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The Alpha Course
Chapter and Verse on Alpha's
Part 3: The Divinity of Alpha's Jesus
Part One: The Character of Alpha's Jesus | Part Two: The Nature of Alpha's Jesus
by Dusty Peterson
Gumbel writes, “the most important question we can ever
ask is, ‘Who is Jesus?’”.
In the same book, he states “This is the heart of the Christian
faith: knowing Jesus Christ”.
The Lord Jesus Christ is indeed the very centre of the Christian
faith, and it is vital therefore to know who He truly is.
Since Scripture warns believers to take serious care over everything
we teach regarding Christianity (1 Tim.
-16; Jas. 3:1), we should be particularly
conscientious in our teaching about the Person who is at the core of our
a Fellowship may believe on subjects like the ‘end-times’, or the
gifts of the Spirit, or church ordinances, or family-related matters, or
any of the large number of other topics that Alpha touches on, the
Divinity of Jesus Christ is an absolutely crucial issue to salvation –
as we shall see in a moment - and is therefore a matter about which
participants must be left in no doubt.
each one of the teachings about the Lord Jesus that we examined in
article #2 on His nature is intimately related to His Divinity.
But so are several of the topics we discussed in the preceding
article on His character, for when Alpha’s material is
problematic over His sinlessness, infallibility, holiness and
perfection, then the Godhood of the Lord is already damaged.
However, for completeness we need to see what Alpha is like
regarding its more direct statements on the Divinity of the Lord Jesus.
THE BIBLE TEACH THAT HE IS GOD?
is only one true God (John 17:3), but He is ‘Triune’ - meaning He is
one God comprising three distinct but indivisible Persons.
At first this idea appears alien, but man is triune too in a very
real sense. We each have a
body, soul and spirit,
each of which is “us”. Hence
we are said to have been made “in God’s image” (Gen. 1:27; Gen.
9:6). But is Jesus one of
the three Persons that constitute God, and is thus God Himself?
anyone who has listened to Handel’s famous oratorio Messiah
will know, Isaiah 9:6 is quite unambiguous about this question:
“For unto us a child is born, unto us a Son is given: and the
government shall be upon His shoulder: and His name shall be called
Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God…”.
Matthew quotes another portion of Isaiah when he writes,
“Behold, a virgin shall be with child, … and they shall call His
name Immanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us.”
have already determined that Jesus is the only begotten Son of God.
Many people assume, however, that this means He is not truly
God but that He just enjoys a derived divinity.
Holy Scripture settles that debate:
was manifest in the flesh, … believed on in the world, received up
into glory” (1 Tim.
“Hereby perceive we the love of
God, because He laid down his life for us” (1 John
(See also Rom. 14:10b,12; Acts
; Col. 2:9; Acts
; Heb. 1:3; 1 John
; Php. 2:6 etc - all in the KJV.)
subject matters greatly, for if Jesus was not God then He must have been
born of Adam and tainted by Adam’s sin.
In that case He would have inherited a sinful nature and His
crucifixion could not have paid the required price for our redemption.
is so totally holy that our sin means only God Himself could pay the
price to save us. If we do
not believe that the full price has been paid then we will naturally
seek to “make up the difference”.
Any attempt by us to pay any part of the price is an abomination
to God and will result in our destruction (see Galatians).
The Godhood of the Lord has a huge knock-on regarding other
doctrines so we cannot afford to be remotely complacent about this.
four letters ‘YHWH’ (often pronounced ‘Yahweh’, and Anglicised
to ‘Jehovah’) are a special, and unique, name for the true
spake unto Moses, and said unto him, I Am the LORD: … My name [is] JEHOVAH”
(Exod. 6:2-3). “O my God,
… whose name alone is JEHOVAH” (Psa. 83:13,18).
(This matchless name was considered by
the one true God alone is called “Jehovah”, and since TWO
Jehovahs are referred to simultaneously in Genesis 18-19
(one of them appearing as a man), it becomes evident that Jesus Christ
is indeed Jehovah. As we saw
in article #1, the name ‘Jesus’ means “salvation”, hence
we get verses like Isaiah 12:2: “Behold, God is my salvation [or
‘Jesus’]; … the LORD JEHOVAH is … my salvation”.
name ‘Jehovah’ means ‘I Am’, which is why: “God said unto
Moses, I AM THAT I AM: and He said, Thus shalt thou say unto the
what does Alpha say on this important issue?
Although Nicky Gumbel is certainly aware of “the divine
name”, as he terms it,
one will not actually find the words ‘Yahweh’ or ‘Jehovah’ used
in any Alpha talk. What one will
find stated on Alpha is, “Jesus did not go round saying the words,
‘I am God’” [Talk 2].
But this is slightly misleading because, as we have seen, “I
Am” is God’s name and the Lord Jesus did indeed say this at times:
… said unto them [the chief priests], Whom seek ye? They answered him,
Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus saith unto them, I Am … As soon
then as He had said unto them, I Am …, they went backward,
and fell to the ground.
Then asked he them again, Whom seek ye? And they said, Jesus of
Nazareth. Jesus answered, I have told you that I Am…”
examples of the Lord calling Himself “I Am” occur in John 8:28; John
9:9; and John 13:19. This is
a critical matter, for the Lord Jesus said that anyone who did not
believe He was Jehovah (“I Am”) would die in their sins (John
, c.f. v58).
Taught properly, this doctrine should not be hard to grasp –
hence Paul talked about “the simplicity that is in Christ” (2
Cor. 11:3). It is wrong to
complicate it and thus bring confusion.
DOES ALPHA COMMUNICATE THAT HE IS GOD?
Course leaders will be deeply offended at any suggestion that Alpha has
the slightest flaw in this regard. They
are convinced that chapter 7 of Nicky Gumbel’s book Searching
Issues, plus Talks 2 and 3 of the Course itself, leave no room for
doubt that Jesus is God and that Alpha is therefore totally sound on the
topic. There are, however,
many reasons why we would beg such folk to continue reading this
article. For a start, there
exist a further six chapters of Searching Issues, not to mention
all the other Alpha publications, so there is huge scope for
problems to occur elsewhere. Likewise
it should be remembered that there are twelve further talks in the video
set beyond Talks 2 and 3 - which means there is plenty of room for
errors to creep in and undermine any good statements in those two early
we will shortly see that, when checked very carefully, even the best
Alpha statements are not as clear-cut as they could be, and none
of the 21 Bible passages we cited above supporting the Deity of Christ
appears in any Alpha talk nor anywhere in Questions of Life,
let alone in those chapters associated with Talks 2 and 3, nor even in
the relevant part of Searching Issues.)
any readers are convinced that Alpha is beyond reproach over the issue
of the Deity of Jesus, and are therefore not interested in perusing our
material further, we would encourage them at least to use the section
headings of our articles to create a questionnaire for their Alpha
graduates. According to our
research, they will be dismayed by the feedback they get.
may also surprise some readers to learn that we can find no sentence in any
Alpha publication which simply says the words “Jesus Christ [or Christ
Jesus] is God.” or even “Jesus is God.” – easy, and very
valuable, though it would be for Alpha to include one.
But let us begin by acknowledging some of the things Nicky Gumbel
does say about the Deity of Jesus.
HE, AND IS HE, THE ONE TRUE GOD?
Whilst words like “Deity” do not currently appear in the
the word “divine” does
- albeit not in the context of Jesus.
Looking at Gumbel’s books however, he certainly refers
to the Lord’s “divinity”. In
Questions of Life Jesus is called “‘the divine
and the Study Guide at the back asks, “what evidence is there that he
[Jesus] was divine?” [p239].
The only problem is that, for many people, there is a fundamental
distinction between being “divine” and being the one true God.
The New Age movement believes in the “divinity” of Jesus
Christ, but not that He is the sole God.
about the only clear Bible reference to the Deity of Jesus that Alpha
covers is John 1:1, which reads, “…the Word was with God, and the
Word was God”. Unfortunately,
Gumbel immediately weakens this crucial verse by giving the explanation
that, “‘The Word [unnamed] was a person in fellowship with
God, and the Word was … eternally divine’”.
Why replace the perfectly good phrase “was God” with
“was … divine”?
Nicky Gumbel favourably quotes someone saying: “‘I understood
Jesus is fully God’” [Talk 3].
This would be excellent, except that Gumbel then tells hearers
how they should interpret the phrase “fully God”:
other words, Jesus is only “fully God” in the derived sense that God
fully directed Him or fully inspired Him.
Gumbel confirms this as the right interpretation when he writes,
“Scripture is … 100 per cent inspired by God just as
Jesus is fully God”.
No clarification is forthcoming in either case.
(Note also that St. Paul’s Cathedral could never be said to be
‘Wren himself’; thus it would be completely inappropriate to call
Jesus ‘God Himself’ from this analogy.)
Nicky employs the argument by C.S. Lewis that “Either this man
was and is the Son of God or else a madman, or something worse...”
[Talk 2]. Since the evidence
discounts the last two possibilities, Jesus must logically be the Son of
God. On the surface this
looks great, but as we have seen, this does not quite settle matters,
for hearers need to be sure what sort of Godhood results from
being the “Son of God”. Does
it mean Jesus is the one true God, or instead that his “divinity”
was of a lesser, derived nature?
readers will feel that this is a minor point.
But does the Bible say so? In
fact the precise “type”, or definition, of Jesus’ Godhood is
extremely significant. New
Agers believe Jesus Christ is a “God”, and has God living in
Him. Unfortunately Lewis’
own terminology, also used by Gumbel, seems to permit this
interpretation too, for he says “‘God has landed on this enemy
occupied world in human form’”,
rather than “as a man” or even “as a human”.
Despite appearances, this is not a trivial issue at all – as we
shall see in the next section.
GOD ‘IN’ HIM?
we become Christians, the Holy Spirit indwells our spirit (John 14:17; 1
John 3:24 etc).
Since the Holy Spirit is God, there is a sense in which God is
“in” every Christian, but this does not make us God.
If we give people the impression that Jesus only had God “in”
Him, rather than being the one true God Himself, then we are effectively
denying the Deity of Christ and destroying the gospel.
This is why it is so worrying to see the excessive number of
times that Nicky Gumbel uses expressions like the following:
has revealed himself in a person”
(rather than “as a man”); “‘God
… as we see him … in Jesus’”;
“‘God, revealed in the person of Jesus Christ’”;
“God … came to earth in the person of his son” [Talk
3]; “God’s revelation in
occasional use of such phraseology, preferably with some
explanatory comment close by, would be fine, but Gumbel employs this
sort of wording very frequently indeed - including six times,
with no clarification, in a single chapter of Questions of Life.
The closing commentary in that chapter teaches the following:
“Paul says, ‘God was … in Christ.’ [ellipsis
Gumbel’s] He was … in the person of his Son”.
This brings us neatly to a related point…
Bible tells us that “if any man be in Christ, he is a new
creature: … God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto
himself” (2 Cor. 5:18-19). If
one considers the first occurrence of “in Christ” here it becomes
plain that this passage is not saying that God was in Christ, but
that we, if we are “in Christ”, are reconciled to God.
Corroborating verses are far too numerous to list but include
Rom. 3:24; 8:1; 1 Cor. 1:2; 15:22; Eph. 2:13; and Php. 2:1.
Yet consider how Gumbel uses the passage:
… says: ‘God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself.’
… What Paul tells
us is that God was in Christ.”
mistreats this passage again in his book Searching Issues [p20].
The context of its use there is the issue of suffering, so
the unmistakable impression given is that God knows about suffering
because he was ‘in’ Christ during the Lord’s trials.
As Jesus is called “divine”, Alpha participants are thereby
encouraged to assume that his divinity was only partial.
is a final observation worth making on this.
Gumbel writes, “Jesus stood up and proclaimed, ‘If anyone
thirst, let him come to me and drink…’ … It is out of the innermost
being of Jesus that the river of life will flow … Jesus was
speaking about the Holy Spirit…”.
is a serious concern here. The
Holy Spirit is another Person of the Trinity.
He is not restricted to the “innermost being of Jesus”, and
neither is only part of Jesus holy.
Gumbel’s words suggest that only the “innermost being” of
Jesus (or the “being” that lives inside Him?) is God.
The New Age movement, like other counterfeit versions of
Christianity, believes Jesus was just a human receptacle for a member of
the Trinity. This is a grave
error regarding our King and future Husband.
HE DISTINCT FROM GOD?
is God. As such, He cannot
be “separated” from God. There
are three Persons in the Godhead, but God is indivisible (John 10:38;
John 15:26; etc). God is not
merely “one” in the sense of being unified; He is one being,
period. There is only
there are some individual verses in Scripture that appear to separate
God and Jesus,
but Gumbel’s job is to explain these verses, not to use an
unrepresentatively large number of them and invariably fail to inform
his hearers of the bigger picture…
example, Gumbel says, “On the cross, God transferred our
wrong-doings (‘our iniquity’) onto Jesus … That is why Jesus
cried out on the cross, ‘My God, my God, why have you
forsaken me?’ … At that moment he was cut off from God”.
(In the equivalent video talk -Talk 3 - Gumbel even calls Jesus
is a simple explanation for the Lord’s words here, as we will see in a
moment, so Gumbel’s decision not to supply it obliges Alpha
participants to believe that Jesus cannot truly have been God.
How can He possibly have been “Godforsaken” if He was
we hit a ‘problem passage’ like the above it is important to look
carefully at it and to view it in the light of the rest of Scripture.
In this instance Jesus was quoting the prophetic, Messianic Psalm
22, which refers to “El”, not to Elohim or Adonai or Jehovah.
This is very significant, because “El” means “strength”
and would be an entirely appropriate thing for the Lord Jesus Christ to
call His Father – the member of the Godhead who sent Jesus to us and
gave Him His authority. On
the cross, Jesus was certainly forsaken temporarily by His Father
in some way, but He was not “cut off from God”.
Again the suggestion seems to be that Jesus’ Godhood was merely
the overwhelming proportion of the time, Nicky Gumbel distinguishes
between Jesus and God instead of Jesus and His Father.
This seems to be true in every publication he has created.
Here is a sample of what we mean.
the booklet Why Christmas? written by Gumbel.
After a handful of statements (mainly the Lewis ones) on pages
4-6 supporting the divinity of Jesus, everything changes on page 7 and
Jesus seems to be separated from God there and on every
one of the tiny pages from 9 through 22 inclusive (the booklet is only
22 pages long).
Consider too the following excerpt taken from adjacent pages of Gumbel’s book 30 Days. Note that neither the word ‘Father’ nor the phrase ‘God the Father’ occurs anywhere on these two pages. Does one get the overall impression from it that Jesus IS God?
example is especially strange because the Bible chapter on which Nicky
is meant to be commenting here repeatedly supports the Godhood of Jesus
and refers as much to God “the Father” as to “God” alone.
Again, a smattering of sentences which appear to distinguish between “God” and “Jesus” are probably inevitable in any “introduction to the Christian faith”, but Gumbel employs them in enormous numbers - and in every resource. Indeed, in Questions of Life alone, phrases like “God through Jesus” simply occur too frequently for us to cite them all. On several occasions this separation actually happens two, or even three, times on the same page. A few examples of separation, where the words “God the Father” would have been so much safer, will hopefully suffice. (The situation in the video talks is worse still.)
We have seen the way in which Gumbel approaches his own books on this issue, but it is more revealing still to examine his approach to God’s book. As if Gumbel’s Bible version was not already problematic enough in this area, he regularly rewords Scripture in a way that separates “God” from “Jesus” when the passage itself does not:
paraphrase here changes the meaning of the text, but it is no accident,
for he repeats the alteration almost verbatim later in the same talk
when he says, “We have access to God through Jesus Christ by
the Spirit”. He
does exactly the same thing in two separate chapters of Questions of
Life [pp85 & 132].
with Luke 11:13, Gumbel replaces “your heavenly Father” with
“God” and thereby helps to obscure the Deity of Jesus.
Gumbel replaces “Father” with “God” in John 14:6 too,
with the same harm to the Lord’s standing.
Likewise Gumbel alters John 17:3, this time without even
admitting that he is paraphrasing, to suggest that knowing God is not
the same thing as knowing Jesus Christ [Talk 3].
Once again it seems we are being told to view the divinity of
Jesus Christ as no more than partial and derivative.
Little wonder “Jesus” and “God” are often separated in
Alpha testimonies – on the rare occasions that Jesus receives a
AMBIGUOUS IS ALPHA ON THE MATTER OF HIS DEITY?
Course leaders are adamant that, at least in two or three places, Alpha
materials unequivocally state that Jesus is God.
However, given that the four books at the centre of Alpha contain
a combined total of well over 700 pages, this is really nothing to boast
of. There are some
moments when Jesus’ Godhood is implied in Alpha materials, but in every
single case an ambiguity of one type or another is present –
and often multiple types of ambiguity are involved simultaneously.
Here is a selection of the things we are referring to:
infinitesimal number of Alpha statements that avoid the above problems still
fail to state categorically that Jesus is the one true God, instead
introducing a degree of doubt (e.g. via the use of a judiciously placed
hyphen or comma). These few
statements are also always weakened by surrounding comments which
repeatedly separate Jesus and God.
Again, given that Gumbel was a practicing courtroom lawyer before
being ordained into the Anglican Church there seems no excuse at all for
being remotely unclear about this fundamental topic.
following is another example of multiple ambiguities.
Gumbel writes that, “The early Christians … came to
see that there was something special about Jesus that
could only be expressed as God”.
Christians reading such words are reassured that Gumbel is sound
on this, yet the passage does not teach unbelievers that Jesus is
God. Firstly it is
predicated on them accepting that the “early Christians” were
correct. Secondly, these
Christians cannot have “come to see” the Deity of Jesus after
they were Christians; they must have recognized that Jesus was God in
order to become Christians to begin with.
Thirdly, the passage only says that something “about”
Jesus was God, rather than Him being intrinsically God Himself.
Fourthly, the impression is that this “thing” could only be
expressed as God due to language limitations.
There is one last group of statements that needs to be covered. The comments in question all utilize the word “identity”:
these statements are obviously more convoluted than they need be,
nevertheless believers naturally take them to be thoroughly in support
of the Deity of Christ. Unfortunately
Nicky does not appear to mean the same thing that you and I normally do
by the word ‘identity’. In
standard parlance, if a man is said to have the “identity” of John
Wesley, then either he has stolen Wesley’s passport or else he is
John Wesley. But to Gumbel,
having the “identity” of God does not mean the person is God
- a fact demonstrated by the following quote from the last chapter of Searching
Issues: “They [the early Christians] came to see him [Jesus] as a
man whose identity
was God and yet who was not identical to God”
alternate meaning in the dictionary for the word “identity” is
who feels depersonalized is said to have “lost their identity”.
But just having the same personality as somebody else does
not make you that same being, thus Gumbel is not calling Jesus
“God” here. He has moved
into the realm of psychology and its false distinction between the
conscious and the subconscious,
hence: “Jesus … was conscious of being a person whose identity
if the reader strongly disagrees about these ambiguities, or perhaps
finds a totally unambiguous sentence somewhere in the Course
materials, he or she must surely still accept that any such comments are
rare and are submerged under a flood of damaging ones that nullify their
effect. Other readers may
believe they can safely run Alpha by simply correcting this particular
teaching as the Course progresses. But
that is to avoid a more important question.
If Alpha is so unsound on this - the most important topic
imaginable - can it really be trusted on the other subjects it
covers? The unsaved deserve
that churches check the Course thoroughly on the other major topics too,
which is precisely why we have written our book Alpha – the
DO CHRISTIANS MEAN BY ‘THE TRINITY’?
people feel that Nicky Gumbel MUST be genuinely Trinitarian, given that
a chapter of his book Searching Issues is titled “Is the Trinity
Unbiblical, Unbelievable, and Irrelevant?”
Once again, however, the problem revolves around Gumbel’s
definition of terms – in this case the term “Trinity”.
Let us quickly see the Biblical meaning of the word…
Bible makes plain throughout that there is only one God (Gal.
3:20; Matt. 19:17 etc). However,
there is a plurality to the Godhead, thus one of the names of God is Elohim
– a plural word. The
plurality of the Godhead is also shown in verses like Genesis 11:7 and
Genesis 1:26. The latter
reads “And God said, Let us make man in our
image, after our likeness”, which is again why every human also
possesses a “three-ness” of sorts whilst remaining one being.
Where Gumbel mentions the three members of the Trinity one would expect him to talk about the Father, Son and Spirit, or the Father, Word and Spirit, but usually he does not. As we saw above, the word ‘Father’ is often replaced by ‘God’, weakening the participant’s understanding that Jesus is God:
someone who hails from a church called Holy Trinity Brompton, Gumbel
seldom uses the word “Trinity” in his teaching and, when he does, he
seems to make a point of separating the members of the Godhead
shortly before or afterwards and specifically drawing a distinction
between “God” and “Jesus”.
Once more we are apparently left with a Saviour possessing a
divinity of a partial and derived nature.
Gumbel regularly, and approvingly, quotes men whose doctrines seriously
undermine the Deity of Jesus Christ (e.g. Tillich,
He even seems happy to endorse, or even cite as Christians,
people who have effectively denied the Deity of Christ altogether (e.g.
all of the above, there will still be a hardcore of folk who imagine
that Gumbel must be Trinitarian since he devotes a chapter of one
book to “the Trinity”. Let
us therefore focus purely on that chapter and see just how Trinitarian
it really is.
chapter is the one place we would expect clear teaching on the Trinity,
yet Gumbel spends much of it encouraging people to believe that the
Trinity is very hard, if not impossible, to understand.
This can only serve to demote Christ.
The Trinity may be hard to picture (men are not allowed to
picture God anyway) but hopefully our article has proved that it is not
hard to understand.
uses a bewildering array of analogies for the Trinity, most of which are
seriously inappropriate and mutually exclusive, yet the simplest and
best analogy – that of a human being’s threeness – is absent.
We are instead informed that “God cannot be put in a neat
box…” [p105], and that we can only “‘get a sort of faint notion
of’” the Trinity [p109].
confusing analogy offered by Gumbel, although not the worst, is that of
a house possessed by three people, where God the Father is the
“architect”, God the Son is the “purchaser” and God the Holy
Spirit is the “tenant” [p106]. We
would not blame any Alpha participant for interpreting this to mean that
Jesus somehow “purchased” His Godhood and that He is only God in the
(partial) sense that He has the Holy Spirit dwelling in Him.
Gumbel is unable, or unwilling, to explain why the Trinity is
“fundamental to the Christian faith” [p105].
If Gumbel told readers the truth, such that they realized the
infinite holiness of God and the futility (not to mention fatal danger)
of trying to do work towards their salvation, then they would be much
more keen to understand – or at least to accept – the fact that
Jesus Christ is God.
Deity of Christ Undermined
In a chapter which ought to be completely devoted to proving the Deity of Christ we have already had to list several ways in which it does the opposite. In fact, in the whole chapter there are no more than a handful of sentences where the doctrine is even suggested. Furthermore, each one of this handful is ambiguous - either because (a) Jesus isn’t explicitly mentioned [pp99,106], or (b) early Christians just “found themselves” believing it [pp100,101], or (c) God is only present “in” rather than “as” the person of Jesus Christ [p110]. This compares with the plethora of times in the chapter when a clear distinction is drawn between Jesus and “God” as opposed to Jesus and “His Father”:
in the chapter, Gumbel separates the Lord Jesus Christ from “God” eight
times in just two pages [102-3]. Later
on he closes the chapter by focusing on Ephesians 3:19, a verse which
reads, “…know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye
might be filled with all the fulness of God”.
But instead of using this valuable verse to teach that Christ
Jesus is God, Gumbel only uses it to distinguish between
Christ and God. He does so
three times in the space of the final page – twice in the very last
paragraph. What are
participants to think?
False Definition of “Trinity”
certainly uses the word Trinity (and, much less often,
“Godhead”) in this chapter, but he fundamentally changes its meaning.
The word Trinity, from the idea of tri-unity, originally meant
three divine persons comprising one nature, but to Gumbel it
means three divine persons having one purpose.
This is a world away, yet time and again the chapter suggests
that the Trinity merely involves three supernatural beings who are
closely related and who work in co-operation with each other – only
one of whom is truly God. This
is reflected in Gumbel’s use of phrases like “one God … and
three Persons” [p104], or “‘Three persons, and one
instead of something like “three persons comprising one God”.
smooths the way to this crucial redefinition by claiming that the New
Testament contains “no formal credal statement about the
Trinity” [p103]. But this
is untrue, for 1 John 5:7 plainly states, “there are three that
bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy
Ghost: and these three are one”.
Surely Gumbel is aware of this verse, even if his preferred Bible
version omits it? Indeed, he
appears to paraphrase the final section of this very verse when he
writes “the three are in one” [p112] – although the extra
word obliterates a central point about the Trinity.
goes on to insist that, “it was only later that a coherent and
systematic doctrine [of the Trinity] was defined…” [p103].
Does Gumbel really believe that Paul did not have a “coherent
and systematic” understanding of the Trinity?
Besides, the Trinity can easily be demonstrated from the Hebrew
Scriptures alone (and in numerous ways), yet Gumbel will only concede
that “Some would say that there are hints of this
doctrine even in the Old Testament…” [p101].
(Incidentally, Gumbel seriously misrepresents both of the other
members of the Trinity too! See
our book for details.)
WOULD YOU SUM UP ALPHA’S VIEW OF HIS DIVINITY?
have now seen Gumbel systematically teach that Jesus’ divinity was
only partial and derivative. By
his own admission, the common term for the great bulk of Gumbel’s
teaching on the Trinity is “Arian”, after Arius (c. AD250-336) – a
man who popularized this falsehood among the early church and who was
“excommunicated” as a result. But
surely, some will protest, Gumbel exposes Arius as a heretic on page 103
of Searching Issues? This
is easy to answer…
In the final analysis, if Gumbel’s material can be shown to be
overwhelmingly Arian then what Gumbel says about Arius himself is
largely irrelevant. Indeed,
within three pages of mentioning Arius, Gumbel is employing Arius-friendly
analogies of the Trinity.
If one checks the precise wording of what Gumbel says
about Arius, one soon notices that Gumbel never categorically
states that Arianism is a heresy. Gumbel
does say that Arius was “excommunicated from the church for
heresy”, but Gumbel does not say he agrees with the view of the
early church that Arius was heretical, and Gumbel does not make it all
clear as to whether it was Arius’ view of Jesus that was
considered heretical, or whether his other views were the cause
of his excommunication.
Crucially, Gumbel is able to appear to distance himself from
Arius by misrepresenting what Arius actually taught.
He says of Arius “’The Three he envisages are entirely
different beings, not sharing in any way the same nature or
essence’” [p103], but this is to exaggerate Arianism and thus enable
Gumbel to appear both non-Arian and reasonable!
Note also that Gumbel spends several pages attacking the opposite
error of Sabellianism
(the false idea that God comprises just one Person who acts differently
in different situations) - vastly more space than he devotes to Arius.
bless you for persevering to the end of this very long article.
We believe the Lord wanted us to write it for the sake of His
holy name, and it is likely that only those readers who also care about
His name will have managed to get this far.
topic of this article matters enormously for a reason not stated up
until now. One of the main
tests God has given the church for identifying whether someone is a true
brother or not is whether they will happily confess that Jesus the
Messiah is God incarnate (1 John 4:1-3;
2 John 1:7). We believers
should ask each other this question regularly.
A true brother will have no hesitation or difficulty in
consistently confessing that Jesus Christ is God.
numerous reasons, those readers who have promoted Alpha in the past
should not be unduly shocked if they missed many of Alpha’s failings
in this area…
(1) Even high-profile watchman, undertaking extensive investigations into Alpha, have missed these things too:
Believers can subconsciously ‘fill in the gaps’ when studying
Alpha materials, and often imagine that unbelievers come to Alpha
already knowing a fair amount about the Lord.
The combined effect is to believe Alpha is adequate when it is
(3) We Christians generally live in homes populated by trustworthy people, and much of our fellowship is among people who are relatively reliable. As such, we can easily become a little conditioned to trusting others when they have not earned it. We can thus end up approaching such things as Alpha trustingly and not think we need to look particularly closely at it. However, it is far better to err on the side of caution and be pleasantly surprised, than to be duped over such a vital thing - especially in last days before the Lord’s return, days about which He warned us:
Gumbel does a good job in Talks 2 and 3 of giving believers the
impression he is orthodox on the Deity of the Lord.
Many then ‘turn off’ regarding this matter and so do not
notice that the remaining 12 talks are spent whittling away at this
mistreatment of the “Word made flesh” is, along with his
mistreatment of the written Word, the subtlest aspect of the whole Alpha
Course. Gumbel has used his
immense talent for wordplay to the full, so these things are not simple
to spot. It is only God’s
grace that has allowed us to see most of them.
who primarily attend Alpha because of their temporal needs (e.g.
a desire for friendship or healing from past hurts) easily accept Alpha
because it gives them a form of “love” and brings a degree of mental
recuperation – often confused with salvation.
(Obviously their “testimonies” never seem to suggest that
Jesus is God.) But thinking
people who are primarily searching for truth are rejecting Alpha
because it is so illogical and inconsistent.
They want answers, not therapy.
As such, they are unlikely EVER to show an interest in
Christianity again because they will suppose, after attending 15 long
talks, that they have checked out the faith very thoroughly.
Alpha is jeopardizing souls in the church and those
outside it. This is an
unspeakably important fact. Please
consider prayerfully copying this article to anyone you know who
is capable of benefiting from it.
May God bless you.
30 Days, p41. We
would argue that an even more important question is ‘What is the
truth?’, because many people ask ‘Who is Jesus?’ but they
then go to the wrong sources to find out.
30 Days, p42. Since
Satan ‘knows’ Jesus Christ, this is not as helpful a comment as it
That our soul is different from our spirit is proved in Heb. 4:12 and
1 Thess. 5:23.
This idea can be picked up from Alpha resources, e.g. when Gumbel
writes things like, “the unique Son of God – [is] on an equal footing
with God” [Why Christmas?, p5], rather than saying
“…is God Himself”. Incidentally,
Gumbel prefers the phrase “God the Father, Jesus the Son”
to “God the Father, God the Son” or perhaps “God the
Father, Jesus - God the Son” in Questions of Life, p116, and
the equivalent video Talk (#8).
Many Hebrew names in the Bible have been transliterated into Greek,
and/or Anglicized. Thus
the Jewish name Miriam has been converted to Mary in English Bibles,
and Jochanan has become John. As
long as the name is used aright, and the same person is clearly
in view, then the Anglicisation is surely valid.
Thus the Anglicised version of Yahweh is Jehovah (see
Newberry’s introduction to his Bible for the reason).
Nicky’s chosen Bible version, however, obliterates every
reference to ‘Jehovah’, which means this vital name has actually
been deleted from the four places in which it becomes
nonsensical just to replace it. Consistently
translated, Isaiah 26:4 would otherwise give the phrase “the LORD
LORD is everlasting”. Also,
you would end up with “the LORD LORD is my strength” in Isaiah
12:2. The two
‘Jehovah’ verses with which we opened this section actually become
dangerous if ‘Jehovah’ is translated “LORD”, because
many false gods are called “Lord” by their followers (1 Cor. 8:5).
It is best to read the whole of both chapters in order to see the
context. When doing so,
one should then concentrate on verses 18:13-14 and 18:17-22,33.
Some of the other verses confirming Jesus (or “salvation”) as
Jehovah are: Psa. 27:1; Psa. 118:14; & Isa. 33:2.
Questions of Life, p189.
Repeated verbatim in Questions of Life, p27.
We have removed the word ‘he’ after each occurrence of “I Am”
because “he” does not appear in the Greek – which is why it is
only displayed in italics in the KJV.
That the Lord’s enemies “went backwards and fell” on hearing
“I Am” suggests these words had rather more significance than
merely acknowledging that these people had found their man.
Neither do any of the words “Godhead”, “Triune”, or
“Immanuel” occur in Talks 2 or 3 (or indeed in any Alpha
Talks 9 & 11.
Page 76. Although the
Bible uses the word “divine”, it is almost always in the context
of divination – a detestable practice in God’s eyes.
Whilst the Bible says Jesus had a “divine” power and
nature, it never actually calls Him “divine”.
Searching Issues, p101.
It seems a shame too for Gumbel to use the word ‘stones’ in this
statement, when the Lord Jesus is our “corner stone” (Eph.
Questions of Life, p71.
It is interesting that Lewis consistently avoids using the name
“Jesus” when making his most unequivocal statements on Godhood.
He instead uses phrases like “the man we are talking about”
or “he”, when it would be much more helpful and unambiguous to
give His actual name.
Talk 2. Also Why
Christmas?, p6; the Green Alpha Manual, p9, and elsewhere.
Note that Lewis’ choice of phrase suggests that God is a
being from another planet. This
is in line with Mormonism and the Word-Faith paradigm, but not the
Gumbel almost always uses the phrase “comes to live within us” of
the Holy Spirit (see, for instance, Talks 6, 7, 8 & 9).
But this is ambiguous and helps to encourage Toronto-esque
manifestations in the body or soul.
Questions of Life, p71. Jesus
was already “a Person”, so this statement is very unhelpful.
Searching Issues, p13.
Searching Issues, p110.
Searching Issues, p31.
See pages 45, 48-50.
Questions of Life, p50. Note
that Gumbel does not say “the Father was in the person of His
Talk 3. Note how Gumbel
exploits the KJV rendering when it suits his purposes.
The NIV does not phrase the passage as “God was in Christ”.
This notion is reinforced when Gumbel says only that “God
… participated in the suffering of the cross” [Searching
Issues, p24], as if there was another participant on the
cross – and one who wasn’t truly God.
Questions of Life, p124.
Another erroneous idea propagated by this statement is that Jesus was
only ‘God’ because He had the Holy Spirit inside Him - in which
case, Christians would be divine too.
We must be careful to interpret rightly all occasions when the Bible
appears to distinguish between Jesus Christ and God.
For instance, Scripture sometimes has expressions like “God
and our Saviour Jesus Christ”, but grammatically these actually
serve to confirm the Deity of Jesus: “The expression ‘God
and our Saviour Jesus Christ’ in Titus 2:13 and 2 Peter 1:1 follows
the same grammatical construction used to express the deity of the Father
in Gal 1:4, 1 Thess 1:3 and
Questions of Life, p61.
 Strongs, 0410.
30 Days, pp64-65. For
some other examples of separation in this book, see pp46, 52 & 60.
Pages 175, 185, 190, 207 & 221 only represent a handful of the
E.g. pp70, 85, 122, 133 & 154.
Questions of Life, p154. Gumbel’s
exact words are, “Jesus goes on to say that in comparison with God
we are evil”. Would
hearers be likely to realize from this choice of words that Jesus
Himself was not evil? Jesus
said “you are evil”, not “we are evil”.
Questions of Life, p27.
See, for instance, Alpha News, #14, p3; Alpha News, Nov
2001 – Feb 2002, p11; or Telling Others, (Kingsway, 2001),
Searching Issues, p27. See
also page 100. Adding the
suffix “as God” hints that Gumbel believes there are forms of
worship which can be legitimately offered to beings other than God.
All three of these problems are manifested in a quote by Lewis.
Instead of Gumbel saying “I accept that Jesus
was and is God”, he quotes Lewis saying “‘I have to
accept the view that he was and is God’” [Talk 2].
Gumbel does not say he agrees, and the sentence nowhere
mentions “Jesus”, but there is a third problem.
Just accepting that people hold a certain “view” is very
different from accepting what that view is.
See, for instance, Questions of Life, pp31, 129 & 233.
Searching Issues, p100.
Questions of Life, p239.
Questions of Life, p30.
Psychologists refer to the “inherited, instinctive impulses
… of the unconscious” as the “Id”.
It seems that Gumbel is trying to teach that only the
“entity” occupying the Lord’s “Id” is God.
This would help explain the repeated reference to
Questions of Life, p27. See
also page 39.
Questions of Life, p55.
Questions of Life, p207. See
also page 9.
Eph. 1:17 calls Jesus “the Father of glory”, but
Gumbel’s Bible version steals this name away.
Gumbel utilizes this verse in Questions of Life, p134.
See, for instance, Questions of Life, p55, plus Talks 4 and 6.
Questions of Life, p21. We
are indebted to Peter Burden-Teh for his excellent research on the
theologies of some of the heretics whom Gumbel quotes without any
obvious problem. Regarding
Tillich’s errors, see Burden-Teh’s article in the journal Christianity
and Society, Jan 2001, p7. See
also Burns, op. cit., p123.
Talk 9. See Burden-Teh, op.
cit., pp8-9. Gumbel
must impress some hearers when he quotes Möltmann using the term
“the crucified God” [Questions of Life, p46], but again we
must ask the questions “What sort of God is in view?” and
“Does he mean there are other Gods?”.
Möltmann’s confusing theology included the belief that God
Talk 15. See Burden-Teh, op.
cit., (April 2001), p17.
Questions of Life, p135; 30 Days, p109.
Gumbel quotes a lot of Catholics besides Muggeridge (e.g.
Forrest, Paul VI, Chesterton) and claims he can find nothing wrong
with Vatican II , in which case he is supporting another
Talk 2. Hort admitted he
was a “staunch sacerdotalist”, and he denied Christ in other ways
too. See D.A. Waite, Heresies of
Westcott and Hort, for
Talk 1. See Burden-Teh, op.
cit., (April 2000), p10. Tolstoy
wrote of Christ “[T]o regard … [him] as God … I deem the
greatest sacrilege” [Tolstoy’s Letters, (Scribner
and Sons, 1978), Vol 1, p298 as quoted in Burden-Teh, op. cit.,
(Jan 2001), p7].
Newton is called “a believer” in Talk 1, yet he was an alchemist
and famously denied the Deity of Christ.
30 Days, p137. See
Burns, op. cit., p258.
Questions of Life, p56. See
Burns, op. cit., p147.
30 Days, p72. Ruskin
and Hammarskjold are just two of several Unitarians that Gumbel
 That it is supposedly “so difficult” and “complex” is reiterated in the Study Guide – see page 124.
Whilst Gumbel quotes portions of the Athanasian creed, he (a) implies
it is incomprehensible [p99], (b) does not mention Jesus by name
there, or give any other clarification as to who is in view, and (c)
never states that he agrees with this creed!
Quite apart from this statement separating Jesus from His Godhood, it
also lessens His ministry from that of our Saviour and Lord to being a
A few pages on, Gumbel again separates Christ from God when he writes:
“When the Holy Spirit fills us, we experience the Fatherhood of God,
the love of Christ and the power of the Spirit” [p112].
Since the true Holy Spirit glorifies Christ Jesus rather
than demoting him, and since Gumbel demotes the Lord Jesus so much, it
is no wonder that many discernment ministries believe a counterfeit
spirit is operating on Alpha Courses, producing counterfeit fruit.
After all, it is a counterfeit Christ being presented.
EXACTLY the same fruit is produced by New Age therapies.
See our book for proof.
This problem is not confined to Searching Issues.
On page 116 of Questions of Life we are told, “…the
Holy Spirit is just like Jesus”.
This too leans significantly towards the idea of three divine
beings that merely operate in harmony.
Sadly, it also encourages people to pray to the Holy Spirit -
as Gumbel often does – even though there is not a single example of
anyone doing so in the whole of Scripture.
We are only supposed to fellowship with the Father and the
Son (1 John 1:3). See
our book for a much fuller treatment of this.
In contrast, Gumbel says, “We need to … ask God’s
forgiveness … turn to Jesus Christ … and ask the Holy
Spirit to come” [Searching Issues, p66].
To go from three supernatural persons with a unified substance
to three supernatural beings with a unified goal, allows the enemy to
See our web site (www.bayith.org) for outlets.
Just as the enemy counterfeits every other aspect of
Christianity, so there is a counterfeit trinity (Rev. 20:10).
Since Gumbel is preaching “another” Jesus, we believe he is
also dispensing “another” Spirit (2 Cor. 11:2-4) – a
spirit that imitates elements of salvation but which does not
result in the true Christian life described in 1 John.
Gumbel’s Arian-friendly analogies include the shamrock (three
identical parts which are partially linked – this is a very Eastern
example); the union jack flag (three individual flags differing
only in colour and operating in concert); and the grossly Arian
analogy of “a family with a father, mother and child” [p107].
Gumbel will only admit that this last one “tends
towards” the idea of three gods, and he avoids any mention of Arius
here (apparently preferring to make Arius look reasonable by referring
Gumbel’s ambiguities continue, for his phrase “heretical
beliefs” [p104] is only categorically attached to the diametrically
opposite position of Sabellius rather than to those of Arius.
(As an aside, JWs are Arian and appear to have no problem with
Gumbel’s position on the divinity of Christ.)
See pp105-6, plus pp103-104 & 107.
The New Age movement is a deception and a counterfeit version of
Christianity, thus it comes as close as it possibly can to saying
Jesus is truly God without ever doing so.
As stated previously, New Agers believe Jesus was “divine”
but we have now seen that
this not the same as being the God of the Bible.
We would expect Alpha to be absolutely rock-solid on this
matter if it was a Course inspired by God.
But what if it was from a New Age source?
Every genuine Trinitarian who studies the Alpha material would
want to check if the Course teaches the Deity of Christ.
If the Course is from the other kingdom, then we would
expect it to use every trick in the book to make it superficially
appear to do so to most Christians whilst actually injecting a huge
amount of doubt about the Deity of Christ and causing unbelievers and
younger Christians to deny it. In
other words, if this scenario is correct and Gumbel is Arian
then one would expect him to distance himself from Arius in
Even 1 John 4:3 has been corrupted in Gumbel’s Bible so that a false
brother merely has to “confess Jesus”, rather than to “confess
Jesus Christ has come in the flesh”, in order to be acceptable.
Thankfully, 2 John 1:7 has been less molested by the NIV in
Jonathan Bayes, A Look at the Alpha Course, (FIEC Video, 1999).
Towards very start of tape.
Neil Richardson, in his (otherwise very useful!) booklet A Tale of
Two Cities: Nicky Gumbel and the Alpha Course, (CWM, 2000), p20.
Chris Hand, Falling Short?, (DayOne, 1998), p3.