The Alpha Course...

Alpha - a critique

Talking on the telephone with a Christian brother the other day, I found he was surprised that my views on the Alpha course being run by many churches were negative. We discussed it at some length, and it was my turn to express surprise that a senior person in this person's (evangelical) denomination had read all of the material and placed his mark of approval on it.

Now I have not ever attended an Alpha course.

However, I have watched chunks from two of the videos, and have read critiques from 'evangelicals' who have closely examined both its content and the background and current beliefs of its author - London Anglican Church cleric Nicky Gumbel of Holy Trinity, Brompton.

First of all, the portions of video that I watched, and their content.

It was my opinion that while the speaker (Gumbell himself) appeared sincere, there was a substantial amount of material left out.

Indeed, I felt quite seriously that these teaching sessions were (to coin a phrase) "wishy-washy" in their approach to the gospel and its apparent presentation to people who supposedly had no founded belief in the Jesus Christ being their Lord and Saviour.

There appeared little material sufficiently dynamic in the bits I watched to make me hunger to watch more. In fact, I found the bits I watched were so boring, I found other things to do several times. I did find some bits interesting - not from a Christian perspective, but merely as a viewer.

 

I'm writing this short essay to share my ideas with others so that, perhaps, any error on my part may be shown me. I mean that sincerely, because I don't wish to promote avoidance of Alpha courses unnecessarily.

 

The evaluation material about Alpha that I have read is considerably more scathing and damning in its treatment of the course, and before we look at it, I would like to share several historical points.

 

Point One. About 1995, I was quite intrigued to learn first hand details of a conversation overheard by an attendee at a meeting of Charismatic ministers in eastern Australia, perhaps in about 1983 or 1984. Remember that the Charismatic movement, unlike Pentecostalism, embraces all denominations (including some Pentecostal ones).

After a particularly encouraging meeting, all these brethren were wishing each other well prior to departing, and shaking one anothers' hands, when a particular brother made the observation out loud that he would only shake hands with those who accepted not just him, but all the values, history, teaching and dogma which his denomination represented. This brother's church headquarters were, of course, in Rome.

My informant went on to say that his father, also a Pentecostal minister at the time, had encountered at another meeting in the same decade, a similarly strange statement, this time by one of the very senior brethren in his denomination (the Assemblies of God). The statement he heard made was one which actually mourned the fact that the reformation had ever taken place.

One would do well to recognise that huge heresies were sprung on the membership of the Australian Assemblies of God by its own elected (self-appointed?) leadership in the mid 1990s - which must have been growing in many of its leaders' hearts for years before that time.

 

Point Two. As a child in my young teens (I was born in 1935, so that era would have been about 1948 or 1949) I remember learning in history lessons in an English High School - history which is no longer taught these days, I might add - about the Reformation, about Martin Luther, about Knox, Zwingli, and Calvin, about translations of the Bible into the English language and the way in which many translators were murdered, about the reigns of Henry VIII, (Bloody) Mary, and Elizabeth, about Mary Queen of Scots, about Archbishop Cranmer's being burned at the stake for his beliefs, along with many others, and the first of whom was a teenage boy (Master Ridley), about Thomas Becket's murder ("who will rid me of this turbulent priest?"), about the so-called Holy Office (The Inquisition), the Spanish Armada, and many associated historical facts about enormous oppression, murders, skulduggery and other nasties by the "Holy Mother Church", and the attempts by would-be reformers to get away from corrupt and evil church government, back to Biblical truth.

Indeed I may have learned some before that time when I attended St. Andrews Preparatory School in Grahamstown in what was then called the Union of South Africa. St. Andrews was associated with the Presbyterian church, of course, and Presbyterians were bible-believing Christians, not that I realised at the age of 9 or 10 what a Christian was.

Therefore, one wonders greatly about a learned protestant brother wanting to sweep all that the Reformation did in the way of providing a forum for Biblical teaching away as "such a pity it ever happened".

 

Okay. New Topic. Let us look at several well publicised and claimed facts about Alpha.

First and foremost, it is a format and syllabus acceptable across the denominations, which is presented in totally non-threatening language, where everybody has a fun time. Sounds great.

Is the gospel actually non-threatening? I don't think so.

Isn't the purpose of evangelising someone to show them that THEY ARE SINNERS, to define what sin and who God is, and then to explain simply how one avoids having to pay an eternal price of isolation, damnation and torment for our own sin? This, of course, being because of Christ having already died in our place, but which is only available to us IF WE ARE PREPARED TO ACCEPT His sacrifice - and also to accept Him.

This then has to be followed by a personal challenge for the hearer to accept Christ - which cannot (by definition) be non-threatening, although it CAN be done in a way that does not suggest elitism or arrogance.

If a course of study of gospel doctrine is equally acceptable to all who call themselves Christians, it has to mean that its contents conform to the faith beliefs of all those self-styled Christians. Does that mean that Anglicans (who wrote the course) and Pentecostals, Baptists and Methodists (and their successors in Australia, the Uniting Church) believe the same as Catholics do? What about Mormons and Jehovah Witnesses, both of which groups also call themselves Christians? Of course not. Where salvation is defined differently by any one such denomination, where does it its members, and the course stand? And where do all other sponsors of the course stand?

Therefore the areas of difference between the different denominations need to either be skipped over with misinformation (remember history is no longer taught in schools) - or left out of the course altogether.

Is that the "full" gospel? It isn't even the basics for salvation, actually, and the course is heavily promoted as a basic training course for evangelising non-believers, and providing gospel basics and essentials for new Christians and old pew-warmers. And Gumbell teaches course students that the Roman Catholic church is "another denomination" although he is well aware that they STILL (notwithstanding his own misrepresentations of Vatican II's statement in the course material) teach that all Protestants as "seperated brethren" who will go to hell.

That means you and me, if you aren't a Roman Catholic. If the course is acceptable to the Roman Catholic Church - and indeed it has their official seal of approval - that means it teaches doctrine acceptable to the Roman Catholic Church.

Please don't think I have anything against Roman Catholics. I have many friends who attend that grouping of churches. I just do not personally accept a number of their church's teachings, as did not Luther and many others.

 

Actually, it goes a lot deeper than this. At least the material I have read, written by evangelicals with a keen eye for detail, all say it does. And I'm prepared to accept what they say because I've taken the trouble to check out the scriptures they quote. I'm equally sure that the excerpts of the course they use to support their claims would be right, or else they would have been sued by Holy Trinity Brompton!

What! you might say... Christians take one's disagreeing brother to court? Never!

Don't you believe it. The Assemblies of God did so with two brothers here in Adelaide (the State capital of South Australia) over the last ten years. I have met both of them (and then got to know one), and I am acquainted with the leadership families who took them to court.

It is unlikely that the AoG membership Australia-wide know that their tithes went to pay Queens Counsel in the Supreme Court in private defamation actions against two brothers who dared stand up for their faith.

And Holy Trinity Brompton have made it quite clear that they will prosecute anyone who they hear buys their course material, and then runs an Alpha course with anything removed, or anything added. The copyright on the course clearly spells this out.

So you can't lawfully use the good bits out of their course, and rewrite the bad bits.

 

I really have great reservations over the Alpha course, seeing it as part of the building of a humungous end-times heretical church that is prophesied... let me make a connection here...

Alpha is promoted by the now heretical AoG in Australia - which has changed its name to "Australian Christian Churches".

The AoG also runs "Youth Alive" - the huge inter-denominational youth movement many smaller churches send their young people to, which is handy because it allows them to avoid the responsibility and cost of having their own youth programmes.

The AoG also run the annual "Hillsong" music training week, at Hills Christian Life Centre in Sydney. Guess what worship music is used in most Australian churches? Hillsong. And it is being exported overseas too.

I met and got to like the guy who actually started Hillsong years ago. He is a really nice genuine man who disappeared from Hills CLC and the Australian Assemblies of God when his marriage fell into difficulties - a church can't be seen as being supportive of dysfunctional families, can it?

Like in the cults, he is never mentioned any more by them, he never even existed - except for the copyright notices on the worship choruses he wrote.

Like me, he once worked in television broadcasting; he pushed a camera around the ABC's Gore Hill studios in Sydney. That man is Geoff Bullock - who was the most unassuming God-fearing guy you could meet when he and I and three or four other musicians talked with him for some fifteen minutes in the foyer of Paradise Assembly of God in Adelaide between sessions in a worship in music conference in about 1993.

 

The end-times church run by the harlot on behalf of the anti-Christ will be an universal church. It will need to have the following factors all set up prior to its coming into existence...

 

Now, please let me I ask you...

What else does the great and abominable end-times church need that has not already been set up as discussed above?

It already has all those things very succesfully organised by faithful and hard-working brothers and sisters - who I believe have placed themselves unwittingly on extremely dangerous ground.

"I beg your pardon?" I hear you saying.

Ummm.... well... I don't think you'll find that Satan will suddenly appear wearing red robes and holding a pitchfork in order to create such a church. No Christians would join it, would they?

And the harlot apostate church is a church of believing Christians, not aetheists nor agnostics.

However, MAN can and is causing these things to happen, as usual doing things in HIS way - which, of course, is so much better than God's (my sarcasm).

Whenever historically (in the Bible) God has done something grand, He has always had his annointed and appointed prophets do it. Look at Ezra and Nehemiah after Babylon. Look at Moses and Joshua after Egypt. Look at Jonah who begrudgingly saved the people of Ninevah at God's command.

Where is God's genuine legitimate prophetic move here? I see no Luther. I see no Wesley. All I see is very rich television evangelists who would not have the slightest inkling of what being humble is.

And heads of denominations who are remote from the real world, and by and large have little knowledge of recent church history, still teaching 16th century history in their seminaries, which nowadays are often combined with other denominations which don't always look at things biblically.

No, the great and abominable harlot church can only come together through man's organisation, using man's connivance, because it cannot happen any other way.

 

Let me leave you with these book references about Alpha...

 

and some links to other pages about heretical teachings, heretics and heresies, on my own website... each will open in a new browser window...

 

In conclusion, if one's brother errs, one should call him to repentance, in brotherly love. That is a biblical principle. Please do so if you feel I'm out of order in my concerns.

 

drafted 14th April 2002
Created 28th April 2002