The Alpha Course: British Christianity’s biggest success story [Excerpts]
The British newspaper The Independent has an article by Matthew Bell on the Alpha Course, which it describes, interestingly, as “British Christianity’s biggest success story.”
Being the Independent, and standing at the far distant extreme of secularism, there are some inevitable digs. We learn, for instance, that “Twenty years ago, evangelical Christianity [in Britain] was a fringe activity, associated with loony American cults.” Well, no, the country was somewhat better acquainted with evangelical faith long before that, and a boom was certainly in progress from the late 1970s at the latest. The journalist is also deeply unhappy at Alpha’s conservative stance on homosexuality.
[TBC: It’s a reflection of the times when secular journalists have to remind us that Britain has had a long history of a large and influential and quite biblical Church. It was in England, some 300 years prior to the Reformation that John Wycliffe preached a biblical Gospel and translated the Scriptures into the common language. The Wesleys, George Whitefield, and many others were Englishmen who played a role in what was called The Great Awakening. We don’t have time to mention John Darby, George Müller, William Booth, and others who lived out lives of biblical faith. No, evangelical Christianity is not a stranger to England.
An article by Dick Fisher of Personal Freedom Outreach (http://www.pfo.org/alpha-cr.htm) analyzed the Alpha Course and included the following summary from the Christian Research Journal.
1. The God of Alpha is not the God of the Bible. ... it does not present us with the God who has revealed Himself in the Bible. ... It simply fails to tell us anything we need to know about God.
2. The plight of man in Alpha is not as serious as in the Bible. ... Alpha does not use strong terms and leaves us rather unclear about where we stand. As one follows its argument, sin is more to be seen in the way we have ‘messed up our lives.’... For all the gravity of sin, Alpha never allows us to feel too bad about ourselves. It never permits us to see ourselves in God’s sight. That is a big omission.
3. The Jesus Christ of Alpha is not the Jesus Christ of the Bible. ... despite having part of the course titled ‘Why did Jesus die?’, it is unable in the final analysis to answer this question. ...
4. The love of God in Alpha is not the love of God of the Bible. ... The God of the Bible is love but it is love that is seen in His willingness to save sinners. ... without the context of God’s holiness and absolute perfection, the meaning of love is lost to us. ...
5. The Holy Spirit of Alpha is not the Holy Spirit of the Bible. ... Alpha’s ‘Spirit’ appears to work in ways that lie outside the confines of Scripture. Whoever it is that people are ‘introduced’ to at the Alpha Weekend, it is not the Holy Spirit. But whoever this mysterious guest is, he is equally at home with the ecstatic gatherings of New Age enthusiasts and non-Christian religions alike.
6. Conversions in Alpha are not like the conversions in the Bible. ... More often than not it is an emotional experience about the love of God but without any understanding of holiness or the need to be saved from our sins. ... For all its efforts, Alpha does not help us to know God. It does not describe the true and living God for us. It does not diagnose man’s condition accurately enough. ... it is unable to supply us with the ‘good news’.” (The Christian Research Network Journal, Spring 1998, pp. 20-21).
In conclusion, too many of those produced by the Alpha Course do not have their anchor in a sufficient and authoritative Scripture.]