Reconciling Richards and Sheldrake
I admire both these men almost more than I can say. And yet… Hero Sheldrake has told me in person that he doesn’t like Intelligent Design. Hero Richards has made a career of defending Intelligent Design.
Both are Christians, which is to say (among other things) that God is, for both, the Ultimate Reality. Both, presumably, declare that we, and the universe we inhabit, are His creatures, that we humans are made in His image. Christianity, following Judaism, tells the story of Man’s disobedience, of his voluntary rejection of God’s Grace.
Christianity, following on from Judaism tells the sublime story of God’s response – He allows us (as individuals) to undo our racial rejection of Him. Incarnate Man, he undid our rejection. Most of those to whom I will email a link to this blog reject this assertion. But that is the essence of the Christian faith. For Baptists, Orthodox Christians and the rest of our sadly divided brethren, this is it!
Perhaps it is absurd for us to worry about anything else. But Christianity is not quite so simple, unless I am needlessly complicating things. A dozen times a day, more I hope, I utter the ‘Jesus’ prayer: ‘Lord, Jesus Christ, Son of God, be merciful to me, a sinner’. Jay and Rupert will join me, unhesitatingly.
I don’t think that what I believe about the details of how and why we came to our current relationship with God are ultimately important; but I do think they are important.
The difference between Richards and Sheldrake is this: that Sheldrakes’s world is necessarily more complicated. He supposes consciousness at every level: God and His creation, then Universe, Galaxy, Solar System and Planet. He may be right. We will only know when we know as we are known. My lifetime admiration for CS Lewis inclines me to think that this is probably true. I don’t think that my salvation depends upon it. My favourite sentence from the Mass is: Lord, I am not worthy that Thou shouldst enter under my roof; but only say the word and my soul shall be healed.
Sheldrake gives credit up and up to the Creator for what we are and how we are made. Richards does not concern himself with the layers between Biology and the Creator (or, indeed with the layers below). But this is not to say that he denies that they exist.
Design and purpose have got to be, for every Christian, God’s design and God’s purpose. I am hugely impressed with Sheldrake’s work. Is God’s purpose mediated through our families, our race, our species, the Animal Kingdom, the Living World, our planet, the Solar System, this Galaxy, the whole Universe? Did He create us as elements of the Universe, this Galaxy, the Solar System, our planet, the Living World, the Animal Kingdom, our species, our race and our families. If so, so what? At every Mass we eat God’s flesh and drink His blood. This is all the mediation we need.
Lord, Jesus Christ, be merciful to me a sinner.
Rupert, every word you write helps to illuminate the world, to sanctify us. I don’t deny anything you say. The Lord bless you and keep you… You too, Jay.