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Chapter and Verse on Alpha's Jesus
Part 3: The Divinity of Alpha's Jesus

by Dusty Peterson
December 2002



Nicky Gumbel writes, “the most important question we can ever ask is, ‘Who is Jesus?’”.[1]  In the same book, he states “This is the heart of the Christian faith: knowing Jesus Christ”.[2]  The Lord Jesus Christ is indeed the very centre of the Christian faith, and it is vital therefore to know who He truly is.  Since Scripture warns believers to take serious care over everything we teach regarding Christianity (1 Tim. 4:13 -16; Jas. 3:1), we should be particularly conscientious in our teaching about the Person who is at the core of our Faith.  

Whatever a Fellowship may believe on subjects like the ‘end-times’, or the gifts of the Spirit, or church ordinances, or family-related matters, or any of the large number of other topics that Alpha touches on, the Divinity of Jesus Christ is an absolutely crucial issue to salvation – as we shall see in a moment - and is therefore a matter about which participants must be left in no doubt.  

Clearly, each one of the teachings about the Lord Jesus that we examined in article #2 on His nature is intimately related to His Divinity.  But so are several of the topics we discussed in the preceding article on His character, for when Alpha’s material is problematic over His sinlessness, infallibility, holiness and perfection, then the Godhood of the Lord is already damaged.  However, for completeness we need to see what Alpha is like regarding its more direct statements on the Divinity of the Lord Jesus.  



There is only one true God (John 17:3), but He is ‘Triune’ - meaning He is one God comprising three distinct but indivisible Persons.  At first this idea appears alien, but man is triune too in a very real sense.  We each have a body, soul and spirit,[3] each of which is “us”.  Hence we are said to have been made “in God’s image” (Gen. 1:27; Gen. 9:6).  But is Jesus one of the three Persons that constitute God, and is thus God Himself?  

As anyone who has listened to Handel’s famous oratorio Messiah will know, Isaiah 9:6 is quite unambiguous about this question:  “For unto us a child is born, unto us a Son is given: and the government shall be upon His shoulder: and His name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God…”.  Matthew quotes another portion of Isaiah when he writes, “Behold, a virgin shall be with child, … and they shall call His name Immanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us.” (Matt. 1:23).  

We have already determined that Jesus is the only begotten Son of God.  Many people assume, however, that this means He is not truly God but that He just enjoys a derived divinity.[4]  Holy Scripture settles that debate:  

God was manifest in the flesh, … believed on in the world, received up into glory” (1 Tim. 3:16 );  “Hereby perceive we the love of God, because He laid down his life for us” (1 John 3:16 ).  (See also Rom. 14:10b,12; Acts 4:24 ; Col. 2:9; Acts 17:59 ; Heb. 1:3; 1 John 4:19 ; Php. 2:6 etc - all in the KJV.)  

This subject matters greatly, for if Jesus was not God then He must have been born of Adam and tainted by Adam’s sin.  In that case He would have inherited a sinful nature and His crucifixion could not have paid the required price for our redemption.  

God is so totally holy that our sin means only God Himself could pay the price to save us.  If we do not believe that the full price has been paid then we will naturally seek to “make up the difference”.  Any attempt by us to pay any part of the price is an abomination to God and will result in our destruction (see Galatians).  The Godhood of the Lord has a huge knock-on regarding other doctrines so we cannot afford to be remotely complacent about this.  



The four letters ‘YHWH’ (often pronounced ‘Yahweh’, and Anglicised[5] to ‘Jehovah’) are a special, and unique, name for the true God:  

“God spake unto Moses, and said unto him, I Am the LORD: … My name [is] JEHOVAH” (Exod. 6:2-3).  “O my God, … whose name alone is JEHOVAH” (Psa. 83:13,18).  (This matchless name was considered by Israel to be so holy that it was usually replaced by ‘LORD’ out of respect.[6])  

Since the one true God alone is called “Jehovah”, and since TWO Jehovahs are referred to simultaneously in Genesis 18-19[7] (one of them appearing as a man), it becomes evident that Jesus Christ is indeed Jehovah.  As we saw in article #1, the name ‘Jesus’ means “salvation”, hence we get verses like Isaiah 12:2: “Behold, God is my salvation [or ‘Jesus’]; … the LORD JEHOVAH is … my salvation”.[8]  

The name ‘Jehovah’ means ‘I Am’, which is why: “God said unto Moses, I AM THAT I AM: and He said, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel , I AM hath sent me” (Exod. 3:14 ).  The phrase ‘I Am’ is a way of saying ‘I have always existed’ – which is an attribute unique to God.  As we saw in article #2, it is an attribute of Jesus Christ.  Jesus is Jehovah God.  

But what does Alpha say on this important issue?  Although Nicky Gumbel is certainly aware of “the divine name”, as he terms it,[9] one will not actually find the words ‘Yahweh’ or ‘Jehovah’ used in any Alpha talk.  What one will find stated on Alpha is, “Jesus did not go round saying the words, ‘I am God’” [Talk 2].[10]  But this is slightly misleading because, as we have seen, “I Am” is God’s name and the Lord Jesus did indeed say this at times:  

“Jesus … said unto them [the chief priests], Whom seek ye? They answered him, Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus saith unto them, I Am … As soon then as He had said unto them, I Am …, they went backward, and fell to the ground.[11]  Then asked he them again, Whom seek ye? And they said, Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus answered, I have told you that I Am…”  (John 18:4-8).[12]  

Other examples of the Lord calling Himself “I Am” occur in John 8:28; John 9:9; and John 13:19.  This is a critical matter, for the Lord Jesus said that anyone who did not believe He was Jehovah (“I Am”) would die in their sins (John 8:24 , c.f. v58).  Taught properly, this doctrine should not be hard to grasp – hence Paul talked about “the simplicity that is in Christ” (2 Cor. 11:3).  It is wrong to complicate it and thus bring confusion.  



Some Course leaders will be deeply offended at any suggestion that Alpha has the slightest flaw in this regard.  They are convinced that chapter 7 of Nicky Gumbel’s book Searching Issues, plus Talks 2 and 3 of the Course itself, leave no room for doubt that Jesus is God and that Alpha is therefore totally sound on the topic.  There are, however, many reasons why we would beg such folk to continue reading this article.  For a start, there exist a further six chapters of Searching Issues, not to mention all the other Alpha publications, so there is huge scope for problems to occur elsewhere.  Likewise it should be remembered that there are twelve further talks in the video set beyond Talks 2 and 3 - which means there is plenty of room for errors to creep in and undermine any good statements in those two early talks …  

(Indeed, we will shortly see that, when checked very carefully, even the best Alpha statements are not as clear-cut as they could be, and none of the 21 Bible passages we cited above supporting the Deity of Christ appears in any Alpha talk nor anywhere in Questions of Life, let alone in those chapters associated with Talks 2 and 3, nor even in the relevant part of Searching Issues.)  

If any readers are convinced that Alpha is beyond reproach over the issue of the Deity of Jesus, and are therefore not interested in perusing our material further, we would encourage them at least to use the section headings of our articles to create a questionnaire for their Alpha graduates.  According to our research, they will be dismayed by the feedback they get.  

It may also surprise some readers to learn that we can find no sentence in any Alpha publication which simply says the words “Jesus Christ [or Christ Jesus] is God.” or even “Jesus is God.” – easy, and very valuable, though it would be for Alpha to include one.  But let us begin by acknowledging some of the things Nicky Gumbel does say about the Deity of Jesus.  




(1)  Whilst words like “Deity” do not currently appear in the talks,[13] the word “divine” does[14] - albeit not in the context of Jesus.  Looking at Gumbel’s books however, he certainly refers to the Lord’s “divinity”.  In Questions of Life Jesus is called “‘the divine figure’”,[15] and the Study Guide at the back asks, “what evidence is there that he [Jesus] was divine?” [p239].  The only problem is that, for many people, there is a fundamental distinction between being “divine” and being the one true God.  The New Age movement believes in the “divinity” of Jesus Christ, but not that He is the sole God.  

Just about the only clear Bible reference to the Deity of Jesus that Alpha covers is John 1:1, which reads, “…the Word was with God, and the Word was God”.  Unfortunately, Gumbel immediately weakens this crucial verse by giving the explanation that, “‘The Word [unnamed] was a person in fellowship with God, and the Word was … eternally divine’”.[16]  Why replace the perfectly good phrase “was God” with “was … divine”?  

(2)  Nicky Gumbel favourably quotes someone saying: “‘I understood Jesus is fully God’” [Talk 3].  This would be excellent, except that Gumbel then tells hearers how they should interpret the phrase “fully God”:  

"[W]e say that Jesus is … fully God… let me use an analogy ... We say Sir Christopher Wren built St. Paul’s Cathedral; in fact, he didn’t lay a single stone.[17] Other people laid the stones. He used agents to do it, but he …  directed the whole operation” [Talk 5].

In other words, Jesus is only “fully God” in the derived sense that God fully directed Him or fully inspired Him.  Gumbel confirms this as the right interpretation when he writes, “Scripture is … 100 per cent inspired by God just as Jesus is fully God”.[18]  No clarification is forthcoming in either case.  (Note also that St. Paul’s Cathedral could never be said to be ‘Wren himself’; thus it would be completely inappropriate to call Jesus ‘God Himself’ from this analogy.)  

(3)  Nicky employs the argument by C.S. Lewis that “Either this man [Jesus][19] was and is the Son of God or else a madman, or something worse...” [Talk 2].  Since the evidence discounts the last two possibilities, Jesus must logically be the Son of God.  On the surface this looks great, but as we have seen, this does not quite settle matters, for hearers need to be sure what sort of Godhood results from being the “Son of God”.  Does it mean Jesus is the one true God, or instead that his “divinity” was of a lesser, derived nature?  

Some readers will feel that this is a minor point.  But does the Bible say so?  In fact the precise “type”, or definition, of Jesus’ Godhood is extremely significant.  New Agers believe Jesus Christ is a “God”, and has God living in Him.  Unfortunately Lewis’ own terminology, also used by Gumbel, seems to permit this interpretation too, for he says “‘God has landed on this enemy occupied world in human form’”,[20] rather than “as a man” or even “as a human”.  Despite appearances, this is not a trivial issue at all – as we shall see in the next section.  



When we become Christians, the Holy Spirit indwells our spirit (John 14:17; 1 John 3:24 etc).[21]  Since the Holy Spirit is God, there is a sense in which God is “in” every Christian, but this does not make us God.  If we give people the impression that Jesus only had God “in” Him, rather than being the one true God Himself, then we are effectively denying the Deity of Christ and destroying the gospel.  This is why it is so worrying to see the excessive number of times that Nicky Gumbel uses expressions like the following:  

“God has revealed himself in a person” [22] (rather than “as a man”);  “‘God … as we see him … in Jesus’”;[23]  “‘God, revealed in the person of Jesus Christ’”;[24]  “God … came to earth in the person of his son” [Talk 3];  “God’s revelation in Jesus Christ”.[25]  

The occasional use of such phraseology, preferably with some explanatory comment close by, would be fine, but Gumbel employs this sort of wording very frequently indeed - including six times, with no clarification, in a single chapter of Questions of Life.[26]  The closing commentary in that chapter teaches the following: “Paul says, ‘God was … in Christ.’ [ellipsis Gumbel’s] He was … in the person of his Son”.[27]  This brings us neatly to a related point…  

The Bible tells us that “if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: … God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself” (2 Cor. 5:18-19).  If one considers the first occurrence of “in Christ” here it becomes plain that this passage is not saying that God was in Christ, but that we, if we are “in Christ”, are reconciled to God.  Corroborating verses are far too numerous to list but include Rom. 3:24; 8:1; 1 Cor. 1:2; 15:22; Eph. 2:13; and Php. 2:1.  Yet consider how Gumbel uses the passage:  

“Paul … says: ‘God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself.’    What Paul tells us is that God was in Christ.”[28]  

Gumbel mistreats this passage again in his book Searching Issues [p20].  The context of its use there is the issue of suffering, so the unmistakable impression given is that God knows about suffering because he was ‘in’ Christ during the Lord’s trials.[29]  As Jesus is called “divine”, Alpha participants are thereby encouraged to assume that his divinity was only partial.  

There is a final observation worth making on this.  Gumbel writes, “Jesus stood up and proclaimed, ‘If anyone thirst, let him come to me and drink…’ … It is out of the innermost being of Jesus that the river of life will flow … Jesus was speaking about the Holy Spirit…”.[30]  

There is a serious concern here.  The Holy Spirit is another Person of the Trinity.  He is not restricted to the “innermost being of Jesus”, and neither is only part of Jesus holy.  Gumbel’s words suggest that only the “innermost being” of Jesus (or the “being” that lives inside Him?) is God.[31]  The New Age movement, like other counterfeit versions of Christianity, believes Jesus was just a human receptacle for a member of the Trinity.  This is a grave error regarding our King and future Husband.  



Jesus is God.  As such, He cannot be “separated” from God.  There are three Persons in the Godhead, but God is indivisible (John 10:38; John 15:26; etc).  God is not merely “one” in the sense of being unified; He is one being, period.  There is only one God.  

Certainly there are some individual verses in Scripture that appear to separate God and Jesus,[32] but Gumbel’s job is to explain these verses, not to use an unrepresentatively large number of them and invariably fail to inform his hearers of the bigger picture…  

For example, Gumbel says, “On the cross, God transferred our wrong-doings (‘our iniquity’) onto Jesus … That is why Jesus cried out on the cross, ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’ … At that moment he was cut off from God”.[33]  (In the equivalent video talk -Talk 3 - Gumbel even calls Jesus “Godforsaken”.)  There is a simple explanation for the Lord’s words here, as we will see in a moment, so Gumbel’s decision not to supply it obliges Alpha participants to believe that Jesus cannot truly have been God.  How can He possibly have been “Godforsaken” if He was Himself God?  

When we hit a ‘problem passage’ like the above it is important to look carefully at it and to view it in the light of the rest of Scripture.  In this instance Jesus was quoting the prophetic, Messianic Psalm 22, which refers to “El”, not to Elohim or Adonai or Jehovah.  This is very significant, because “El” means “strength”[34] and would be an entirely appropriate thing for the Lord Jesus Christ to call His Father – the member of the Godhead who sent Jesus to us and gave Him His authority.  On the cross, Jesus was certainly forsaken temporarily by His Father in some way, but He was not “cut off from God”.  Again the suggestion seems to be that Jesus’ Godhood was merely partial.  

For the overwhelming proportion of the time, Nicky Gumbel distinguishes between Jesus and God instead of Jesus and His Father.  This seems to be true in every publication he has created.  Here is a sample of what we mean.  

Why Christmas?

Take the booklet Why Christmas? written by Gumbel.  After a handful of statements (mainly the Lewis ones) on pages 4-6 supporting the divinity of Jesus, everything changes on page 7 and Jesus seems to be separated from God there and on every one of the tiny pages from 9 through 22 inclusive (the booklet is only 22 pages long).  

30 Days

Consider too the following excerpt taken from adjacent pages of Gumbel’s book 30 Days.  Note that neither the word ‘Father’ nor the phrase ‘God the Father’ occurs anywhere on these two pages.  Does one get the overall impression from it that Jesus IS God?

JesusJesusJesus sets us free to be our true selves as God intended us to be. He sets us free to love God, … Jesus says … Jesus is … revealed by God. Jesus is … God’s ultimate revelation … Knowing God and Jesus broadens our minds … JesusJesus … ”.[35]  (Gumbel gets so entangled here that, further down the same page, he says “Thank God … for setting us free to love God”.)

This example is especially strange because the Bible chapter on which Nicky is meant to be commenting here repeatedly supports the Godhood of Jesus and refers as much to God “the Father” as to “God” alone.  

Questions of Life

Again, a smattering of sentences which appear to distinguish between “God” and “Jesus” are probably inevitable in any “introduction to the Christian faith”, but Gumbel employs them in enormous numbers - and in every resource.  Indeed, in Questions of Life alone, phrases like “God through Jesus” simply occur too frequently for us to cite them all.[36]  On several occasions this separation actually happens two, or even three, times on the same page.[37]  A few examples of separation, where the words “God the Father” would have been so much safer, will hopefully suffice.  (The situation in the video talks is worse still.)

“[L]iving in a relationship with God and Jesus Christ” [p21];  “‘I had hurt God’s feelings … He loved me and … sent Jesus’” [p51];  “[W]e pray for God to heal in the name of Jesus … I prayed in the name of Jesus for God to heal him” [pp200-1].  

GodGodSpirit of GodGod … In these ways (the word of God, the work of Jesus and the witness of the Spirit), those who believe in Jesus can be sure that they are children of God … It is based on what God has promised, [and] on what Jesus died to achieve…” [p64].

Holy Scripture

We have seen the way in which Gumbel approaches his own books on this issue, but it is more revealing still to examine his approach to God’s book.  As if Gumbel’s Bible version was not already problematic enough in this area, he regularly rewords Scripture in a way that separates “God” from “Jesus” when the passage itself does not:

“A verse we’ve looked at … is Ephesians 2:18 which says ‘we have access… to the Father by one Spirit.’ We have access to God through Jesus by the Spirit” [Talk 9].

Gumbel’s paraphrase here changes the meaning of the text, but it is no accident, for he repeats the alteration almost verbatim later in the same talk when he says, “We have access to God through Jesus Christ by the Spirit”.  He does exactly the same thing in two separate chapters of Questions of Life [pp85 & 132].  

Similarly with Luke 11:13, Gumbel replaces “your heavenly Father” with “God” and thereby helps to obscure the Deity of Jesus.[38]  Gumbel replaces “Father” with “God” in John 14:6 too, with the same harm to the Lord’s standing.[39]  Likewise Gumbel alters John 17:3, this time without even admitting that he is paraphrasing, to suggest that knowing God is not the same thing as knowing Jesus Christ [Talk 3].  Once again it seems we are being told to view the divinity of Jesus Christ as no more than partial and derivative.  Little wonder “Jesus” and “God” are often separated in Alpha testimonies – on the rare occasions that Jesus receives a mention.[40]   



Many Course leaders are adamant that, at least in two or three places, Alpha materials unequivocally state that Jesus is God.  However, given that the four books at the centre of Alpha contain a combined total of well over 700 pages, this is really nothing to boast of.  There are some moments when Jesus’ Godhood is implied in Alpha materials, but in every single case an ambiguity of one type or another is present – and often multiple types of ambiguity are involved simultaneously.  Here is a selection of the things we are referring to:  

  • It would be a total irrelevance if it did not happen so very frequently, but Alpha’s statements on this whole matter are consistently, and unnecessarily, spread over multiple clauses or sentences, which almost always results in the pivotal phrase on Christ’s Deity being less than totally direct because it reads “he” or “him” rather than “Jesus” or similar.  Every example in the remaining set of bullet points exhibits this indirectness - along with at least one other, much more serious, problem.

  • Gumbel is sometimes prepared to indicate that other people (e.g. the disciples, or the early Church generally) believed in the Deity of Jesus Christ, but he regularly avoids saying that he personally believes these people were correct.  Thus, instead of “I believe Jesus is God”, we are merely told “He is the one whom the early church worshipped as God”.[41]  This is not the same at all, because it gives participants little reason to assume the early Church was right to do so.

  • The key sentences indicating Jesus’ Godhood are often needlessly convoluted.  This introduction of superfluous words simply confuses and obscures the issue.  Hence instead of “Jesus was God”, we get “I think there’s little doubt that he was conscious of being a man whose identity was God” [Talk 2], or, “Jesus said a number of things which were not direct claims but show that he regarded himself as being in the same position as God” [Talk 2].[42]

The infinitesimal number of Alpha statements that avoid the above problems still fail to state categorically that Jesus is the one true God, instead introducing a degree of doubt (e.g. via the use of a judiciously placed hyphen or comma).  These few statements are also always weakened by surrounding comments which repeatedly separate Jesus and God.[43]  Again, given that Gumbel was a practicing courtroom lawyer before being ordained into the Anglican Church there seems no excuse at all for being remotely unclear about this fundamental topic.  

The following is another example of multiple ambiguities.  Gumbel writes that, “The early Christianscame to see that there was something special about Jesus that could only be expressed as God”.[44]  Christians reading such words are reassured that Gumbel is sound on this, yet the passage does not teach unbelievers that Jesus is God.  Firstly it is predicated on them accepting that the “early Christians” were correct.  Secondly, these Christians cannot have “come to see” the Deity of Jesus after they were Christians; they must have recognized that Jesus was God in order to become Christians to begin with.  Thirdly, the passage only says that something “about” Jesus was God, rather than Him being intrinsically God Himself.  Fourthly, the impression is that this “thing” could only be expressed as God due to language limitations.  

The Biggest Ambiguity

There is one last group of statements that needs to be covered.  The comments in question all utilize the word “identity”:

“Jesus claimed … that he really was a man whose identity was God” [Talk 2]; “claims made by Jesus about his identity”;[45]  “Jesus [made] … another indirect claim to have the identity of Almighty God”.[46]

Whilst these statements are obviously more convoluted than they need be, nevertheless believers naturally take them to be thoroughly in support of the Deity of Christ.  Unfortunately Nicky does not appear to mean the same thing that you and I normally do by the word ‘identity’.  In standard parlance, if a man is said to have the “identity” of John Wesley, then either he has stolen Wesley’s passport or else he is John Wesley.  But to Gumbel, having the “identity” of God does not mean the person is God - a fact demonstrated by the following quote from the last chapter of Searching Issues: “They [the early Christians] came to see him [Jesus] as a man whose identity was God and yet who was not identical to God” [p100].  

An alternate meaning in the dictionary for the word “identity” is “personality”.  Someone who feels depersonalized is said to have “lost their identity”.  But just having the same personality as somebody else does not make you that same being, thus Gumbel is not calling Jesus “God” here.  He has moved into the realm of psychology and its false distinction between the conscious and the subconscious,[47] hence: “Jesus … was conscious of being a person whose identity was God”.[48]  

Even if the reader strongly disagrees about these ambiguities, or perhaps finds a totally unambiguous sentence somewhere in the Course materials, he or she must surely still accept that any such comments are rare and are submerged under a flood of damaging ones that nullify their effect.  Other readers may believe they can safely run Alpha by simply correcting this particular teaching as the Course progresses.  But that is to avoid a more important question.  If Alpha is so unsound on this - the most important topic imaginable - can it really be trusted on the other subjects it covers?  The unsaved deserve that churches check the Course thoroughly on the other major topics too, which is precisely why we have written our book Alpha – the Unofficial Guide.  



Many people feel that Nicky Gumbel MUST be genuinely Trinitarian, given that a chapter of his book Searching Issues is titled “Is the Trinity Unbiblical, Unbelievable, and Irrelevant?”  Once again, however, the problem revolves around Gumbel’s definition of terms – in this case the term “Trinity”.  Let us quickly see the Biblical meaning of the word…  

The Bible makes plain throughout that there is only one God (Gal. 3:20; Matt. 19:17 etc).  However, there is a plurality to the Godhead, thus one of the names of God is Elohim – a plural word.  The plurality of the Godhead is also shown in verses like Genesis 11:7 and Genesis 1:26.  The latter reads “And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness”, which is again why every human also possesses a “three-ness” of sorts whilst remaining one being.  

Where Gumbel mentions the three members of the Trinity one would expect him to talk about the Father, Son and Spirit, or the Father, Word and Spirit, but usually he does not.  As we saw above, the word ‘Father’ is often replaced by ‘God’, weakening the participant’s understanding that Jesus is God:

“[T]he main way we know about God, about Jesus, about the Holy Spirit…” [Talk 5];  “[T]he word of God, the work of Jesus and the witness of the Holy Spirit”;[49]  “We have God as our Father, Jesus Christ as our Saviour and the Holy Spirit as our indweller”[50] (but one of the names for Jesus, in Isaiah 9:6, is “the everlasting Father”.[51]  See also John 14:23!)

For someone who hails from a church called Holy Trinity Brompton, Gumbel seldom uses the word “Trinity” in his teaching and, when he does, he seems to make a point of separating the members of the Godhead shortly before or afterwards and specifically drawing a distinction between “God” and “Jesus”.[52]  Once more we are apparently left with a Saviour possessing a divinity of a partial and derived nature.  

Gumbel’s Heroes

Nicky Gumbel regularly, and approvingly, quotes men whose doctrines seriously undermine the Deity of Jesus Christ (e.g. Tillich,[53] Möltmann,[54] Küng,[55] Muggeridge[56] and Hort[57]).  He even seems happy to endorse, or even cite as Christians, people who have effectively denied the Deity of Christ altogether (e.g. Tolstoy,[58] Newton,[59] Fromm,[60] Ruskin[61] and Hammarskjold[62]).  

Searching Issues, Chapter 7

Despite all of the above, there will still be a hardcore of folk who imagine that Gumbel must be Trinitarian since he devotes a chapter of one book to “the Trinity”.  Let us therefore focus purely on that chapter and see just how Trinitarian it really is.  

(1) Very Confused

This chapter is the one place we would expect clear teaching on the Trinity, yet Gumbel spends much of it encouraging people to believe that the Trinity is very hard, if not impossible, to understand.[63]  This can only serve to demote Christ.  The Trinity may be hard to picture (men are not allowed to picture God anyway) but hopefully our article has proved that it is not hard to understand.  

Gumbel uses a bewildering array of analogies for the Trinity, most of which are seriously inappropriate and mutually exclusive, yet the simplest and best analogy – that of a human being’s threeness – is absent.  We are instead informed that “God cannot be put in a neat box…” [p105], and that we can only “‘get a sort of faint notion of’” the Trinity [p109].  

One confusing analogy offered by Gumbel, although not the worst, is that of a house possessed by three people, where God the Father is the “architect”, God the Son is the “purchaser” and God the Holy Spirit is the “tenant” [p106].  We would not blame any Alpha participant for interpreting this to mean that Jesus somehow “purchased” His Godhood and that He is only God in the (partial) sense that He has the Holy Spirit dwelling in Him.  

Crucially, Gumbel is unable, or unwilling, to explain why the Trinity is “fundamental to the Christian faith” [p105].  If Gumbel told readers the truth, such that they realized the infinite holiness of God and the futility (not to mention fatal danger) of trying to do work towards their salvation, then they would be much more keen to understand – or at least to accept – the fact that Jesus Christ is God.  

(2) Deity of Christ Undermined

In a chapter which ought to be completely devoted to proving the Deity of Christ we have already had to list several ways in which it does the opposite.  In fact, in the whole chapter there are no more than a handful of sentences where the doctrine is even suggested.  Furthermore, each one of this handful is ambiguous - either because (a) Jesus isn’t explicitly mentioned [pp99,106],[64] or (b) early Christians just “found themselves” believing it [pp100,101], or (c) God is only present “in” rather than “as” the person of Jesus Christ [p110].  This compares with the plethora of times in the chapter when a clear distinction is drawn between Jesus and “God” as opposed to Jesus and “His Father”:

“[A Christian lady] trained in psychology … realized that God is our point of reference, Jesus is our role model and the Holy Spirit is our facilitator” [p111];[65]  “the God who raised Jesus Christ” [p110];  “the Holy Spirit was identified with God and Jesus and yet was not identical to either” [p101].[66]

Elsewhere in the chapter, Gumbel separates the Lord Jesus Christ from “God” eight times in just two pages [102-3].  Later on he closes the chapter by focusing on Ephesians 3:19, a verse which reads, “…know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God”.  But instead of using this valuable verse to teach that Christ Jesus is God, Gumbel only uses it to distinguish between Christ and God.  He does so three times in the space of the final page – twice in the very last paragraph.  What are participants to think?  

(3) False Definition of “Trinity”

Gumbel certainly uses the word Trinity (and, much less often, “Godhead”) in this chapter, but he fundamentally changes its meaning.  The word Trinity, from the idea of tri-unity, originally meant three divine persons comprising one nature, but to Gumbel it means three divine persons having one purpose.  This is a world away, yet time and again the chapter suggests that the Trinity merely involves three supernatural beings who are closely related and who work in co-operation with each other – only one of whom is truly God.  This is reflected in Gumbel’s use of phrases like “one God … and three Persons” [p104], or “‘Three persons, and one God’” [p101],[67] instead of something like “three persons comprising one God”.  

Gumbel smooths the way to this crucial redefinition by claiming that the New Testament contains “no formal credal statement about the Trinity” [p103].  But this is untrue, for 1 John 5:7 plainly states, “there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one”.  Surely Gumbel is aware of this verse, even if his preferred Bible version omits it?  Indeed, he appears to paraphrase the final section of this very verse when he writes “the three are in one” [p112] – although the extra word obliterates a central point about the Trinity.  

Gumbel goes on to insist that, “it was only later that a coherent and systematic doctrine [of the Trinity] was defined…” [p103].  Does Gumbel really believe that Paul did not have a “coherent and systematic” understanding of the Trinity?  Besides, the Trinity can easily be demonstrated from the Hebrew Scriptures alone (and in numerous ways), yet Gumbel will only concede that “Some would say that there are hints of this doctrine even in the Old Testament…” [p101].  (Incidentally, Gumbel seriously misrepresents both of the other members of the Trinity too!  See our book for details.[68])  



Readers have now seen Gumbel systematically teach that Jesus’ divinity was only partial and derivative.  By his own admission, the common term for the great bulk of Gumbel’s teaching on the Trinity is “Arian”, after Arius (c. AD250-336) – a man who popularized this falsehood among the early church and who was “excommunicated” as a result.  But surely, some will protest, Gumbel exposes Arius as a heretic on page 103 of Searching Issues?  This is easy to answer…  

(1)  In the final analysis, if Gumbel’s material can be shown to be overwhelmingly Arian then what Gumbel says about Arius himself is largely irrelevant.  Indeed, within three pages of mentioning Arius, Gumbel is employing Arius-friendly analogies of the Trinity.[69]  

(2)  If one checks the precise wording of what Gumbel says about Arius, one soon notices that Gumbel never categorically states that Arianism is a heresy.  Gumbel does say that Arius was “excommunicated from the church for heresy”, but Gumbel does not say he agrees with the view of the early church that Arius was heretical, and Gumbel does not make it all clear as to whether it was Arius’ view of Jesus that was considered heretical, or whether his other views were the cause of his excommunication.[70]  

(3)  Crucially, Gumbel is able to appear to distance himself from Arius by misrepresenting what Arius actually taught.  He says of Arius “’The Three he envisages are entirely different beings, not sharing in any way the same nature or essence’” [p103], but this is to exaggerate Arianism and thus enable Gumbel to appear both non-Arian and reasonable!  Note also that Gumbel spends several pages attacking the opposite error of Sabellianism[71] (the false idea that God comprises just one Person who acts differently in different situations) - vastly more space than he devotes to Arius.[72]  



God bless you for persevering to the end of this very long article.  We believe the Lord wanted us to write it for the sake of His holy name, and it is likely that only those readers who also care about His name will have managed to get this far.  

The topic of this article matters enormously for a reason not stated up until now.  One of the main tests God has given the church for identifying whether someone is a true brother or not is whether they will happily confess that Jesus the Messiah is God incarnate (1 John 4:1-3;[73] 2 John 1:7).  We believers should ask each other this question regularly.  A true brother will have no hesitation or difficulty in consistently confessing that Jesus Christ is God.  

For numerous reasons, those readers who have promoted Alpha in the past should not be unduly shocked if they missed many of Alpha’s failings in this area…  

(1)  Even high-profile watchman, undertaking extensive investigations into Alpha, have missed these things too:

“On the doctrine of the Trinity, [and] the Deity of Christ, … Alpha is thoroughly sound” [Bayes[74]];  “I was encouraged by his emphatic belief in the deity of Christ” [N. Richardson[75]];  “Alpha’s defence of the Deity of Christ is reasonably good. It makes the case quite well and succinctly” [Hand[76]].

(2)  Believers can subconsciously ‘fill in the gaps’ when studying Alpha materials, and often imagine that unbelievers come to Alpha already knowing a fair amount about the Lord.  The combined effect is to believe Alpha is adequate when it is not.  

(3)  We Christians generally live in homes populated by trustworthy people, and much of our fellowship is among people who are relatively reliable.  As such, we can easily become a little conditioned to trusting others when they have not earned it.  We can thus end up approaching such things as Alpha trustingly and not think we need to look particularly closely at it.  However, it is far better to err on the side of caution and be pleasantly surprised, than to be duped over such a vital thing - especially in last days before the Lord’s return, days about which He warned us:

“Take heed that no man deceive you. For many shall come in my name, … and shall deceive many … Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted, and shall kill you: and ye shall be hated of all nations for my name’s sake. And then shall many be offended, and shall betray one another, … And many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many. And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold. But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved … For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders…” (Matt. 24:3-24)

(4)  Gumbel does a good job in Talks 2 and 3 of giving believers the impression he is orthodox on the Deity of the Lord.  Many then ‘turn off’ regarding this matter and so do not notice that the remaining 12 talks are spent whittling away at this doctrine.  Gumbel’s mistreatment of the “Word made flesh” is, along with his mistreatment of the written Word, the subtlest aspect of the whole Alpha Course.  Gumbel has used his immense talent for wordplay to the full, so these things are not simple to spot.  It is only God’s grace that has allowed us to see most of them.  

People who primarily attend Alpha because of their temporal needs (e.g. a desire for friendship or healing from past hurts) easily accept Alpha because it gives them a form of “love” and brings a degree of mental recuperation – often confused with salvation.  (Obviously their “testimonies” never seem to suggest that Jesus is God.)  But thinking people who are primarily searching for truth are rejecting Alpha because it is so illogical and inconsistent.  They want answers, not therapy.  As such, they are unlikely EVER to show an interest in Christianity again because they will suppose, after attending 15 long talks, that they have checked out the faith very thoroughly.  Alpha is jeopardizing souls in the church and those outside it.  This is an unspeakably important fact.  Please consider prayerfully copying this article to anyone you know who is capable of benefiting from it.[77]

May God bless you.


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[1] 30 Days, p41.  We would argue that an even more important question is ‘What is the truth?’, because many people ask ‘Who is Jesus?’ but they then go to the wrong sources to find out.

[2] 30 Days, p42.  Since Satan ‘knows’ Jesus Christ, this is not as helpful a comment as it might appear.

[3] That our soul is different from our spirit is proved in Heb. 4:12 and 1 Thess. 5:23.

[4] This idea can be picked up from Alpha resources, e.g. when Gumbel writes things like, “the unique Son of God – [is] on an equal footing with God” [Why Christmas?, p5], rather than saying “…is God Himself”.  Incidentally, Gumbel prefers the phrase “God the Father, Jesus the Son” to “God the Father, God the Son” or perhaps “God the Father, Jesus - God the Son” in Questions of Life, p116, and the equivalent video Talk (#8).

[5] Many Hebrew names in the Bible have been transliterated into Greek, and/or Anglicized.  Thus the Jewish name Miriam has been converted to Mary in English Bibles, and Jochanan has become John.  As long as the name is used aright, and the same person is clearly in view, then the Anglicisation is surely valid.  Thus the Anglicised version of Yahweh is Jehovah (see Newberry’s introduction to his Bible for the reason).

[6] Nicky’s chosen Bible version, however, obliterates every reference to ‘Jehovah’, which means this vital name has actually been deleted from the four places in which it becomes nonsensical just to replace it.  Consistently translated, Isaiah 26:4 would otherwise give the phrase “the LORD LORD is everlasting”.  Also, you would end up with “the LORD LORD is my strength” in Isaiah 12:2.  The two ‘Jehovah’ verses with which we opened this section actually become dangerous if ‘Jehovah’ is translated “LORD”, because many false gods are called “Lord” by their followers (1 Cor. 8:5).

[7] It is best to read the whole of both chapters in order to see the context.  When doing so, one should then concentrate on verses 18:13-14 and 18:17-22,33.

[8] Some of the other verses confirming Jesus (or “salvation”) as Jehovah are: Psa. 27:1; Psa. 118:14; & Isa. 33:2.

[9] Questions of Life, p189.

[10] Repeated verbatim in Questions of Life, p27.

[11] We have removed the word ‘he’ after each occurrence of “I Am” because “he” does not appear in the Greek – which is why it is only displayed in italics in the KJV.

[12] That the Lord’s enemies “went backwards and fell” on hearing “I Am” suggests these words had rather more significance than merely acknowledging that these people had found their man.

[13] Neither do any of the words “Godhead”, “Triune”, or “Immanuel” occur in Talks 2 or 3 (or indeed in any Alpha talk).

[14] Talks 9 & 11.

[15] Page 76.  Although the Bible uses the word “divine”, it is almost always in the context of divination – a detestable practice in God’s eyes.  Whilst the Bible says Jesus had a “divine” power and nature, it never actually calls Him “divine”.

[16] Searching Issues, p101.

[17] It seems a shame too for Gumbel to use the word ‘stones’ in this statement, when the Lord Jesus is our “corner stone” (Eph. 2:20).

[18] Questions of Life, p71.

[19] It is interesting that Lewis consistently avoids using the name “Jesus” when making his most unequivocal statements on Godhood.  He instead uses phrases like “the man we are talking about” or “he”, when it would be much more helpful and unambiguous to give His actual name.

[20] Talk 2.  Also Why Christmas?, p6; the Green Alpha Manual, p9, and elsewhere.  Note that Lewis’ choice of phrase suggests that God is a being from another planet.  This is in line with Mormonism and the Word-Faith paradigm, but not the Bible!

[21] Gumbel almost always uses the phrase “comes to live within us” of the Holy Spirit (see, for instance, Talks 6, 7, 8 & 9).  But this is ambiguous and helps to encourage Toronto-esque manifestations in the body or soul.

[22] Questions of Life, p71.  Jesus was already “a Person”, so this statement is very unhelpful.

[23] Searching Issues, p13.

[24] Searching Issues, p110.

[25] Searching Issues, p31.

[26] See pages 45, 48-50.

[27] Questions of Life, p50.  Note that Gumbel does not say “the Father was in the person of His Son”.

[28] Talk 3.  Note how Gumbel exploits the KJV rendering when it suits his purposes.  The NIV does not phrase the passage as “God was in Christ”.

[29] This notion is reinforced when Gumbel says only that “God  participated in the suffering of the cross” [Searching Issues, p24], as if there was another participant on the cross – and one who wasn’t truly God.

[30] Questions of Life, p124.

[31] Another erroneous idea propagated by this statement is that Jesus was only ‘God’ because He had the Holy Spirit inside Him - in which case, Christians would be divine too.

[32] We must be careful to interpret rightly all occasions when the Bible appears to distinguish between Jesus Christ and God.  For instance, Scripture sometimes has expressions like “God and our Saviour Jesus Christ”, but grammatically these actually serve to confirm the Deity of Jesus: “The expression ‘God and our Saviour Jesus Christ’ in Titus 2:13 and 2 Peter 1:1 follows the same grammatical construction used to express the deity of the Father in Gal 1:4, 1 Thess 1:3 and Phil 4:20 – ‘God and our Father’. The verses 2 Thess 1:12, Titus 2:13 and 2 Peter 1:1 are called hendiadies, from the Greek hen dia dyoin, ‘one by two’. Grammatically it is the expression of an idea by two nouns connected by and, instead of by noun and an adjunct. It would be like introducing one’s spouse as ‘my wife and best friend’” [Gail Riplinger, New Age Bible Versions].  Likewise no sensible person would deny the Deity of the Father in those places where the Bible reads “God and the Father” (Jas. 1:27; Eph. 5:20; Col. 1:3; Col. 3:17).

[33] Questions of Life, p61.

[34] Strongs, 0410.

[35] 30 Days, pp64-65.  For some other examples of separation in this book, see pp46, 52 & 60.

[36] Pages 175, 185, 190, 207 & 221 only represent a handful of the total.

[37] E.g. pp70, 85, 122, 133 & 154.

[38] Questions of Life, p154.  Gumbel’s exact words are, “Jesus goes on to say that in comparison with God we are evil”.  Would hearers be likely to realize from this choice of words that Jesus Himself was not evil?  Jesus said “you are evil”, not “we are evil”.

[39] Questions of Life, p27.

[40] See, for instance, Alpha News, #14, p3; Alpha News, Nov 2001 – Feb 2002, p11; or Telling Others, (Kingsway, 2001), p152.

[41] Searching Issues, p27.  See also page 100.  Adding the suffix “as God” hints that Gumbel believes there are forms of worship which can be legitimately offered to beings other than God.

[42] All three of these problems are manifested in a quote by Lewis.  Instead of Gumbel saying “I accept that Jesus was and is God”, he quotes Lewis saying “‘I have to accept the view that he was and is God’” [Talk 2].  Gumbel does not say he agrees, and the sentence nowhere mentions “Jesus”, but there is a third problem.  Just accepting that people hold a certain “view” is very different from accepting what that view is.

[43] See, for instance, Questions of Life, pp31, 129 & 233.

[44] Searching Issues, p100.

[45] Questions of Life, p239.

[46] Questions of Life, p30.

[47] Psychologists refer to the “inherited, instinctive impulses … of the unconscious” as the “Id”.  It seems that Gumbel is trying to teach that only the “entity” occupying the Lord’s “Id” is God.  This would help explain the repeated reference to “Id-entity”.

[48] Questions of Life, p27.  See also page 39.

[49] Questions of Life, p55.

[50] Questions of Life, p207.  See also page 9.

[51] Eph. 1:17 calls Jesus “the Father of glory”, but Gumbel’s Bible version steals this name away.  Gumbel utilizes this verse in Questions of Life, p134.

[52] See, for instance, Questions of Life, p55, plus Talks 4 and 6.

[53] Questions of Life, p21.  We are indebted to Peter Burden-Teh for his excellent research on the theologies of some of the heretics whom Gumbel quotes without any obvious problem.  Regarding Tillich’s errors, see Burden-Teh’s article in the journal Christianity and Society, Jan 2001, p7.  See also Burns, op. cit., p123.

[54] Talk 9.  See Burden-Teh, op. cit., pp8-9.  Gumbel must impress some hearers when he quotes Möltmann using the term “the crucified God” [Questions of Life, p46], but again we must ask the questions “What sort of God is in view?” and “Does he mean there are other Gods?”.  Möltmann’s confusing theology included the belief that God is dead.

[55] Talk 15.  See Burden-Teh, op. cit., (April 2001), p17.

[56] Questions of Life, p135; 30 Days, p109.  Gumbel quotes a lot of Catholics besides Muggeridge (e.g. Forrest, Paul VI, Chesterton) and claims he can find nothing wrong with Vatican II , in which case he is supporting another Jesus.

[57] Talk 2.  Hort admitted he was a “staunch sacerdotalist”, and he denied Christ in other ways too.  See D.A. Waite, Heresies of Westcott and Hort, for details.

[58] Talk 1.  See Burden-Teh, op. cit., (April 2000), p10.  Tolstoy wrote of Christ “[T]o regard … [him] as God … I deem the greatest sacrilege” [Tolstoy’s Letters, (Scribner and Sons, 1978), Vol 1, p298 as quoted in Burden-Teh, op. cit., (Jan 2001), p7].

[59] Newton is called “a believer” in Talk 1, yet he was an alchemist and famously denied the Deity of Christ.

[60] 30 Days, p137.  See Burns, op. cit., p258.

[61] Questions of Life, p56.  See Burns, op. cit., p147.

[62] 30 Days, p72.  Ruskin and Hammarskjold are just two of several Unitarians that Gumbel legitimizes.

[63] That it is supposedly “so difficult” and “complex” is reiterated in the Study Guide – see page 124.

[64] Whilst Gumbel quotes portions of the Athanasian creed, he (a) implies it is incomprehensible [p99], (b) does not mention Jesus by name there, or give any other clarification as to who is in view, and (c) never states that he agrees with this creed!

[65] Quite apart from this statement separating Jesus from His Godhood, it also lessens His ministry from that of our Saviour and Lord to being a mere example.

[66] A few pages on, Gumbel again separates Christ from God when he writes: “When the Holy Spirit fills us, we experience the Fatherhood of God, the love of Christ and the power of the Spirit” [p112].  Since the true Holy Spirit glorifies Christ Jesus rather than demoting him, and since Gumbel demotes the Lord Jesus so much, it is no wonder that many discernment ministries believe a counterfeit spirit is operating on Alpha Courses, producing counterfeit fruit.  After all, it is a counterfeit Christ being presented.  EXACTLY the same fruit is produced by New Age therapies.  See our book for proof.

[67] This problem is not confined to Searching Issues.  On page 116 of Questions of Life we are told, “…the Holy Spirit is just like Jesus”.  This too leans significantly towards the idea of three divine beings that merely operate in harmony.  Sadly, it also encourages people to pray to the Holy Spirit - as Gumbel often does – even though there is not a single example of anyone doing so in the whole of Scripture.  We are only supposed to fellowship with the Father and the Son (1 John 1:3).  See our book for a much fuller treatment of this.  In contrast, Gumbel says, “We need to … ask God’s forgiveness … turn to Jesus Christ … and ask the Holy Spirit to come” [Searching Issues, p66].  To go from three supernatural persons with a unified substance to three supernatural beings with a unified goal, allows the enemy to operate!

[68] See our web site ( for outlets.  Just as the enemy counterfeits every other aspect of Christianity, so there is a counterfeit trinity (Rev. 20:10).  Since Gumbel is preaching “another” Jesus, we believe he is also dispensing “another” Spirit (2 Cor. 11:2-4) – a spirit that imitates elements of salvation but which does not result in the true Christian life described in 1 John.

[69] Gumbel’s Arian-friendly analogies include the shamrock (three identical parts which are partially linked – this is a very Eastern example); the union jack flag (three individual flags differing only in colour and operating in concert); and the grossly Arian analogy of “a family with a father, mother and child” [p107].  Gumbel will only admit that this last one “tends towards” the idea of three gods, and he avoids any mention of Arius here (apparently preferring to make Arius look reasonable by referring instead to Phil oponus - as if his view of three gods was effectively different).

[70] Gumbel’s ambiguities continue, for his phrase “heretical beliefs” [p104] is only categorically attached to the diametrically opposite position of Sabellius rather than to those of Arius.  (As an aside, JWs are Arian and appear to have no problem with Gumbel’s position on the divinity of Christ.)

[71] See pp105-6, plus pp103-104 & 107.

[72] The New Age movement is a deception and a counterfeit version of Christianity, thus it comes as close as it possibly can to saying Jesus is truly God without ever doing so.  As stated previously, New Agers believe Jesus was “divine” but  we have now seen that this not the same as being the God of the Bible.  We would expect Alpha to be absolutely rock-solid on this matter if it was a Course inspired by God.  But what if it was from a New Age source?  Every genuine Trinitarian who studies the Alpha material would want to check if the Course teaches the Deity of Christ.  If the Course is from the other kingdom, then we would expect it to use every trick in the book to make it superficially appear to do so to most Christians whilst actually injecting a huge amount of doubt about the Deity of Christ and causing unbelievers and younger Christians to deny it.  In other words, if this scenario is correct and Gumbel is Arian then one would expect him to distance himself from Arius in this way.

[73] Even 1 John 4:3 has been corrupted in Gumbel’s Bible so that a false brother merely has to “confess Jesus”, rather than to “confess Jesus Christ has come in the flesh”, in order to be acceptable.  Thankfully, 2 John 1:7 has been less molested by the NIV in this regard.

[74] Jonathan Bayes, A Look at the Alpha Course, (FIEC Video, 1999).  Towards very start of tape.

[75] Neil Richardson, in his (otherwise very useful!) booklet A Tale of Two Cities: Nicky Gumbel and the Alpha Course, (CWM, 2000), p20.

[76] Chris Hand, Falling Short?, (DayOne, 1998), p3.

[77] Updated Electronic copies of all our articles can be freely obtained from the ‘Better Than Rubies’ section of our website (