God is a God of justice and judgment. If you read through Alpha you will not see the word ‘hell.’ In a sense, there is no hell in Alpha’s teaching. I know that people do not want to hear about hell. John Blanchard wrote a book, Whatever happened to Hell? and he said that he did some research and discovered that very few people had any books about hell.

He went to some ministers, and one minister said, ‘I have a book on hell but I do not know where it is.’ Hell is the absent subject from many pulpits. The devil does not want us to think about hell; he does not want preachers to preach about hell – but here is the paradox: Jesus Christ, Who is love, spoke about hell.

Some have calculated that He spoke more about hell than He did about heaven. It was Jesus Christ Who spoke about the rich man and Lazarus. Lazarus died, was carried by the angels into Abraham’s bosom. ‘The rich man also died, and was buried; and in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments.’ That is a solemn subject, and it is a subject we cannot avoid.

We cannot bury our heads in the sand and pretend that there is no hell; we cannot pretend that everybody is going to heaven. We cannot even take the idea that those who are never saved and do not have their sins forgiven will be annihilated. There are some people who teach annihilation – that the punishment for rejecting Christ is to be wiped out.

We cannot hold to that because Christ said concerning Judas Iscariot, ‘Good were it for that man if he had never been born.’ If he had never been born he would not have existed, and non-existence would have been preferable for Judas. The Bible says, Judas ‘went to his own place.’

It is a fearful thought that there is a hell, but if we get a one-sided view of God and we just see God in terms of love, we forget about His justice, we forget about His holiness, we forget about His punishment of sin. I obtained from the Internet something written by a Church of England curate (from the same denomination as Nicky Gumbel), Rev Tim Chapman, who serves at St Thomas’s Church in Little Sheldon, Cambridgeshire.

He has something to say concerning this fact that Alpha is one-sided in the way it presents God. He says, ‘Alongside the absence of God being our Creator is a failure to teach God’s holiness. This is extraordinary given the fact that God is holy is taught far more in Scripture than God is love. I

ndeed the adjective used most frequently in Scripture to describe God is “holy.” The God of the Bible is a God of holiness, Whose love is all the more remarkable in that it is bestowed upon wicked sinners. Indeed, when we remove the holiness of God we undermine the love of God.

The Scriptures warn us that “it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” Would those on the Alpha Course know this from the material they are presented with? I fear they would not. I have friends who respond by suggesting that while the course is weak on this, it is made up for in the follow-up courses to Alpha.

It is my concern that while that may be the case (I have not been involved in any follow-up courses to comment), Alpha is intended to be a presentation of the Gospel that will bring people to faith. It can therefore be assumed that the Alpha material posits that people are best brought to faith without God’s holiness and sovereign rule over the world being taught.

’ Now that was written by a man who used the Alpha Course and was not happy with it; and it was his vicar who asked him to write the appraisal from which I have just quoted. So the problem was identified by Tim Chapman. It is also identified by Chris Hand, in his detailed study on the Alpha Course.

When the holiness of God is undervalued, there is a defective view of sin and a defective view of hell. It is closed out of one’s mind. If you do not have a right view of God all else will be off-centre. You must have your view of God right. That is so important. Remember the Shorter Catechism, which I quote again.

In reply to the first question, ‘What is the chief end of man?’ the answer is, ‘Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy Him for ever.’ We glorify God and enjoy Him when we come into a right relationship with Him. That is brought about by repentance for sin and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.

So the first problem we have with Alpha is that it has a defective, one-sided view of God, and that is disastrous. (source)

Pastor Gordon Ferguson

Further reading