Time to talk about something a little bit more relevant perhaps? go on then. The Alpha course, it is being aggressively plugged by my parish priest and I think that is a travesty.
The Alpha course isn’t at all relevant to the modern day as it is, it was started in 1977 by an evangelical Anglican! I mean for crying out loud it is already well past its best! My memory of the course material (from my time in an evangelical church before I converted) is that it is riddled with presuppositions and weak logic. It doesn’t come anywhere remotely close to passing muster for protestants in this Dawkensian era.
Much less so for Catholics, we have a philosophically, theologically and historically coherent faith. Catholicism runs rings around protestant apologetics at every turn. It has answers to all the questions, and it also understands its reasoning behind those answers. To put it simply, protestantism doesn’t and will never have the depth of thought that goes into Catholic belief.
The protestantisation of the Catholic Church in England and Wales is truly insidious. Why is the Alpha course being embraced? because Catholics haven’t been properly catechised! Most Catholics don’t have the grounding in the faith that can answer questions and convert people. Worse still is the fact that the more the Church in this country makes itself no different to woolly old Anglicanism the fewer converts we will get. Anglicanism does salvation by niceness alone far better than Catholicism ever will…
I converted to Catholicism because it has fire in its belly, it is a robust faith that will not fail you when times are hard. It has the sacraments, which are essential for good religion to avoid becoming merely an intellectual exercise. It is accessible to everyone, from people who never get past finger painting to people with the most brilliant of minds.
I’ve often joked that coming to the pub every week with my fellow altar servers is a far better introduction to the faith than any Alpha course, because we go the full 15 rounds, we aren’t satisfied with theology with holes so big you can drive a truck through them.
You have to be strong, ruthless even, in your pursuit of the truth. Ruthless in your battle with the devil, ruthless with the naysayers both physical and spiritual, ruthless with the falsehoods and half truths presented by this world as fact and finally you have to be ruthless with weak ass theology that may get bums in seats for a few weeks but at the first sign of trouble those people will evaporate like the man who built his house on sand.
Now the Alpha course format can be good, having a meal together first is a good way to ease anxiety and relax people so they dare ask the difficult questions that they need to, and with a very significant overhaul/abandonment of the course material it could be good.
In fact it was through attending an Anglican Alpha course as I child that I became convinced of the doctrine of transubstantiation! That was thanks to the Vicar bringing in a Rabbi to explain the last supper from a Jewish religious understanding. Before you ask, no that most certainly isn’t in the Alpha course material… from what I know the Vicar also threw out most of the course material because it was irrelevant and weak, and this was nearly 20 years ago!