On Monday 25 September 2000 I went to hear Nicky Gumbel and his ALPHA team in the Waterfront Hall in Belfast. According to the Belfast Telegraph advert [16 September] this was ‘An opportunity to explore the meaning of life’.
In this assessment I want to focus exclusively upon my first hand encounter at the meeting with Nicky Gumbel’s ‘gospel’ presentation.
1. The whole thrust of Nicky Gumbel’s message focussed upon man and his problems – there was nothing said about the world and mankind as seen from God’s perspective. Those attending were never made aware that because of Adam’s sin/mankind’s fall, unsaved sinners in this world are “dead in trespasses and sins” [Ephesians 2:1] with the “wrath of God abiding on them” [John 3:36]. God’s love was mentioned frequently but “the fierceness of his anger” [Joshua 7:26] never got a mention. As a result there was no attempt to induce ‘reverent fear’ of the Lord which is of course the beginning of true “knowledge” [Proverbs 1:7].
2. There was studiously no reference to or use of the word ‘sin’. Man’s problems were identified as ‘wrongdoings’ but never was any yardstick identified [ie God’s law, which of course is “the schoolmaster” ordained “to bring us unto Christ” Galatians 3:24] in the context and light of which mans actions could be classified as ‘wrongdoings’.
3. The result of these ‘wrongdoings’ was apparently ‘guilt’ and ‘addiction’ and these are, we were told, what Christ can set people free from. Again reference to or use of the word ‘condemnation’ as found for example in John 3:19 was studiously avoided.
4. Jesus was presented as one who would be able to ‘satisfy’ people – Matthew 1:21 immediately sprang to my mind “Thou shalt call his name Jesus for he shall SAVE his people from their sins”.
5. The answer to what was being put across as what I can only call man’s ‘pity party’ is according to Nicky Gumbel friendship and companionship with God. Whilst that is in part true, the vital truth about the first step that can lead to such a relationship was hardly mentioned at all. The real answer to happiness with an ensuing friendship and companionship with God is found in Psalm 32:1 “Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered’. Friendship was elevated and exalted above forgiveness as being the means to happiness for man.
6. A story was told of a man who retrieved a bottle from the sea and inside was a ‘will’ bequeathing money to whoever found the bottle. The man wasn’t going to bother about it but others encouraged him to ‘check it out’. He did and ended up inheriting a small fortune. People were then encouraged to likewise ‘check Jesus out’. Never at any time was the eternal consequence [ie a lost eternity in HELL – another word never referred to or used] spelt out for those who would not ‘check Jesus out’.
7. When Peter preached on the day of Pentecost those listening “were pricked in their heart” [Acts 2:37]. There was no attempt made to likewise confront people in the Waterfront Hall with the reality of and consequences of their lost and sinful condition because the truth was that Nicky Gumbel unlike Peter in Jerusalem and Paul in Ephesus ‘shunned to declare unto them all the counsel of God’ [Acts 20:27].
8. Overall an inaccurate and incomplete view of God was presented and a faulty diagnosis of man’s problem was presented. Christ was presented as a ‘satisfier’ and not a ‘Saviour’.
9. Throughout the message a blatantly ‘free will’, ‘take it or leave it’ ‘Arminian’ view was presented and Nicky rounded his talk off with a typical easy-believism ‘sinners prayer’.
10. I do not for one moment doubt the sincerity and loving zeal of Nicky Gumbel. The problem is that he and Alpha are attempting to ‘evangelise’ people their way [they don’t offend people by confronting them with the truth about SIN] and are not evangelising people in God’s biblically ordained way. They prefer the Robert Schuller approach [he regards any attempt to make people aware of their lost and sinful condition as being ‘uncouth and unchristian’] as opposed to the John the Baptist approach – a straight forward approach where sin is concerned such as we find in John’s direct challenge to Herod about his sinful relationship with Herodias [Matthew 14:4].
This meeting served to confirm what I stated during my ALPHA talk in Belfast in May that the Alpha Course does not truly evangelise people. References also during the meeting by Nicky to Christians within a wide range of denominations including Roman Catholicism also served to demonstrate that ALPHA does not equip people to discern false ‘gospels’ such as the one presented in Roman Catholicism.
In consequence it is clear that ALPHA does not present the answer to the ‘meaning of life’ because they fail in the light of biblical truth to clearly and accurately identify man’s true condition before God. Likewise, in the light of biblical truth they fail to clearly and accurately proclaim “the gospel” [see 1 Corinthians 15:1-4] of the Lord Jesus Christ who by His person and work alone can save man from his true condition and bring true ‘meaning to life’.
Cecil Andrews – “Take Heed” Ministries 29 September 2000