Alpha Course: Reviewed

by Stephen Butterfield

INTRO: What Is The Alpha Course?

I’m sure that most of you will have come across an advertisement for the Alpha Course at one time or another. They can usually be found plastered on the back of public transport, on the occasional billboard, and on banners attached to churches, which run the headline “The Alpha Course. Come and explore the meaning of life”.

The adverts do grab ones attention and they are thought provoking but it isn’t obvious, from a first glance at least, that they are religiously affiliated (unless you’re reading one that is attached to a church, of course!) In fact some people who take a look at the ones on buses and billboards may be surprised to learn that they are the product of Christian think tanks. But, one may ask, what has kick-started the church into such a move? Why are they clamouring for us to take an interest in what they have to say? Why now?

The answer is simple.

With church attendances dwindling ever closer to non-existence, as more and more of the British populace look upon organised religion with dissatisfaction, distrust and in some cases disdain, the church has been forced to act. Keen to bring ‘lost souls’ back into the fold, a Christian apologetics program was formulated back in the early 1990’s designed to entice sceptical and/or undecided people into attending weekly meetings with Christians, where they could learn about core Christian beliefs and, more importantly, learn how it is of great importance that they adopt such beliefs themselves!

Their website states that the Alpha Course is “an opportunity for anyone to explore the Christian faith in a relaxed setting over ten thought-provoking weekly sessions, with a day or weekend away”.

Having been raised as a Christian, only later to drift away from the faith, I thought I’d give the Alpha Course a go. What did I have to lose? Maybe I’d get some questions (that had troubled me for a while) answered? What did the Christian faith have to offer in terms of evidence and fact? Would their arguments stand up to examination? I was looking forward to discovering the answers.

After finding a course in my local area, and after swapping a few emails with the gentleman who was running the course, I was all set to go. What follows is a week-by-week, blow-by-blow account of my time spent on the Alpha Course….

September 9, 2008 - Posted by | Alpha Course, Atheism, Christianity, God, Religion | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,


  1. Don’t some adverts for the Alpha Course show a mountaineer getting to the top of a mountain where he can get a really good view of the wonder of the world that God created, and then asking himself ‘Is there more to life than this?’

    A bit self-contradictory?

    Comment by Steven Carr | September 13, 2008

  2. I don’t know too much about the Alpha program but I think it could be a methaphor about life and that man is always climbing the mountain of life and when he reaches the top and achieves wealth, fame, and success he asks “is there more to life than this?” I heard the man in the adverts is Bear Grylls. Any truth to that?

    Comment by Frank W. | October 1, 2008

  3. Yes, the man in the mountain adverts is Bear Grylls.

    Here is an interview he had with Nicky Gumbel…

    Bear Grylls: my faith is quite simple
    Posted on 31 Oct 2007

    Speaking to more than 900 people attending a packed Alpha launch evening in London, TV adventurer Bear Grylls spoke of his ‘quite simple’ Christian faith.

    Interviewed by Vicar Nicky Gumbel and interspersed with clips from his recent Born Survivor series on Channel Four, Bear Grylls spoke about the pressures of his increasing fame around the world and what he described as ‘this whole kind of madness of the last two years’…

    … Of his faith, he said, ‘Life is sometimes quite fluffy and when everything’s going well we don’t necessarily need our faith… but I’ve learned over the years that my Christian faith has been such a backbone through so many difficult times.’

    ‘My faith is quite simple in the sense that for me Christianity is about being held; it’s about being forgiven; it’s about being loved; and it’s about being strengthened. I’m no longer afraid to say that in the way I was, maybe, however many years ago.’

    He spoke about going on an Alpha course with his wife Shara at Holy Trinity Brompton. He said, ‘It was lovely to be able to come and do it in a very non-pressured and unjudgemental and very honest environment, which I think you know is what you guys do here.’

    ‘I think the best thing was actually being able to do it together and talk about life stuff quite intimately together. But our faith is quite bumbling and it struggles.’
    Shara Grylls, who was invited on to the stage later in the evening, said of their time on Alpha: ‘I wasn’t a huge churchgoer before I met Bear but he said, “Let’s do the Alpha course together”.

    ‘It was a brilliant introduction to the whole thing because I had never been anywhere like this before in my life. We had lovely suppers and we had a really nice group. We still keep in touch with the leaders. We’ve now done the Marriage Course and other courses.’


    How does Bear cope with life as a celebrity?

    He said, ‘I find it quite awkward actually. That wasn’t really the big incentive. ‘But it’s part of the privilege of having an amazing job. I have so much fun. And being recognised is fine…’

    ‘…People have said I must be quite an adrenaline junkie, but adrenaline doesn’t last three and a half months on a big mountain. Something else needs to drive you.’

    ‘I think a lot of life is a struggle to summon up the courage to really follow our hearts.’

    He spoke of his love for his family. He said, ‘I got back from the Sahara last night and this morning Jesse, who is four, saw I was feeling a bit ugh, so he came up and just went, “Dear Lord, please strengthen Papa.”

    ‘Those are magic moments,’ he said.

    Comment by Bill Bonikowsky | October 7, 2008

  4. Bill,
    Thanks for confirming it is Bear Grylls.
    The adverts only show the back of the man’s head.

    Comment by Frank W. | October 7, 2008

  5. ‘My faith is quite simple in the sense that for me Christianity is about being held; it’s about being forgiven; it’s about being loved; and it’s about being strengthened.’

    It is about having an imaginary friend.

    Comment by Steven Carr | October 19, 2008

  6. ‘We’ve now done the Marriage Course and other courses.’’

    Probably that consists of Nickey Gumbel claiming he never had a truly satisfying relationship with his wife, not like he has with Jesus.

    Comment by Steven Carr | October 19, 2008

  7. Mr. Carr,
    I’ve heard your insults, now lets hear your arguments.

    Comment by Frank W. | October 29, 2008

  8. Is Frank going to get his imaginary friend to beat me up?

    Comment by Steven Carr | October 29, 2008

  9. When someone has to resort to insults, it only shows the weakness of their position and their intellect. They can not debate the issues on an intellectual level so they have to resort to name calling.

    Comment by Frank W. | October 30, 2008

  10. What name have I called Frank?

    Comment by Steven Carr | October 31, 2008

  11. “Is Frank going to get his imaginary friend to beat me up?”
    That is something little kids say to each other on the playground, not in a forum where people are seriously trying to debate issues and find answers to the meaning of life. If you do not have anything meaningful to say, you should refrain from saying anything at all.

    Comment by Frank W. | October 31, 2008

  12. I’ll take that as a no, Frank’s imaginary friend is not going to do a thing to harm me.

    God used to strike people down dead. But I can defy him as easily as I can defy Jack Frost, Lex Luther, or the Joker.

    Comment by Steven Carr | November 3, 2008

  13. The reason you haven’t been “beaten up” yet is because your judgement won’t happen until after you die. While you’re still alive you are being given chance after chance to repent. If you have already made up your mind, please at least admit that after you die and if there is a God that you deserve to go to hell. Will you at least admit that? Yes, you can defy God, you can murder, cheat, steal, rape people as well but you will be rightfully judged. So go for it, keep mocking God, keep committing crimes but at least admit that you deserve to go to hell and punished more harshly.

    Comment by Frank W. | November 3, 2008

  14. hey S, any chance of sending me your email address via my blog ‘contact’ page?

    Comment by qmonkey | November 6, 2008


    Comment by Spencciiieeeerrrrssss | October 26, 2009

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