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October 19, 2007


Douglas Knight

Of course Alpha is a ‘package’, and of course there is plenty that it leaves out. It is a catechism, and a short one at that. It is a very legitimate starting place, no worse than any other. HTB then encourages people to join their local church, and Alpha international works with whichever local churches are ready for partnership. I hope Percy has more serious criticism than this, or more constructively, is working on an alternative catechism.

andy goodliff

I just think its shortcomings should be made known and that it presents a very narrow 'brand' of christianity (we've copyrighted the gospel!) and its claims are over-made. With regard to Percy read him - I find him a good reader of charismatic and evangelical church.


Actually, since I see the program offered in evangelical, charismatic, lutheran, catholic, anglican and other churches (not only in the U.S., but here in France as well), I doubt that the "we've copyrighted the gospel" is a legitimate concern. It definitely reflects the church that is sponsoring the program

Jim Gordon

The responses to Alpha have always been mixed, and I sense that same mixture of supportive, cautious and critical response in myself. I am not sure about Alpha as catechism,given the selective and tendentious approach and content. I prefer the more rounded suggestions in W J Abraham's Logic of Evangelism. And as one trying to discern faithful ways of following Jesus in a complex, pluralist culture fixated on meeting the wants and needs of its consumers, I am ambivalent about anything we might accurately describe as a programme - and then call that the Gospel. As an expression of Evangelical missiology I can see why Alpha has evolved into such a popular "programme". But the fact that it is popular across the denominations / traditions, and reflects the ethos of the sponsoring church, should make us at least ask the question about pre-packaging with built in adaptability. Is this evangelistic genius, or consumer savvy, or can it be both and still reflect the radical demands of the Gospel? I think I'm also curious to know how well Alpha translates into much less financially and educationally advantaged socio-economic contexts. Has anyone done any research on the adaptability or otherwise of Alpha in, for example,urban-deprived areas? And is any programme adequate that doesn't address the radical nature of discipleship in peacemaking, justice seeking and other kingdom of God values that are simply inimical to our contemporary consumerist cultural commitments?

andy goodliff

A guy called Stephen Hunt has written two books on Alpha:
Anyone for Alpha? and The Alpha Initiative: Evangelism in a Post-Christian Age (Ashgate, 2004).

Paul Lavender

Anyone remember Gamaliel?


anyone know of "emergent" alternatives to ALPHA?

andy goodliff

you could try http://virtualtheology.net, but I think part of the "emergent" approach is to avoid this kind of commodification of christian faith


Percy's article, first published in *Reviews in Religion and Theology* 1997, was roundly debunked by Markus Bockmuehl in the very next issue of that journal (available online). Of course there are all sorts of things wrong with Alpha. But Douglas Knight above is quite right: when it comes to entry-level evangelistic Christian catechism, does Percyanity have anything remotely as effective on offer?


As Nicky Gumbel (the pioneer of the Alpha Course) said in a sermon a couple of weeks ago, "if someone can find an alternative method to introducing the unchurched to Christ, we'll drop Alpha and pursue that alternative." To my knowledge, no one has - but if anyone's got any ideas, you only need to call HTB on 0845 644 7533! Anyone?

Incidentally, the refusal to allow the materials to be tailored in any way is the most practical way of resisting the course degenerating into cultish sub-Christian variants in those parts of the world where the course is having the greatest impact (viz Africa, China and Latin America).

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