Recently someone asked me what I thought of the Alpha Course. For those unfamiliar with Alpha, it is a course that started in a local Church (Holy Trinity Brompton) in the United Kingdom, that under the leadership of Nicky Gumbel, has been used throughtout the world to draw hundreds of thousands of the unchurched to hear presentations about Christianity. There is no doubt that the course has been distributed widely. Actually that is a huge understatement. It has had phenomenal influence in many surprising places. However, for all that may be very praiseworthy about Alpha, the omission of the biblical gospel, renders it, in my opinion, merely an “almost Christian” or “pre-Christian” course.
I am accutely aware that my words here will be considered extremely harsh by some. However, I do not believe anything can be considered “Christian” without the gospel. The gospel is about what Christ achieved for sinners by His life, death, burial and resurrection (1 Cor 15) AND about how exactly the benefits of this are received by unworthy sinners, namely that justification before God is by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone. It is this second and all important part of the gospel message that is omiited in the Alpha Course. The omission is glaring and it is the reason why the Roman Catholic Church (who even to this day anathemetizes those who accept sola fide – justification by faith alone) can and does use the course to draw people into their local Roman Catholic Churches throughout the world.
A so called “Christian” presentation without the inclusion of the gospel (sola fide) is like basketball without a ball. Without the ball there can be no game and without the gospel there can be no biblical Christianity. As Martin Luther said, “justification by faith alone is the article upon which the Church stands or falls.”
To be consistent, it is not merely the Alpha Course that I would not consider “Christian” if it does not include the gospel, but any so called “Christian” movies, even if they are very popular. Movies such as “Chariots of Fire” while perhaps wonderful as a pre-Christian message, also makes no mention at all of how it is that a sinner can stand just in the sight of God. It is great for what it is, a movie about firm chacter and Christian morals, but without the gospel, that is all it can ever be. It cannot be considered a “Christian” movie. Someone can watch the entire thing and be inspired to hold Christian morals, even when it might indeed bring unintended and detrimental consequences, but without the Gospel, it is not “Christian” as I understand the term. A Christian is defined as someone who believes the gospel and a Christian message will at the very least, contain the essential Gospel of justification by faith alone.
What follows is a short and very helpful article by Erin Benziger entitled, “The Ecumenical Compromise of the Alpha Course.” Original source here.
What is the meaning of life? This is the question that many seek to answer and that the internationally known Alpha Course allows people to explore. Having attracted 18.5 million guests since 1993, the Alpha Course is advertised as a non-confrontational means of sharing the truths of the Christian faith. The website of Alpha USA states: Continue reading