After establishing the premise for this article, Ong identifies three periods in Western history in which Christianity and non-religious disciplines were interrelated. The first period occurred during ancient times in Greece and Rome, when Christianity adopted the rhetorical method used in formal education. The use of rhetoric in religion was especially compatible in the case of Christianity, for Christianity (like Judaism and, to some extent, Mohammedanism) is a religion that focuses on direct communication with God (as opposed to focusing on objects, as Hinduism and Buddhism do). This merging of rhetoric and religion resulted in sixteenth-century works such as St. Ignatius' Spiritual Exercises, in which the exercises are not a "routine" like those found in yoga or other meditative practices but involve a "dialogue" between an individual and God.
The second period Ong describes in this article is the medieval period, in which Christianity and physics merged to create a scientific theology. Summarizing many of the ideas put forth in earlier articles, Ong explains how physics was the driving force behind medival scholasticism while theology got little attention in the curriculum. Still, in its own realm, theology took on the scientizing method of other disciplines and adopted the silent, visual, non-rhetorical method of physics. As a result, God was no longer thought of as a speaker but as an architect or mason, both of which are much more visual images of God. Eventually, the "I" and "Thou" relationship between an individual and God disappeared, and God was thought of as a "force," like that expressed in Newtonian physics.
The third period Ong describes is that of the nineteenth century, when the growth spurt in biology (especially concerning ideas about evolution) created more emphasis on the physical realm in theology. The physical aspect of Christ's being became a focus of attention, particularly in the Catholic Church, as did a focus on linear, progressive history, which was present in both theological and evolutionary views of the world.
In the last part of this article, Ong reflects on the third period in
which theology and non-religious disciplines intersected, especially how
religious and scientific attitudes affected the nineteenth and twentieth
century perceptions of history. Using what he calls a Catholic point-of-view
in this reflection, Ong explores the issue of truth in history, asserting
that Christian revelation came into being through time. As time progressed,
Christian revelation became "fuller and fuller" as the Hebrew people came
into being, as Christ came out of that people, and as the Apostles responded
to Christ. After the death of Christ, people wait for the Second
Coming and revelation. Ong believes that to do God's work as one
waits for the Second Coming requires that one stand at the front of history,
just as Christ did.