David John AYOTTE, SJ. Globalization and Multicultural Ministry: A Teilhardian Vision. New York/Manwah, NJ: Paulist Press, 2012.  pp. 200. $29.95 pb. ISBN 978-0-8091-4816-5. Reviewed by Ann SWANER, Barry University, Miami Shores, FL 33161.

David Ayotte argues that economic, political, and cultural models of globalization, while important, are inadequate to understand, interpret and respond to the phenomenon of globalization.  What is needed is a theological vision of a global Christ and he finds that in the work, especially the Christology and the ecclesiology, of Teilhard de Chardin. To understand globalization, Ayotte says ”requires a capacity to see more clearly that the world as a whole is growing as an organism, a mind, and a person.” (p. 145)

In the first section of the book he reviews Teilhard’s biography, his education, his formative experience as a stretcher-bearer in World War I, his scientific work, his writings, and the lifetime ban on publishing his work imposed by his Jesuit superiors.  He then summarizes Teilhard’s vision of “planetization,” his word for globalization., as developed mainly in The Human Phenomenon and The Divine Milieu. The noosphere, a common mind or consciousness is the organizing principle of globalization. The Omega Point is its end. For Teilhard, to understand globalization we need to understand evolution as having a telos and we need to see the world as a “person-in-formation;” that person is the Cosmic Christ.  Ayotte then talks about Teilhard’s understanding of revelation as a process and the “four senses of scripture.”

He describes how the Christian tradition, starting with Paul, developed the four senses both for biblical interpretation and for discernment of the signs of the times in nature and history.  These four senses are the historical (literal) sense, the allegorical sense, the tropological (moral) sense, and the anagogical (eschatological) sense. In the second section of the book Ayotte devotes a chapter to each of these senses in order to interpret globalization theologically and to situate Teilhard’s thought squarely in the Christian theological tradition. In discussing the historical sense he describes how a shift to a Teilhardian worldview changes how we understand politics, economics, culture, and religion. The allegorical sense reveals a soul within the history of globalization: “Together this body-soul, expressive of the whole Christ, calls all of humanity into participation in the divine mission of greater personalization of all the forces within globalism.” (p. 147)  A Teilhardian ethic focuses more on fullness of life than on a minimalist avoidance of sin and is the external form of the internal mystical union of the daily loving of the whole Christ.  Ayotte applies Teilhard’s ethical criteria to a consideration of scientific research, the United Nations, and global leadership as examples of a new focus on global responsibility. The chapter on the anagogical sense discusses Teilhard’s understanding of death, the Omega Point, the Parousia, Purgatory, the communion of saints, and the place of eschatology in renewing the missionary life of the Church

Finally Ayotte emphasizes the importance of discernment, “that spiritual art of recognition of the specific presence of the Holy Spirit active and inviting to action.” (p. 152) He calls discernment the glue that holds the four senses together. He draws on the Jesuit methods of discernment outlined in Ignatius’s Spiritual Exercises and on criteria suggested by Henri de Lubac and Karl Rahner. He also looks to the wisdom of liberation theology; it is when the church stands with the poorest that the true nature of globalization is revealed. He suggests that the Church leadership attend to a “rediscernment” of the contribution of Teilhard de Chardin.

The book is well organized, clearly written, and thoroughly documented.  It presents a challenging vision of the role of the Church in developing the positive dimensions of globalization as the world moves toward greater unity and personalization and in confronting the evil, depersonalizing expressions of globalization, especially as they affect the poor and marginalized. Ayotte offers the hope that the reader “may have an experience of the vibrant and creative theology that Teilhard offers not only in reinterpreting globalization but also as a source for renewal of the Church’s own self-understanding and mission.” (p.10)

I think the book might be beyond the reach of most undergraduates but would certainly be suitable and helpful for graduate students and anyone interested in a theological interpretation of globalization and the mission of the church.