One of our readers has asked about the very popular Alpha Course: "Are there any specific parts of the Alpha Course which would make it non-Christian or unsound?" We will, God willing, spend several issues answering this question.
There are, we believe, especially four reasons why this course needs to be rejected and avoided by God's people. They are: (1) its ecumenical emphasis; (2) its Charismatic origins and teachings; (3) its unbiblical doctrines; and (4) its lack of clear Biblical teaching on many key points. This latter, is in fact, one of its worst features.
First, however, some background. The course was developed at and is marketed by the Holy Trinity Anglican Church, Brompton, west London. It was originally produced in 1979, but has since been so completely reworked by Nicky Gumbel, curate at Holy Trinity, that he may very well be considered its author. There are different versions of the course, including one for young people, but the basic course consists of 15 lessons to be presented either by a leader or by videos over a period of 10-12 weeks.
Three of the lessons, considered to be the "high point" of the course, involve a "Weekend Away." The lessons are short and are meant to be presented in a very informal fashion. The sponsors themselves say, for example, "We believe it is possible to learn about the Christian faith and have a lot of fun at the same time." To this end, that is, to make the course "fun," the fundamental doctrines of Scripture are distorted or passed over.
As far as its ecumenical spirit is concerned, the author of the course himself tells us: "In one sense it is not so important what denomination we are - Roman Catholic or Protestant; Lutheran, Methodist, Baptist, Pentecostal, Anglican or House Church. What is more important is whether or not we have the Spirit of God."
This broad appeal is evident in those who have endorsed the course. Some of them are: George Carey (Archbishop of Canterbury), Alistair McGrath (a influential Protestant scholar), J.I. Packer (of "Evangelicals and Roman Catholics Together" notoriety), John Wimber (founder of the Vineyard Churches), R.T. Kendall of Westminster Chapel (associated with the Toronto blessing and other heresies), John James (President of the Baptist Union), Steve Chalke and Gerald Coates (leading Charismatics).
This ecumenical emphasis is built on a lack of clear Biblical teaching. Thus, a Roman Catholic bishop has said of the course: "It doesn't contain anything that is contrary to Catholic doctrine. What's more, it provides in wonderful form the basis of Christian belief which many Catholics have never cottoned on to." This alone ought to cause any Bible-believing Christian to stay as far away from the course as he can.
Connected with its ecumenism is a strong Charismatic emphasis. The key question for the "Weekend Away" is "How Can I be Filled with the Spirit?" In answer, among other things, directions are given for receiving the gift of "tongues." Along the same lines the course teaches that God speaks to us through prophecy, dreams and visions, promotes faith healing (ala John Wimber, whose books are recommended), and physical manifestations such as shaking, breathing "in the Spirit," and physical warmth or heat.
This Charismatic influence comes from Holy Trinity (a church which promotes the "Toronto Blessing"). In fact, the main purpose of the course seems to be to advocate the Charismatic movement and teachings, though subtly. Be warned!
- Volume: 6
- Issue: 13
Rev. Ronald Hanko (Wife: Nancy)
Ordained: November 1979
Pastorates: Wyckoff, NJ - 1979; Trinity, Houston, TX - 1986; Missionary to N.Ireland - 1993; Lynden, WA - 2002; Emeritus October 15, 2017Website: www.lyndenprc.org/sermons/
Address13823 Clear Lake Rd.
State or ProvinceWA