We continue here with the question of the previous issue: "Are there any specific parts of the Alpha Course which would make it non-Christian or unsound?"
We have already dealt with two areas in which this popular course is open to criticism, its ecumenical emphasis and its Charismatic origins and teachings. In this issue we wish to examine its teaching or lack of teaching concerning key Bible doctrines.
Perhaps the worst feature of Alpha is that it teaches so very little. This is the reason, we suppose, that a Roman bishop could say that he found nothing in it contrary to Catholic doctrine. Nearly all the key doctrines of the faith are passed over completely or touched on only very lightly.
This is in harmony with Alpha's stated purpose, i.e., to present the "gospel" in a "non-threatening" way, and to allow people to have fun while learning the "truth" (the author has said that "the church is meant to be a party"). The lack of teaching also fits its strong charismatic emphasis - an emphasis that exalts feeling and experience over truth.
As far as specific doctrines are concerned, therefore, the course says nothing or next to nothing about such fundamental doctrines as justification by faith alone, election, the holiness and justice of God, the coming judgment and the wrath of God, the law, depravity, repentance, the new birth, or sanctification. This, of course, explains its broad ecumenical appeal and its "success," for the true gospel in teaching these things is both a savour of life unto life and of death unto death" (II Cor. 2:15, 16).
Perhaps the most notable omission is any serious teaching regarding God Himself. That knowledge of God which is life eternal, is hardly to be found in the course. The only thing taught is the love of God and that is distorted beyond recognition. It is possible, therefore, to take the whole course and remain entirely ignorant of the God of Scripture.
What the course does teach is more often than not misleading or downright error. Though the Trinity is mentioned, far more time and teaching is devoted to the Holy Spirit than to God the Father or even to Christ, in spite of what Christ says in John 16:13, 14.
In its teaching concerning salvation Alpha is thoroughly Arminian, teaching that God loves everyone, that Christ died for all without exception, and that faith is man's decision for Christ. Thus, too, sin is presented primarily in terms of "messed up lives," of unhappiness and other problems, but never clearly in terms of offending God and breaking His law. Only the evil consequence, not the guilt of sin, is emphasized.
The authority and sufficiency of Holy Scripture are undermined by the teaching that God speaks still today "through prophecy, dreams, visions and other people." Tongues and miracles are promoted as the evidences of the Spirit along with physical heat and other such phenomena, instead of the true "fruits of the Spirit" mentioned in Galatians 5.
Our answer, then, to the question is that nearly every part of the course is unsound. The "gospel" presented in the Alpha Course is another gospel, not the "good news" of salvation through Jesus Christ, by the sovereign grace of God and through faith, the gift of God. May God preserve His church from such teaching. Rev. R. Hanko
For a more detailed analysis of the Alpha Course, confer the book, Falling Short? The Alpha Course Examined, by Chris Hand - available from Christian Research Network, PO Box 8400, London, SE13 5ZQ (£4.50).
- Volume: 6
- Issue: 14
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