The Alpha Course is sweeping the nation and the world. Is the Alpha Course good for new Christians? Is it good for beginners in the Bible? Is there a hidden danger in the Alpha Course?
What is the Alpha Course?
Maybe you haven’t even heard of the Alpha Course, but you may be hearing about it soon. This course is sweeping across America and is rapidly spreading around the globe. Many denominations are using it to introduce new believers to the Bible and biblical doctrines. What exactly is the Alpha Course? It is basically an introductory course to the Christian faith. In general, it is a fly-over and a shallow look at God and the Bible. It was created for new believers and the brainchild of the Holy Trinity Brompton Anglican church in London in the 1980’s, so it has been around for over 30 years now. It has been hailed as a way to explore the meaning of life and is being widely used in churches, homes, prisons, universities, and a variety of locations. There are specific courses for specific locations and vocations, like Alpha in the Workplace, Alpha for Prisons, Senior Alphas, Student Alphas, and several others. Today, over 35,000 courses have been offered in over 170 countries and almost 20 million people have taken the course.
The Alpha Course attempts to answer many of the questions new Christians have like; how do I read the Bible?, how can we have faith?, does God still heal today?, in what ways does God guide us?, why did Jesus have to die?, who is Jesus?, who is the Holy Spirit and what is His role in the believers life?
Problems of the Alpha Course
The Alpha Course tends to generalize Christianity and glosses over many of the distinctive doctrines of the many different denominations. For example, Roman Catholics have complained that there is no emphasis on the Virgin Mary. Baptist’s are upset that teachings on baptism are ignored. What is not ignored, and in fact is overemphasized, is the infilling of the Holy Spirit, the baptism of the Spirit, tongues, and healing by prayer and therein lies some of the problems with this course. For example, the Book of Acts is taught as normative doctrine instead of its intended use as a historical account of the church. Conversely, the letters (epistles) of the New Testament are not so much normative but address specific issues that affect churches and are not construed as specific doctrines. This is just the opposite of the way the books in the New Testament were intended by their writers. This course tends to over emphasize the work of the Holy Spirit instead of Jesus Christ and His glorification. There is also a gaping hole where major doctrines are not taught, like sin, sanctification, glorifying Jesus Christ, and loving one another.
The narrowness of these courses do little to allow an all-encompassing view of the story of redemption, the fall of man, the work at Calvary by Christ, and the duty of Christians in the church. What theologians say about Jesus is emphasized above and over His actual ministry and commands. It tends to completely ignore the Great Commission, even though Jesus’ imperative command was given 5 times just before His Ascension.
The Alphas Course, by not defining sin properly, fails to give the emphasis of Jesus sacrifice, the reason for His sacrifice, and for His resurrection. These are the main themes of the Gospel, yet they are glossed over by the course and instead give ambiguous information about Christianity in general. The course is highly superficial and there are very few specifics except in the gifts of the Spirit. Actually the role of the Holy Spirit is over emphasized giving a slightly different view of the Spirit. The Holy Spirit in many cases, Whose purpose is to always point too and glorify Christ, is elevated in status and importance over Jesus Christ and the Father. The gifts of the Spirit are sought after, prayed for, and raised in importance above that of Jesus Christ’s rightful place in the church. The central focal point is not Christ but the gifts of the Spirit, which is contrary to what Christ taught the disciples in His High Priestly Prayer in the Gospel of John.
Dangers of the Alpha Course
The Alpha Course is now the fastest growing Christian education course in the world, according to Christianity Today, and it is growing at an exponential rate. Dangers are that the main message of the gospel is glossed over to make it have basically little or no effect. The crucial elements of Communion, Calvary, the cross, the reason for Christ’s sacrifice, and the inerrancy of the Word of God, and the Bible, are not emphasized. Even the importance of the Great Commission is missing.
Also missing is the essential element of salvation by grace alone in Christ alone by faith alone. The tendency of the course is to speed through or do a fly over of the Bible in general. A crash course of the framework of the Bible can never replace the essential doctrines of the faith. For example there is nothing given of the desire of Christ to make disciples of all nations, to come out of sin, to repent and be baptized, to grow in grace and knowledge. A simple rote memorization of the Bible or of God is nothing short of being called the great omission. Even the Devil and his demons know God exists and Satan could quote the Bible. The demons believe in God and tremble but this doesn’t mean that they are acting on this belief. What is missing is the desire to be hungering and thirsting after righteousness or to have practical applications like loving and serving one another that is covered by Paul in 1 Corinthians 13 and Romans 12. There is a lack of focus on being regenerated, being renewed in mind, or growing in holiness through a lifelong sanctification process.
The greatest problem may be the elevating of the gifts of the Spirit and the lack of not glorifying Jesus Christ, to Whom the Holy Spirit is to testify of, speak of, and Who strives to glorify. It seems to be more of a me-centered teaching. The greater proportion of teaching about the gifts of the Spirit indicates that the gifts are more important than the Gift Giver. Despite the Alpha Course’s best intention, it is overtly charismatic and under emphasizes the holiness of God, thus the “works” of the Spirit are seen as more important that true worship of God in Spirit and in Truth. The experiences are seen as a validation of the Spirit’s presence more than an inner conversion and the outward expression of that conversion. For example, there are testimonies of hundreds who have attended their conferences who have been “bounced” from them due to their lack of speaking in tongues rather than Jesus saying that we would know them by their fruits.
The Alpha Acronym
The acronym for Alpha may surprise you and it seems unbiblical in a great sense.
Anyone can come
Learning and laughter (e.g., having fun)
Pasta and pudding (e.g. food)
Helping one another
Could anything sound further from the main message of the gospel? To repent, to turn from one’s sins, to place your faith in Christ Jesus, to be baptized, to take the gospel into all the world, to make disciples of others, our spiritual depravity, the sinfulness of sin, to grow in holiness, to love one another and be a servant of all. There is a roaring silence from these critical essentials of the gospel so it is like another gospel. A real-good, feel-good, me-centered gospel that has shades of being a false gospel. It is overly charismatic and underwhelming in the proclamation of the gospel. You will not find a lesson on the gospel as seen in Romans 10:9-13: “If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved. As Scripture says, “Anyone who believes in him will never be put to shame.” For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”
Instead it’s if you don’t declare with your mouth in tongues, you are not truly filled with the Spirit and you would not be welcomed at many of their conferences. We are told to be wary of such gospels that appear to be teachings of God yet even an angel of light appears to be bringing truth, yet the most dangerous teachings are those who mix truth with error. Having 99% truth with 1% error renders it all useless and like asking someone to take a drink of spring water with just a drop of cyanide in it. There are hundreds of biblically sound teachings available and there are hundreds of books that can teach you how to study the Bible, but truly God the Holy Spirit is the teacher of Scripture and the Holy Spirit always points to the Person of Jesus Christ. Jesus is the Word of God and the Word of God is Jesus Christ. If you get into the Word of God, the Word of God will get into you. The Holy Spirit strives to point us to Him, to glorify Jesus Christ, and to make Him known to others.
A good study Bible with commentary is an excellent source for learning. So are many Sunday school classes, Wednesday night Bible studies, and a Word-centered worship service. Instead of depending on an Alpha Course, look to He Who is the Alpha and the Omega. The reference to the Alpha and Omega refers to the Greek Alphabet and its like saying in the English Alphabet that Jesus Christ is the A to Z and everything in between. This is what is meant in Revelation 22:13 where Jesus Himself states that “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.” To just have the Alpha is to miss just about everything and His being everything from A to Z.
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