Don Cupitt - An Enemy of Biblical Christianity

The Former Church of England Deacon Who Has Sought to Undermine Christianity for a Quarter of a Century

Because of the tiny materialistic world which he inhabits, Cupitt is actually saying (possibly without realising it), that to read his work is merely to waste several hours of your time and several hours of mine; after all, he believes that there are no great or eternal truths out there, just us and our limited and fallible minds...

Who is Don Cupitt?

Born in 1934 and ordained as a deacon in the Church of England in 1960, this man came to the British public's attention in 1980 with his highly controversial book, 'Taking Leave of God,' later following this up with his 1984 BBC television series 'Sea of Faith,' in which orthodox Christian beliefs were attacked in quite a sustained fashion. Somewhat like America's "bishop" Spong, this retired church deacon may be seen as a clear enemy of the biblical Christian Faith since, despite being a 'member' of the Church of England, he has clearly attacked just about every single tenet of Christianity, indeed, he has claimed sympathy towards atheism.

Yet Don Cupitt's work is not theology although many - mistakenly - continue to refer to him as a "Christian theologian" - rather, he works in the world of philosophy, but this is assuredly not 'Christian philosophy,' his work may be concluded as operating in a highly Buddhism-influenced world of non-realism which continually confronts religious ideas and concepts in a Naturalistic setting with, in later years, a rich flavour of post-modernism added. Hardly surprising, therefore, that confusion, inconsistency and contradiction may be found in his works. This is largely because his influences have constantly moved on.

In his youth, he was initially strongly impressed by the philosophical writings of Hume and Kant. Later on he became very much absorbed in Kierkegaard and in existentialism, coming to revel in the general area of Christian mysticism.

This early period directly led to his highly controversial book, 'Taking Leave of God' (1980) which caused a storm within Anglicanism, but this would also be Cupitt’s last book in his early Kantian/Kierkegaard manner. This book radically affected his career and made him, in the view of general British Christian opinion, an outright atheist - and should the Church of England give support to atheists?? The storm gradually subsided and Cupitt survived, mainly because the then Archbishop of Canterbury, Robert Runcie (a sadly compromised and pathetically dyed-in-the-wool liberal if ever there was one), gave Cupitt his full support. Perhaps few things have so grievously undermined the Church of England than this dreadful act and Runcie's amazingly myopic foolishness in giving support to Cupitt seems to have been one of the major things which started to initiate a steady stream of people leaving the ranks of Anglicanism during the next few years.

Don Cupitt.

For several years Cupitt remained a central figure in his 'Sea of Faith' network (the very term suggesting the hopeless spiritual confusion which is exactly what the grouping represents). During the early 1980s, Cupitt became highly influenced by Nietzsche, and then became absorbed in the worldview of Richard Rorty. Rorty, who died in 2007, being the American socialist liberal 'heavyweight' philosopher who was so commited to Secularism and an avowed enemy of Christian evangelicalism. By about 1990, Cupitt had also clearly absorbed the early writings of Jacques Derrida and French postmodernism.

Cupitt has described himself as a 'Christian Non-realist,' his meaning being that he follows certain spiritual practices and attempts to live by the ethical standards found within Christianity, yet without believing in the actual existence of the underlying entities (he does not believe in a literal "Christ" or "God," or in "Satan," or in angels). Cupitt's own website outlines his 'Christian Non-realism' in the following manner,

"In religion, the move to non-realism implies the recognition that all religious and ethical ideas are human, with a human history. We give up the old metaphysical and cosmological way of understanding religious belief, and translate dogma into spirituality (a spirituality is a religious lifestyle). We understand all religious doctrines in practical terms, as guiding myths to live by, in the way that Kant, Kierkegaard and Bultmannn began to map out. We abandon ideas of objective and eternal truth, and instead see all truth as a human improvisation. We should give up all ideas of a heavenly or supernatural world-beyond..." (source:

This, of course, is a destructive philosophy to Biblical Christianity for, in the Cupittian world, religion can never be more than a human construction, and all religions never more than a mere collectivism of people's superstitious ideas and concepts. So steeped in the assumptions of philosophical Naturalism (to which, as we have seen, he later added some of the most destructive aspects of post-modernism), Cupitt rejects all ideas of gaining salvation by escaping from this present world. He sees true religion only in terms of attaining joy in life, and in an active attempt to add value to human life through the practice of so-called 'humanitarian,' charitable and altruistic initiatives. The present ‘Human Life’ is all that there is, for Cupitt, its all we have, and all we ever will have.

So Cupitt's writings can justly and fairly be described as a man groping in the dark for some sort of spiritual meaning to life despite having comprehensively rejected the biblical revelation and, indeed, any possible concept of divine revelation or even of the possibility of a supernatural world; this being the case, the work of Cupitt (and many similar writers) is necessarily contradictory. By the rules which he himself imposes, his ideas can never be more than the imaginations and ramblings of his own mind - they cannot be eternal truths! For Cupitt rejects any concept of 'eternal truth' or indeed of eternity itself; this being so, his ideas may be rejected with ease for they become - necessarily - no better than your ideas or my ideas. Because of the tiny materialistic world which he inhabits, Cupitt is actually saying (possibly without realising it), that to read his work is merely to waste several hours of your time and mine; after all, he believes that there are no great or eternal truths out there, just us and our limited and fallible minds.

Plainly Don Cupitt is not a man of the community of the faithful and, despite referring to himself as a 'Christian Non-realist,' cannot (rather like 'bishop' Spong) be considered as a believer in the Christ in any meaningful shape or form, his work really belonging to the world of the most atheistic form of philosophy (who was it who said that 'philosophy without theism can only be a useless philosophy'?), just allowing for a dash of Buddhist influence. Rather like Spong, Cupitt has added nothing to a better understanding and application of Christianity.
Robin A. Brace, November, 2008.