Review and Critique of Steven Colborne’s New Book, “God’s Grand Game”

(Image Courtesy of JESHOOTS.com via UnSplash)

Checkout Steven Colborne’s blog out here: https://perfectchaos.org/

This is the first review/critique I’ve done for a contemporary author. Steven Colborne just released his new book, God’s Grand Game: Divine Sovereignty and the Cosmic Playground and allowed me to read an advanced copy for review. So I would like to thank him for that and direct you all to the book’s website here:
https://geni.us/godsgrandgame

In this book, Colborne argues that the “thing” holding the space-time universe together is God. In fact, the entire book is an outline of how God is the Sustainer of the cosmos. I struggle to categorize his perspective because, I feel, it is incomplete and evolving. However, there are certain elements that come through about his writing that I will touch on: quasi-Berkeleianism, presuppositionalism, evidentialism, and existentialism. Quasi-Berkeleian because, while not denying the existence of material things, he believes that the existence of material things depends upon God (whether through God’s thoughts or simply his permeating, sustaining power – I do not know). He certainly is a theo-constructivist in the least. He also has the basic tenet of Christian Presuppositionalism: God is assumed to exist. However, this is not true Van Tillian presuppositionalism because Colborne proceeds to give his evidentialist reasons for believing God exists. These are better understood as rationalizations. His strongest feature lies in an existentialist approach where God’s existence need not be defended because of the weight of personal experience. Could this be called existential presuppositionalism? I am not qualified to say.

There’s also evidence that he is reacting to certain “new atheist” arguments in the book, particularly on free will, the substance of God/faith, and the problem of evil. Although his short exposition on what exactly determinism and free will are is flawed (to be fair, this is quite common), his position that free will does not exist comes out clearly. For this, he seems to be in line with a number of linear determinists like Sam Harris. His conception of God is too difficult for me to describe. It feels contradictory when the descriptive terms are taken in their traditional sense, but I do not think that is Colborne’s intention. Faith is taken as a given and each faith tradition is blended into a cosmic whole in God’s sandbox (literally think: God playing God in a sandbox video game). What he does well, for what all it sacrifices, is argue against the problem of evil. How? God is both the author of good and evil – every bit of it. Colborne bold asserts it and for the reason that God as Sustainer permeates every single moment, object, and action in the universe. The consequences for the nature of God are huge, but not insurmountable if God is understood to be more of a force than a person.

I find the book to be an exposition of what Colborne believes and likely to be a sounding board for others who are exploring metaphysical questions. It’s also autobiographical in a number of places. The last positive bit I have to say about the book is that Colborne really tries to level the playing field for humanity. All those who believe and disbelieve do so by the will of God and God is made more glorious for it. Not only that, but God will treat each person for their worth in the end since he is responsible for their belief or disbelief. I also appreciate how this also places responsibility back onto God for all sin since He chose to create the world knowing that sin was coming. It’s a more just view of God than the traditional Christian view that those who don’t believe. In the Calvinist view, one can only believe if God lets them believe. Oh but wait, if you don’t believe, then you’re going to hell. So God must have created some people predestined for hell (double-predestination is a logical outcome from the former thought, although people try to deny this). So kudos for this part of Colborne’s theology. He can’t support it be any Scripture of any faith, but he does base it on logic. And since God sustains the universe including logic, then all logic is part of who God is and we can expect his actions to conform to his nature.

Now for my final critique. Ultimately, what Colborne leaves us with is a non-objective universe and a capricious God. I think that Colborne stays consistent in following his train of thought, however, I am not sure why he must begin with God. If you took his position, removed God and agency words, and then replaced those ideas with “the universe” and “crap happens,” you would get the same outcome. Additionally, by adding back in an objective universe, you could reclaim an objectiveness for morality (among many other things). But, that is from my perspective and you can read my other writings on this blog at some other time.

For those interested in gaining a new perspective or to simply have some trick cards to throw out in debates, I invite you to check out Colborne’s God’s Grand Game. I expect this to be the start of deeper studies for those seeking to defend and refute it.

For Colborne, I would challenge you to read John Loftus’ book Why I Became an Atheist, or at least his “Outsider Test for Faith.” This may help spur your thoughts forward in some way.

5 Comments

  1. Hi David,

    Many thanks for your thoughtful and interesting review!

    I’d just like to offer a few clarifications, I hope you don’t mind.

    while not denying the existence of material things, he believes that the existence of material things depends upon God (whether through God’s thoughts or simply his permeating, sustaining power – I do not know)

    The chapter entitled ‘God in Inanimate Objects’ explains my perspective in relation to this.

    He also has the basic tenet of Christian Presuppositionalism: God is assumed to exist.

    In the book I offer two types of argument for God’s existence, logical arguments and experiential arguments. Readers can find these in the chapter entitled “How Do I Know God Exists?”. I don’t simply assume God exists 🙂

    Although his short exposition on what exactly determinism and free will are is flawed

    I’d just like to note that you didn’t explain the ways in which the descriptions I gave are flawed.

    what Colborne leaves us with is a non-objective universe and a capricious God

    For the record, I don’t believe God is capricious, and I give my reasons as to why in Part V (“Morality and God”).

    I will resist the urge to review your review any further, haha 🙂

    Thanks again, David, for being part of the blog tour — I really appreciate it!

    Best wishes,

    Steven

    1. Hi Steven,

      I definitely agree that some of my terms are oversimplifications. In fact even stating you hold to presuppositionalist and evidentialist notions is contradictory taken straight forward. You have very interesting views that I cannot categorize and for that you should be proud! I think where we disagree is either in definitions or the consequences of your position. Regardless, thank you for this opportunity and I look forward to receiving your book in print from Amazon soon!

      David

      1. Thank you for that, David! And I’m very grateful to you for purchasing a physical copy! I did enjoy reading your review, and I don’t mind at all if there are some areas of disagreement. Thank you for taking part in the blog tour, I love your blog and hope it continues to grow and thrive 🙂

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