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The Alpha Course

Open Letter to the Leaders of the Alpha Course
Letter #1: Alpha’s ‘Holy Spirit Retreat’

From Bayith Ministries

Sent
: 4th April 2003
Reply:
None received as yet (apart from a letter merely confirming receipt) 

 

 

Dear Rev. Nicky Gumbel,

Certain important questions are being asked regarding aspects of Alpha's 'Holy Spirit Retreat'.  Some of the main ones are given below and we wondered if it might be possible for you to help clear them up - as we cannot find the answers in any Alpha publications.

We realise you yourself are extremely busy, but if a member of your large staff could possibly furnish replies to each of these queries it would be very useful.  We will undertake, God willing, to put your full response on to our website (bayith.org) as soon as we receive it.  Many thanks in anticipation.

Webnote: Nicky Gumbel's secretary wrote to confirm receipt on 9th April 2003, but no further response has yet been received by us.

Introduction

1.  You rightly say that the Bible is "the supreme authority for what we believe" [1].  Would you therefore agree with the Lord Jesus when He said, in Matthew 7:13-14, that "broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat:... and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that fins it"?  we ask this because it doesn't appear to line up with what Alpha currently teaches - e.g. in chapter 9 of 30 Days [2] and chapter 2 of Searching Issues [3].  Would you not agree that Alpha is 'post-millennial' [4]?

2.  You have also said that the Bible is "our authority for what we teach [5] and is "our authority for how we act" [6].  Would you therefore agree that all Christian teaching ought to be founded solely on Holy Scripture?  (The relevance of this question will become clear in a moment.)

Alpha Manifestations

3.  Alpha participants often report feeling physically forced, by an unseen power, to do something (e.g. laugh uncontrollably) [7], yet we can find no examples in Scripture of God doing this to people who are seeking Him.  He sometimes forces His will on those opposing Him, but not on those who are trying to walk with Him.  Can you list all such examples you know of in the Bible?

4.  You teach that "Jesus came to set us free" [8], so would it be possible to explain why there are so many reports of Alpha participants not having the freedom to stop the manifestations they are experiencing [9]?  Surely someone in a relationship based on love would not force their will on the object of their love - and would permit the other party the freedom to stop some advance if they wanted to?

5.  From official testimonies, common experiences on the Alpha retreat include: shaking uncontrollably; powerful electric shocks; a voice in the head; laughing for no reason; being knocked to the ground; white lights in the head; and unnatural heat.  (Examples are available in out book Alpha - the Unofficial Guide: Overview [10].)  Unfortunately we cannot find a single unambiguous verse in Scripture showing God doing any of this to His People.  Please can you point us to all the relevant ones?

6.  There are many instances of people experiencing manifestations on Alpha whilst still unsaved [11].  Since the unsaved are spiritually dead to God and therefore cannot receive the Spirit of Truth (John 14:17; 1 Cor. 2:14), and since their most pressing need is for salvation, can you explain why the Holy Spirit would give them ecstatic experiences rather than convicting them of their sinful nature at this stage?

7.  Alpha teaches that the manifestations themselves don't matter [12], and that we should simply judge by the resulting fruit.  Is this due to the absence of biblical support for these manifestations, and because of their amazing similarity to those things experienced in pagan religions such as the New Age movement [13]?

Roots of Modern Alpha

8.  You cite John Wimber and his 1982 ministry team as being "very significant" in your life [14].  You quote Wimber regularly and glowingly [15], and you recommend his books.  Do you not feel that such strong endorsement legitimises the people whom he cited as being influential on him?  These include: Morton Kelsey, Agnes Sanford, Kenneth Hagin, and John & Paul Sandford [16].  Would you not agree that, in each case, their teachings are dangerous, and that they have admitted deriving aspects of their doctrine from New Agers [17]?  In view of verses like 1 Cor. 5:11 and Titus 3:10, are you not concerned about this, and about the fact that none of them have repented of their cooperation with such people?

9.  Would you accept that Matthew 7:17-18 teaches us that the roots of a movement are very significant when determining if that movement is of God or not?  Are you aware that Wimber largely attributed his 'anointing' to a man called Lonnie Frisbee (a practicing bisexual who died of AIDS in 1993, and is buried at Crystal Cathedral) who had been travelling with him for 18 months prior to Wimber's team ministering to you in 1982?  Are you aware that Lonnie Frisbee worked with Bob Mumford and Kathryn Kuhlman during the 1970s?  What do you think of them, given that they too derived much from New Agers [18]?

10.  Alpha only took off - i.e. went beyond Holy Trinity Brompton (HTB) - after Paul Cain ministered there in 1990 [19].  Are you aware that his mentor, William Branham [20], was a man who denied the Trinity [21] and who was greatly influenced by at least two New Agers [22]?  What is your definition of a heretic?  Despite verses like 1Cor. 5:12-13, John 7:24 and the whole of 1 John, Alpha seems to suggest that we cannot judge whether someone is a true brother or not [23].  If that is so, how can HTB make the judgment that Paul Cain was "a man of God" [24]?

11.  Biblically, if a supposed disciple of the Lord produces a prophecy that they claim is from God but observably fails to come to pass, that person is to be accounted a false prophet.  Cain, Wimber, Branham, Hagin, Kuhlman (and her protege Benny Hinn) have all demonstrably produced false prophecies, yet far from alerting the sheep about these people, HTB seems prepared (directly or indirectly) to legitimise them.  Since the Lord Jesus Christ took the trouble of warning us to "Beware of false prophets" (Matt. 7:15), what is your definition of a false prophet?

12.  Aside from Wimber, have you ever personally been prayed over, or otherwise ministered to, by any of the above people?  If so, please can you supply details?  For example, was it Frisbee himself who prayed for you in 1982?  Did Cain minister to you personally in 1990?  Which of the above have you met?  Do you think they are the sort of people whom God would honour by making instrumental in 'channeling' a major outpouring to His People?

Conclusion

13.  HTB's view regarding spiritual roots appears to be that, since Alpha leaders say "come Holy Spirit", then any resulting manifestations must be from the true Holy Spirit [25].  But surely it is the way in which someone approaches God that matters, not just the name used?  Not everyone using the name "Jesus" is referring to the Jesus of the Bible.  The Lord Himself warned of false Christs (Matt.24:24), and Paul pointed out, in 2 Cor. 11:4, that some people believe in "another" Jesus - i.e. a counterfeit one.  Likewise, Paul said there was "another spirit".  (Incidentally, if making supplication to the Holy Spirit is acceptable to God the Father, can you point out all the places in Scripture where God's People did this?  We ourselves cannot find any.)

14.  Would you acknowledge that, if indeed judged by the fruit alone, the results of the Alpha retreat still strongly indicate that the manifestations are not from the Holy Spirit?  There are many examples we could cite; the following is only a fraction of them:

a)  You teach, "the fruit of the Spirit [includes] ... self-control" [26], yet Alpha manifestations are frequently uncontrollable.  (We note that, in your book Searching Issues, you admit it is "evil powers which seek to control" [27].)

b)  You state that the fruit of the Spirit includes "love, ... goodness, [and] faithfulness" [28].  It is a small point, but HTB has recently put general notices up asking for volunteers to help with HTB's activities.  Whilst HTB runs various such things, it also has a membership of thousands.  Given that you already advertise these activities, do you really find you also have to put general notices up requesting volunteers?  If HTB is filling its people with the true Holy Spirit, surely they are only too keen to serve the Body?

c)  Your Bible version says that the fruit of the spirit includes "joy, peace, patience, kindness [and] gentleness" yet HTB sometimes seems to prefer using lawyers or lawyer techniques in place of these things [29].

15.  In Searching Issues you confess, regarding the "power and gifts of the Holy Spirit", that an apparent "counterfeit" exists [30].  The manifestations on Alpha look exactly like those experienced by New Age initiates, are all listed as marks of apostasy in Scriptures [31], and can readily be linked - in terms of both personalities and doctrines - to the New Age.  Would you thus not sympathise greatly with church elders who suspect that graduates from Alpha retreats are merely undergoing a New Age counterfeit of true salvation?  Do you accept that they would be very wise to investigate these things extremely carefully (and to wait for your reply to this letter) before proceeding with Alpha?

16.  In light of the above, is it not exceedingly unreasonable for HTB to make the 'Retreat' a part of the Alpha copyright, such that it is now illegal to run Alpha without it?  Do you not feel that this may well frighten churches into doing something for which there is no genuine scriptural support?

Thank you very much for your time.  There is great confusion about these things, but obviously God is not the author of confusion.  If you could therefore make the reply as clear and unambiguous as possible it would be hugely appreciated.

Sincerely,
Bayith Ministries

 

This letter and the book mentioned above is distributed by:
Discernment Ministries, Inc., P.O. Box 254,

High Bridge, NJ 08829-0254, USA

Order Line: 908-638-6504

 

Footnotes

[1] Talk 5.  All emphases in this letter are our own.  All references to Alpha Talks relate to the set released in transcript form by HTB in the Summer of 2000.

[2] 30 Days is a book written by Nicky Gumbel.  We have used the 2001 edition released by Alpha Publications.

[3] See page 33.  (Searching Issues is a book by Nicky Gumbel.  We have used the 2001 edition released by Kingsway Publications for this letter.)

[4] The earthly reign of Jesus Christ will, according to seven statements in Revelation 20, last one thousand years - hence ‘millennial’.  Alpha overwhelmingly suggests that this reign has already started, even though the Lord has to physically return first.  The ramifications of this error are enormous.   Please see our book Alpha - the Unofficial Guide: Overview for examples and more details.

[5] Talk 5.

[6] Talk 5.

[7] See Part 5 of our book Alpha - the Unofficial Guide: Overview for examples.

[8] Talk 1.

[9] For examples, please see Part 5 of our book Alpha - the Unofficial Guide: Overview for details.

[11] Please see Part 5 of our book Alpha - the Unofficial Guide: Overview for details.

[12] Nicky Gumbel, in Talk 10, says “What matters is not the outward physical manifestation that you may or may not experience;  what matters is the inward experience of the Spirit”.

[13] Please see Part 5 of our book Alpha - the Unofficial Guide: Overview for details.

[14] Talk 13.

[15] E.g. Nicky Gumbel, Telling Others, (Kingsway, 2001), p143.  From at least 1996, the teaching tape sets used by HTB ‘home groups’ (now called ‘cells’) included six talks by Wimber (see the UK edition of Alpha News, July 1996, p25).

[16] Al Dager, John Wimber and the Vineyard, as recorded at www.rapidnet.com/~jbeard/bdm/exposes/wimber/john.htm.

[17] Kelsey: Morton Kelsey’s mentor was the New Ager Assagioli, and Kelsey was also significantly influenced by the New Ager Carl Jung.  Sanford: Agnes Sanford was a fan of the New Ager Teilhard de Chardin.  Hagin: McConnell, op. cit., E.W. Kenyon’s writings were “widely read by … Kenneth Hagin … Kenyon’s influence … was massive” [p23].  Sandfords: John and Paula Sandford were greatly influenced by Carl Jung - one of the fathers of the modern New Age movement.

[18] Mumford was close to the Mason Cardinal Suenens, and to Ern Baxter of the New Age ‘Latter Rain’ movement.  Kuhlman’s husband was close to the New Ager Franklin Hall.  Kuhlman submitted herself to Pope Paul VI who was a fan of two open Luciferians.

[19] Stephen Hunt, Anyone For Alpha?, (Darton, Longman and Todd, 2001), p25.

[20] S.R. Shearer, The Kansas City Prophets, John Wimber and the Catholic Church, (Antipas Ministries, Denver Colorado), p7, as cited in Roger Oakland, New Wine or Old Deception? (The Word for Today, 1995), p77.

[21] William Branham, Adoption, (Spoken Word Publications, 1960), pp21,104 as quoted in Roger Oakland, op. cit., p70.

[22] The writings of the New Ager E.W. Kenyon were “widely read by … William Branham” [D.R. McConnell, A Different Gospel, (Hendrickson, 1988),  p23].  Branham was also heavily influenced by the New Ager Franklin Hall.

[23] Nicky Gumbel says things like: “we must stop judging one another” [‘The Spirit And Evangelism’, Renewal magazine, May 1995, p16].

[24] David Hilborn, A Chronicle of the Toronto Blessing and Related Events, as published by the Evangelical Alliance (UK), p136.

[25] Wallace Boulton, Ed., The Impact of Toronto, (Monarch Publications, 1995), p.83.

[26] Talk 4.

[27] Searching Issues, p66.

[28] Talk 4.

[29] Please see the item by Roger Arguile in The Church Times, 19 July 2002, p16.

[30] Searching Issues, p66.

[31] Please see Part 5 of our book Alpha - the Unofficial Guide: Overview for details.

 

 

 

 

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