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What Is Christianity?: A Little Book of Guidance

What Is Christianity?: A Little Book of Guidance

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What Is Christianity?: A Little Book of Guidance

41 pages
38 minutes
Aug 1, 2017


• Esteemed former leader of the Anglican Communion distills the essence of the Christian faith
• Overview from a scholar and pastor

With clarity and insight, the former Archbishop of Canterbury takes the reader to the heart of what
Christianity means for those who practice it and the hope it offers to the world at large. A book for
all who wonder what the Christian faith is all about, and what difference it really makes.
Aug 1, 2017

About the author

Rowan Williams is Master of Magdalene College, Cambridge. His most recent books includeGod With Us (2017),Being Disciples (2016),What Is Christianity? (2015), Meeting God in Paul(2015), Meeting God in Mark (2014) and Being Christian (2014) – all published by SPCK.

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What Is Christianity? - Rowan Williams



What is Christianity all about?

Imagine someone watching, over a period of about one year, the things that happen in a Christian church. They would be aware that one day of the week has special significance. Particularly if they are observing what happens in a historically Christian country, they would notice that Sunday is seen as important for meeting and praying. They would see that Christians meet to sing and speak to a God whom they describe as the maker of all things and the judge of all things, and that they kneel or bow in the presence of this God, thanking him and acknowledging their failures and sinfulness. They would see that extracts from a holy book are read in public and that instruction is given by leaders of the congregation in how to understand this book. They would perhaps notice that most of the prayers end with words referring to someone called Jesus Christ, and describing him as ‘Lord’.

They would see that at different seasons Christians celebrate the birth of Jesus and also commemorate his death and his miraculous return from death. Sometimes they would hear prayers and blessings mentioning ‘the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit’. And finally, they would see that new members are brought into the community by a ceremony of pouring water on them or immersing them in water, and that the most regular action performed by communities of different kinds is the blessing and sharing of bread and wine. They would notice, perhaps with bewilderment or even shock, that this sharing of bread and wine is described as sharing the body and blood of Jesus.

In this little book, I am trying to think what questions might arise for someone looking at Christians from the outside in the way I have just imagined. These may or may not be the questions you have. But perhaps the attempt to answer these questions will help bring other questions more clearly into focus.

God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit

Let me begin with the most obvious features of Christian prayer. We pray ‘through Jesus Christ our Lord’. And the best known of all Christian prayers begins with the words ‘Our Father in heaven’. These belong together. Probably the most important Christian belief is that we are given the right to speak to God in exactly the same way that Jesus did, because the life, the power, the Spirit that filled Jesus is given to us also.

We believe that Jesus, son of Mary, is fully a human being. But we believe more than that. Because of the divine authority that he shows in his power to teach and to forgive, as our Gospels describe it, we say also that the whole of his human life is the direct effect of God’s action working in him at every moment. The image used by some Christian thinkers is that his human life is like iron that has been heated in the fire until it has the same power to burn as the fire does.

We call him the Son of God. But we do not mean by this that God is physically his father, or that he is made to be another God

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