Alpha Courses


These Courses are now wide spread in particularly the Western world, as can be seen in many countries when on holiday or business.

They are advertised on buses, trains, ferries, etc. and most people are now aware that they exist.

Comments have been made to the writers over the last 10 years questioning the veracity of the contents of these Courses relative to the proper understanding of the Bible; which has left some people perplexed as to their true value!  This is understandable; as the different courses are tailored to suit each Church groups doctrine; which implies that there must be errors compared with Truth from the Bible.

In an attempt to give some clarity on this subject and starting with the origins of the Courses, below is the Wikipedia entry on the Internet.


The Alpha course is a course which seeks to introduce the basics of the Christian faith, described by its organisers as "an opportunity to explore the meaning of life".[1] Alpha courses are being run in churches, homes, workplaces, prisons, universities and a wide variety of other locations. The course is being run around the world by all major Christian denominations.[2][3] 


Alpha was started in 1977 by the Reverend Charles Marnham, a curate at Holy Trinity, Brompton, a Church of England parish in London.[4] It started as a course for church members on the basics of the Christian faith but then began to be used as an introduction for those interested in the faith. The Very Reverend John Irvine, at that time a curate at Holy Trinity, Brompton, took over running the course and developed it into the 10 week format which continues to this day. In 1990 the Reverend Nicky Gumbel, at that time a curate at Holy Trinity, took over the running of the course[5] at the invitation of the Reverend Sandy Millar (the then vicar) and oversaw its revision and expansion.

In 2008 over 33,500 courses were offered in 163 countries by AnglicanPresbyterianLutheranBaptistMethodistPentecostalBritish New Church Movement and Orthodox[5] churches and the Roman Catholic Church.[citation needed] Over 15 million people worldwide have attended an Alpha course (two and a half million in the UK).[6]


The Alpha course is organised as a series of sessions over 10 weeks, typically preceded by an "Alpha Supper" which often includes the talk "Is there more to life than this?" and with a day or weekend away which includes three or four of the talks asterisked [*][clarification needed] below. Each session starts with a meal, followed by a talk (often a video of one by Nicky Gumbel) and then discussion in small groups. The talks aim to cover the basic beliefs of the Christian faith.


Alpha's teachings are intended to centre upon aspects of Christian faith on which all denominations are in general agreement. Gumbel says (quoting Fr Raniero Cantalamessa) "What unites us is infinitely greater than what divides us."[citation needed]

Roman Catholic distinctives, such as those concerning the Virgin Mary and certain sacramental teachings are absent, as are Baptist teachings on baptism. Instead, individual churches are encouraged to provide follow-up courses of their own.

The New International Version of the Bible is quoted in the course materials. St Paul's reference to scripture being "God breathed" (2 Timothy 3:16) is referred to, although whether this view of scripture implies strict inerrancy is not made clear.

Within evangelical Protestantism the most controversial element of the Alpha Course is what is considered to be its charismatic slant.[according to whom?] Three of the fifteen sessions are given to the person and work of the Holy Spirit and cover the infilling of the Spirit; speaking in tongues and healing via prayer. Conversion stories in the book of Acts (see 2:1ff, 9:17-19, 10:44-46, 19


Although originating from the Evangelical Anglican tradition, it is now used by all the mainstream churches including the Roman Catholic, Anglican, Methodist, Baptist and Pentecostal churches. The Alpha course has been endorsed by a number of leaders, including many Roman Catholic cardinals, Anglican archbishops and bishops,[21] and leading figures of all the main Christian denominations. Rowan Williams was an enthusiastic supporter when he was Bishop of Monmouth and Archbishop of Wales and continued his support as Archbishop of Canterbury,[22]opening an Alpha conference and accepting an invitation to speak at an Alpha supper in London in 2004. He describes it as "a very special tool" and "a unique mixture of Christian content and Christian style".[21] His predecessor, George Carey described the courses as "superb."[22] Father Raniero Cantalamessa, a monk of the Order of Friars Minor Capuchin and Preacher to the Papal Household for Pope Benedict XVI wrote a document praising Alpha in


The Alpha course has been criticised for a charismatic emphasis. A particular problem for non-charismatic evangelicals is what is seen as Gumbel's emphasis upon the person and work of the Holy Spirit.[citation needed] As a result, some churches have chosen to teach a different view of the Holy Spirit, although this is discouraged in Gumbel's book How to Run the Alpha Course.

Because it has been recommended as supplementary reading, one of Gumbel's books, Searching Issues, has become a focus of criticism. There is a chapter criticising homosexual practice, although this is not unique to the Alpha course but part of the wider Evangelical context.[24]

More conservative critics (especially from a Reformed and Evangelical perspective) have complained that the course does not adequately define sin and therefore does not properly explain the reason for Jesus's death and resurrection.[citation needed] The alternative Christianity Explored course is an attempt to go beyond what the Alpha Course teaches on sin.

Rev John Vincent of the Urban Theology Unit in Sheffield has suggested that Alpha presents too narrow a version of Christianity and one too centred on what theologians have said about Jesus rather than allowing students the freedom to draw their own inspiration from studying Jesus' life and teaching. "The Alpha course, because of its didactic style, its narrow-mindedness and its closed nature, doesn't facilitate alternative views", he says. "I happen to believe it therefore leads people into a self-centred religion which is not the same as the genuine Christian discipleship

Roman Catholic context

Alpha in a Catholic Context is a means of presenting Alpha to leaders of the Roman Catholic Church. The 15-session course remains identical to that run in other denominations but a team of Roman Catholics working from Alpha's headquarters have produced a number of resources to introduce the course to Catholic leaders and explain how it might best be used within a Catholic context and making use of other Catholic material. This approach has drawn harsh criticism from some Catholics, with the claim that the course is unbalanced and does not sufficiently present some Roman Catholic doctrines; instead these need to be added afterwards in additional sessions.[26] Nevertheless, following the first Alpha conference for Roman Catholics in 1996 at the invitation of Cardinal Basil Hume, Alpha has been launched globally in the Catholic Church and "is now running in thousands of Catholic parishes in 70 countries around the world."[27]


As can be seen from the above, although Alpha Courses are used in so many “Christian” religious organizations worldwide, there are many differences of “Christian” teaching, which must call into question what is taught!

Rev. Gumbel initially wanted only the version that he had developed to be used, including “the Holy Spirit day”.  It is understood by the writers that his version was/is strongly “Charismatic” in slant; which included “filling of the person by the Holy Spirit”, “speaking in tongues” which clearly if so, is the Charismatic division of the Church of England; and they must therefore sanction the teaching!

Rev. Gumbel apparently wanted only his version to be used; but eventually relented, and since then the spread has been very rapid.

Individual Groups/Churches now run their own version to suit their own religious dogma/theology; which inevitably will leave many people confused, as clearly the Roman Church version must be very different to that of a strict Protestant Group!

What in effect has developed is similar to the differences in dogma of Religious organizations in the last 2000 years, since our Lord’s first Advent!

What are those differences?  Well they are as numerous and varied as the teachings of each Church!  So; how to know what is true?

This is the same question that prevailed before the Alpha Courses started; and can only be answered by true study of Scripture by the individual!

Danger areas are the constant misuse of Scripture passages to enforce a particular teaching.  Some of the main error areas are listed below, and all need to be studied in the context of the change which took place at Acts 28:28!

1) The working of the Holy Spirit (HS) in the Old Testament (OT).

2) The working of the HS up to Acts 28:28.

3) The working of the HS now.

4) The working of the HS in Israel in OT and up to Acts 28:28.

5) The working of the HS in the future.

6) The position of Israel now.

7) The position of Israel in the future.

8) The position of Christians in the future.

9) The gifts of the HS up to Acts 28:28.

10) The gifts of the HS after Acts 28:28.

11) Get to know the position of Satan now.

12) Get to know the position of Satan in the future.

13) Get to know Satan’s power and motive now.

14) Healing prior to, and post Acts 28:28.

15) Know the difference between the Church and the Jews.

16) Know why so many Gospel Scriptures do not apply to the Church.

17) Know why the sin question is fundamental to God’s Plan.


These and many more answers are available at:  and under Subjectindex.

Also See:

The Events of Pentecost; What is the Truth? (Discussion Document).  

Ecumenical (The) Movement and the Bible: 


Charismatic Teaching:   


If you have questions or comments, please click here.

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