In this article Ong asks the question, "In today's technological society, what does religion expect of scholarship, in particular, of humanistic scholarship?"  Ong begins to address this question by discussing the history of the concept of the humanities, mainly that the humanities consists of the educational culture of a particular time.  Ong writes that the humanities is the umbrella for activities involving language and literature while including philosophy, history, religion, sociology, anthropology, mathematics, fine arts, and other related subjects.

As technology becomes more rampant, religion encounters change (a topic discussed in an earlier article, "Christian Values at Mid-Twentieth Century").  Religion, in the past, put focus on the relation of humanity to nature, but humanity continues to separate itself from nature through technology even though technology has created the potential for people to have increased intimacy.  But society has let that potential alone, leaving people with a feeling of loneliness and alienation.  The world has changed, and society must find new ways to express itself through religion to overcome the present sense of loneliness and alienation.

Technology has caused the world to implode.  The world is no longer separated but tied together with technology.  The sense of isolation and alienation creates a focus on people and their problems as they look for a cure to their sorrows.  Pairing these things together creates massive human potential; however, humanity, because of technology, is no longer under the control of nature, but in control of it.  The existence of humanity has changed as it stands outside of nature.  This is where the problem lies.  How does humanity express itself when it has achieved a level of mastery over the physical world?  Nature no longer serves as a mother to humanity.

The change in the relationship between humanity and nature changes the relationship between God and humanity as well.  Ong suggests that humanity needs to be resituated within the physical world so that people can see themselves in relation to the cosmos.  Society has placed too much emphasis on one's relation with one's self and, as a result, humanity's relationship with nature has become less intimate.  This lost intimacy needs to be reattained.

Recent scholarship tends to seek in the past what might bear on the present.  Ong believes that this is where we must look for the resituation of man to occur.  In addition, Ong believes the growing trend of anthropology can contribute to the resituation of humanity.  Anthropology is useful because it deals with humanity and its relation to its environment, and religion is a unifying force that deals with salvation and the entire context of that salvation.  Scholarship must serve religion by maintaining the human interior and resituating it in the exterior world.

Mark E. Johnson
Communication
University of Dayton
 

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