Well, ladies and gents, here’s a first for the blog: An interview with another blogger! He’s a philosopher and theologian from the United Kingdom, and his new book, God’s Grand Game, is out for sale (the link is below). I gave it a read-over, and as far as it goes, it reminded me that there are plenty of people out there who think quite differently than I do.
The interview will include key ideas from his book, as well as his overall theological stance. It’s mostly written as a collection of short related essays, some from his blog and some specially written for the book.
Now, I’m not here to debate his ideas. They will stand or fall by the grace of God. But here’s what we talked about.
- Your blog is called “Perfect Chaos.” Why choose that name?
Firstly, thank you so much Chris for agreeing to interview me, I always relish the opportunity to share my perspective and my work.
The idea behind my blog’s title is that although activity within existence is seemingly chaotic, in reality God is in perfect control of everything that happens. I started the blog back in 2012, and these two words — perfect chaos — seemed to capture the heart of my philosophy. My views haven’t really changed since then, though they have developed and expanded.
- Who or what would you say has most shaped your outlook as a Christian?
A big turning point in my life was being admitted to psychiatric hospital back in 2007. During that hospital admission I felt compelled to read the Bible for the first time, and spent a great deal of time on my knees praying to God, and copying out chapters from the Bible in my hospital room. Up until that time I had not really understood the Gospel.
Since then I have attended a broad spectrum of churches, from Anglican to Catholic to Evangelical, and I have felt drawn towards different Christian beliefs at different times, all in my search to discover what is ultimately true about reality, God, and this world in which we find ourselves.
Jesus’ claims to be the way, the truth, and the life and the only way to the Father are very compelling to me, but I also believe there are significant problems with the Christian worldview and Christian theology, which are explored in depth in the book.
- Why write and release this book, God’s Grand Game, now? Why do you think this book and message is important to the world here and now?
I believe that the new atheism movement has highlighted many of the shortcomings and inconsistencies of Christian theology, and I felt the issues being raised by prominent atheists such as Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, and others, needed to be addressed. Dismissing the existence of God on the basis of some of the absurdities these thinkers find in the Christian worldview is like throwing out the baby with the bathwater.
I believe in a God who is in control of everything that happens (including all so-called ‘good’ and all so-called ‘evil’) and I haven’t found anyone else arguing for this perspective in a convincing way in our time. My adult life has been characterized by an intense and persistent search for Truth, and I believe God has blessed me with some important insights that it is my life’s purpose to share.
- You say that since God is omnipresent, that nothing can happen independently of Him. What do you say, then, to the concept of the soul, a spirit which is created by God, separate from God, with whom God can interact in both the spiritual and physical realms?
I tend towards a panentheistic perspective, which is the view that all of creation exists within God. So, I feel that all entities, including spiritual entities such as spirits or souls, if they exist, do so within God and are not separate from Him. They are expressions of God.
However, the important point I would make here is that I do not have a solid belief in a soul, because when I have focused intently on the subject and tried to discern what a soul is, I have been unable to understand the nature of such an entity. During my postgraduate studies, I examined this subject in depth, and wrote an essay comparing the soul in Christian thought with the soul in the work of Plato. I found that there is little discussion of what constitutes a soul in the Bible, and that Plato had some quite elaborate ideas concerning the composition of the soul and reincarnation.
I believe consciousness is eternal, and we do live on after death in some form, but I cannot describe what constitutes a person’s ‘soul’ or ‘spirit’ with any clarity.
In God’s Grand Game, there is a chapter on interfaith dialogue, and I believe the subject of the soul is a matter that Eastern religions, in particular Hinduism, have explored in much more detail than the Biblical writers and most Christian theologians. Perhaps there are insights in Eastern philosophy, such as those that relate to the transmigration of souls for instance, which Westerners might find enrich their understanding of reality.
- What would you like visitors to your blog or your book to come away with, as far as a life lesson or a spiritual truth to put into action?
If I’m right and God is in control of everything that happens, this is deeply significant. It means that the kind of human guilt associated with the Christian worldview diminishes drastically, because if we do not have free will then we can never be considered to have sinned freely against God. If God is sovereign over all events, then divine judgment makes little sense, and I hope I make a convincing argument in relation to this in the book.
- If not a treatise on how God’s omnipresence affects our concept of ‘free will,’ what else would you publish a book about?
God’s Grand Game represents the culmination of ten years reflection and study in relation to the divine sovereignty versus human free will problem. On my blog and in my books, I have covered this subject thoroughly, so it’s unlikely that future books will revisit the same subject matter (although I wouldn’t rule out publishing a response to any criticisms of my work). I don’t currently have plans to write another book, but I’d imagine if I do, interfaith dialogue would be a choice topic.
To be honest, I think God’s Grand Game represents an important contribution to philosophical and theological discourse, so I can die happily now with a sense that I’ve achieved something. My focus will be on sharing the insights in this book, including through videos (on my YouTube channel) and future blog posts, rather than writing another book in the foreseeable future.
- How did preparing this book affect you as a Christian and as a philosopher?
The Christian worldview represents a huge predicament for me, because I love the words of Jesus and the feeling of truth I get from reading the Bible. However, the explorations that led me to eventually write this book have emboldened me to speak out about the areas of Christian theology that don’t make a lot of sense, and to cast them in a new light.
I think God has been preparing me to write this book for my whole life. If my reason for existing could be captured in a book, that’s what God’s Grand Game does. So, I really hope those reading this interview will give the book a read, whatever their faith background, and I’m always open to dialogue and feedback — especially when it comes to vital questions such as free will, salvation, judgment, and the afterlife, all of which are discussed in the book.
God’s Grand Game is available worldwide as a paperback, hardback, and eBook, through Amazon and all other major retailers.
Whether or not you agree with what he says, it’s always good to remember that we’ll encounter many people in our time on earth with whom we will disagree. It’s a healthy practice to learn how other people think, and what they think about, so that we may, in all things, be prepared to give an answer for the hope we have.
God be with you all, and again a huge thanks to Steven Colborne! Check out his blog at perfectchaos.org for more of his insights and ideas.