Saturday, December 26, 2020

Rupert Sheldrake's Christian faith

Rupert Sheldrake, PhD, is a biologist and author best known for his hypothesis of morphic resonance. At Cambridge University he worked in developmental biology as a Fellow of Clare College. He was Principal Plant Physiologist at the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics in Hyderabad, India. From 2005 to 2010 he was Director of the Perrott-Warrick project for research on unexplained human and animal abilities, funded by Trinity College, Cambridge. [1]

Sheldrake explains his faith in God in his book The Rebirth of Nature: The Greening of Science and God. He begins a chapter on “The Greening of God” by noting: “If nature is alive, she can be thought of as entirely autonomous, with no need for God.” But “if God exists,” God must “be the God of a living world.”

As a young man Sheldrake was attracted to “the religious traditions of the East,” because it seemed to him that Christianity had “lost contact with mystical insight, visionary experience, a sense of the life of nature, and the power of ritual.” He lived and worked in India for several years, staying for a year and a half in Tamil Nadu in the ashram of Bede Griffiths, a Benedictine monk. Much to his surprise, Sheldrake writes, through this experience he was “drawn back to Christianity.”[2]

In The Rebirth of Nature Sheldrake affirms a “new, evolutionary view of God,” as described in a 1981 book entitled The Liberation of Life: From Cell to the Community: “God is not the world, and the world is not God. But God includes the world, and the world includes God. God perfects the world and the world perfects God. There is no world apart from God and there is no God apart from some world. Of course there are differences. Whereas no world can exist without God, God can exist without this world. Not only our planet but the whole universe may disappear and be superseded by something else, and God will continue. But since God, like all living things, only perfectly, embodies the principle of internal relations, God’s life depends on there being some world to include.”[3] The authors of this “evolutionary” view of God? Two process Christian theologians, Charles Birch and John B. Cobb, Jr.

In an interview on YouTube,[4] Sheldrake describes God as ”a being, a conscious being—as consciousness itself.” He sees God as representing the same ultimate source of all that is, like the Hindu notion of Brahman—“the ground of all being, all existence, all consciousness—the being who sustains the universe.”

Sheldrake finds meaning in both the Hindu and Christian traditions of a divine trinity. God the father, the ground of all. God the Son, the Logos, the order or form of all that is becoming. God the Spirit, the active and energetic nature of God. “Speaking involves both a flow of air and words that may be understood—a combination of Spirit and Logos. God the father is the source of both speaking and energy in the universe.” Sheldrake attends worship in the Church of England near his home and finds comfort and meaning in traditional Christian prayer, in the liturgical events of the Christian calendar, and in the sacraments.


2 Rupert Sheldrake, the Rebirth of Nature: The Greening of Science and God (Rochester, VT: Park Street Press, 1991, 1994), 184.

3 Charles Birch and John B. Cobb, Jr., The Liberation of Life: From the Cell to the Community (Cambridge University Press, 1981), 1981), 196-97.


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