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Is This the Hottest Ticket to Heaven?
by Viv Goskrop
(This is the full
transcript of our comments for the article on the Alpha Course
in the Mail On Sunday YOU magazine)
explain, I am writing a piece about the popularity of the Alpha course
for You magazine, the women's magazine (aimed at women aged 20-40) at
the Mail on Sunday. I have spoken to a lot of women who have done the
course and loved it, others who are more sceptical. I would like to
include a quote from you to give a sense of balance and get across the
idea that the Alpha Course is not something that is sanctioned and
supported by the entire Christian church - there are plenty of
Christians who are sceptical about its value.
thanks for this explanation of your project.
May I just comment on one thing above, as it is quite important?
It’s not always that Alpha’s critics are “sceptical about
its value”. Many of
Alpha’s critics are deeply grieved by its nature.
They believe it to be a dangerous deception; even a deliberate
counterfeit of genuine Christianity.
would be really grateful if you could answer the following
please forgive me that my responses below aren’t as brief as one would
wish. This topic is such a
serious one, and not knowing how familiar you are with Alpha, or what
the rest of the article will be covering, I needed to provide you with
sufficient information to put my answers in context.
I don’t think it should take very long to read.
you will know which bits will be relevant for your specific article, but
it seemed better to assist you with too much info rather than not
enough, as you can determine far better than I what you’ll want to
include and what can be left out. I
really hope that’s OK.
Why do you think the Alpha Course has become so popular in the last ten
sudden popularity of the Alpha Course in the
said that, it is the case that Alpha hasn’t actually become nearly so
popular as Holy Trinity Brompton claims!
According to the sociologist (and long-time Alpha researcher) Dr.
Stephen Hunt, HTB “over-exaggerates”
the figures regarding Alpha’s popularity [source: Stephen Hunt, The
Alpha Enterprise, (Ashgate, 2004), pp93,95,150].
on the question of numbers for a moment: If we look at the
the number of people taking Alpha has plateaued. In other words, the net
growth in attendance is zero despite Alpha being present in 153
countries now. It seems that
groups are giving up on Alpha almost as quickly as new groups are trying
it is undeniable that Alpha has grown in popularity in the last ten
years. Alpha is one of the
newer ‘fads’ to come into the Christian Church, and many stagnating
churches want to feel part of a big, exciting, new thing.
Additionally, church ministers seem to know their Bible less and
less well as the years go by, and they therefore simply do not recognise
many of Alpha’s errors. (I
firmly believe that this ignorance of the Bible is the key reason for
their churches’ stagnation in the first place.)
This decrease in faithfulness to Holy Scripture is prophesied in
the Bible itself in 2 Timothy 4:1-4 as well as other Scripture
of the reasons for the popularity of the Alpha Course amongst many
non-church-goers, according to a number of the published testimonies of
their experiences while on the Course, would seem to be due to the need
for something spiritual in their lives.
The majority of Alpha participants fall within the 20-40 age
bracket; they have become tired of the materialism and secularism so
prevalent in the West, but often they have not grown up with a Christian
background, thus they know very little of even the basic teachings of
Christianity, and so are more open to looking for spiritual fulfillment
in a wide variety of belief systems which may include the
Judeo-Christian one, but is certainly not limited to it.
may pursue the spirituality of the Eastern religions – or perhaps just
some aspects of Eastern beliefs and practices such as yoga,
reincarnation, homeopathy and holistic health, etc.
Or they may look for inner peace through varying kinds of therapy
and self-help movements. There
is even the resurgence now of ‘pagan’ or earth-centred religions
such as Wicca to which increasing numbers are turning.
these things and others are believed to be equally valid spiritual paths
to God - or, at the least, to inner spiritual satisfaction, and the
Alpha Course is seen by many people who are searching for spiritual
meaning in their lives, as one of those many and varied options.
Indeed, one advertisement for Alpha reads “whatever
you are searching for, [Alpha] would be a good place to start”
[source: The Good News,
Advertisement on file comprising an insert for the Aberdeen
Evening Express, Summer 1998, p5].
For people outside the Christian faith, what are the pros and cons to
Spiritually speaking, there are simply NO ‘pros’.
I realise that must seem a harsh thing to say, and if I thought
there WERE any pros I would certainly cite them, but I honestly believe,
and all my research over the last ten years has confirmed, that there is
none. I would dearly love to
say that Alpha is inspired, or at least is setting people on a
spiritually helpful path, but it isn’t.
The whole point of Christian evangelism, which the Alpha Course
claims to be doing, is to preach the Christian gospel such that souls
will be saved from hell, but this is NOT what is happening on Alpha.
It is true that many participants are having profound spiritual
experiences – and they may indeed believe they have found the
spiritual element previously missing in their lives – but these
experiences have NOTHING to do with Christianity, and the Bible makes
clear they are, in fact, spiritually very DEADLY.
Though attendees may well have an enjoyable eleven or so weeks while
actually attending the Course, make some new friends, feel better about
themselves and others than they did previously, even read their Bibles
and/or pray, and believe they now have a relationship with Jesus, an
Alpha participant will complete the Course deceived about the most
crucial subject of all – i.e. who God is and what life is really all
about. These vital
questions, which all the glossy posters claim Alpha will answer, are
some of the very questions about which the Course seriously MISLEADS
hope to expand a bit more on this fundamental aspect of the Christian
faith in one of my answers below, but for now, one example is that the
Course communicates to people that, after making some vague commitment
to God, their lives will practically become trouble-free.
This is a very easy message to preach, and to hear, which is
another reason for Alpha’s popularity, but it is not what Jesus
taught, and attendees soon find that everything is NOT easy after Alpha.
The consequences of this disillusionment can be that such folks
lose what little faith they did get from the Course and actually end up
hardened against the true gospel, because they “tried” it and it
As someone outside the Alpha movement, what should people know about the
course and its aims before becoming involved?
key point is this: Don’t
attend Alpha if you are feeling emotionally vulnerable.
Those people who are suffering socially or emotionally at the
time they take Alpha are much more prone to missing Alpha’s irrational
message and to being taken in by its soothing but deceptive atmosphere.
Regardless of whether readers heed the above point, and even if they ignore everything else I say, I beseech them with every fibre of my being NOT (whatever else they do) to attend the ‘Holy Spirit weekend’ nor the ‘healing’ meeting. People who attend these sessions are NOT being introduced to the true Holy Spirit of God, despite HTB’s claims (please see Part Five of our book Alpha: the Unofficial Guide - Church which discusses this terribly dangerous aspect of the Course).
would sincerely urge people to read the books I have co-authored on the
– the Unofficial Guide: World,
- the Unofficial Guide: Church, and Alpha
- the Unofficial Guide: Overview. This is not for the sake of
royalties as we do not accept any for the book, but because it explains
in much more detail than I have space to do here the grave problems with
the Alpha Course, and why it should ideally be avoided altogether.
wisely ask about the “aims” of Alpha.
Whatever its stated aims, Alpha is actually (a) spreading the
false spirit behind the ‘Toronto Blessing’ to those churches which
rejected it in the 1990s or which didn’t receive it at the time for
some other reason; (b) filling churches with unsaved people; (c)
bringing about ever more compromise and error within Christian churches
than already exists (please see Appendix B of our “Overview”
volume for irrefutable evidence of all this.)
Why does the Alpha course not have universal support and approval across
the Christian church?
immediate concern among those Christians who know their Bible is that
the early Church didn’t need a fifteen-week ‘Introduction to the
Christian Faith’ in order to change the world, so why do we need one
now? Why didn’t God give
us Alpha, or its equivalent, a very long time ago if it is really what
it claims to be (especially given the extent to which Christianity has
declined in the
beyond that concern, there are a great number of profound problems with
the Alpha Course, which make it impossible for much of the Church to
support or approve it. The
most serious of all is that Alpha fatally misrepresents Jesus Christ and
His gospel. In particular,
the very core of the gospel message is lost; i.e. the absolute and
terrifying purity and holiness of God.
A purity which is SO total that God has had to separate Himself
from this fallen world – hence both the suffering we see around us,
and the need for His own Son, Who had NEVER sinned, to die to pay the
necessary price for our restoration to God if we will recognise our
sinful state, repent of it, and live for Him.
does not tell its participants much at all about God except that He is
“love”. God certainly IS
love, but He is also mankind’s Creator and Judge, and it is only if we
accept His gospel of salvation, that we will KNOW His love - and He will
then also become our Father.
on from these fundamental omissions, neither does Alpha speak much about
the true sinful state of man, as given in the Bible.
Rather, it just tenders the vague impression that our sin is
merely a case of our committing a handful of peccadillos or mistakes
during our lives. At most
Alpha will stretch to admitting that some us have “messed up our
lives”, but it signally fails to get across to Alpha attendees that we
are sinners by our very NATURE, i.e. that we COMMIT SINS because we ARE
SINNERS. And it makes only a
fleeting reference to the unspeakably awful eternal consequences of our
sinful state – i.e. that we are headed for torment in hell.
the sessions on the Lord Jesus Christ and the reasons for the death He
had to die for us are not understood by participants in their true
Biblical context, and so this pivotal doctrine subsequently passes many
focus of Alpha is instead the Holy Spirit.
But even here, it is not the true HOLY Spirit of Scripture Who is
“introduced” on Alpha. The
key work of the Holy Spirit is to enable people to understand the facts
of the gospel message when it is preached to us, convict us of our
rebellion towards the Holy God, and soften our hearts so we can repent,
and be saved. Once a person
is saved, the work of the Holy Spirit in a new believer’s life is to
sanctify us and guide us daily in the ways of the Lord.
Alpha’s spirit is ANOTHER spirit that does none of the above.
It simply rains down all manner of unbiblical ‘spiritual
experiences’ on Alpha attendees. Their
experiences convince many participants that they have now become a
Christian. But they have
not! It is so desperately
sad! These spiritual
experiences have NOTHING to do with Christianity, but are from demons.
This is the reason for my very strong urging that people NOT
attend the Holy Spirit weekend (please see Part Five of our Church volume
for biblical proof and further explanation of this awful aspect of
Alpha.) But because most of
these people lack the Christian framework of previous generations, they
have no plumbline by which to compare their experiences on Alpha, and so
quite naturally assume it must be authentic Christianity.
Christian gospel perhaps seems an unacceptably exclusive one to those
who are not Christians. Well,
yes, it is exclusive in the sense that God states very clearly in the
book – the Bible - He has given His creation, that there is only ONE
way to Him, and that is through His Son, Jesus Christ, who Himself said
there is no other way to the Father (please see John 14:6).
NO other way is acceptable to God.
Men have devised many, many methods of working their own way to
God through the millennia, but they are tragically wasted efforts, as
they are not the way God has told us to come to Him (please see Part One
of our World
volume for more on this.)
the Christian gospel is wonderfully inclusive too - because the gospel
is for every single person who has ever lived.
The Bible says “For God
so loved the WORLD (i.e. every person who has ever been born), that
He gave His only begotten Son (i.e. Jesus Christ to die on the cross
and be raised from the dead), that
WHOSOEVER (i.e. anyone, in any period of history, in any country) believeth in Him (i.e. trusts in and clings to Jesus) should
not perish (i.e. spend eternity in hell paying for their sins
because they refused to accept God’s payment on their behalf), but
have everlasting life (i.e. be forgiven their sins, and be saved)”
(please see John 3:16).
see chapter 13 in our World
volume, for more on all the above. Also,
the leaflet titled Alpha: The Last
Word in Evangelism and the booklet Ultimate
Questions, for what Alpha should be telling its participants but
(Please see chapter 13 in our World volume, for more on all the above. Also, the leaflet titled Alpha: The Last Word in Evangelism and the booklet Ultimate Questions, for what Alpha should be telling its participants but isn’t.)
Have you attended Alpha yourself? What were your impressions?
have been researching the Alpha Course since 1995, and my co-author,
found that the people who actually run the Courses are, generally,
extremely sincere. But they
are also ignorant of the teachings of Jesus.
They are very trusting of Nicky Gumbel, whereas the apostle Paul
told us to be wary and vigilant, to test everything we are taught, and
to watch out for wolves in sheep’s clothing who would come into the
Church and pass themselves off as teachers of the Christian faith when
in reality they were not (please see Acts 20:26-31).
also own copies of each of the Course videos (and their transcripts), as
well as other Alpha video and audio tapes, for example the Alpha
Training Tapes, all of which we have watched and listened to multiple
times. We have also studied
in depth the vast majority of Alpha’s books and other publications
such as Alpha News and HTB
sadly, we have not found the Alpha Course to be a true representation of
Biblical Christianity. Instead,
our research shows that it preaches a counterfeit gospel which,
tragically, is deceiving many 1000s of sincere attendees of the Course
into thinking they have become Christians when they haven’t.
this makes sense. Do email back if you would like me to clarify
questions further. I am happy to mention your books and anything else
you are working on.
you very much for your willingness to mention our books.
The only item I definitely need you to mention is the World volume of our book Alpha
– the Unofficial Guide. By
all means explain that outlet details for it are available on our
We continue to research and write on all aspects of Alpha because
there is simply so much wrong with it.
very much hope you will be able to make use of some of the information
I’ve given above. I wish you every success for the article.