Thank you for taking your time for an interview here at Broowaha. It’s my pleasure to be ‘meeting’ Neil Cullan McKinlay, author of From Mason to Minister: Through the Lattice. Would you mind telling readers here about yourself?
I’m a man in his mid-fifties who delights in playing soccer (football) as much as sitting with my nose in a good book or enjoying a good meal. I’ve been married to Dorothy for thirty years and we have three grown up and married daughters, one two year old grandson (he’s brilliant!) and another grandchild on the way. I enjoy reading and writing, mostly things of a theological nature, though I’m not averse to a good novel. I like the old Western movies and am a John Wayne fan. We own a cute West Highland Terrier called Bella and have an aquarium occupied by subtropical fish. I’m a bit of a news addict, and, though I’m Scottish, Canadian, and Australian, I really enjoy American politics more than that of the others! The wellbeing of America is tied to the wellbeing of the West. I like Celtic music, anything from Enya, Clannad, Capercaillie to Runrig and a bit of (eclectic) Shooglenifty mixed with The Chieftains.
I have to ask: What is the story behind the title for your book?
The From Mason To Minister aspect of my book’s title refers to my spiritual and philosophical journey. And the Through the Lattice facet deals with the glimpses or reflections I was getting of God and the meaning of life as I travelled through life from Scotland to Canada then Australia. I suppose some might call it a mid life crisis, but in my early thirties I began wondering what life was all about. I had been taught two conflicting worldviews when growing up: the neo-Darwinian view (as currently espoused by e.g. Richard Dawkins), that life is utterly and totally meaningless, and the opposing view that there is more to life and that it is full of meaning. I decided to do my own study rather than take anyone else’s word for it. So I purposed to find out the meaning of life for myself. Thus I started my own lonely study (and it really was lonely!) of the meaning of life.
I studied things from fossil record accounts with its attendant neo-Darwinian take on it, to the Jewish Cabala and Mystery Religions, pagan philosophy to UFOs and aliens, and the Watchtower Society’s religion and publications (Jehovah Witnesses) to the Scientific American magazine, not to mention the Plain Truth magazine and books issued by the Worldwide Church of God. I could go on, but I won’t bore you with the details. I entered Freemasonry seeking God and actually found Him in the Lodge. The “stone the builders rejected” is Jesus Christ! Subsequently I left the Masonic Lodge and went to theological college to study the finer points of Christianity which in turn led to me becoming a Minister in the Presbyterian Church of Australia.
What initially inspired you to sit down and write this book?
Among other things, I wanted to tell people that life does have meaning, that the old Carl Sagan mantra (that I used to listen to) that ‘the universe is all there is, all there was, and all there ever will be’ is a lie! I wanted to tell people that the universe and you and I have purpose and meaning. That meaning is found in Jesus Christ who said, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.’ Therefore, it’s one or the other, either Carl Sagan and his Cosmos (as per his old TV series) is right, or Jesus and His (ever contemporary) Gospel is right! I was walking around the tug-o-war of these contradictory worldviews going on in my head. Is life without rhyme or reason or are there such things as good and evil? Only the existence of God answers these questions. I wanted to tell people of my journey toward and finding the answer: God in Jesus Christ. I wanted to share this good news! Sure, some people may disagree, but at least if they are kind enough to give me a hearing they‘ll see my logic!
Writing a book is no small feat, and neither is finding yourself drawn to a new calling. Who has been your biggest support through these changes and the work they have involved?
I’m not sure that writing books is my new calling yet. From Mason To Minister is my first venture with a publisher. I suppose a lot is resting on the success of this work. Do I have doubts? Well, the reading public can be pernickety. But I’ll keep on writing regardless! However, now that I’ve been asked about my “new calling I must admit that a subtle paradigm shift is taking place in my mind. Whereas I used to see myself as a writer, I’m now beginning to see myself as an author. Therefore, (now that it’s starting to sink in), perhaps I do have new calling after all! Thanks for asking me this question!
And, in answer to the second half of your question, my biggest support has been my eldest brother, Fearghas (who’s an author and whose painting of the floating astronaut is depicted on my book’s front cover). He actually suggested, since the three of us were writers, that he, Stuart (another brother who is a journalist), and me ought to write books! Fearghas encouraged me along the way when I was writing From Mason To Minister, making valuable suggestions etc. Also, my old theological professor Dr Francis Nigel Lee offered moral support and encouragemnt. Then there’s the wonderful and efficient publishing team at Nordskog Publishing Inc. who helped me craft the book into its final form.
What are you working on now?
I’m revisiting some theological manuscripts I’ve been working on In order to tidy them up, items with titles such as The Nexus: The True Nature of Nature, The Gospel Demystified, Are All Who Die In Infancy Saved?, Holding Fast Our Confession, Westminster Shorter Catechism Elaborated to name a few. However, I am presently trying my hand at writing a novel called A Stick in Time. It’s an historical fiction piece in which I get to experiment with some theological (I can’t get away from it!) concepts such as the (optimistic or Postmillennial) Millennium, guardian angels, and the problem of aging. The following is a blurb plugging my novel: A Stick In Time starts with a dream of reuniting Ireland, Protestant and Catholic. Saint Patrick's Staff represents that unity. Twin brothers vying for the affection of the same beautiful woman represents Ireland at present divided. The men are from Ireland in 1611. The woman is in Australia 2011. Both men and the Staff end up with her. She lives in a town in which many of its population (including her) seem to age very slowly: Tir na nOg! Does the Staff have some special power? Is it the water anti-aging? Or is the town experiencing the beginning of the Christian Millennium? Men, women, and angels need to read A Stick In Time in order to find out! I’m really enjoying writing in this change of genre.
People often forget that authors are also readers. What book are you reading now?
I continually read the Bible cover to cover. I have many books on the go at any given moment. I love theology, but try to include fiction among other books. At the moment I’m reading Robert L. Reymond’s A New Systematic Theology of the Christian Faith, The Virgin Mary in the Light of the Word of God, by Labib Mikhail, God’s Ten Commandments by Francis Nigel Lee, George Washington’s Sacred Fire by Peter A Lillback with Jerry Newcombe, Ireland Awakening, by Edward Rutherfurd, The Gospel of God by Martyn Lloyd-Jones, and The Lost Symbol by Dan Brown. Like the Bible, I’ve read some of these before, but what’s wrong with giving a good book another go? I probably have other books that I am reading right now, but my wife Dorothy likes to keep our house tidy…
Where can readers find you online?
Visit my “Snow On the Ben” website: http://web.mac.com/macfhionn/Site/HOME.htmlOr visit my “Snow Off the Ben” Blog: http://snowofftheben.blogspot.com/And don’t forget my From Mason To Minister: Through the Lattice at: http://nordskogpublishing.com/book-through-the-lattice.shtml
Thank you so much for your visit. Best of success.
Thank you very much.