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Alpha Alarm

This article was published in the Presbyterian Standard, Issue No. 15, July-September 1999.

T HIS September sees yet another huge attempt to persuade the people of the United Kingdom to believe in Jesus Christ. Nothing wrong with that, we might think. Indeed the thought of men of God preaching the gospel the length and breadth of the land, warning every man and inviting sinners to the Saviour, is a joyful one. But we are talking here about the Alpha Course.

The 'Millennium Alpha Initiative' campaign is being launched, with help from advertising professionals, to publicise local Alpha courses being held nationwide. These are described as "an introduction to the Christian faith." They are warmly recommended by the usual mix of entertainers, footballers and pop stars who, despite their exposure to "the Christian faith" seem happy to remain...entertainers, footballers and pop stars. The Archbishop of Canterbury says of the Alpha Course: "I recommend it wholeheartedly." That should intrigue us. A Roman Catholic Bishop says: "Alpha does not contain anything that is directly opposed to any Catholic teaching." That should alarm us.

How can a true presentation of the gospel contain nothing conflicting with the doctrines of popery?! The idea is preposterous. Has not Rome pronounced her anathemas upon those who believe in free and sovereign grace, the very heart of the gospel? upon those who conclude with Paul that "a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law" (Rom. 3:28)? Luther must tear down his theses and Calvin leave his pulpit if the Alpha Course has got it right. The Reformation was a mistake.

Testimonies from Alpha often speak of bodily sensations, tongues-speaking and uncontrollable laughter. Such 'conversions' are purely psychological and not at all spiritual. The seed has no root. When the Holy Spirit comes in regenerating power a man is humbled and mourns. He loves the truth and walks in the paths of righteousness. The Jews were fond of saying that "Satan and the serpent have one name." If the serpent is noted for subtlety then the devil is the chief for cunning and craft. Counterfeit religion is his favourite device. Paul feared that the Corinthians were too willing to tolerate false teachers. Today's church must learn that there is another Jesus, another spirit and another gospel in the world, though they appear dressed in evangelical garb (2 Cor. 11:4,14-15).