Christian Themes

(Literary Essentials: Christian Fiction and Nonfiction)

Ong’s account of the sensory shifts in human media must be viewed against the background of his Christian evolutionary optimism. Influenced in part by the cosmological speculations of Teilhard de Chardin, Ong insisted (in American Catholic Crossroads: Religious-Secular Encounters in the Modern World, 1959) that “once the fact of evolution (of the cosmos, of life, and of our knowledge) is known, the Christian must recognize as God’s work this upward movement in the universe, from brute matter to inorganic matter to man, and in human society from disjointed, less self-aware forms of social consciousness to a global awareness.” In his collection In the Human Grain: Further Explorations of Contemporary Culture (1967), published just before The Presence of the Word, Ong assertedIn the past it was easy to identify God with what man did not know of the universe. . . . Such a concept of God . . . makes God only a substitute for physical science, with the result that, as our knowledge grows, God becomes less and less necessary. . . . The God of Judeo-Christian revelation manifests himself in what men know of the universe, not in what they do not know. . . . Early man’s ignorance deformed his religious sensibility and . . . predisposed his religion to superstition. . . . The Christian dispensation is closely tied to the evolution of the material world, and to its very materiality. For the Christian, matter, changing in...

(The entire section is 484 words.)