Steven Colborne is the author of more than a dozen books in the philosophical theology genre. His work offers deep insights into all of the big problems of philosophy and theology, with a focus on the divine sovereignty versus human free will predicament, especially (but not only) as it relates to the Christian worldview.
“Firstly, Collin, I want to thank you for inviting me to do this interview. I very much appreciate it.”
Glad to have you Steven, I have been wanting to do this interview for a while now and have finally gotten around to it. Lets get into the questions.
#1 Where did you grow up and how did that impact your life?
“I was born in Cambridge, England, to an English father and a Dutch mother. When I was four years old our family moved to Abingdon in Oxfordshire, which is where I grew up. Both my mother and father were hard workers, and both had an interest in the English language — my father worked as a medical editor and my mother in a publishing company. Actually, my parents worked together on translating some books from Dutch into English. I suppose it’s possible that my interest in writing developed from the example and influence of my parents.”
“My upbringing was not especially privileged, though I went to decent schools and my practical needs were always met. I had a difficult relationship with my father, who maintained an emotional distance from my (older) sister and I. I think he saw his role as a practical provider for the family rather than an emotional support to my sister and I. I often felt neglected by him, which made me angry. It was only through attending psychotherapy later in life that I came to understand and process this.”
“Unfortunately, my parents’ marriage broke down when I was in my teens. My mother became ill with cancer, and eventually separated from my father and moved back to her native country of the Netherlands where she sadly passed away at a relatively young age. Seeing my mother suffer through gruelling cancer treatment was a disturbing experience that would go on to impact my mental health for many years. There are still aspects of my mental health that I’m working on today, and some people say you never fully get over the death of a loved one.”
#2 When did you first start reading philosophy and theology?
“As a teenager I was an atheist, but while my mother was undergoing her cancer treatment she became interested in spirituality while exploring alternative therapies. She used to listen to tapes of Deepak Chopra who talked about the emotional causes of physical illness, and how healing could be attained in the deeper stages of meditation. Another author she read was Brandon Bays, who was a proponent of a practice called ‘journeying’ which involved delving into one’s subconscious to find healing. As I was very close to my mother, her spiritual search impacted me significantly. I became very interested in Eastern philosophy and started meditating on a daily basis. I also discovered the comparative religion philosopher Alan Watts, who still has a cult following today. I used to spend hours listening to Watts while lying in the bath and drinking cans of Grolsch while I was a student. These days I see Watts in a very different light, but his teaching was central to my life at that time.”
“My interest in theology was ignited during a spell in psychiatric hospital when I was in my 20s. I had experienced a few years of turbulent mental health following the death of my mother and went through some periods of severe depression which also led to some delusional experiences. After ending up in hospital I managed to get my hands on a Bible, which I proceeded to read properly for the first time in my hospital room. I would copy out passages and found myself repenting and praying and truly coming into submission to God for the first time.”
#3 When did you start your blog, what prompted it?
“I started Perfect Chaos (my blog) in 2012. I had previously run a Christian blog titled ‘Light of the World’, but I started Perfect Chaos more as a philosophy blog than a Christian blog. I found that there were some conflicts between the views I was experiencing while being immersed in a Christian community and the way I personally understood the God/world relationship and blogging was an outlet for expressing and developing my thoughts.”
“The title ‘Perfect Chaos’ refers to the idea that while the world is seemingly chaotic, all events unfold in perfect accordance with the will of God. That was my belief back in 2012 and remains my belief today. My high view of God’s sovereignty, which is encapsulated in my blog’s name, led me to doubt that we have free will. The divine sovereignty versus human free will problem has been the focus of much of my study and writing ever since.”
#4 When did you publish your first book? What was it about? What was the reaction?
“My first book was titled ‘The Philosophy of a Mad Man’ and was released in 2012. Sometimes I regret that title, because it’s quite provocative. Some people get it and others don’t. I decided on the title because in Part 1 of the book I describe my spiritual and mental health journey, which has involved some madness, and in Part 2 I outline my philosophical perspective, which is far from mad. I liked the paradoxical title, but unfortunately it allows people whose philosophical views don’t accord with my own to easily dismiss me as crazy, which I’m really not (most of the time). If I’d gone for a less provocative title it would have made my life easier, but it made sense at the time and hopefully won’t put too many people off taking my work seriously.”
“In general, the book did quite well. I decided to self-publish the book working with an assisted publishing company called SilverWood Books. The book received positive reviews and was a bestseller on Amazon for a while, though I certainly didn’t recoup the costs involved with producing and marketing the book. It taught me a lot about self-publishing and as far as debut book releases go, I think it’s pretty awesome.”
#5 What has been the most interesting part of your journey?
“This is a difficult question to answer because my life has been very colourful! Certainly one of the highlights of my career as an author so far was having my book ‘God’s Grand Game’ featured by BookBub. It led to a massive spike in sales, so much so that I felt even if I were to die shortly after that I had made an impact in the world. That book is very important to me because it contains a comprehensive exposition of my philosophical worldview, including some insights which I believe are unique and which I would hate to go to waste.”
#6 What is something people don’t know about you?
“During a spell in psychiatric hospital, I re-taught myself to write from scratch. I changed the way I write most of the characters of the alphabet. So my handwriting became like that of a different person. True story.”
#7 Who is your favorite philosopher/theologian you look up to?
“Actually this might surprise you but I’m a big fan of a lesser-known English philosopher named Bryan Magee. Magee was actually a Member of Parliament in the UK for some time as well as being a philosopher. It’s hard to describe why I love his work so much, but he just expresses himself in a really clear way. I think a lot of philosophy is about clearing up confusion, and Magee was great at that. You can search his name on YouTube — he had a TV show where he interviewed leading philosophers of his day, some of whom are quite famous. I actually wrote to Magee once and he sent me a lovely letter back, even though he was in his nineties. I will always treasure the fact that he was kind enough to reply.”
#8 Where do you see yourself in the future? What are your goals?
“I’m currently working on a book about different approaches to justification (how to be in right standing with God) within the Abrahamic religions. It’s a big project and I’m anticipating it could take years to complete. Looking further into the future, I have plans to perhaps set up a charity that encourages interfaith dialogue and progressive spirituality. I might like to teach philosophy one day, although the thought frightens the life out of me. I have lots of plans, but as the saying goes, we make plans, God laughs…”
This was a great interview Steven! I am looking forward to seeing your progress as you continue to become more well known and continue to write. Thank you for answering these questions, I hope people have learned something about you and go check out your work.
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