Most helpful critical review
12 of 17 people found the following review helpful
Advertised as "The Alpha Course in book form"
on 17 October 2002
This book isn't really any substitute for the Alpha Course, as an essential element of the course is not the teaching given in the videos (largely repeated here) but in the meals before the videos and the discussion groups, not to mention the "Holy Spirit weekend", when non-Christians get to know the church members. On the other hand the book does give people who can't spare the time to attend the course the option of getting to know what it is about.
As for the content, it is very heavily focussed on the Holy Spirit and Holy Spirit gifts (although the New Testament distinction between the giving of the Spirit in John 20 and the giving of the gifts in Acts 2 is not explained). Gumbel argues that the neglect of the Spirit today justifies spending more time on the Spirit than on Jesus or God (in fact in terms of chapters the Spirit has more than Jesus and God together). The focus on the Spirit is extended into chapters promoting speaking in tongues and healing.
Not a great deal of emphasis is given to the Trinity (which only has about ten oblique references but another Gumbel book, 'Searching Issues' has a chapter entitled The Trinity: Unbiblical, Unbelievable & Irrelevant? and this is often distributed at Alpha Courses as a separate booklet to those who have questions. The Devil gets a chapter of his own (Ch.8) and is identified as a fallen angel by reference to Isaiah 14:12.
One big hole in the book is the question of what happens after death. There is one reference to "resurrection", and one to man's eventual destination being "heaven", but no discussion of whether this means after resurrection and rapture or immediately after death. Maybe this doesn't matter, or maybe this reflects a variety of opinions in the Anglican Church, but it's still surprising that a book this long doesn't discuss the most basic 'Question of Life' that there is.