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Publisher's Summary

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.

©2014 SPCK Publishing (P)2014 Spokenworld Audio & Ladbroke Audio Ltd

Critic Reviews

"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)

What listeners say about Being Christian

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  • Adam Shields
  • 21-04-2015

Quick look at four universal Christian practices.

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.

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  • William J. Hurst
  • 24-02-2015

Wow

I was drawn into the mind of the author in a unique manner! I recommend this to all new believers!

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  • Dan
  • 30-09-2020

Great!

This was my first introduction to the works of Rowan Williams, and I am impressed. I will certainly be reading more from him.

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  • Dustin W. Ellington
  • 17-07-2019

good

it was very good. overall quite good. I would even say it was rather good. recommend.

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  • Valerie Colbert
  • 17-02-2019

Insightful and Reflective Perspective

I found this reading very insightful as it relates to deepening my relationship with God through Jesus Christ. I have a better understanding of the need for fellowship with my community and at the Lord’s table. Prayer has a whole new meaning as it relates to it’s purpose and my relationship with God to help me work in His will. I recommend it for all Christian formation studies.

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  • Cheesebodia
  • 01-07-2018

A Fine Primer for Three Important Teachings

If you’re already a fan of Williams’ work then this will not disappoint. I would recommend it to a lay audience who wants a brief yet powerful look at three of the most important areas for the Christian faith. He briefly explores the symbolism, application and basic meaning of each with an astounding clarity and intelligibility that is all-too-often ignored in present discourse.

Should you buy? Yes. If you are looking to strengthen your Christian faith then it is worth buying for the “Prayer” chapter alone. I enjoyed the narrator and his inflections seem to match the authorial intent.

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  • Jacobus
  • 21-01-2015

Pious Musing about being a Christian

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.

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  • Diane
  • 09-02-2017

A pleasure to listen to.

Well written, well read and lots of food for thought. An enjoyable and insightful listen.

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  • A. F. Galbraith
  • 01-12-2015

Superb summary of Christianity!

What did you like most about Being Christian?

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.

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  • Brian
  • 21-06-2015

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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  • Susie
  • 04-10-2018

Succinct and fused with love

This book is full of sensible statements, is lovingly constructed and easy to listen to.

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  • R. Roberts
  • 13-11-2020

Doesn’t explain why anyone should trust or respect the content of the Bible in the first place.

I recently ditched fundamentalist Christianity after studying history and realising that most of the Bible stories never really happened. Worried I was throwing the baby out with the bath water I picked up this volume hoping that Ro could rescue something of Christianity for me.

I was sorely disappointed. He harps on about the value of the Bible and calls it the Word fo God but does nothing to justify its importance or provide evidence for the gospel accounts of Jesus life and death, not to mention supposed resurrection.

All this belief is just assumed by the author so I don’t see how this could possibly be a useful text for someone “starting out” in Christianity as the description suggests.

For example in his chapter on how to read the Bible he keeps repeating that all of the Bible needs to be interpreted through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus but not once does he enlighten us as to how we can know any reliable details about Jesus life and death. A couple of chapters from a decent Biblical critic for example Bart Ehrman completely blows up both the baby and the bath water.

I gave the book two stars instead of none because at least Rowan’s view seems more tolerant than a fundamentalist Christian’s. For example he states that homosexuals are welcome at church.

But he doesn’t explain how the Bible text allows for that, he just goes on to quote the most homophobic author in the Bible - Paul. See Romans chapter 1 if you have any doubts about this guy’s nastiness.

All his talk of Jesus’ words being so great and no mention of the fact that even in the earliest gospel Mark, Jesus was predicting the End and Judgement Day to happen in the first century. No mention of how much damage this apocalyptic worldview has done eg. USA climate/environment policies influenced by evangelical Christians and the election of Trump by fundamentalist Christians.

It seems to me that the Bible is not the word of God at all. It is the word of old males from the Iron Age. None of it is “useful for teaching, rebuking..” (Timothy) unless we first judge its content by our own modern day ethics and in the context we’re in. So we have authority over the Bible.

Clearly this version of Christianity is for people who are either not brave enough or too vulnerable to ditch Christianity all together. That’s ok, maybe I would too if I was in their shoes, but it needs to be clarified instead of launching into a chapter about the Bible simply stating that it’s the Word of God. The dangers of this assumption have been all to apparent recently.

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  • Wooders
  • 20-04-2019

An illuminating review of the Christian faith

Easy to follow and very well structured book. This is the first time that I have read one of Rowan Williams' books - based on this, I will have a look at his other titles. Through the fundamentals of the Christian faith - baptism, prayer, Eucharist and the Bible - Williams gets the reader to contemplate the whole of life and what it means to call yourself a Christian.

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