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How to be a Bad Christian: ... And a better human being Paperback – 15 Aug 2013

4.6 out of 5 stars 137 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton (15 Aug. 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1444703838
  • ISBN-13: 978-1444703832
  • Product Dimensions: 13 x 1.6 x 20 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (137 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 31,379 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description


Here's my secret: sometimes, when I hear all kinds of outrageous things said and done in the name of Christianity, I think about turning in my membership. I don't want to be part of the elite club of the doctrinally correct and the spiritually superior. But then a book like this one comes along, and I say, "This is a way of being a Christian that makes sense to me. This is a way of life I can live with." I'm glad to be known as a bad Christian, thanks to Dave Tomlinson and this beautiful book. (Brian McLaren)

Dave Tomlinson is superb priest who is driven by God's love in Christ, and who understands the spiritual instincts and needs of ordinary people. But he has to work within - or against - an institutional Church which too often either cannot communicate at all, or else communicates a false God with a repellent face. If the Christian faith is ever to capture the imagination of our culture, we have to learn the lessons of this book. (Jeffrey John, Dean of St Albans)

Dave is super-intelligent, funny, passionate, encouraging, generous, hard-working, self-giving, creative and a deeply faithful witness to the love of God - in short, a bad Christian. His book is a great gift to all who are searching for abundant life, in and out of church. (Sara Miles, author of Take This Bread and Jesus Freak)

A vicar in the pub is worth two in a pulpit. Dave Tomlinson's HOW TO BE A BAD CHRISTIAN is as welcome as a glistening pint to a thirsty patron. Free from religious claptrap and moralistic badgering, here's a book that talks about God without boring your socks off. Tomlinson allows humanity and grace to escape the shackles of pious pedants, and flow into the world we all inhabit. Beautifully written, full of streetwise stories and wisdom, delightful and engaging - read it and discover how good it is to be among the bad. A rip-snorting manifesto for a way of living that makes a difference in the world. (Mike Riddell)

Where is God? It's a question I often ask people. Does God live in Church? Does God live in Christianity? Does God live in the world and everything we know? In Dave Tomlinson's book How to be a bad Christian we wander through paths of discovery that God is wherever God wants to be. This is a gentle yet profound book that nudges people towards receptivity through stories and reflections. It invites us to imagine that the "spirit blows where the Spirit wills", and through its stories we are invited into a generous orthodoxy of faith where people discover their humanity - through discovering God, themselves, and an accepting love. Bad becomes good and good becomes reimagined. Please read it: it could change our communities, and the world. (Fuzz Kitto, international church consultant)

'Dave Tomlinson has written a book that should be read by every person disaffected by their experience of evangelicalism and by every leader of the contemporary evangelical movement.' (for The Post-Evangelical) (Bishop Graham Cray)

'This is a book without the need for profound theology, but a reminder that faith is stronger than theory and based on our busy lives' (for I Shall Not Want) (Christian Marketplace)

Honest, intelligent, articulate, insightful and with an air of urbane wisdom, this book really shines for me. Above all it's a book which is easy to read and understand, one that opens Christianity to those outside it, on the fringes of it and just as importantly to those already inside it. (Melanie Carroll Together)

Tomlinson's radically inclusive approach, if it is accepted, moves the tired old debate on religion forwards a little... by using the language he does, Tomlinson provides a framework whereby religious and non-religious folk might find it easier to work together on the issues we all agree upon. (Simon Clare West Sussex Country Times)

If you want a book that is alive with possibilities, that revels in the grace of God and wants to see faith in action in the lives of real people, then you'll love this book.

He is very likeable and generous and loves people of all shapes and sizes and backgrounds.

(Christian Today)

Dave accompanied Vanessa Feltz on her BBC London programme to speak all about HOW TO BE A BAD CHRISTIAN (BBC Radio London)

Guardian coverage of Dave Tomlinson taking the funeral of Ronnie Biggs:

Tomlinson, who had conducted the funeral of Biggs's fellow robber Bruce Reynolds last year, said he had received many anonymous emails asking him how he could justify taking the funeral.

"Jesus didn't hang out with hoity-toity, holier-than-thou religious people," he told the congregation in the standing-room-only chapel.

"He seemed much more at home with the sinners. At the end of the day, we are all sinners."

He anticipated that Biggs's arrival at a metaphorical pearly gate "will create a bit of a stir".

(The Guardian)

Dave Tomlinson's How to be a Bad Christian is a heartening, life-affirming volume about how to get the most out of your existence...
Atheists and rationalists will also find aspects to enjoy, taking away some insights into how to live a good life; and Tomlinson's friendly treatise may persuade those generally repulsed by religion that can also present itself in a palatable form.

(Greg Jameson Entertainment Focus)

Church Times piece on the funeral of Ronnie Biggs:
After the Biggs funeral, many of us piled into a pub around the corner, where I had a stream of conversations with people whom many would classify as "sinners". Yet what I discovered was a great deal of goodness, love, and openness towards this particular man of the cloth's talking about Jesus.
They represented the hordes of people who know that their lives are a bit screwed up, who make no claim to being squeaky-clean Christians, but whose hearts are open to God, in all sorts of ways.

The Revd Dave Tomlinson is the Vicar of St Luke's, West Holloway, in London. His latest book is How to Be a Bad Christian - And a Better Human Being (Hodder & Stoughton, 2013).

(The Church Times)

The Daily Mail reporting on Dave Tomlinson's involvement in Ronnie Bigg's funeral:

Was the floral V-sign on Ronnie Biggs's coffin evidence that the career criminal went to his grave unrepentant at the start of this month?

Some people thought so, but the trendy vicar who took the funeral insists it is none of our business and that Biggs and his fellow villains are the essence of Christianity.

The Rev Dave Tomlinson asserts that it is 'arrogant judgmentalism' to deplore Biggs's apparent lack of contrition. 'Constantly I hear people refer to Ronnie Biggs as unrepentant,' he writes in the Church Times. 'But how are we to know? That is God's call.'

Tomlinson, who also conducted the funeral of another Great Train robber, Bruce Reynolds, says he would be happy to be known as 'the villains' priest'.

After the funeral Tomlinson 'piled into a pub round the corner' with several of Biggs's mates.
He adds: 'What I discovered was a great deal of goodness, love and openness.'

(The Daily Mail)

The Independent ran a two page spread on Dave taking the funeral of Ronnie Biggs:

"He was criticised for burying Ronnie Biggs but passing judgement is not Rev Dave Tomlinson's style. Tomlinson, author of a book 'How to be a Bad Christian', has embarked upon a mission to sweep up the disaffected hordes who would never set foot in a church by urging them to ditch religion favour of a creed based on generosity and compassion. '

(Adam Sherwin The Independent)

If you're looking for labels, then Tomlinson is a liberal-leaning Anglican priest, with high church tastes (he wears vestments ) and a low church manner (he sometimes swears). He's most at home when chatting over a pint, and lately it's his ability to speak to ordinary people (who don't care much about labels) that's getting him noticed. (Justin Brierly Christianity)

[The Lady] said: 'Your book, your book, Dave. My Dad couldn't put it down. It's the first book he's ever read in his life.' That's pretty good really. He's the sort of person I wrote the book for. People who are not part of this religious conversation. (Stephen Tomkins interviews Dave Tomlinson Reform Review)

There's a lot of wisdom and insight in here, and I'm glad people like Dave continue kicking at closed doors and asking questions. It's a healthy sign in the Church. (Inspire Magazine)

Book Description

This is a book for people who want God without the guff - showing that it's possible to ditch religion, but keep the faith.

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
I read Dave's book of about 200 pages of admittedly good, clear, very legible type (with nice line illustrations), in an hour and a half on a train journey, for once truly a book I could not put down, liberating and refreshing.

It is lighter than his earlier books which I should also recommend, because unlike them, I guess this is especially for those on the fringe of the Church, those moving perhaps towards the exit and those wondering whether to come in, and, the cover says, especially for those outside "who nevertheless attempt to live in the spirit of Christianity".

It is also, I think, a book for those oppressed by the narrow, sometimes nice but too often somewhat nasty religion that has come to dominate, inside church doors, at least at the higher levels in much of my part of the world - the Diocese of Sydney and, perhaps, for example, in too many parts of the Vatican. And it is for all who think that such religion is what Christianity is all about (including those who burden too many with it).

The title itself and the cover help to make this a book one might put in the way of some of those folk, and encourage bookstores to display it (as I have already discovered).

Of course, it is not a "serious" theological study (though it is based on such study and much practical pastoral experience). Again, does it doe not touch on every major aspect of Christian faith but its chapters with their punchy headings do range fairly widely, from "Bumping into God : how to find God without going near a church" to "God is not a Christian : how to appreciate other religions without losing your own", and "Did God write anything else ? how to read the Bible and other good books".
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Format: Hardcover
"How to be a Bad Christian - and a Better Human Being" is a rare book from an Anglican vicar. It is down-to-earth, funny and challenging. Tomlinson is more interested in people than doctrine, spirituality than religion, questioning than certainty and how we live than what we believe. The book is fully of anecdotes from his work in an inner city parish. Many of the stories are of his encounters with people who don't normally come to church, whom he meets in pubs after funerals, when people seek him out when in trouble and whom he bumps into in his everyday parish work. They are funny, poignant and moving. His thesis is that these ordinary people are often more "Christian" than those who sign up to a rigid set of beliefs and are regular church goers. He is interested in them as people, and not as recruits to his church.
The subtitles to the chapters say a lot, eg how to keep faith and ditch religion, how to find God without going near a church, how to think with your soul and how to make sense of suffering.
In this book Tomlinson comes across as a serious thinker, yet passionate about the life and teachings of Jesus. It is beautifully illustrated by artist Rob Pepper. As someone who has experience of rigid, stifling and sometimes judgemental churches, this book is a breath of fresh air, opening up a way of being a Christian without committing intellectual suicide, and and at the same time means living life to the full. It should appeal to disillusioned church goers, those who have drifted away from churches that either couldn't accept them because they didn't fit eg because of their sexuality, and those who have never been to church but hunger for a spiritual dimension to their lives.
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Format: Hardcover
What is it about this book that made it meaningful? It is not the cultural understanding. It is not the intellectual or psychological or theological insights. It is not the moving stories. These are there but they're not the heart of it. It is the profound ordinariness, the prosaic tenderness, the love.

For me, this book doesn't reframe what Christianity is (but it may for some); it offers no earth-shattering psychological practices or hidden relational truths but ,nevertheless, I felt scales subtly falling from my eyes. It is quietly, truly revolutionary, offering hope and challenge like an open hand.

On the surface, it is another (there are dozens published annually) "How to" book but it is not one that presents you with endless strictures, contortions or spiritual practices to "find yourself", "arrive" or, worse, "succeed." It doesn't promise happiness but offers integrity. In the words of one of the chapters, it offers an opportunity to "be the person you were meant to be."

The chapters deal with aspects of life (and Christian life) like guilt, fulfillment, suffering, forgiveness, justice and prayer. Rejecting rules and righteousness, Tomlinson presents Christians in the Bible as "people of the way" and the way is simply integrity, struggle and love. The way of living comfortably (but not indulgently) in your own skin. So Tomlinson replaces a homophobic hide-bound church with an inclusive community where people get by by living graciously. Tomlinson detests moralistic, life-denying judgemental Christianity (and parts of the Bible) whilst affirming responsibility, love and challenge.

Tomlinson also grounds Christian experience in everyday life: prayer may be an inner yearning, tears or laughter as much as words specificaly directed at God.
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