A few brief opinions here……
However popular it may be, the Alpha course drives a wedge between the gospel and the Spirit – which perhaps goes some way to explaining why the Toronto Blessing found such a ready home in Holy Trinity Brompton.
In session 3 of the Alpha material there is a presentation of the gospel, concluding with a prayer of commitment. But then six sessions later comes the question “How can I be filled with the Holy Spirit?” The answer cannot, of course, be “by hearing the gospel with faith”, since that was done in week 3. So instead, there is a further purging from sin: “Ask God to forgive you for anything that could be a barrier to receiving”. (Nicky Gumbel Questions of Life (Eastbourne: Kingsway Publications, 1993), p 146).
The next step is to “Turn from any area of your life that you know is wrong”. (p 147). Then “Ask God to fill you with his Holy Spirit and to give you the gift of tongues”. and of course, “Believe that what you receive is from God. Don’t let anyone tell you that you made it up”. In other words, don’t criticize!
Unfortunately, the inevitable effect of this is to undermine confidence in the gospel. When session 9 tells you that you will be filled with the Spirit when you “Seek God with all your heart” (p 147) it must detract from trust in the message that “… we can be sure of God’s forgiveness … because of what Jesus achieved for us on the cross by dying for us”. (p.64, session 4).
Let me say, if you dropped session 9 out, the rest of the Alpha course would be unexceptionable – but it is a SERIOUS problem as it stands since it inserts a note of UNCERTAINTY and INCOMPLETENESS into the Christian life, laying up problems for the future and opening us to false claims in the present.
Please check end July back for more……