When I read the Bible properly for the first time and surrendered my life to God during a stay in psychiatric hospital in 2007, it was a major turning point in my life. My spiritual journey leading up to that point had been incredibly chaotic — I had dabbled in yoga, self-enquiry, transcendental meditation, shaking meditation, satsang, spiritual counselling, and various other means by which I had hoped to attain spiritual peace and enlightenment.
Entering into a relationship with Jesus Christ through reading the New Testament in my hospital room was a life-transforming experience, as similar experiences have been for millions of other Christians down through the ages. I really did feel like a new person — I became conscious of the sins I had committed during my promiscuous youth and felt an urgency to repent to God for these and the many other ways in which I had gone astray in life.
After being discharged from hospital, I explored a variety of different churches, all of which were wonderful in their own way. From Saint Anselm’s Catholic Church in Tooting Bec, to the Anglican Church in Oxfordshire where my father had worshiped for decades, to Hillsong Church London with its vibrant evangelicalism, and eventually East Hill Baptist Church in Wandsworth where I finally got baptised.
As I embarked upon my journey as a practicing Christian, my life was radically transformed. Attending church and engaging in fellowship with other Christians brought me a great deal of joy, and I experienced the “peace which surpasses all understanding” (Philippians 4:7) that comes from having a relationship with God through Jesus Christ. I had finally found the most profound source of peace a human being can have.
Or had I? As I immersed myself in the rigours of evangelical Christian life, returning to university to study theology, joining a Bible study home group, attending a Bible college, and taking part in a street outreach ministry, I began to explore all the difficult theological questions related to being a Christian. I found that alongside my peace there was also some persistent worry.
For a start, my Christian friends insisted that we have free will, while I had a strong sense that God is in control of everything that happens. This made me uneasy. Also, I read theologians arguing in favour of an eternal Trinity, but I couldn’t understand how three different persons (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) could have eternal existence. I was also troubled by the notion that Jesus is God, because I had for many years had a sense that there is only one God, the creator and animator of all things, and this firmly held conviction didn’t seem to chime with the theological reasoning at the core of the doctrine of the Trinity.
I began to struggle with these and other questions related to Christian theology in an acute way. I became engaged in a battle of faith versus reason and I began to write books to help me to understand and process my thoughts. I had already written one book about my turbulent spiritual journey before I became a Christian (The Philosophy of a Mad Man), but I felt compelled to write a follow-up book defending the absolute unity and sovereignty of God (Ultimate Truth: God Beyond Religion). These books expressed my passion for philosophical reasoning, and in the latter of the two I explained why I felt the need to distance myself from attending church because I couldn’t agree with so much of the theology I was being exposed to.
I continued to believe in God, and I would sometimes pray to Jesus, but my spirituality became a rather solitary affair. I felt that no one I knew could really relate to the theological struggles I was going through. I think many of my Christian friends felt that my interest in philosophical theology was a kind of blasphemy or weakness of faith; that I was being ungodly by deeply questioning these matters. But in my own mind I knew I still had a very real relationship with God, and I knew that the philosophical perspective God had given me, as well as my spiritual struggles, were an important part of my calling.
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In the years that followed, I wrote many more books as I tried to deepen my understanding of Christian theology. My book An Almighty Predicament: A Discourse on the Arguments For and Against Christianity testified to my fervent desire to do the right thing in God’s eyes, but I concluded the book with a question mark over whether or not I could embrace the Christian faith with a clear conscience, owing to what seemed to me to be absurdities that many Christians either consciously or subconsciously believed.
In 2019, I wrote God’s Grand Game: Divine Sovereignty and the Cosmic Playground, a book in which I argued in favour of the absolute sovereignty and unity of God, and His control over the unfolding of all events in both the microcosm and the macrocosm. The book explores sin, suffering, free will, the nature of God, Satan, good and evil, and a whole lot more, from the perspective that God is in control of everything that happens. It is this strong belief in God’s absolute sovereignty, and our lack of free will, that has characterised my thought and my writing ever since.
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During some time spent in prayer in late 2019, I asked God whether it would be wise for me to read the Qur’an. I had attempted to read the Qur’an on a couple of occasions previously, but hadn’t got on at all well with the particular translations I had access to. In response to my prayer, God told me that I should read the Qur’an. I went onto Amazon and found a relatively new translation of the Qur’an by M.A.S. Abdel Haleem, which was part of an Oxford World’s Classics series. I bought the Kindle version of the book and immediately began reading it.
It’s difficult for me to convey in words the profound effect reading the Qur’an properly, via Haleem’s lucid translation, had on me. I was deeply impacted by what I read, so much so that I was in tears on a number of occasions and prostrating myself on the floor at regular intervals. The Qur’an spoke to me in an incredibly powerful way, and I couldn’t quite believe how logical, consistent, and coherent the text was. I knew, as I read the Qur’an that time, that my life would never be the same again, and this proved to be so.
After reading the Qur’an on a daily basis for some weeks following that experience, I started to mention the Scripture to many of my old Christian friends. I also wrote a short book titled Discovering the Qur’an which I made available for free. What I found was that my Christian friends were afraid to read the Qur’an due to their perceived risk of being drawn away from Jesus, and some said they had tried to read it in the past and had not been particularly impressed.
Due to the fact that reading the Qur’an had changed my theological perspective so profoundly, my friends’ unwillingness to engage with the Scripture left me feeling rather frustrated. But as the Qur’an repeatedly says, God guides whoever He wills to guide, and leaves to stray whoever He wills to stray. The important thing for me was that I had finally landed upon the truth — the Qur’an made sense of all the difficult theological problems I had been wrestling with for years as a Christian, and having been impacted by the incomparably powerful content of the Qur’an, I had finally settled upon the ultimate truth I had long been searching for.
Or had I?
Above is an extract from the introduction to my latest book, titled Christianity, Islam, and the One True God. The book is available in eBook, paperback, and hardcover editions. Click the cover image below to view the book in my online store.