The Alpha Course is often seen as evangelistic.
Yet, by the time a person joins the course, the evangelism is done.
They are already on the journey; interested enough to want to learn more.
The Alpha Course merely ensures that they are embraced by Evangelical theology.

From that perspective the Course answers a series of selected questions
to which more honest answers may be made from a less doctrinal stable,
without using the persuasive tools of courtroom expertise.

Who is Jesus?
Who is Jesus?

It is, of course, a loaded question, implying that Jesus is still alive;
implying, in itself, the validity of the doctrine of bodily resurrection.
Yet, despite this, the question has validity. Who is Jesus today?

Jesus is no longer the travelling preacher born two millenia ago.
He has become a symbol, an idol, a visual representation of divinity.
He has been elevated, by human need, out of his humanity.
In that elevation his message has been sent astray.

Elements of that message are still visible in the bible.
There we can see the parables that he told;
of faith and trust, service and sharing;
of care for those without resources.

But the bible also shows the transformation that occurred,
as the message spread from the peasantry of Gallillee into urban life;
as the message became a challenge, to those with resources, to share them;
as the facts of his life became distorted to meet the challenge of other faiths,
the need to elevate a peasant into the realms of sacramental power;
to glorify his birth and give meaning to a shamefilled execution.
Perhaps that resurrection was the true genius of St Paul.

So, who is Jesus, now? What has he become?
Is he merely a construction of ecclessiastical doctrine,
framed to control the populace; framed to centralise power?
Is he an idol though whom we can try to envisage the unknowable God?
Is he just a vehicle which we can use to satisfy our need for worship?
Is he a model whom we can follow beyond the sacramental veil?
Is he a primal myth satisfying our need of assurance?

Why did Jesus die?
Why did Jesus die?

The talk focusses on the crucifixion, and the doctrine developed around it.
Focusses on Jesus as a sacrifice, dying in our place, justifying our actions.
So the talk sets out to prove, at length, that we are all sinners,
and then dives into the evangelical doctrine of sin and salvation,
so beloved by Paul and valued by the church,

Herein lies, and has always lain, the power of priest and temple.
Pacifying the spirits is the shaman's main concern and benefit;
Divine forgiveness is, has always been, the prop of religion;
The threat of eternal damnation its underlying strength.

Yet we may ask, "why was Jesus executed?" and realise that it was justified.
When Israel was getting ready for rebellion, he was a focus of discontent.
He was acting as a tinder-box in an inflammable environment.
The theme that Jesus taught was, and is, political dynamite.
We would probably treat him much the same today,
though with less accountability.

Jesus died because of his convictions, because he would not keep quiet,
because he followed his conscience, the voice of his Father,
beyond the boundaries set by the religious leadership.
He was a pain in the side of the authorities!

Of course the stories of his death became embellished and sanctified,
adjusted to something suitable for the founder of a global faith;
then became confused with the allegory of resurrection,
the re-emergence of his ideas after he had died.

We may believe that he died because of our sins,
or at least because of the way that we too would have behaved.
We may believe that his example may cause us to change our ways,
that through that change we may find our, or humanity's, salvation.
But let us not confuse the parable of atonement
with the reality of an agitator's death.

How can we have faith?
How can we have faith?

The Alpha talk tells us that our confidence is based on the legs of a tripod:
1. The word of God in the Bible
2. The work of Jesus, not we have done.
3.The witness of the Holy Spirit experienced in our hearts.

But how can we have faith in reality?
Only by experience of the efficacy of that faith.
We may need additional information to explain our experience,
or such information may lead us into attempting that experience,
but knowledge alone can not lead to durable faith.
We have to do it; act it out.

And, in the end, we have to risk removing the props;
risk looking behind the veil of doctrine;
somehow find and trust reality.

Why and how do I pray?
Why and how do I pray?

We are told that non-Christians have two forms of prayer
formulaic prayer and emergency calls for help.

The Course proposes that we should pray,
to the Father, in the words that Jesus taught us,
but also, confusingly, that we need to pray through Jesus.

It suggests use of an acronym, ACTS, to give a framework for prayer:
Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving and Supplication.

There really seems little change from the non-Christian situation,
and, once again, the focus is on power, the power of prayer.

Yet we may realise
  * That prayer lies in opening ourselves to God,
   in allowing God to touch our hearts and minds,
    in allowing God to initiate our course of action.
  * That the focus of prayer should be offered service,
    not for divine power, reward or beneficial results.
  * That through prayer we can learn of the need of others
    and be prompted by God to do something about it.

Why and how should I read the Bible?
Why and how should I read the Bible?

The Course sees the Bible as 100 percent inspired by God.
The Bible is first of all Godís revelation of himself.
It is the supreme authority for what we believe.
In the words of the Bible God has spoken.

The fact that that the Bible says that we should trust it,
is hardly a conclusive argument, and does not lead to unerring trust.

The misuse of selective texts in the Bible, out of context,
has justified every evil from warfare to sexual inequality.
It is misunderstood by those who look only at surface values
and misapplied by those who would use it to validate their power

It is a dangerous book because it has been given power
to manipulate others, by those who need to do so.
It is a dangerous book because it ties Christianity
to the simplistic ideas of past theology,
and ignorant, self-centred, priests.

Why should we treat the ideas of the ancients as profound
when every generation rethinks the world in its image?
Why should we trust the concepts of ancient priests
seeking to consolidate the basis of their power?

Yet the Bible does contain eternal truths for our edification.

Who is the Holy Spirit?
Who is the Holy Spirit?

When the Holy Spirit comes upon a person, he can transform us.
When the Spirit of God comes upon us, he brings freedom.
We are able to break free from bad habits, addictions.
The experience of the Holy Spirit is not just a feeling.
The experience of the Holy Spirit should make a difference.

Jesus said (Jn 4:24) that "God is Spirit".
Charismatic theology talks of the Spirit coming upon a person,
whilst, in reality, the Spirit (God) is ever present.

Alpha follows this errant path of an absent entity,
and fails to realise that stories of the Spirit are parables,
analogies of the reality of the effect of letting God into our lives.
The bible can not be taken at face value. It has a deeper meaning.
Evangelical theology remains stuck with a literal interpretation;
a bounded explanation with little real depth.

We are not transformed by some ghostly entity,
but by the realisation of divine reality
and the impact of that upon our lives
in the form of a love for others
and a search for God's ways.

What does the Holy Spirit do?
What does the Holy Spirit do?

When the Spirit of God and the spirit of a man or a woman
come together in an act of love: a new spiritual birth takes place.
A person is born anew, they are born again,
they begin a new spiritual life.

They are adopted into God's family (Ro 8).
They communicate with God in prayer.
They take on the attributes of God.
* The Fruit of the Spirit (Gal 5)
* The gifts of the Spirit (1Co12)

Paul writes:
"If anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ,
that person does not belong to Christ."

The statement by Paul becomes the crux of the talk,
saying, in effect, "Join us or you are not a proper Christian!"

We all have to experience the Spirit,
be born again, exhibit its gifts,
maybe even, in time, its Fruit,
but Fruit takes time to grow
whilst Gifts are for now!

So if you have no such Gifts
you are not one of us
the Chosen ones,
real Christians.

It is frightening and exclusive theology,
unstated as such, but clearly implicit;
corrupting Christ by man's desire;
a poisoned religious chalice.

How can I be filled with the Spirit?
How can I be filled with the Spirit?

Alpha identifies the difference between
someone who's an ordinary Christian
and a Spirit-filled Christian

The Course identifies 5 types of people:
1. Those who are longing to be filled with the Spirit
2. A group that is receptive, though without longing.
3. Those who are totally hostile to the Spirit.
4. A group that is the completely uninformed.
5. Those that do not see this as feasible.

The Holy Spirit gives us an experience of Godís love,
and we are released into spontaneous praise
in unknown tongues, with arms upraised.

Of course any experience of divinity is life-changing.
The Course's concern is the direction of that change
presenting only its doctrine and behaviour as normative
and placing other ways beyond the blessed boundary.

Thus the Alpha course separates its sheep from its goats
moving towards an exclusive Evangelical sectarianism,
the very religious rectitude that Jesus abhored.

This is the empire building of man
not growing God's Kingdom.

How does God guide us?
How does God guide us?

We are informed that God guides us through:
1. Commanding Scripture : the words of the Bible
2. Compelling Spirit: the inner voice of the Spirit.
3. Common Sense: what seems obvious to us, really.
4. Council of Others: the advice of fellow Christians.
5. Circumstantial Signs: the obvious action or route.

All of which has some truth.
God guides in many ways, often without being noticed.
Our problem is usually to discern the difference
between our desires and the guidance given.
We may listen for that still small voice
and miss it in the confusion
of misapplied logic
or scripture.

How can I resist evil ?
How can I resist evil ?

'Jesus has set us free from the addictions, habits, and patterns of the past.
And that means we don't have to do the things we used to do.
We are freed from the dominion of darkness
to the kingdom of light
to the kingdom of Jesus.'

We are led to personify evil,
creating a Devil to take the blame for our evil ways.
Of course humanity never had to follow such habits,
that was our choice, a freedom given out of love.
Jesus showed us another way, as did Moses,
but they only exposed that option to us,
in case we hadn't noticed, maybe.
We can be good, or better,
if we truly want to,
be as Jesus was.

Of course Jesus never sought a Kingdom.
He doesn't set us free from the addictions of life
but from the boundaries and constraints of religion.
He set us free, sets us free, to be what we could be.

Why and how should we tell others?
Why and how should we tell others?

So why should we tell people?
First of all, because Jesus told us to,
or so it says in the Bible, unsurprisingly.

But he did not say that we should tell people about him.
He told us to tell others what he had told them;
the message of the coming of God's Kingdom,
a time of equality, justice and love.

When we are asked to promote a doctrine
of individual salvation rather than of inclusive love
we are working contrary to God's purposes.

Much of what we do as Christians is toxic to others.
Our doctrinal services drive people from the door.
We need to guide others to faith by our example,
but that example must be inclusive of them
not set up barriers that exclude.

Does God heal today? ?
Does God heal today?

Alpha presents examples of miraculous healing
through the power of the Spirit
in a Christian setting.

Of course Goodness heals today, in many ways
and at God's desire not just our own.
Of course God speaks to us today
with 'words of knowledge' and prophecy,
if we are open to hear the whisper of Her voice,
rather than the clamour of our own desires.

Alpha presents a narrow, divisive, attitude to the work of God,
grown as a protective hedge around the empire of the church.
Learning that God heals today in the Christian environment
can open our eyes to God's deeds in the wider world,
or close our eyes in misogynistic blindness.

Jesus said "The Kingdom of God is among you",
but with a broader meaning than Christianity
has dared to contemplate.

Alpha does not contemplate the question
of why some are healed and others not;
why are persecuted Christians not rescued;
why do the godly die and the evil conquer;
why the power of God is not apparent.

What about the Church?
What about the Church?

The speaker says that he loves the church:
** because the church is people. It's the people of God.
** because it is a family. It's the family of God.
** because it is the way to see Jesus today. It's the body of Christ.
** because the church is a holy temple. It's where we experience God.
** because Jesus loves the church! It's his bride(Eph 5:25)!
But what is the church?
The New Testament answer is: God lives in you. That's where He is.
The only building that the New Testament speaks of is made up of people.

So is it possible to be a Christian and not go to church?
The answer is: we don't go to church ó we are the church.

This all seems rather idealisitic!
The church has always fought and killed its 'brothers'.
There is no hate like religious difference!

The talk also seems contradictory
confusing the internal life and the organisation,
the building and the life that should flourish within it.

In reality the church is a human organisation,
driven by the usual human concerns for wealth and power
and, today, focussed, largely, on it own survival.

See further thoughts on the Christian Church.

Many find the Alpha theology sufficient for their future spiritual existence
and so close their minds to the difficult points that do not ring true.
Many thus accept the package, the conservative mantle,
and the firm boundaries of Evangelical Christianity.

Others reject what is on offer and turn back whence they've come.