of growth, much like the leavening effect of yeast on dough.  He emphasizes our sacred responsibilities on both physical and psychological levels in a cosmic model that incorporates the Heisenberg uncertainty principle, i.e. "in certain situations we inevitably only know details of the physical universe with probability rather than certainty."  Therefore, our interactions with the material world are often subject to unpredictability.  We participate in a mystery pregnant with both potential joys and agonies.  Ong also addresses aspects of this topic in 1989 in "Realizing Catholicism, Faith, Learning in the Future."

Joyce Olszewski Applewhite
University of Dayton

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