Full of sensitive pastoral advice and shot through with arresting and illuminating theological insights, Rowan Williams’ new book explores the meaning and practice of four essential components of the Christian life: baptism, Bible, Eucharist and prayer.
This book is an invitation to everyone to think through the essentials of the faith and how to live it, making it an ideal gift for anyone at the start of their spiritual journey or thinking about confirmation.It is designed for use by individuals or groups, with questions for reflection or discussion at the end of each chapter.
Written by The Right Reverend Rowan Douglas Williams, Baron Williams of Oystermouth PC DD FBA FRSL FLSW, an Anglican prelate, theologian and poet. Williams was the 104th Archbishop of Canterbury, Metropolitan of the Province of Canterbury and Primate of All England, from December 2002 to December 2012, and was previously Bishop of Monmouth and Archbishop of Wales.
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"It is a privilege to enter into the mind of one of the most distinguished theologians of the modern age. Being Christian deals in matters that are necessarily complex, but the style is elegant and lucid, and the book, although written primarily for Christians, will be interesting and helpful to those who are seekers after, rather than finders of, religious faith." (PD James)
"Christianity is both simple and profound. Rowan Williams understands these two levels, and how we come to the depth of what Jesus is by the simplicities of informed Christian practice. This is a handbook for Christian living." (Sister Wendy Beckett)
Book blogger at Bookwi.se
Many people have a lot of respect for Rowan Williams. He was the Archbishop of Canterbury for 10 years before retiring 3 years ago. He is still fairly young (64) and he is still publishing a ton. So I keep meaning to read some of his books. This one I picked up free with some promotional credit from Audible.
Being Christian was originally a series of Holy Week lectures that was adapted into a short book. The focus is on four pretty much universal practices among Christians, regardless of theological stream or denomination.
Considering the short length and the ubiquitousness of the practices, it would have been easy to be filled with clichés. But Williams both stayed true to the essence of the practices and brought unique presentation to them so the book did not feel stale.
The chapter on prayer seems to be the one that is most mentioned in other reviews that I read. As with several other books I have read this year, Williams spent some time talking about three of the early church fathers and how they thought about prayer.
Modern Evangelicals seem to be praise focused spontaneous prayer times and more liturgically focused Christians can tend to talk about the form or beauty of prayer. But Williams encourages us to think more about prayer as our center contact with God and as such it should be frequent and brief. And when we inevitably get distracted by life, saying, ‘O God, make speed to save me’ is part of long Christian practice. Because of his look at prayer historically he does not get wrapped up with any tension between written or spontaneous prayer. We should make short spontaneous prayer part of our daily (if not hourly) existence and keep the historic prayer (especially the Lord’s Prayer) on our lips as part of a way to give us words when we do not have words to pray.
With both the baptism and eucharist chapters, the focus was on being a part of the universal body of Christ, the joining in the body with Baptism and the on going membership in the body with Eucharist.
The bible chapter is about hearing from God. Williams encourages us to hear the whole of God’s story, hear it with community and with the focus of Christ at the center of the story. That doesn’t sound unique as I write it, but that is part of the balance of books like this. The presentation has to be a bit unique with different illustrations and ways of approaching the topic, but in the end the message is what many others will say throughout Christian history.
I think it would be a good book to read again. So I may pick it up again later.
When I drive, I read... uhm listen. I like SciFi, Fantasy, some Detective and Espionage novels and Religion. Now and then I will also listen to something else.
If you are Anglican or Episcopalian this book might just be the right book for you. Dealing with Baptism, Eucharist, the Bible and Prayer, Archbishop emeritus Dr. Rowan Williams gives an overview of what it means to be a Christian, therefore the title is appropriate.
Each subject focus on a very basic and easy to understand concept of baptism, the Eucharist, the Bible and prayer. I found the subject matter very basic.
Maybe this is the type of book for newly converted Christians. It is pious, though engaging, basic though to the point.
"Superb summary of Christianity!"
This audio book was a superb summary of Baptism, Bible, Eucharist and prayer. I particularly liked the pastoral approach and delivery. Rowan Williams even touches upon the dark passage in the Old Testament which is very important. For example: many of the early Israelites in the Old Testament clearly thought it was God’s will that they should engage in ‘ethnic cleansing’ — that they should slaughter without mercy the inhabitants of the Promised Land into which they had been led. If he did, that would be so hideously at odds with what the biblical story as a whole seems to say about God. This means we really should read the OT through the eyes of what we know of Jesus. This is a very important learning for Christians.
This is an excellent book and I would highly recommend it.
"Once you have heard this it becomes a must have"
Rowan Williams speaks directly to you at whatever stage you are on your Christian journey, even if you haven't yet started out, His clear analysis of the four essentials of Christianity guides the novice and refreshes the life long Christian with insights that refresh and encourage.
An ideal book for a study group meeting for 1hr - 1hr 30m, there are questions for consideration at the end of each of the four main chapters.
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