It's fairly unusual for a theologian to be widely admired across a number of Christian denominations. Occasionally, though, someone comes along who breaks the mould and offers some profound
insights into the Christian faith that speak to most, if not all, Christian traditions. Rowan Williams is one of these theologians.
His work is often complex and difficult, but every so often he manages to distil the essence of his theology into a readable and easily accessible book. His latest book, "Being Christian", is a fine example of this kind of approach.
Taking four elements that Williams argues sit at the root of any Christian community - Baptism, Bible, Eucharist and Prayer - he sets out his understanding of what it means to be a Christian in today's world.
The book gently but persuasively holds up a mirror to our understanding of what it means to be Christian, and asks us to look again to see if we have missed anything vital. This is not always a comfortable process, but as Williams points out in the chapter on Baptism, if we are to grow as Christians we sometimes need to step out of our comfort zones onto the exhilarating path that God wants us to travel.
The great thing about this book is that Williams presents this challenge in a kindly and
pastoral tone without diluting the importance of it.
One criticism that has been made is that Williams' choice of Baptism, Bible, Eucharist and Prayer as the necessary activities of a Christian community mean that any such community is essentially a club - you are either in or you are out. Yet throughout the book is an underlying sense that all these activities are part of God's invitation for us to participate in the love and joy that God has for all people.
I particularly like Williams' statement that the Eucharist is there to remind us that we are
guests of Jesus, that he wants us to sit and eat with him as friends, whoever we are. If that makes Christianity a club then it's one that anyone can join!
PS from John: You may be interested to know that we have decided to study this book in our Autumn House Groups. Watch out for information on times and places!