Alpha bet ends

The Guardian’s atheist journalist who attended Alpha has finished. His experience makes for fascinating reading. It’s honest. Critical. And engaging.

He ends up deciding that atheists are far better off hanging out with Christians than yelling at them. Which is refreshing. And has some great insights into the good, the bad, and the ugly of evangelism.

Check it out.

He’s also got an insightful interview with the head of the Alpha movement, Nicky Gumbel, about all sorts of things to do with the course. It’s worth a read.

One of the criticisms I’ve heard of Alpha (I haven’t done it) is its focus on tongues – here’s what Gumbel says…

Yes, I think it’s one of the gifts of the Holy Spirit. It’s not the only gift and it’s not right at the heart of the New Testament, but it is there, and I think we don’t give it much more emphasis than the New Testament gives it, which is not very much. If you came to our weekend and heard it I don’t think you would feel this is something that is weird.”

Interesting. He has a longer treatise on tongues that is also pretty on the money. I won’t reproduce it all here.

My favourite quote in the whole Alpha Male series was this one – describing the low point of the experience for journalist, Adam Rutherford:

“The low point followed, when Barbara, with whom I had had fun, explained that following my sturdy but polite defence of science and attack on healing (the most galling session), she became convinced that with regards to the supernatural, there was “something rather than nothing”. I had managed to reinforce her latent suspicion of science towards a more faithful position. Christ alive, how disappointing is that? She is thoughtful and intelligent. She listened and argued with me, and chose an emotional and visceral position instead. As I do this for a living, I will certainly modify my rhetoric as a result.”

Yeah. Cop that atheists who think being smug is the way to change minds.

Alpha beta

We’re running Introducing God at church at the moment. It’s like Alpha, for the Bible minded…

I’ve never done the Alpha course. My opinion of it is largely shaped by criticisms from people I know and respect. But it’s second hand.

For more “second hand” accounts of Alpha you should read this “orthodox atheist” journalist from the Guardian (UK paper) as he blogs the Alpha experience.

“The nearest I’ve come to a religious experience recently is my nightly dose of the Wire. Ain no thang. But I leave St Mary’s looking forward to next week’s session. I spend precisely no time with people openly discussing their faith in a very personal way. Mostly when I think about religion it’s the foolish edicts of preposterous old men in dresses. But sitting down with people who choose to spend a sunny Tuesday evening discussing the meaning of life with strangers seems to be a much more interesting insight into what makes people of faith tick. We shall see.”

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