A Tale Of Two Cities -ROME
[ part 1 ]
My prayer as I write this piece, and as you read it, is that God may be glorified, His Son exalted and His Holy Scriptures proclaimed, by His Holy Spirit. Please prayerfully
consider my thoughts, discard those which are not Biblical and apply those which are.
My purpose is that you may see what Nicky Gumbel stands for (in my view one of the four most influential figures on the British religious scene, the others being George Carey [CoE], Basil Hume [Catholic] and Clive Calver [EA]), and that you may welcome his Biblical ideas, and question those which could be of human origin. In no way do I seek to assassinate his character - I urge you to join me in praying for him as we are commanded, in love and humility: "I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; for kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty" (1 Timothy 2:1-2).
Two injunctions by Mr Gumbel himself may well be appropriate in beginning:
There is a double standard in having "a rosy view of ourselves and a jaundiced view of others" (Stott), for we point the accusing finger at others, but never turn it on ourselves. It makes us feel better to gloat over the sins and errors of others - hence our love of scandals. We lap up all the sordid details and every speck we collect helps us ignore the log-jam in our own eye. This applies not only to the moral faults of others, but also to doctrinal ones as well. Some doctrinal critics may agree with 99% of their opponent's view. We may agree on the Trinity, the person and work of Jesus Christ, the nature of the atonement, the authority of Scripture and issues of morality, but we find what is objectively a minor area of disagreement and latch onto it. We feel we are not 'sound' unless we are constantly denouncing and condemning. So we write with poisoned pens.
Could it be that we are blinded by the log in our own eye?
Often we are defensive, rigid, judgmental, intolerant and even nasty and petty.
Unless we first remove the plank of hypercriticism and censoriousness from our own eyes, we will not see clearly to remove the splinter from the eyes of others.
Handling Criticism from Challenging Lifestyle
Although we are to be wise and discerning, we are not to be suspicious of everyone, and neither are we to become heresy hunters, for false prophets will reveal themselves by their fruit. We need not worry.
How to discern false prophets from Challenging Lifestyle
As we look at Mr Gumbel's teachings, let us avoid hypercriticism and intolerance, but - in contrast to his latter point - some concerned enquiry may not go amiss:
"Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood. For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them. Therefore watch, and remember, that by the space of three years I ceased not to warn every one night and day with tears" (Acts 20:28-31).
Nicky Gumbel- the man
- Practised as a barrister and is now ordained on the staff of Holy Trinity Brompton
- Author of best-selling: Why Jesus?- a 24-page tract looking at Christ and our need of Him,
- Why Christmas?- the Christmas edition of Why Jesus,
- Questions of Life- forms the basis for the Alpha course material, including 'who is Jesus', 'how can I be filled with the Spirit?', 'why and how should I read the Bible?'
- Searching Issues- examines 7 common objections to Christianity such as suffering, other religions, sex before marriage, the New Age, homosexuality, and science and Christianity
- A Life Worth Living- a study of Philippians, forms the basis for the Alpha 2 follow-up course; looks at continuing new life in Christ,
- Telling Others- a 'feedback' book of testimonies and practical tips for running effective Alpha courses,
- Challenging Lifestyle- a study of the Sermon on the Mount explaining how to live under God's blessing, how to have an influence on society, how to deal with anger, sexual sin, giving, praying, fasting, money, divorce, integrity, loving your enemies, criticism, life...
- Developer and director of Alpha, a 10-week introduction to Christianity with the principles- Anyone can come, Learning and laughter, Pasta, Helping one another, Ask anything:
||4-week course for new Christians
||10 weeks, Holy Spirit weekend
||Questions of Life published
||(May - Toronto Blessing breaks in HTB rest of UK)
||1,200 outside of UK, all continents except South America
This table demonstrates just how influential Nicky is, with over a quarter of a million people directly reached by his exposition of the Gospel alone: all the Alpha resources are by him, and the July issue of Alpha News draws attention to a copyright statement relating to the course which requires that any alteration to the course by way of shortening or lengthening is "subject to the proviso that such alterations do not change the essential nature of the course". Furthermore, "teaching on the various topics contained in Questions of Life should neither be departed from nor qualitatively altered in an Alpha course". One can understand HTB's move to consolidate copyright rights, but the Gospel must not be according to Gumbel, but from the full counsel of Scripture. In Nicky's defence, he himself merely stipulates that "it is a good idea to follow it exactly the first time around and then to see next time if there are any ways in which it could be improved" (Practicalities from Telling Others).
Nicky Gumbel and Alpha - what people say
All I have ever read about Alpha has ranged from the warm to the positively raving. All, that is, with one or two exceptions. I have selected a number of comments for what they say, and (interestingly) who it is who says them:
John Wimber, head of Association of Vineyard Churches: "Alpha is ingenious in the way that it brings people into a private setting by invitation [fashionable sociologically, but not necessarily the way Jesus or the Apostles preached]. So you are accommodating the 20th Century culture in a very manageable and functional way and I am thrilled by it [why is Wimber more thrilled by 'cultural adaptation' than the plain declaration of the timeless Gospel?]. I am not surprised to hear of its immediate acceptance and use by hundreds of churches all over the world [doesn't that 'immediate acceptance' ring any bells? Perhaps an uncompromising Gospel presentation would put more noses out of joint than heads nodding in agreement?]" [brackets mine]. (Remember that John Wimber does not believe in the sufficiency of Scripture, is known to have said- "We are cataloguing all of our experiences so we can develop a theology" [which explains his results-based mentality], confuses "truth and error reflected in his books when opponents of the Evangelical faith are portrayed as having conversions or being great saints and advocates of signs and wonders. This is particularly so with his ready acceptance of Roman Catholics" [John Wimber - Friend or Foe?, p9,10, Philip Jensen]. Also - Nicky Gumbel refers fondly to John Wimber on many occasions in his books, and recommends Wimber's equivocal Power Healing and Power Evangelism.) Charles Whitehead, International Catholic Charismatic Services: "Alpha is an excellent introductory course for those who do not go to church or for whom an inherited Christianity has little meaning. I have no hesitation in recommending it to any church or group wishing to present the basic Gospel message clearly and effectively". (Catholic Charismatics- despite their possibly oxymoronic label- are the fastest growing religious group in the world. See Jonathan Fiddy's article on Rome to see if Catholicism is compatible with the practice of the gifts of the Holy Spirit of God.) George Carey, Archbishop of Canterbury: "I think it's superb and it appears to be adapted culturally as well- and all that's good. I commend it wholeheartedly and I think it's a very good thing." (Note that Carey also refuses to repudiate the blatant flouting of Scripture amongst the gay lobby in his church [viz. Bishop of Guildford, Lesbian Gay Christian Movement, 20 year celebration, Southwark Cathedral]; he goes along with the Synod's dismissal of Biblical hellfire; he seeks full unity with the Catholic church [recent visit to the Vatican]; he regards Hindus as being on a shared spiritual walk with Christians [recent visit to the Neasden temple]. If homosexuality, annihilationism, Catholicism and Hinduism are condoned by Carey, then of what value is his approval of the Alpha course? Rather, is it not cause for concern that Alpha is not Biblical enough to ruffle his ecumenical tendencies? Instead: "He's on our side," assures Sandy Millar . "He is a friend") Steve Chalke, the Oasis Trust: "Alpha is the most effective [visible results again] and transferable [read 'amorphously ecumenical'?] introductory course to the Christian faith that I know." (Steve Chalke has also added his backing to Fusion, the divisive and ill-conceived National Student Initiative. On questioning, I found him to know nothing about it.) Michael Green and Michael Marshall, advisors in evangelism to the Archbishops of Canterbury and York: "Every lively church needs a maternity ward! It needs a setting in which new Christians can be made and Christians can be made new [hinting at it being a man-made manufacture]. The Alpha course has proved itself to be a marvellous vehicle for this purpose, and it can be adapted to a very wide variety of cultures [the marvellous thing about the Gospel is not that it is 'adaptable' but that it is distinct, unique, pointing solely to the Biblical Christ. If 'culture' here means 'doctrinal basis', then we can only fear that Alpha serves to confirm the unscriptured in their ignorance]." Other responses- "non-threatening yet challenging" (Fiona Castle), "cringe free" (Joel Edwards, EA), "fun and unthreatening - just like our Lord Himself!" (Gerald Coates, Pioneer), "exciting don't miss it!" (Rob Parsons, CARE), "a tool of our time" (Ken Gott), "a new and fresh approach to evangelism" (Clive Calver, EA), "successful" (Terry Virgo, New Frontiers), "effective" (Green & Marshall), "significant" (Bishop David Pytches), "significant" (Canon Robert Warren), "exciting and successful" (Roger Forster, Ichthus), "effective" (Rob Frost, Methodist), "phenomenal growth" (Elaine Storkey, ICC), "engaging" (Jim Packer), "effective" (Os Guinness), "significant" (Leighton Ford), "enormous impact" (Eddie Gibbs), "effective" (Mike Bickle, former Kansas City Prophet), "superbly produced relaxed, non-threatening" (Michael Cassidy), "significant" (Bishop John Perry), "enjoyable" (Bishop Graham Dow), "extraordinary success" (Bishop John W Howe), etc.
Alpha is also dubbed "exciting, effective, successful, significant" by Bishop of Singapore, Bishop of Wakefield, Bishop of Maidstone, Assistant Bishop of Birmingham, Gordon D. Fee, Wayne Grudem, Lynn Green (YWAM), and a host of other ecclesiastical luminaries. My one concern is that a good marketing campaign or management training course could be described in exactly these terms. Where in the Bible are these concepts used as gauges of faithful evangelism? "For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD" (Isaiah 55:8).
The personal testimonies are also very illuminating:
My problem at this point is the overwhelming gratitude testifiers have towards Alpha, towards the course, towards the friendly, familial people, towards the happy feelings of being accepted by God and others. As one pastor who has made use of Alpha shrewdly suggests:
- "My life has been good, but since Alpha, since I became a Christian, it has become so much richer." (Christianity: a positive thinking lifestyle choice?)
- "I now realise that my personality hasn't changed at all, but I feel that what has happened, I'm actually getting more out of what I already had there, and I think that's really God's work doing that." ("For I know that in me [that is, in my flesh] dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new" - a distinctly changed Paul from Romans 7:18 to 2 Corinthians 5:17!)
- "Before the course if I had likened my life to a book, the words on the page were hard to read and appeared dull. Alpha gave me a new spiritual awareness and I started a new chapter. Now all the pages I turn are full of brightly coloured pop-up pictures. It is wonderful to learn that Christianity is not about rules but relationships, not a philosophy but a fantastic person and that it does relate to a modern lifestyle in the 20th Century" (Is a deep conviction of sin leading to repentance and faith in a crucified Saviour and Lord the same as a new and colourful pop-up book of spiritual awareness?)
- "Everything Alpha gave me was so positive: it gave me the beginnings of understanding what being a Christian means; it gave me warm friendships and a sense of belonging to the church family Alpha gave me something brand new- an idea so startling it still surprises me." (Is this person identifying 'being a Christian' with 'warm friendships and a sense of belonging'? Nice as those things are, it's a different gospel.)
- "Alpha is wonderful - life changing!"
- "For the very first time I began to understand Jesus and to know that he cared for me, he loved me and was giving me peace. On the weekend away I was blessed to receive the Holy Spirit. What an experience - total peace, floods of tears and a feeling that I was a special person."
- "I look back on Alpha being the turning point of my life."
One of the problems of proclaiming the Gospel in a post-modern world is that culture itself warms much more readily to lifestyle than to doctrine. But the Christian lifestyle is not Christian faith I am sure that many people are being converted through the Alpha course, but I have a suspicion that some of those people are being converted to a Christian lifestyle rather than to Christ.Ian Lewis, The Alpha Course, Evangelicals Now, Dec 95.
Elizabeth McDonald, in her indispensable Biblical critique alpha: new life or new lifestyle? (St Matthew's Publications), expresses profound concern as to what Gospel folk are being converted into. In almost every testimony I've looked at her analysis applies:
A relationship to God is referred to, as is the experience of the baptism in the Holy Spirit, discovery of prayer, an interest in Bible reading, church-going, Christianity and what Alpha has done for them. However, Jesus and what He has done for them and a personal relationship with Him are not mentioned at all. Yet the Lord Jesus is the Gospel. He is salvation. He is their new life. These things being so, how can He possibly be so completely overlooked in a basic conversion testimony?
Adherents of false religions claim a relationship with God, and a prayer life, but they are not saved. Many church goers read their Bibles and have an interest in church and in Christianity, but they are not saved. Likewise, more compassion/understanding at work, more patience, tolerance, confidence and deep feelings of contentment can equally well be produced by a sense of psychological wellbeing. Without the Cross they do not constitute salvation. The attempt by Gumbel to bring Jesus into the testimonies by asking exactly what had made these differences, was met with a blank look and the response: "Just the relationship that I've developed with God. Simple as that."
McDonald concludes that the experiential whirligig of Alpha minus the centrality of Christ and His atoning work can tend towards a merely Christianised New Age spirituality.
Interestingly, the unceasing torrent of eulogy dried up very recently in The Times (December 14th 1996) with a withering expose by Dominic Kennedy. "We had been told to look for a sign from Jesus: a coincidence, anything would do," he begins. His 'sign' is immediately catching a taxi and being told by the driver that, though he played music once at HTB, "they are all hypocrites and phoneys".Kennedy's comment on the phenomena: "I have watched healthy young adults degenerate into a helpless mass of quivers, jerks and moans befitting a victim of a cruel degenerative illness". He describes the course as attended typically by young rich people, that it is ecumenical and formulaic "Cardinal Hume, we were told, had just approved the Alpha course, following painstaking study by the Roman Catholic theologians. A wise move. A third of the people there seemed to be lapsed Catholics, including me." Is it not a monumental shame that Christian theologians and pastors have examined the Alpha course far less assiduously than their unregenerate counterparts in the Catholic faith?! He goes on to verify that the "emphasis was on miracles, healing, prophecy". He quotes a shamanistic and hypnotic spirit-invocation speech by Gumbel, a dubious testimony from a man who experienced a "bright light come in from my right side, then disappear, and I felt relaxed and at peace with my mind for the first time in 50 years" (see Toronto section on Kundalini yoga). Kennedy, bereft of the saving Gospel of Christ, knowing only of 'the spiritual warfare of the Devil and the Spirit', leaves - confusedly ending his report thus: "So who sent the stranger to warn me away from HTB, the Holy Spirit or the Devil? The trouble is, I believe it was just a coincidence". Alpha is perhaps not quite as effective in preaching Christ as it is in wowing sensation-hungry yuppiedom.
Nicky Gumbel- his teachings vis a vis the Word of God
Mr Gumbel is an exceptional writer. He adopts important themes, follows clear lines argument with witty and poignant illustrations and challenging applications. I have read all his books and they are always informative and very convicting in places. I am grateful for all that I have learned from him. The chapters Who is Jesus and Why did Jesus die? in Questions of Life are the best systematic defence of the claims of Christ, the authenticity of Scripture and the power of the Cross. Nicky is exceedingly keen on C S Lewis (far and above his most cited author - at least 25 times in all his work) and uses his 'Lord, liar or lunatic' dilemma to maximum effect in this book, Why Jesus and Why Christmas? He is not shy- unlike other modern evangelicals - of words like 'sin' and 'judgement'. His legal analogy of God being Judge, Advocate and Substitute is classic in talking about dealing with what he openly confesses to be "man's greatest need" - the penalty, power, pollution and partition of sin. He stops short of declaring eternal death in hell as the final penalty, and does not mention heaven as the reward of faith in Christ. An impassioned and direct description by John Wimber of his own conversion is included, and the 'sinner's prayer' at the end of the second chapter recognises repentance, forgiveness, Christ crucified, a commitment to Him as Lord, thanks, reception of the Holy Spirit.
Watching the first few Alpha videos gave me the strong impression that Mr Gumbel was a man devoted to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I was encouraged by his emphatic belief in the deity of Christ, the sin of mankind and the authority of Scriptures. Unfortunately, I feel that he is in danger of preaching Christianity PLUS. David Jackman argues that all heresies stem from adding or subtracting from the deposit of Biblical truth. He feels that earlier this century we were endangered by liberals denying Christ, His life, miracles, death, resurrection, ascension, virgin birth; the Scriptures and their infallibility; man and his sinful nature. Now the pendulum has swung to the extent that people like Rodney Howard-Browne (probably the most lethal man in Christendom) can have an impeccable doctrinal statement that means very little, as there is so much in his practice that goes beyond it. Oh yes, we believe in the inerrancy of Scripture, but we leave it on the shelf and rely on anecdote and experience and 'ministry' (as Rodney himself unashamedly laughs: "the less I preached, the more people got saved").
Oh yes, we believe in salvation in Christ alone, but we don't preach Him alone - we preach a doctrine of subsequential, ecstatic Holy Spirit infillings. "For many the decisive moment is the Saturday evening of the weekend" (Telling Others, p120) when Nicky asks the Spirit to come. Not when Christ is preached and there is a response of repentance and faith. The decisive moment is 'when the spirit comes'. If it is not a spirit which convicts of sin, righteousness and judgement (John 16:8) or who points to Christ as Saviour from that sin and judgement, and glorifies Him as the means of our righteousness (John 16:14, 2 Corinthians 5:21), then what sort of spirit is it? One that brings happy or peaceful feelings? The uniqueness of the Spirit of God is not that he papers over our cracks with psychoreligious ritual, but that He brings us contrite to the only Way in which those cracks can be filled- the Lord Jesus Christ. As long as Gumbel's Gospel is distinctly Biblical and Christocentric, it is superb (at least 90% of his writing). When his writing wanders into defective pneumatology, reckless ecumenism and feelgood religion, it is disturbing. As Alan Morrison says of Kenneth Copeland and the Word of Faith crew, "It's not what you read on pages 1 to 10 that is the problem. It's what is lurking on page 11 that undermines everything."
It is those 'page 11s' that we will be examining now. Praise the Lord that they are mercifully few, but those that are in evidence merit serious attention as their ultimate corollary is the destruction of all the good teaching that Nicky has taken such pains to articulate. "My brethren, be not many [of you] masters, knowing that we shall receive the greater condemnation" James 3:1. My prayer is absolutely not that Nicky will be condemned - rather that he should examine these areas diligently and renew his stalwart efforts in evangelism, preaching a more full, more Biblical Gospel. As must we all!
Nicky Gumbel and the Gospel
There are big problems with the Gospel according to Gumbel. For simplicity's sake, they can be roughly divided into two areas- defective pneumatology (symbolised by the city of Toronto) and a tendency to ecumenism, even syncretism (symbolised by the city of Rome)
It is manifest in all of Mr Gumbel's work that he regards the Catholic faith to be simply a rather traditional denomination of the true Christian Church. He:
- alleges that Jesus "has approaching two billion followers" (Questions of life, p9), "amounting to 32.9% of the world population" (Searching Issues, p28). This means that 1 in 3 people in the world are Christians. Apart from being blatantly untrue, this kind of figure can only be reached if you count the Roman Catholic religion. Is that Christianity?
- quotes Catholics as if theirs is authentic Biblically Christian testimony. Mother Teresa (along with Jackie Pullinger) is one of his heroes. In How to find life in Challenging Lifestyle, he records an interview with her. When Pope John Paul II visited her in Calcutta, it was "the happiest day of her life". This is because he was pleased to give her a shelter in Rome to look after prostitutes. He also quotes Catholic convert Malcolm Muggeridge on joy - "The most characteristic and uplifting of the manifestations of conversion is rapture - an inexpressible joy which suffuses our whole being, making our fears dissolve into nothing, and our expectations move heavenwards" (Questions of life, 126). He admiringly cites the Pope, Father Maximilian Kobe, Father Tom Forrest (originator of the Pope's phrase, 'Decade of Evangelism'), etc. Are these Catholics Christians, and is their testimony reliable?
- Martin Luther and John Wesley are the third most quoted pair in Nicky's work (10+ times each, after John Stott and C S Lewis). He also refers to other Reformed believers, such as Calvin (16th century), Whitefield (17th) and Spurgeon (19th). Highly bizarre is the way in which he quotes Luther and Vatican II in the same paragraph, with equal weight! Remember that Luther was excommunicated for heresy by the Catholic religion:
- Papal authorities ordered Luther to retract and submit to church authority, but he became more intransigent, appealing for reform, attacking the sacramental system, and urging that religion rest on individual faith based on the guidance contained in the Bible. Threatened with excommunication by the Pope, Luther publicly burned the bull, or papal decree, of excommunication and with it a volume of canon law. This act of defiance symbolized a definitive break with the entire system of the Western church" (Encarta Encyclopedia).
- Although "the Roman Catholic official view is that the Scriptures were 'written under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit have God as their author without error'" (QoL, p74), the Luther whom Gumbel so prevalently quotes obviously thought the Catholic church did not observe their own theory at all in practice. The Catholic church demanded that he recant, and they have never pardoned Luther. It is madness and contradiction to quote the Catholics and the Reformers in the same breath. They represent two different religions, both of which claim to be founded on Scripture.
Who is correct?
From the 8 Catholic testimonies I've read, here are some interesting statistics which demonstrate what kind of message Alpha is communicating to them:
- "The same Spirit indwells Christians in Russia, China, Africa, America, the UK or wherever. In one sense it is not so important what denomination we are- Roman Catholic or Protestant; Lutheran, Methodist, Baptist, Pentecostal, Anglican or House Church. What is more important is whether or not we have the Spirit of God. If people have the Spirit of God living within them, they are Christians, and our brothers and sisters" (What does the Holy Spirit do? from Questions of Life). Gumbel makes the classic misinterpretation of Galatians 3:28 ("There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus) and Colossians 3:11 ("Where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision, Barbarian, Scythian, bond nor free: but Christ is all, and in all). He jumps the quantum leap from nationality to doctrinal belief. Paul is making an inclusive statement - it doesn't matter what nationality or sex or class you come from, we're all one. But he is also making an exclusive statement - it DOES matter what you believe, we're all one only in Christ.
- The Alpha course is installed in many local Catholic churches. If there is anything unbiblical about Catholicism, Alpha is not the thing to expose it. Rather it smooths everything over and makes people cosy in their error: "Newcomers began to read the Scriptures, pray and attend Mass for the first time The Alpha method can be a wonderful and very effective [that word again!] tool for communicating the basics of orthodox Catholic faith" (Father Brian Hackney, who "added three extra sessions to suit the needs of his Anglo-Catholic congregation"). The Reformers died defending the Lord's Supper as a remembrance, not a Real Presence. Here, people are encouraged to celebrate the eating of the literal flesh of Christ, all under the happy umbrella of Alpha. Alpha seems to be very effective indeed in "communicating the basics of the orthodox Catholic faith", but that is no recommendation. When did the Catholic church ever save anybody's soul? When did celebrating Mass get man right with God? It is JESUS WHO MUST BE PROCLAIMED, NOT THE CATHOLIC CHURCH. If Alpha merely encourages Catholicity, then it is worse than a failure. If a man has cancer, you do not pat him on the back and give him a lollipop.
- 'Alpha' mentioned 13 times
- 'Catholic' mentioned 7 times
- 'Spirit' mentioned 6 times
- 'Church' mentioned 6 times
- 'Christian(s)' mentioned 3 times
- 'Jesus' mentioned twice.
They seem most excited not about the message of Christ and His salvation, but at how you don't have to change the Alpha course at all, and it's perfectly compatible with Catholicism -
"LEAVE IT AS IT IS. IT WORKS!" beams the chairman of Anglo-Catholic renewal, delighted that his ecumenicism is unhampered by Alpha, where it might be by the Bible. There will be two Roman Catholic Alpha conferences in 1997, backed by Cardinal Hume, but "we're planning to work quite extensively with post-Alpha material to link it in to Catholic doctrine" (David Payne). If Alpha was a full gospel course, that would be impossible.
Alpholatry is apparent by the fact that in the July and September issues of Alpha News, 'Alpha' is referred to in nearly all headlines:
"Archbishop of Canterbury speaks of his 'wholehearted' support for Alpha", "Alpha spreads over USA and Canada", "Alpha was the turning point of my life","Alpha praised for boosts in C of E church attendance", "Premier to repeat Alpha broadcast", "90 Polish leaders hear about Alpha", "Alpha for old and young", "Three generations of Alpha", "How Alpha is working", "Nothing has had as much impact on our church as Alpha", "NY consultant is set to spread Alpha across North America", "Why so many need Alpha".
If only it looked like this:
"Archbishop of Canterbury speaks of his 'wholehearted' support for Jesus", "Jesus spreads over USA and Canada", "Jesus was the turning point of my life","Jesus praised for boosts in C of E church attendance", "Premier to repeat Jesus broadcast", "90 Polish leaders hear about Jesus", "Jesus for old and young", "Three generations of Jesus", "How Jesus is working", "Nothing has had as much impact on our church as Jesus", "NY consultant is set to spread Jesus across North America", "Why so many need Jesus".
But no. This is the Gospel of Alpha, and Catholics for one are cock-a-hoop.
Let us not forget that the Roman Catholic Church regards itself as not only the final authority on God, but the only conduit of salvation; that Mary is co-redeemer with Christ, who is crucified daily at Masses all around the world; that Purgatory exists; that priests can dispense forgiveness (even the Pharisees knew that only God can forgive sins); that saints should be prayed to and revered to the point of idolatry; that the Pope is given power to speak infallibly; and many other horrific twistings and outright denials of the Bible.
Although Gumbel stands by justification by grace through faith alone ("Paul expounds why no one can by justified by their own works, but only by grace through faith in Christ"), he supports Roman Catholicism, which utterly denies it, in fact, the Council of Trent in 1566 declared this doctrine to be ACCURSED, ANATHEMA. We must pray that Nicky and those who follow him will see the mutual exclusivity of Catholicism and true Christianity. You cannot be a true Catholic and a true Christian.
We conclude this section with three quotes, one from J. C. Ryle (who is often quoted by Nicky Gumbel), one from Nicky, and the last from James McCarthy [my brackets]:
"We owe an enormous debt to the Protestant Reformation it delivered England from gross religious ignorance and spiritual darkness from the most grovelling, childish and superstitious practices in religion from the degrading tyranny and swindling impostures of the Romish priesthood from the plague of unholiness and immorality among the clergy. We owe to the Reformation an English Bible, and liberty for every man, woman, and child in the land to read it an open road to the throne of grace and the great fountain of peace with God a true idea of Christian worship a true notion of the office of a Christian minister a right standard of Christian holiness For ever let us thank God for the Reformation. It lighted a candle which ought never to be extinguished or allowed to grow dim. And for ever let us remember that the Reformation was won for us by the blood of the martyrs, quite as much as by their preaching and praying, and writing and legislation. It was forged in the fires of Oxford, and Smithfield. It cost the lives of one Archbishop, four Bishops, and 280 other men and women. Shall we in this century talk lightly of the great work which they did? Shall we hold cheaply the privileges which they won? Shall we entertain for a moment the idea of forsaking Reformation principles and going back to Rome? Once more I say, God forbid! The man who counsels such base apostasy and suicidal folly must be judicially blind. The iron collar has been broken; let us not put it on again. The prison has been thrown open; let us not resume the yoke and return to our chains. [George Carey is that man today. May Nicky Gumbel either repudiate his boss' folly and preach Christ to unconverted Catholics; or STOP QUOTING MARTIN LUTHER, JOHN CALVIN, JOHN WESLEY AND J C RYLE with whom he cannot agree if he regards Catholicism as 'just another denomination']
J C Ryle, What we owe to the Reformation, (late 19th century).
We need to follow the words of Jesus and cut out our petty squabbles and our judgementalism. We need to stop criticising other denominations [including Catholicism] and other traditions within our own denominations. We need to forget the past [the unrepented-of blood of martyrs, the excommunications, the increasingly heretical doctrines], drop the labels and unite around the person of Jesus Christ. We need to get on with the task that he has given us until he comes again. Then he will do the judging and his judgement will be perfect.Nicky Gumbel, How to handle criticism (Challenging Lifestyle).
Vatican II (1962-65) stated that the goal of the Church's ecumenical strategy was the unity of all Christian churches through common communion with the Roman Catholic Church [820-822, 855]:
"The results will be that, little by little, as the obstacles to perfect ecclesiastical communion are overcome, all Christians will be gathered, in a common celebration of the Eucharist, into the unity of the one and only Church, which Christ bestowed on his church from the beginning. This unity, we believe, subsists in the Catholic Church as something she can never lose, and we hope that it will continue to increase until the end of time".
Though Rome has yet to achieve its ultimate purpose, it has succeeded in undermining the commitment of many Christians to the evangelization of Catholics [PRAY THAT NICKY & ALPHA WILL NOT BE AMONG THEM]. Consider, for example, the 1994 signing in the US of an accord titled Evangelicals & Catholics Together: The Christian Mission in the Third Millennium. In it leading evangelicals and Roman Catholics stated that "evangelicals and Catholics are brothers and sisters in Christ". They labelled the evangelization of active members of each other's flocks as illegitimate theology and "sheep stealing", and resolved "to explore patterns of working and witnessing together in order to advance the one mission of Christ".
Such ecumenical compromise must be opposed. There is no room in Biblical Christianity for unity or cooperation with Rome and its false gospel, its continuing sacrifice, and its idolatrous devotion to Mary. As long as the Roman Catholic Church continues "to regard the Scriptures, taken together with sacred Tradition, as the supreme rule of her faith," there is not even a common basis for dialogue.James G. McCarthy, The Gospel According to Rome.
Just after writing this, I got a chance to interview Mr. Gumbel.He is resolute that the Catholic religion is just another denomination of the Christian faith, and is happy with anything that calls itself Trinitarian.He has read Vatican 2 and can find nothing wrong with it.All his Catholic friends are very happy with Alpha too.
We must reject the ethos and teaching of Nicky Gumbel and Holy Trinity Brompton;
1 - They accept Catholic heresy and encourage others to.
2 - They endorse Vatican 2, the Catechism and the Counsels which enthrone Mary as co-redeemer with Christ, which declare justification by faith alone to be accursed, and which have never retracted the atrocities of the centuries committed against the true Christian church.
3 - They preach ecumenical churchianity, and not Christ and Him crucified alone; they desire the complete fusion of all professing Christians (false and true) into one millennial superfaith - with the Bible and the uniqueness of our Saviour discarded (see Jan. 1996 HTB In Focus newspaper for plans for the ecumenical millennium village).
Let us also with love and supplication beseech the Lord to have mercy on those bent upon the perversion of His truth and those affected by them.
Weighed and Found Wanting, by Bill Randles. The Toronto experience examined in the light of the Bible.
Making War in the Heavenlies , by Bill Randles. A different look at Spiritual Warfare, Spiritual Mapping, Christian Commando Raids and much more.
Alpha: New life or new lifestyle? by Elizabeth McDonald. A thoughtful analysis of the Alpha Course.
Promise Keepers? by Jo Gardner. An analysis of this men's movement, known in the U.K. as Menmeet.
Suggestibility, Hysteria and Hypnosis, by Philip Foster. A discussion of various techniques of human manipulation in the light of the Toronto experience.
For details of more titles, or to place an order, please contact CWM
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Appeared in Issue 1 October 1997
"...contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints" -- Jude v3