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2002, Dusty Peterson,  Bayith Ministries www.bayith.org  email: bayith@blueyonder.co.uk  You are very welcome to make copies of this article for personal research or for free distribution by print or email, but please respect our conditions that the content remains intact (including this copyright statement); that no misleading impression is given that we are necessarily associated with or endorse the distributor; and that proper reference is made to the title and author.  Website owners are encouraged to link to this page, but you must not incorporate this article into your own website without our prior written consent.  Thank you and bless you.

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Alpha on Israel!

By Dusty Peterson
May 2002


Introduction

"Alpha is an unqualified triumph". That statement is from Britain’s Daily Telegraph newspaper and is regularly made use of in publications from Holy Trinity Brompton (a.k.a. ‘HTB’, the home of the world-renowned Alpha Course) [1]. Unfortunately, the writer of that statement was an unbeliever and was therefore spiritually "unqualified" to make it [2].

Scripture insists that God's ways are different from ours. For example, many Christians today believe that, provided the outcome of an action is fruitful in their eyes, then that action is justified regardless of whether it is completely Biblical or not. God’s Word teaches the very opposite of this [3].

One of the central Biblical principles of right living is that we must speak the truth at all times [4]. Much discerning material has been written regarding the 'amount' of truth found in various facets of the Alpha Course, but in this article we simply want to explore the question of whether or not Alpha currently [5] teaches truthfully about the physical nation of Israel. After all, this topic is vital for a proper comprehension of the gospel (Rom. 11:11-25) and for "rightly dividing" God’s Word.  [If the reader is not fully aware of Israel's place in God's heart and plans, or does not believe the nation of Israel is still important to God, they are urged to see the main Church volume of our work Alpha - the Unofficial Guide] [6].

The Children of Israel

Alpha’s few specific references to the words "Jew" or "Jewish" are usually quite fair. However, the fact that Jesus was a Jew is greatly downplayed on the course, and our other debts to the Jewish people are not mentioned at all [7]. More remarkably, Alpha’s leader - Nicky Gumbel [8] - calls Christ’s first disciples "Palestinian" [Talk 12] despite this name being an invention of Israel's enemies (derived from the word 'Philistine') and not being used of Israel until after the disciples were all dead! [9]

In Alpha resources, Gumbel wisely avoids trying to teach that ‘the Jews killed Jesus' [10], yet the apostle Paul is portrayed (pre-conversion) not as a zealous, if misguided, Israelite who sought diligently to uphold God’s laws [11], but as being "hungry for the blood of Christians" [12]. Parallels with similarly false accusations against Jews over the centuries are hard to ignore.

The God of Israel

God is never called "the God of Israel" in any of the Alpha talks. Nor is He ever termed "the God of Abraham" in them. This is a real shame, because it creates an excessive degree of separation between Abraham’s physical and spiritual seed. As Galatians 3:29 says, "if ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed" and we should care especially for Abraham’s ‘natural branches’ who are not yet restored.

This separation between God’s physical and spiritual people is made wider still when Nicky Gumbel refers to Israel’s God as "the Old Covenant God" [Talk 8] - as if He is a different God from the New Covenant one! The most unequivocal name for the God of the Bible, i.e. the Tetragrammeton, is never referred to in any of the Alpha talks [13].

The Faith of Israel

Thanks to the deceitful shepherds who ruled Israel in the days of Christ’s incarnation, most people in the land were led to reject their Messiah. But, despite centuries of unspeakable persecution and intense pressures to assimilate [14], the Jewish people have, as a nation, tried to remain faithful to their identity and to their separateness [15], and even to their veiled understanding of God's law. (Many have also shown a real, if rudimentary, faith in the God of Israel by returning to the land He gave them.) They have carried His Name and have assiduously protected the Hebrew Scriptures [16]. Sadly, they are given no credit for any of this anywhere on Alpha, and in fact Gumbel unceremoniously lumps their faith together with pagan religions [17].

Regrettably, Gumbel also cuts the valuable link between the Lamb of God and the Jewish Passover Festival when he refers to the Lord’s body as being "absent from the tomb that first Easter day" [Talk 2]. Beyond this unwarranted reference to the pagan festival of ‘Easter’, the Lord’s "absence" did not occur on the first Easter; this festival had already been observed for centuries before Christ – even by the Romans [18].

The Restoration of Israel

Nicky Gumbel appeals to verses within chapter 10 of Romans several times during the Alpha talks [19], but he never explains that the physical children of Israel are the people in view here. Indeed, readers will see below how Gumbel actively obliterates them…

Gumbel’s choice of Bible is the NIV [20] which, in Romans 10:1, reads "Brothers, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for the Israelites is that they may be saved". But let us see Gumbel’s quotation of this verse: "Paul prayed - Romans 10, verse 1: ‘My heart’s desire and prayer to God is that they may be saved’" [Talk 12]. The Israelites have gone [21]! (So too has the whole of the natural, Jewish olive tree that we Gentiles are grafted onto in Romans 11 when Gumbel says "The first eleven chapters of Romans are all about what God has done for us" [Talk 15].)

The Kingdom of Israel

Although Nicky Gumbel rightly observes that "Often things that happen in a physical way in the Old Testament happen in a spiritual way in the New Testament" [Talk 8], he doesn’t adequately explain why this is the case, nor does he define the demarcation lines. So, although he points out that "the book of Hebrews … says, ‘Of course [22] it was impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sin.’ That was only a shadow" [Talk 3], he leaves hearers mystified as to which other portions are shadows and which not [23].

Crucially, Gumbel implies that unfulfilled literal prophecies can safely be spiritualised. By concealing the Midrashic nature of holy Scripture, Gumbel is able (in Talk 8) to deny the literal prophecy in Ezekiel 47 that a physical river will flow from Jerusalem - and thereby obscures Christ’s Millennial reign from there [24].

There is no suggestion whatever in the Alpha talks that God has any purposes left for the physical nation of Israel [25], and therefore any promises about her future earthly Kingdom - which begins after the Lord’s return - are instead applied to the Church. (And, since Gumbel teaches that Christ's Kingdom has already "broken into history" [Talk 13] and that the "the Church is Christ" [Talk 14], many hearers will be led to apply these promises before the Lord’s return. This is called ‘post-millennialism’ and is an extremely dangerous belief system.)

Alpha’s many post-millennial statements are beyond the scope of this short article but they are supplied in the latest edition of our book, which is entitled Alpha – the Unofficial Guide: Overview [26].

Conclusion

It should come as little surprise to find that HTB endorses a number of anti-Semites.  For instance, HTB praises Desmond Tutu for his "contribution to the cause of racial justice in South Africa" [27], yet Tutu's racial 'justice' includes giving this statement: "In terms of the New Testament, the Jews must suffer.  Therefore, we will put it into practice if we will be in charge and there will be no sympathy for the Jews when the blacks take over" [28].

Despite the things we have highlighted in this article, Alpha isn’t openly anti-Semitic [29]. (We don't think it would be running in the Beit Shemesh congregation in Israel if it were.) [30] What can be the reason for this? Nicky Gumbel is not stupid [31]. HTB's true view of Israel is kept low key in order for pro-Israel churches to accept Alpha (and, crucially, to receive the Toronto spirit and ecumenical teaching that comes with it). Nevertheless, we hope this list of ways in which Alpha mistreats physical Israel, while not exhaustive [32], has been of help in discerning what is behind the Course.

Returning to the issue with which we opened; God gives us genuine, lasting fruit when we operate by His principles alone. One of these principles involves our attitude towards Israel. If we want our Fellowships and our outreach to prosper in God's eyes then we must love Israel and obey verses like Psalm 122:6… "Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: they shall prosper that love thee" [33].

May the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob bless you.

 

 

 
 
ENDNOTES

[1] This heavy endorsement from a non-Christian is cited, for instance, in Alpha News #17, p9.

[2] Unbelievers are spiritually dead to God and therefore cannot truly grasp spiritual matters (1 Cor. 1:27-28, 2:24; John 7:7 etc). Furthermore, according to John 16:19, if the world loves something then there must be problems with that thing!

[3] See Isa. 55:8; Rom. 3:8, 12:21; 3 John 1:11; 1 Pet. 3:10-11 etc. (Matt. 7:20-26 is about individuals, not Courses.)

[4] Click here for more details.

[5] Prov. 12:17; 1 John 2:21; Rev. 21:8 etc.

[6] We are referring, throughout this article, to the version of Alpha that was released in transcript form in the Summer of 2000.

[7] Compare with Paul’s words in Romans 9:3-5.

[8] Gumbel has been in control of Alpha’s content since 1990 and has thus had plenty of time to correct it.

[9] Christ’s first disciples were all Jewish. The name ‘Palestine’ is never used in the Bible to refer either to the land of Israel or to its Jewish inhabitants. It was used of the land by Israel's enemies deliberately to dissociate it from its people and its God - as per Psa. 83:4. However, this was no slip of the tongue by Gumbel, for he elsewhere writes that Christ’s empty "grave" is "in Palestine" [30 Days, (1999), p75].

[10] It was Roman soldiers (at the insistence of the false shepherds of God's People) who crucified the Lord (Matt. 27:20); besides it was all mankind's sin that put Him on the cross. See also Luke 23:34 and John 10:17-18.

[11] See Paul’s own description in Romans 10:1-3.

[12] 30 Days, p47. Alpha also says Saul was "about the most hostile person you could find" and "the supreme example" of hostility [Talk 10]. Saul was certainly very hostile to what he sincerely believed to be heretical teachings, but we would suggest that the priests and scribes who met the Lord Jesus, and yet still wanted to destroy His followers, were the "supremely" hostile ones.

[13] The Tetragrammeton is the four-letter Hebrew name of the true God, and it is one of the most important ways He has given us for distinguishing Him from false gods. The Tetragrammeton is usually translated ‘LORD’ in the Bible, but the anglicized version appears in Exod. 6:3, Psa. 83:18, Isa. 12:2 and Isa. 26:4 of the KJV because of the special context of these few verses. A solitary reference to this name is made in Gumbel’s book Searching Issues, but even here it is restricted to a quote by somebody else.

[14] No mention is ever made on Alpha of the unimaginable evils that the Jews have suffered at the hands of false Christians throughout most of the last two millennia. Hitler, Nazism, and the Holocaust are referred to several times in Alpha resources, but the rather substantial role played here by the false Church is always omitted, as is the reason why Satan wants to destroy the Jewish people. Indeed Gumbel never even hints at the fact that (despite other groups necessarily being caught up in it), the underlying purpose of the Holocaust was the "Final Solution of the Jewish Question".

[15] Like New Agers, Gumbel would seem to be highly opposed to the separatism from the world of Jews and of true Christians. See Part 4 and the appendices of Alpha - the Unofficial Guide: Overview for evidence of this.

[16] Alpha uses a Bible version that is not faithful to the Masoretic text of the Hebrew Scriptures. In a sense this is not a problem for Alpha participants because rarely on the Alpha Course does Gumbel encourage them to read the Hebrew portion of the Bible. Indeed, he suggests in both Talks 1 and 2 that a believer only really needs to read the ‘New Testament’ - even though it makes little sense without the ‘Old’.

[17] See Searching Issues, (Kingsway, 2001), p25. While not a saving faith, neither is it from paganism!

[18] Hence "Herod [was] … intending after Easter to bring him [Peter] forth" (Acts 12:1,4, KJV). Although the Greek word translated "Easter" here is pascha, this term was used to refer both to the Jewish Passover and to the Roman festival of Easter that Herod would have observed. (And, since the Jewish Passover preceded the feast of unleavened bread, which was already underway (v3), the reference to pascha here can only refer to the pagan counterfeit. See Conies, Brass, Easter by Dr. Jack Moorman for fuller details.)

[19] For instance, in Talks 5, 7 & 12.

[20] The NIV is not a version we would personally recommend. See If the Foundations be Destroyed by Chick Salliby for some of the many good reasons.

[21] Again, this is no accident: Gumbel uses the Bible term "the lost sheep" several times on Alpha, but implies that this means all unbelievers whereas Scripture consistently refers to "the lost sheep ... of Israel" (Jer. 50:6; Matt. 15:24). Indeed in Talk 12 Gumbel cuts Israel from the Lord's command to "go to the lost sheep ... of Israel" (Matt. 10:6).

[22] Note Gumbel’s extra-biblical insertion of the phrase "of course" into the text, apparently done to give the impression that the Israelites were complete fools if they imagined that faithfully performing the sacrifices God had instituted could help atone for sins.

[23] Gumbel fails to explain this key matter even in his book all about the Bible! Called 30 Days, it is supposed to answer questions like "How should I read the Bible?", but it does not. In fact it is really just a rehash of the Alpha talks.

[24] Gumbel insists that "What Jesus is saying is, ‘You thought that this prophecy of Ezekiel was going to be fulfilled in a place out of the Temple in Jerusalem. Actually it is fulfilled in a person’". Sadly, this is not the only occasion when Gumbel mocks the Hebraic understanding of Scripture that we all need in place of our naturally Hellenistic approach.

[25] Indeed, Gumbel states that "[T]here is a picture in the book of Revelation of the church and it says this: ‘I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem’, (that’s the church) ‘coming down out of heaven from God’" [Talk 14]. Apparently the remnant of physical Israel (referred to in Rom. 11:26; Zech. 12:10, 13:1-2&6) is not part of this! In fact the Holy City is an actual city and NOT 'the church', as Rev. 21:24-27 makes clear.

[26] Full ordering details for this volume can be obtained from St Matthew Publishing (+44 1480 399098) or from this website.

[27] Focus Magazine, Sept 14th 2003, p4.

[28] "Man of Peace" an article in Peter Lalonde's Omega-Letter, (Oct 1988, Vol 3, No 9), p17, as quoted in Dr. Cathy Burns, Billy Graham and His Friends, (Mount Carmel, PA: Sharing, 2001), p487.  Also Boston Jewish Times, Nov 1986, as quoted in D. W. Balsiger, "Liberation Theology Celebrities", Family Protection Scoreboard, National Citizens Action Network, special edition, 1989, p47.  The full article, entitled “Bishop Tutu Says ‘The Jews Must Suffer’”, from the Boston Jewish Times, November 21, 1986 , reads: “ JERUSALEM - (INB) MK Yosse Saried of the leftwing Citizen’s Rights Movement has invited South African Bishop Desmond Tutu to visit Israel , despite disclosures that Tutu made anti-Jewish remarks in 1984.  In a speech delivered in South Africa two years ago, but just revealed publicly this week, Tutu called Jews ‘the biggest exploiters of Blacks in South Africa [the Jews were NOT! – DP].’  Shortly after receiving the 1984 Nobel Peace Prize, Tutu was invited to address a closed meeting of the Board of Deputies of South African Jews. Tutu shocked his audience by declaring that ‘In terms of the New Testament, the Jews must suffer. Therefore we will put it into practice if we will be in charge.’  ‘The Jews are the biggest exploiters of the Blacks, so they must suffer.’ Tutu said. ‘There will be no sympathy for the Jews when the blacks take over.’  The Board of Deputies decided not to publicize the remarks out of fear that Tutu would be angry and would become even more anti-Jewish.  But with Tutu planning to visit Israel , a source close to the Board this week disclosed the text of the 1984 speech.  Observers noted that Tutu made anti-Jewish remarks on at least two other occasions in 1984. Speaking in Connecticut , Tutu charged that Jewish attitudes towards non-Jews were comparable to the apartheid system in South Africa . Then in a speech to the students and faculty of the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York , Tutu accused the Jews of ‘an arrogance – the arrogance of power because Jews are a powerful lobby in this land.’ He also charged Israel with having ‘connived’ in the Sabra-Shatila killings, and criticized Israel for ‘making refugees of others.’  Tutu is scheduled to speak in Tel Aviv at the left-wing international Centre for Peace in the Middle East . But police sources report that ‘rightwing elements’ have threatened to violently disrupt Tutu’s visit to Israel .” [A photostat of this article was kindly provided by Dorothea Scarborough, copied from the Aida Parker Newsletter, Issue, No. 99, Feb. 11, 1987].

[29] Note that Gumbel does little to promote love for Israel when he lays the blame for rationalism (and therefore many of the world’s ills today) at the feet of the philosopher Spinoza – whom Gumbel seems to take especial care to identify as "Dutch-Jewish" (see Searching Issues, p89).

[30] See the UK Edition of Alpha News, Nov 2001 – Feb 2002, p38.

[31] Nicky Gumbel’s own father was a Jew by birth, although this is not stated in any of the Alpha talks. Regrettably, Gumbel would not be the first person to undermine his own nation.

[32] Further examples of Alpha’s erroneous position on Israel can be obtained through our book.

[33] See also Gen. 12:1-3 & 27:26,29!

 

 

 

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