Alpha: Encouraging Questions?
My wife just signed up to participate in an Alpha course. For those who don't know, Alpha is a program offered all around the world as basically a primer in Christianity, from a generic Anglican evangelical perspective, to educate new recruits, provide reinforcement for Christians who want reassurances that they are justified in what they are believing, and to try to close the sale on people who are curious about Christianity but aren't quite believers yet. It's designed to be all-inclusive, and downplays the doctrinal differences between the different denominations, even Catholic, though its bent is generally Protestant in nature. My wife has been a generic Protestant Christian for a while, but has been unsettlingly ignorant about many of the church's teachings and history. Even though I think it's all a load of horse pucky, I definitely encouraged her to go, partly because it gives me time to play a computer game (Icewind Dale 2) that I've been meaning to play for years, but mainly because she needs to learn more about Christianity to get herself thinking about it. Yes, I know that a brainwashing in a church program is not exactly thinking, but I've tried talking to her about doubting Christianity but she doesn't buy any of it if it comes from me. Basically, I'm hoping that one of the non-believers, the "seekers" as they are often called, will bring up a problem and get her to think about it. Well, last night, it did happen.
They were discussing the topic of limbo, or purgatory, and whether either exists. The seeker noted that in that week's sermon, the pastor had said that when Jesus returns (a la Revelations), that all the faithful, living and dead, will be raised up into heaven to join Jesus. But at the time in the Alpha course, they were reading a passage that said that the faithful when they die immediately go to heaven, such as the thief who dies with Jesus. She wanted to know which it was. Do the faithful have to wait in limbo until Jesus returns? Do they get to go straight away? My suggestion was a Star Trek-like time distortion, where the souls of the dead enter a wormhole and immediately skip straight to the end times. My wife told me I was a nerd. So what is the answer?
Answer: Sorry to disappoint, but the program leader didn't know, and neither did any of the participants. They wisely decided to do further study. I don't know the answer either. I'm too lazy to do the research now, and hopefully, my wife will search it out.
Anyway, it's nice to see some people actually looking, and looking hard, even in the face of herd-like brainlessness. This is a nice start, and hopefully my wife will start using her brain more and more, and get away from bible-thumpin brainwashing.