In this article, Ong responds to a book by Edward Elton Young Hales, The Catholic Church in the Modern World (Garden City, NY:  Hanover House, 1958), in which Hales traces the Catholic Church's interaction with the secular world from the time of the French Revolution to the present.

While Ong believes that the "politico-religious" approach used by Hales is worthwhile, he also believes that this approach cannot fully express the Church's relationship with the world.  It cannot do so, Ong asserts, because the modern conception of the state and politics has changed as scientific discoveries have shown that human beings are only one small part of the cosmos.  In fact, for a Christian such as Ong, the physical world and his relationship to that world is important, so important that as what he knows about the physical world changes through scientific discoveries, he believes that he and other Christians must change their theology to absorb those new discoveries.

The problem with Hales' approach, Ong says, is that it downplays the Church's role by not taking into account the cosmos as the arena in which the Church operates.  While Ong acknowledges that a politico-religious approach is necessary at the lower levels of education, for it is easy enough for young people to understand, he would like to see adults looking at these issues through a more complex lens.  In order to have a significant impact in the present, Ong concludes, people must have the future in mind rather than just the past.

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