In this article, Ong explains why the present is a "post-Christendom" age, but not a "post-Christian" one.  Even though there are far more Christians -- and Catholics -- than at any previous time, he states, most of the world remains "pre-Christian."  It "has not yet had Christian revelation effectively proclaimed to it."

Ong identifies Eurocentricism as the crucial limitation for Christendom, which began in the Middle Ages and defined Christianity in European terms.  These Christians' stated that their motivation for imposing their faith on non-Christians "heathens" and "infidels" was to save their souls.  Ong suggests that they were also attracted by opportunities to wield power over others and acquire land and wealth.  To illustrate the "Christendom mentality," he quotes Hilaire Belloc's claim that "The Church is Europe, and Europe is the Church."

Ong steadily expands his observations from continent to globe and finally universe.  He praises the current spread of the Church through an "inculturation" that does not impose a Europeanized version.  It implants the faith "in ways that are effectively built into each particular culture."  (See Ong's article "Mass in Ewondo" for an example of such inculturation in action.)

Ong's cosmic view of the Church incorporates history, matter, time, and an ecological "theology of religions" that does not terminate in Christendom's "walled fortress" of Catholic, Christian, and Judeo-Christian doctrine.  It embraces probability rather than certainty and welcomes the "new implications of Christianity" that are discovered through connections with non-European cultures.  He concludes that such expansive and evolutionary thinking can hardly be "post-Christian."

Terry Morris
University of Dayton
 

Return to Listings