We have had a number of people express their concerns & who have asked questions about the Alpha Course that is being run extensively in various Protestant denominations, as well as in the Catholic Church. Rather than try to answer those questions ourselves, we have included here an article that covers the questions asked & the concerns expressed very thoroughly. This article is available in booklet form & a link to the website for this is included at the end of the article.
It must be acknowledged that there have been people who have started their journey to find Christ through the Alpha Course. However, because of the absence of the call to repentance in the course & because repentance is necessary for forgiveness & forgiveness is necessary for genuine new birth, those who have come to faith in Christ via the Alpha Course would be those who have been led subsequently to the place of identification of sin & to the response of repentance. Sadly, false converts are produced when there is no work of repentance.
The Alpha Course An Evangelical Contradiction
By Mary Danielsen and Chris Lawson
Let us first open this overview of the Alpha Course with several passages in Scripture that warn us of the wolves that will enter the church looking to pervert the Gospel and introduce falsehood. We must always measure everything by the plumbline of God’s Word because without that, deception awaits.
2 Peter 2:1-2 tells us:
But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction. And many shall follow their pernicious ways; by reason of whom the way of truth shall be evil spoken of.
1 John 4:1 tells us to “try [test] the spirits” to see if they are from God; and 1 Timothy 4:1 says:
Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils.
That verse should cause every believer in Christ to be increasingly sober-minded and vigilant.
Now, when Scripture tells us to test all things, this is not a mere take-it -or-leave-it suggestion. We are clearly instructed that this is an absolute needful thing for us to do and it is needed more today than ever before. It is becoming more and more clear that most churches (and most individual Christians too) are not doing this simple thing because the level of apostasy and heresy in the church today is mind-boggling and growing by the day.
We know this booklet is going to ruffle some feathers by challenging the Alpha Course. But as the late apologist Walter Martin said, “Controversy for its own sake is sin. Controversy for the sake of truth is a divine mandate.” In light of that, we will state our case for the many unbiblical problems with the Alpha Course and leave it to the reader to decide if it is of any value to the church.
Alpha and the Anglican Church
The Alpha Toolkit is offered for $199 which provides churches with all the materials needed to train small group leaders, marketing materials to entice church-goers and non-church-goers alike, workbook-type guides for each participant and the all-important DVD featuring fifteen talks by Nicky Gumbel.
The Alpha Course is presented as an evangelistic course designed to bring an easy-going method of exploring the “big questions” of life from a Christian perspective.1 With such a vague description, Alpha appeals to a wide range of seekers.
Alpha Course was started in 1977 by an Anglican priest named Charles Marnham, serving at Holy Trinity Brompton (HTB) parish in London. It began as a course for church members on the basics of the faith.
Shortly later, John Irvine, a curate at the time at HTB, took it over and developed it into the format it has today. In 1990, Sandy Millar (vicar of HTB at that time) invited HTB reverend Nicky Gumbel to take the helm of the Alpha Course, overseeing further revisions to appeal to the widest audience possible. Gumbel added his own touch to Alpha, helping the program to spread around the world at an exponential rate.
It is important to recognize that Alpha’s creation in the Anglican Church is significant. The Anglican Church dates back to the 16th century when King Henry VIII broke away from the Catholic Church, which would not allow him to get a divorce. Henry decided to use his throne to pass a series of laws to prevent the office of the Pope from having any authority in England. One of these laws, titled “The Act of Supremacy,” declared the King of England to be the head of the newly formed Church of England, giving him virtually the same level of authority in England as the Pope had over the Catholic Church. As a result, the Anglican Church is a curious and ecumenical mix of Catholicism and Protestantism. The 39 articles of Anglican belief developed in the reign of Elizabeth I laid out the Protestant doctrine and practice of the Anglican Church but were deliberately written to be so vague that they were open to various inter pretations by Protestants and Catholics alike.2
With 80 million members worldwide today, the Anglican Church (which includes the Episcopal church) is largely in sync with the liberal political, theological, and ecumenical worldviews seen throughout postmodern Protestantism today. So it should not surprise anyone that Anglicanism finds a strong voice in evangelical circles via the Alpha Course by those who value unity over truth, social justice over the true Gospel, and a strong desire to reconnect with our “vintage” faith marching off to reconcile with Rome at the end of the day.
Who is this man with the unassuming and friendly name, Nicky Gumbel? His bio alone should cause red flags, but the average North American Christian either knows nothing of his bio, or he or she simply doesn’t care. Again, considering the church today, both cases are probably equally true.
Gumbel is vicar of the largest Anglican church in Britain (a big problem in itself when you realize what the Anglican church stands for, as we have explained above). If you look at the website of Gumbel’s church, Holy Trinity Church Brompton, you will find a typical site that looks similar to many Protestant church sites today. In addition, if you were to do a search on Gumbel’s view of the Bible, you will find much encouragement to read the Bible, and you might presume from what you read that he and his church place a high value on its contents.
The truth is, anyone can say they revere the Bible; anyone can say they read it and want you to read it as well; anyone can present an orthodox “Statement of Faith.” But what needs to be examined is what that person or organization is truly teaching. Anyone can talk the talk, but it takes a lot more than having a good sounding doctrinal statement to walk a genuine walk. The fruit of a self-proclaiming Christian group needs to be looked at.
This does explain, though, how: 1) there can be so many biblical references in the Alpha Course and yet have it be so off the mark, and 2) how they can emphasize the work of the Holy Spirit and still manage to completely misrepresent Him to the Alpha student. Just because there are a multitude of Bible verses used does not mean they are interpreted or applied correctly. The Bible can be and often is misconstrued and taken out of context. At any rate, today the Anglican Church in Britain, under the authority of Prince Charles, is certainly not known for sound doctrine or emphasis on the kind of Christianity that the Scriptures describe, so “fruit inspection” is crucial.
An important development in the historical background of Alpha’s creators is that HTB Church became the center of the “holy laughter” movement for England and Europe in the 1990s. Eleanor Mumford, along with her husband John, carried the Vineyard movement to the UK (with grudging approval from Vineyard founder John Wimber3), visited the Toronto Airport Vineyard Church in Ontario in 1994, and brought back the experiences she had there. Nicky Gumbel attended a meeting in a home in May 1994 where Mumford told of her experiences in Toronto and “invited the Holy Spirit to come.”
The moment she did that, strange things began to happen. One person was thrown across the room and did lie on the floor howling and laughing, “making the most incredible noise.” Another man was lying on the floor “prophesying.” Some appeared to be drunk. Gumbel testified that he had an experience “like massive electricity going through my body.”4 Gumbel got himself together and rushed to a meeting at Holy Trinity Brompton. . . . When he closed that meeting with prayer and said, “Lord, thank you so much for all you are doing, and we pray you’ll send your Spirit,” the same strange phenomenon were again manifested. One of those present lying on the floor with his feet in the air started “laughing like a hyena.”
Nicky Gumbel spends a substantial amount of time relating to Alpha participants in Alpha’s video 3 talk 9, exactly how this occurred:
Ellie Mumford told us a little bit of what she had seen in Toronto . . . It was obvious that Ellie was just dying to pray for all of us. . . . Then she said, “Now we’ll invite the Holy Spirit to come.” And the moment she said that one of the people there was thrown, literally, across the room and was lying on the floor, just howling and laughingmaking the most incredible noise. . . . I experienced the power of the Spirit in a way I hadn’t experienced for years, like massive electricity going through my body. One of the guys was prophesying. He was just lying there prophesying.5
From there, others brought the movement to Brownsville Assembly of God in Pensacola, Florida, and the hyper-charismatic church of the ‘90s once again brought shame to the Christian community by laughing, barking, and claiming that gold dust and feathers falling on their assemblies was proof of God’s presence and approval. At some gatherings, taxis were provided for those “too drunk in the spirit” to drive home from services.
If you are saying to yourself that this is old news (1994) and not relevant today, let us caution you that today Alpha is bigger and more influential than ever. According to Alpha’s own site, over 27 million people have now completed Alpha, and its running in 169 countries in 112 languages. Spiritual deception never disappears. Our adversary just regroups it for a different (i.e., bigger) audience because 1) so many proclaiming Christians do not know about context, nor do they really seem to care, and 2) the devil is not going to dismiss a perfectly good deception if he can nab a successive generation with its lies.
So here is our warning: if you believe that Gumbel’s Holy Spirit doctrines are not a problem and his bringing the Brownsville debacle into the church is not important to anyone any longer, then please continue to read. The truth of the matter is that any falsehood we allow, even in small leavenous lumps, leads to greater compromise down the road unless true repentance takes place.
In an interview with the UK Guardian in 2009, Gumbel makes it clear that while he considers himself a Christian, more specifically he is an Anglican. He explains:
This may sound pernickety but I wouldn’t describe myself as an evangelical. These are labels, which I don’t think are helpful. If I was going to use any label it would be Christian, and if you push me any further I’d say I’m an Anglicanthat’s the family of the Church that I belong to.6
Since the Anglican Church has so much in common with the Roman Catholic Church, we have to wonder how evangelicals got the impression that the Alpha Course is compatible with Protestant/evangelical Christianity.
In the following two quotes, we can see Gumbel’s acceptance and promotion of Roman Catholicism and the Catholic papacy:
It was a great honor to be presented to Pope John Paul II, who has done so much to promote evangelism around the world. We have been enormously enriched by our interaction with Catholics in many countries.7
Probably one of the strongest movements of the Holy Spirit is in the Roman Catholic Church, so there’s not a huge theological difference between the official teaching of the Catholic Church and the Anglican Church, for example.8
So we see that the Anglican Church, which has foundations deep in Catholicism, has produced a program that is sweeping the globe, designed to give simple answers to people who want to know the meaning of life. Alpha is designed to be fun and attractive, affirming and enjoyable (i.e., “inoffensive”). But how will this Catholic-influenced agenda point people to the real Jesus Christ, the real Gospel, the real sinful state of humans under the conviction of sin, and their need for a Savior? Will Alpha’s fun, attractive, and affirming program (yours for only ten weeks of classes) lead participants to repenting and surrendering their lives to God in such a manner that will secure their eternal destination (1 John 5:13)?
Alpha is missing the mark on so many levels doctrinally, it is tough to cover it all here. Within its pages, there is no satisfactory explanation as to why Jesus had to die in the first place. Sin is described as doing “wrong things” and yet the doctrine of sin is never fully taught, avoiding even the actual word.
What is never explained is that the biblical concept of “sin” is not just about doing wrong, it is about who we arethe motivations of the heart, our inherent sinful nature, and our separation from God. Alpha does not teach about the full nature of God or His attributes, His righteous anger at sin, or that holy justice required a substitution on our behalf. “Gospel light” hardly describes it fully, and one is left with the impression that Christ died because we mess up sometimes and because the universe brings with it some abstract notion of justice in case stuff happens. Alpha does not bring home the reality or the gravity of our sin, the realization that in us is no good thing, and the truth of how God sees us as lost in our sin until we receive (trust) Christ as our Savior. Thus, we can have no confidence in Alpha that it can truly convert people into a saving faith in Jesus Christ.
The Holy Spirit According to Alpha
Among the fifteen video talks Nicky Gumbel presents throughout the course, of particular interest to discerning Christians are talks number 8, 9, and 10. These talks are shown at Alpha’s distinctive Holy Spirit Weekend discussing who the Holy Spirit is, what He does, and how one might be filled with the Holy Spirit. Manifestations supposedly of God’s Spirit are encouraged during this weekend, even among those who are not yet saved.
Given the background of Alpha’s creators, one can only imagine what experiences might be encouraged. Manifestations such as uncontrollable laughter, lights, shaking, burning, physical heat, gold dust, and shocks have been documented from numerous sources. New Age participants in Reiki therapy and Kundalini Yoga experience the same kinds of manifestations.
A UK apologetics site, in exposing Alpha, had this to say about “strange manifestations”:
Biblically, the Holy Spirit magnifies Christbut not Himself but in Alpha, the Holy Spirit sometimes seems to be doing “his own thing.” Some of those who have been involved with HTB and Alpha claim that they have felt a force, or an unseen power, impelling them to do some very strange and even unChristian things, such as laughing uncontrollably. All responsible Christians, at length, must surely question such things in order to evaluate the fruits of a movement.9
So just how long has this deception been brewing, and at what point did Gumbel appear to be introduced to a specific level of supernatural manifestations? On a particular Alpha video, Gumbel recounts the night that John Wimber (founder of the Vineyard Movement) visited HTB church back in 1982, years before the holy laughter movement. At this meeting, there were many “words of knowledge” (supernatural revelations concerning the situations of various people in the room): “Specific details were given, accurately describing the conditions . . . As the list was responded to, the level of faith in the room was rising.” The following account gives more of what happened on Wimber’s visit:
Gumbel says that he still felt “cynical and hostile” until the following evening when he was prayed for: “So they prayed for the Spirit to come . . . I felt something like 10,000 volts going through my body . . . The American (Wimber) had a fairly limited prayer. He just said “more power” . . . it was the only thing he ever prayed. . . . Now we’ve seen many kinds of these manifestations of the Spirit on the weekends. . . . These manifestations and the physical healings themselves are not the important thing . . . the fruit of the Spirit. . . . these are the things that matter, the fruit that comes from these experiences. So we began to realise that God heals miraculously. . . .
Nicky Gumbel gives no indication here that he or anyone else attending that meeting tested the spirits to ensure that everything came from the Holy Spirit.”10
Author and lecturer Roger Oakland offers some insight:
When Vineyard pastor Randy Clarke came to the Toronto Airport Vineyard in January of 1994, he held several nights of meetings and then lit “the fire.” Randy Clarke had received his “anointing” from the “Holy Spirit Bartender” from South Africa, Rodney-Howard Browne.
For years afterwards, the transferrable anointing spread around the world. “It” was also called “it.” Once someone got “it” they were able to give “it” away. “It” was transported to the UK by Nicky Gumbel from the Holy Trinity Brompton Anglican Church in England.11
Benjamin Creme, the New Age guru who has been preparing the world for decades now to receive “The (new age) Christ” actually expressed his thoughts about the Toronto Blessing some time back. What makes this significant is that for the last few decades and continuing today, Creme has had only one job: promoting the one he calls “The Christ”Lord Maitreya. Also back in 1982, he took out pricey full-page ads in every major global newspaper announcing in bold headlines that “The Christ is Now Here,” which was quite the jolt to the prophecy student who is versed in what the Scriptures say about a final evil world ruler.
Creme is convinced even today that his “Christ” will communicate telepathically to all citizens of the world simultaneously when his time comes to be revealed. Those practicing mind-altering meditation (such as Yoga or contemplative prayer) are being conditioned to be “vibrationally sympathetic” to receiving such “messages.” (To read more about Benjamin Creme and “Lord Maitreya, read Warren B. Smith’s book False Christ Coming: Does Anybody Care?) The fact that Creme would have anything to say about a signs and wonders movement within the Protestant Church actually says as much about the church as the guru. But when asked about the Toronto Blessing and what he thought of it, he said it was a good thing, and is . . . “the [same] method being used by his [own] spiritual Masters to soften up Christian Fundamentalists to accept the New Age Christ when He appears.”12 Charming . . . and not just a little alarming.
When we look at the background and what influences the “spirit” behind Alpha, there is every indication that this is not the Holy Spirit of the Bible, who does not ask us to do all kinds of weird and crazy things. We are not to seek visions and dreams or other things typical in Alpha-style hyper-charismatic circles. While some might perceive Alpha’s teachings on the Holy Spirit to be biblical, the problem lies in the clear beliefs and practices of the founder and how it is and has spread throughout the churches in practice thanks to Toronto and Brownsville. The kinds of manifestations that Gumbel promotes have nothing to do with the Comforter leading us into all truth and making us more like Jesus. It will more likely lead the participant into altered states of consciousness and occult practices common in New Age and emergent circles.
So who are the endorsers of the Alpha program? Probably the most influential supporter of Alpha (at least within the evangelical church) is Rick Warren. Warren was the keynote speaker at the 2014 Alpha Global Conference. For the fee of $190, one could catch him at Royal Albert Hall or get a seat at Gumbel’s church in Brompton (HTB)remember, the site of the birth of the Holy Laughter movement.
The credibility that Warren lends to Alpha cannot be understated because of his highly popular Purpose Driven movement. And if Alpha was previously found mostly in mainline denominations and charismatic churches, Rick Warren’s backing is going to provide a major thrust for the Alpha course to enter evangelical and even conservative Christian denominations.
In addition, Willow Creek Association promotes and presents the Alpha Course, and on Alpha’s main website, there is information about the various churches that teach the Alpha Course.
A 2016 endorsement of the Alpha Course by Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa’s senior pastor, Brian Brodersen, is going to have a significant impact on many Calvary Chapel and other non-denominational mega churches. Brodersen posted this statement on April 14, 2016 on his Facebook to Nicky Gumbel regarding Gumbel’s new ALPHA film series:
What a FANTASTIC introduction to the new ALPHA film series! Good One @ Nicky Gumbel.13
Something that Calvary Chapel leaders and all Christian church leaders for that matter should remember is that the reason the Protestant Reformers were burned at the stake during the Protestant Reformation was because they stood against the errors of Roman Catholicism.
Today, things are quite different. We see thousands of Christian leaders of every sort either sympathizing with or outright promoting ecumenism and working with churches and movements that the Roman Catholic Church is absorbing or seeking to absorb into the fold in the future. The Pope’s and the Vatican’s influence is like a magic spell over many Christian leaders these days, and many have forgotten that judgement of the Living God is upon those who twist Scripture and present a false gospel:
I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel: Which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ. But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. As we said before, so say I now again, if any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed. For do I now persuade men, or God? or do I seek to please men? for if I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ. But I certify you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached of me is not after man. For I neither received it of man, neither was I taught it, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ. (Galatians 1:6-12)
A simple question one should ask of Brian Brodersen and other Christian leaders is: “Which version of Jesus Christ is Nicky Gumbel promotingthe Roman Catholic version of Jesus that is eaten and ingested in the Roman Catholic ritual of the sacrifice of the Mass or the biblical Jesus of Nazareth who was sacrificed only once for all time and is now sitting at the right hand of God in heaven (Hebrews 10:12) and is NOT being mystically turned into a wafer by a priest to be eaten and ingested (John 6:62-63)?
Well, in actuality, Gumbel, if he chooses to, can simply bounce back and forth like a ping-pong ball, playing to each crowd freely whenever the social context calls for it. With Roman Catholics, he can eat the Eucharistic Jesus, and with Protestants he can point to Scripture, and with charismatics, he can promote excesses and holy laughter and just go with the flow however things take shape. This type of convoluted spirituality escalates confusion to its highest form. This is not Christianity, this is diabolical!
Where Does it Lead?
With each passing year, the Alpha Leadership course becomes more blatant in its rejection of sound doctrine in favor of an ecumenical agenda that will merge seamlessly with the coming world spirituality predicted in the Bible. In 2015, the list of speakers at the Alpha Global Conference should concern every Christian who is a lover of truth: Rick Warren, who we mentioned earlier, Father Raniero Cantalamessa (preacher to the Papal household whose writings are recommended reading in the Guide for Alpha participants), word of faith proponent Joyce Meyer, Archbishop Justin Welby, and several others.
One should note that the Alpha Course is so “user-friendly” and spiritually generic that Roman Catholic leaders accommodate it, embrace it, utilize it, and promote it. It is the unchanged standard Alpha Course. Alpha is compatible with Catholic teaching, but it does not present wholly Catholic issues. It assumes that follow-up teachings will be offered to Catholics and those wishing to become Catholic. And, of course, as we said earlier in this booklet, Nicky Gumbel has met with at least two popes in order to cultivate an Alpha Course that is geared entirely for a Roman Catholic context. Alpha for Catholics is utilized on a global scale.
In fact, the introduction page for the Roman Catholic Alpha Course promotes it this way:
Answering the Call for the New Evangelization
Alpha is a tool for the New Evangelization that is being used by thousands of Catholic parishes in over 70 countries around the world. Alpha creates an environment and opportunity for an encounter with Jesus. As Pope Francis likes to say, it’s a chance for “Jesus to find them.”14
Alpha is without a doubt a great experience of new evangelization.15 Archbishop Rino Fisichella, President, the Pontifical Council for Promotion of the New Evangelization
Would a biblically sound, Gospel-focused program be so accepted and embraced by the Roman Catholic Church? No, because it would be incompatible with the Catholic view of salvation. Alpha markets itself as helping people find truth and find God. If Alpha originally intended to be coy about its true colors, Gumbel removed all doubt at the 2015 Global Conference by revealing its cooperation with Rome:
Ultimately, unity is not doctrinal, it’s relational . . . unity doesn’t mean we’re not interested in the truth! The only way to get truth is through unity!16
But Christian history has proven already that unity is often embraced at the cost of truth, and those who stood alone (like the martyrs) were the ones who made a difference. Truth can bring unity, but unity for its own sake does not lead to truth. That is why Jesus promoted truth and did not commit Himself to the crowds.
Gumbel also expressed the following at the conference:
Unity is not an option. Jesus is still praying for our unity so that the world will be one.
Unity doesn’t mean we have to agree on everything. Disagreement is healthy.
I used to think if some part of the church is different from me, they must be wrong. Now I think, ‘wow, they’re different from me, I must have so much to learn from them!
I have come to love the Catholic Church. If God has given them the same Spirit, who are we to oppose God?
The same Spirit lives in the Catholics, and the Orthodox, and the Pentecostals and the Protestants, even the Anglicans have the same Holy Spirit living within them. That’s what makes us one!
We live in a divided world that demands a united church.
Root of all problems in the world is division. Paul gives us the answer to this, it’s in relationships!17
No, Mr. Gumbel, the root of all problems in the world isn’t division. Jesus said He came to cause division – division between truth and error. The root of all problems in the world is sin, which separates man from God. And the only way to get truth is through the Word of God. Subjective and experiential Christianity is guaranteed to leave one walking in step with the apostates on the broad road to destruction.
The Bottom Line
The church today, using unnatural (and unbiblical) growth methods and programs, has grown into an unnatural institution, with perverse and unsound doctrines, combining paganism with Christianity and compromising any bits and tidbits of truth. The Bible indicates that true church growth comes from “the washing of water by the word” (see Ephesians 5:26-27). Only as we cleanse ourselves of false doctrine while washing in the pure doctrine of God’s Word can we experience the natural growth that God intended.
The Alpha Course fits perfectly into today’s emergent “progressive” culture with its experiential mysticism and its ecumenical merging of all faiths, starting with Rome. We won’t be surprised next to see Alpha for Muslims. It is also a front for Toronto-blessing-style hyper-charismania and Latter Day Prophet lying signs and wonders antics. Even if people find some truth in it, there is enough poison to render it harmful to the body as a whole. Even if a solid church can find a way to present it with their own solid teaching, why bother? If we need so many books to explain the Bible, how are we any different from the various cults today?
The bottom line with Alpha is this: Can Christians who love the Word and their Bibles be comfortable with, or even need, a program that is
Written from the Church of England/Anglican perspective?
Written and taught by a man who brought us holy laughter and the Brownsville Revival?
Teaches Catholics the same course as Protestants and urges them to stay in the church they are in?
Is ecumenical to the core?
Promotes an incomplete theology of the Cross and atonement?
Promotes New Age/hyper-charismatic manifestations claiming they are of the Holy Spirit?
Teaches Kingdom Now Theology/Dominionism?
If you or your church are using the Alpha Course, or are considering using it, please prayerfully consider what you have read in this booklet.
To order copies of The Alpha Course An Evangelical Contradiction,click here.