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Title: The 'Alpha' course : an analysis of its claim to offer an educational course on 'the meaning of life'
Author: Brian, Stephen Frederick
ISNI:       0000 0001 3479 3019
Awarding Body: University of Surrey
Current Institution: University of Surrey
Date of Award: 2003
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Many churches are currently offering a course entitled Alpha, accompanied by the apparently educational claim that it offers 'an opportunity to explore the meaning of life.' This thesis challenges the validity of that claim, asking the primary research question: Does Alpha, as it claims, provide an opportunity to explore the meaning of life? The thesis concludes that the claim could be regarded as valid only for those who already share the theological outlook of Alpha. The research suggests that for others within the church, and for those outside the church (i.e. those for whom Alpha is intended) the claim is not fidfilled. It may be that Alpha is actually performing some quite different function. The secondary research question is therefore: What is the function of Alpha's teaching? This function appears to be primarily the expansion of its own version of Christianity within the existing church. To contextualize Alpha, and therefore better understand its claim and function, the thesis locates Alpha within educational, historical, postmodern and sociological contexts through the use of appropriate literature. It then examines the structure of Alpha, scrutinizes and interprets testimonies of Alpha 'graduates' published in Alpha News, critiques Alpha as revealed through its own literature, looking in particular at its methods and theology, and evaluates the few significant critiques of Alpha so far in print This contextualisation and examination helps to illuminate the conclusions drawn from fieldwork involving questionnaires and semi-structured interviews conducted amongst people who had no knowledge of Alpha and amongst those who had run or participated in Alpha courses. The former were asked what they would expect from any course making such a claim, and the latter were asked to share and interpret their experiences of the course, particularly in relation to the claim Though the fieldwork for this research took place within just two Anglican deaneries, this thesis suggests that there is no reason to suppose that the results would not be repeated elsewhere. The thesis discusses implications and limitations of the present research and suggests areas for further research.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Education & training