“God’s Grand Game: Divine Sovereignty and the Cosmic Playground.” Steven Colborne.

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Book Review: “God’s Grand Game: Divine Sovereignty and the Cosmic Playground.” Steven Colborne. London: Tealight Books. 2019. 251 pages.

“God’s Grand Game” is Steven Colborne’s personal gnosis of a Monotheistic God. (Note 1) He defines his God as “a spiritual being, which I like to call God, is animating all the processes that lead to my experience of my body and the world in which I exist.” (pg.19). His gnosis is “everything you do is what God is doing through you.” (Author’s emphasis, pg. xi). The title is derived from “the Universe… can be seen as a cosmic playground, in the way in which God sovereignty unfolds all activity in existence might be fittingly described as ‘God’s Grand Game.’” (Author’s emphasis, pg. xii).

Mr. Colborne discusses his spiritual journey from being an Atheist as a teenager to receiving his personal gnosis of his God years later. When his mother became ill, she introduced him to New Age spirituality. After her death, he ended up in a cult-like group led by Ratu Bagus, who taught “shaking meditation.” After leaving that group, he entered psychotherapy, which became a spiritual experience for him. After a series of mental breakdowns and being institutionalized, he heard promptings from a Monotheistic God. During his cycles of illness and recovery, Mr. Colborne studied philosophy and theology, completing a post-graduate course at the University of London.

Through the Way of Reasoned Inquiry (Note 2), the author uses spiritual philosophy to delve into the Divine and its wisdom. First, he presents the nature of this God and his logic for this nature. He defines his God as “omnipresent, omnipotent, omniscient, living, and real,” among other attributes. (pg. 24). From this definition stems his thesis of God as the Sovereign Being who makes free will impossible, hence people become players on his playground. The lack of free will is a relief for Mr. Colborne since it eliminates sin. He writes, “The problem is that if we are not really in control, then how do we make decisions about right action? The answer is in the dimension of ultimate reality is that God will take care of this… We must struggle to do what we believe is right…. God is the guiding force in our decisions and that nothing will ever happen outside of His sovereign will.” (pg. 150).

For each chapter, he sets up a philosophical dilemma such as “the myth of the Fall,” “hearing voices or hearing God,” and “creation and evolution.” After presenting the dilemma, he provides a proof of how to solve it. The value of this book for me is how Mr. Colborne resolves his personal gnosis with existing lore. He defines this God and presents standard arguments against his definition and thesis. The author then resolves it.

What Mr. Colborne attempts to do is provide answers to several problems that plague monotheistic belief. He says that since everything is an expression of God’s will, that God is the source of good and evil. (God does experience his own agony and hell.) He has good reasons for people to suffer since it is a part of his grand game. People need to trust in God’s wisdom and still strive do the right action in their lives.

Since Monotheism is totally embedded in Western culture, it is difficult for people like the author to question their assumptions about religion and the Divine. The basic structure of modern Western culture from time as an upward pointing arrow to there being only one universal divinity is built from Monotheistic theology. Therefore concepts such as “God is all-powerful” and “God’s Grand Plan” are assumed to be universal and factual. To define a Monotheistic God as something other than the “One True God” is unthinkable. Thinking that other Gods have agency is rejected for reasons of sin and illogic.

Therefore as a Polytheist (Note 3), I have noted the assumptions of Monotheistic thinkers which are on display in this book. Like many Monotheists, Mr. Colborne assumes that there is “one true God.” He explains in the section on Polytheism, “In order to embrace polytheism, we would have to deny many of the attributes which are definitional of God…including His omnipotence and omnipresence.” (pg. 203). This definition of God comes from Monotheistic theology, which denies the existence of any other Gods, and declares Them to be false and fictitious. (I would replace “we” with “I,” since we Polytheists have no such experiences with any of our Gods.)

Another assumption that Mr. Colborne makes is that Polytheism is generally proto-monotheism. Religion, according to Western intellectual tradition, evolves from animism to Polytheism to finally to the pinnacle of civilization – Monotheism. (This subtly dismisses the achievements of the Romans, Greeks, and others.) In that context, Polytheism as worshipped by the ancient Romans (Note 4) and others consists of only false and fictional Gods. These ideas about Polytheism are derived from how myths are usually taught. Polytheist myths are only stories, while Monotheist myths are theology and fact.

Mr. Colborne writes “I feel unable to reconcile what appears to be order and harmony in creation… with the idea that multiple extremely powerful gods coexist. There would be chaos in such a worldview, surely one of the multiple deities would come to dominate and eradicate the others.” (pg. 204).

This statement reflects the worldview of Monotheism, which hostile to Polytheism. John Milton in his “Paradise Lost” details the war of the Monotheistic God on the Polytheist Gods. (Note 5) Meanwhile, the official polices of Christian and Islamic bodies were to kill or force conversion of Polytheists. Then destroy all vestiges of Polytheism from blowing up shrines to cutting down trees to repurposing shrines as churches or holy sites for Monotheists. Furthermore, they deliberately corrupted or co-opted Polytheistic beliefs as well. Their goal was to destroy any worship of other God(s).

Most Polytheist theology focuses on the balance between order and chaos. Both are needed to maintain the Universe. Cosmic warfare is not an aspect of Polytheism, since the world is not a vast spiritual battlefield. Gods coexist together except Yahweh of the Hebrews, who prefers to be the only God.

Notes:
Note 1. There are multiple Monotheistic Gods. For example: Yahweh of the Hebrews; God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit of Christianity; and Allah of Islam. Mr. Colborne’s gnosis is rooted in Christianity’s God. Unlike that religion’s God, his is a genderless monad. I refer to his God as “God,” and use the pronoun “he.”

Note 2. Dale Cannon, “Six Ways of Being Religious.” According to Cannon, there are various ways to do religion. They are the Way of the Sacred Rite, Right Action, Devotion, Shamanic Mediation, Mystical Quest, and Reasoned Inquiry. Mr. Colborne, also, includes in his book Right Action and Devotion.

Note 3. Polytheism is the belief in many Gods. The different traditions approach this in their unique ways. Romans focus on the Pax Deorum, the Peace of the Gods.

Note 4. As a Roman Polytheist, I can say that this is untrue. “Fasti” by Ovid is representative of Roman Polytheism as it was practiced by ancient Romans.

Note 5. Milton lists various Gods from the Old Testament, as well as Greek and Roman myths, as “fallen angels” in Hell. His understanding of these Gods is based solely on Monotheistic (Protestant) theology.

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13 thoughts on ““God’s Grand Game: Divine Sovereignty and the Cosmic Playground.” Steven Colborne.

  1. “I feel unable to reconcile what appears to be order and harmony in creation…” Harmony? Does he know any history at all? Billions of years of cataclysm and a tiny, tiny window (which we’re closing) for life to emerge from the indigenous pools of primitive dna. Even if his bias little perceptions “feel” right, it is obvious to an outsider that, if there is a god, there are many players involved in the act.
    This is part of the problem of reading commentary to form your opinions vs viewing the world and making your own observations, which is near impossible as a monotheistic believer.

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    • I would have to agree. Since we are immersed in a Monotheistic culture, we end up absorbing certain assumptions as facts. The author himself was raised Atheist/New Age and went on a long spiritual journey. I think that the culture establishes the bias and people assume it as truth.

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  3. Virginia, I enjoyed hearing about your unique perspective on polytheism vs. monotheism. I have been following this blog tour and, though I won’t be a part of that, I will also be reviewing Steven’s book. Although I haven’t read it yet, I can see that I will disagree with many of his conclusions, but his monotheism is one place where I generally agree. And in pursuit of fairness, I thought that I would mention that, in correlation to your point about “embedded” monotheistic assumptions of Westerners, the monotheism of the West actually has its roots in the Middle East.

    Furthermore, as a Christian theologian, I often question my own assumptions and the assumptions of others, striving for intellectual honesty in my views and the portrayal of other views. Of course, basal assumptions about God or “the gods” will be evident in all of us, for that is what is required to trust in what we cannot see! And it is on these assumptions that we build our theologies. It then becomes a matter of which system best coheres with the truth of our experience as human beings in this reality.

    I also feel it is important to note that, from a historical perspective, Christianity has not had a default position to kill or convert. Rather, Christian doctrine actually does not allow for this. I would argue that while this has happened at certain times and regions within certain sects of Christianity in its existence, this practice has been far worse and more prevalent within Islam.

    Also, to name one particularly relevant example from history, the lack of adherence to the polytheistic religion of Rome is precisely what caused the death of thousands of early Christians for the first few centuries AD. This included Christians being set on fire to light the streets of Roman towns at night and being thrown into arenas to be publicly torn apart by beasts, all for not conforming to Polytheism; refusing to offer incense, worship, or reverence to the Roman gods.

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    • I would suggest reading the following books to understand my views:

      “The Return of the Dead: Ghosts, Ancestors, and the Transparent Veil of the Pagan Mind” by Claude Lecouteux. He is a medievalist who has written on how Pagan beliefs have continued under Christianity. In this particular book, he describes how St. Augustine and others deliberately undermined the Pagan belief about the Dead. Purgatory came out of this, since the Church Fathers had to describe where revenants came from.

      “The Deities Are Many: A Polytheistic Theology,” by Jordan Paper. This is a part of the SUNY Series in Religious Studies. Paper has written other books on Polytheistic theology. In this book, he describes how Christians and other Monotheists have undermined Polytheists in China and among the Native Americans. His final chapters are about how Monotheism dominates Western culture and intellectual thought.

      “God and Against The Gods: The History of the War Between Monotheism and Polytheism,” by Jonathan Kirsch. Kirsch has written other books on religious topics. This one does address the persecution of Polytheists by Monotheists. It also describes the attitude that Romans had towards Christians, and the Christian desire to be martyrs and seek out death.

      They all have extensive footnotes and bibliographies.

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      • Thanks for the info Virginia! I would certainly like to know more on your perspective and other Polytheists.

        Regarding Christian martyrdom, while there were many willing to be killed or “seeking” martyrdom, it’s important not to forget that they shouldn’t have been killed for their faith by Roman Polytheists in the first place. Of course, this is not limited to persecution from the Romans. Nor does it excuse the atrocities committed on Christians to that end by Rome. I also don’t excuse the groups of “Christians” who committed atrocities throughout history. I’m not saying this is what you’re doing, but I want to make sure that is made clear.

        Also, being willing to die, which in their case often would simply mean choosing to worship their God and not the Roman gods, does not always necessitate “seeking” or “wanting” death. There are numerous cases where they chose death and obedience to their God over submission. But why were they willing to do this!? What if the reality of Heaven was true and they indeed went somewhere better through death because their God became a man in Jesus Christ to die for their sin and clear a way for them to that place through his resurrection, and conquering of/victory over, death? Heaven being a place where the Bible says there will be no more pain, mourning, crying, or death (Revelation 21:4)! Well, they definitely believed it to be true!

        Furthermore, there are numerous accounts where they were simply identified as Christian and were killed for it. Not every martyr was “seeking” martyrdom! I feel as if some interpretations of the Christian martyrs, along with understandings of Christianity as a whole, have been muddied with broad-brush assumptions in the trendy anti-Christian and anti-Western movements.

        Have you ever read or heard of “Fox’s Book of Martyrs”? I recommend that for further study on the circumstances & details surrounding many Christian martyrs’ deaths.

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      • Rather than discuss martyrs, I will write about the problem surrounding Christians from a Roman perspective. Piety is an important Roman virtue. It keeps the Pax Deorum, the Peace of the Gods. People and the Gods have a relationship where they make offerings – I give so that You may give, and the Gods watch over the people. This is important to have since it is a mutual relationship – we do for each other.

        A part of the Pax Deorum is to make sacrifices and to conduct proper rituals. To the Roman mind, the ritual is where the person and the Gods meet. If a ritual is improperly conducted, then a sacrifice is made, and the ritual is redone. People have home altars where they do their daily rituals and devotions. The Gods and Lars, and Ancestors live with the people and all interact with each other all times.

        Christians did not participate, which is fine since other religions did not. But in their public rituals, they did have to make a sacrifice to the Gods of Rome. It was to keep the Pax Deorum. Most did, however Christians refused and would disrupt the rituals and destroy public altars. In the Roman mind, this is impiety and sacrilege. They had to be punished for this.

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      • As I noted in my previous reply, it was never a default position of Christianity to kill or convert. In fact, any moment where a group of individuals claiming to hold to “Christianity” in history who killed for the sole purpose of religious differences is out of line with the teachings of Jesus in the New Testament. Jesus said: ““But I say to you who hear, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. Whoever hits you on the cheek, offer him the other also; and whoever takes away your coat, do not withhold your shirt from him either. Give to everyone who asks of you, and whoever takes away what is yours, do not demand it back. Treat others the same way you want them to treat you.”
        ‭‭(Luke‬ ‭6:27-31,‬ ‭NASB‬‬).

        I read the article you shared thesseli. It seemed to hint at a bias against Christianity creeping into the interpretation of the facts and conclusions. Although, I’m not saying it was necessarily untrue! There were some isolated incidents against pagan culture. But defacing statues and an isolated killing here or there from radicalized fragments (though wrong), is hardly a comparison to what Christians had to deal with at multiple points over the first 300+ years AD. The article you shared operates under the assumption that the “victor” suppressed and oppressed the “loser”, but, while one religion may have become more predominant, that was simply not the case. Here is a non-Christian source writing (somewhat critically) on the pagan and Christian dynamic in this time period, including the “triumph of Christianity”.
        http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/ancient/romans/christianityromanempire_article_01.shtml

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      • It is not a default of the religion to kill to convert people.

        But it did happen in Iceland and elsewhere. The Norse lore has stories of Kings who went “under the blanket” to decide whether to convert or to have their people slaughtered by Christians. The Pope had a Crusade against the Baltic people in the 1300s because they were Pagan.

        Perhaps the problem lies in how the Church authorities decided that non-Christian peoples should convert. After Rome converted to Christianity, the Church became as powerful as the State. Then they went after the Pagans under Roman rule. Perhaps it was an abuse of State/Church power instead of allowing people to find their way to Christian. Once the State separated from the Church, and the wars of religion between Protestants and Roman Catholics started, then people seriously started examining whether the State had any business in religion.

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  4. If you are interested in the Roman religion and mind-set concerning piety, “An Introduction to Roman Religion” by John Scheid is a good place to start.

    I have written about the Pax Deorum in my blog and Roman virtues as well.

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