The ALEPH course
- or not-the-Alpha-course
This material pertains to a sketch of a draft of an idea for a series of talks
about Christianity. The intention is to present Christianity as an
intellectually respectable faith.
The course doesn't have a name yet. I'm calling it "Aleph" to suggest a vague relationship with the Alpha course, but to avoid any suggestion of opposition, which I believe would be inappropriate.
( This material was prepared by Alan Creak, who appears as "I" in the material
below but would otherwise prefer to remain anonymous. )
I heard of the Alpha course in 1995 ( I think ); I was wary.
I found out more in 1996, while on leave in York. Jean ( wife ) attended one course, presented another. I read the books she brought home.
I was still concerned. It's fairly conventional Christian doctrine, with some bias towards charismatic. But sloppy; strongly based on Bible, but no reason given to believe it. Standard doctrines ( e.g. Trinity, diluted atonement ), usual derivations assumed without question. Guaranteed to convince anyone who cared to think about it that Christianity is an exercise in irrational feel-good wish fulfilment.
( The books say - "Ask questions !". But you'll only get the stock answers. )
E-mail from Calum Gilmour in Auckland : The Chaplaincy Network is going to run an Alpha course here in 1997. I'll help, won't I, of course.
Yes, I will, because it works. That I don't like it doesn't make it wrong. Compare early Christians confronted with evidence of God's coming to the gentiles. Perhaps Alpha works because lots of people are anxious, lonely, adrift, seeking, not particularly analytical, with lots of spare time ?
But even then thought of alternative - Omega ? Not in opposition; better seen as complementary. "I am the Alpha and the Omega".
But what about the few lost sheep, like me ? Baaa.
I survived two cycles of the course in 1997, after which I disliked it even more. After moaning at length for some time, I was challenged ( by Robert Sheehan ) to do better.
There followed a long period of thought, prayer, and procrastination.
But now here we are.
This is a very condensed summary of topics. Further information can be found by clicking links,
which point to PDF documents which we shall be discussing in the Chaplaincy Network meetings.
Links called "talk" are further PDF documents which approximate to the script
for the talk presented to the meeting. As the talk is significantly ad-libbed,
any resemblance between talk and document is not guaranteed !
What it's about - comments on the construction
of the course. ( talk )
- VALUES. ( talk )
NOT ethics; NOT rules.
Do we need values ?
Alternative : futility, despair.
Where do values come from ?
Us ? Philosophy ? If so, we can change them tomorrow.
Science ? No.
No lasting values without God.
- GOD ? ( talk )
No conclusive arguments. No unambiguous evidence.
Source of values. Good or bad ?
Creator ? Controller ? Warlord ? Remote ? Servant ? Lover ?
Pantheon ? Pantheism ?
Duality. Satan ?
Hypothesis -> test. Hypothesis = religion.
- CHRISTIANITY ? ( talk )
Why ? ( All I have. ) Why not ? No a priori evidence. Empirically it works.
Other religions. Are they true ? I don't know.
What is it ? Don't ask, or observe, a Christian; we're very bad at it.
Personal God; God loves us
God is good ? - pain. Something more important ?
Love; free will.
- EVIDENCE. ( talk )
Need evidence of existence now.
2000-year old account not directly relevant if none now.
Do you have the right equipment ?
No unambiguous evidence : burglarology.
Changed lives; personal testimonies.
Faith ? - no proof.
- SOURCES. ( talk )
The Bible : Text is reliable. Is it true ? Inspired or human ? Prophecy works in hindsight.
The church : Galileo, evolution. Not reliable; eternal values change. ( Women priests. )
Theology : Not convincing, not accessible.
Christians : Some are convincing.
Holy Spirit : personal experience.
- and then : Bible an anchor, church a family, theology a ?
- THE CHURCH. ( talk )
Relation of church and society.
Love one another.
One, holy, catholic, and apostolic church ?
- JESUS. ( talk )
God ? Son of God ? ( What does it mean ? ) Human ? ( An example for us. )
Christ : the anointed.
New teaching or selection ?
Love God, neighbours, one another, enemies.
His mission to Jews. Why Christians ?
Christians and Jews. ( and Muslims ? )
- DOCTRINE. ( talk )
Trinity; virgin birth; resurrection; heaven and hell; Mary; sin; atonement; rewards and punishments.
Divisive ? Therefore bad ?
Can we be right ? Not our job - believe, seek. Called to love, not to be right.
- MEETING GOD. ( talk )
Private and public actions.
Servant. No coercion.
Prayer. Why should it work ? How does it work ?
Worship and praise : forms of service.
- IMPLICATIONS. ( talk )
Love - not power.
Eternal life ? - now.
Mission : evangelism, social service, political action.
We're different -> different forms, beliefs. Accept.