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Title: Re-evangelising Britain : an ethnographic analysis and theological evaluation of the Alpha course
Author: Heard, James
ISNI:       0000 0004 2680 3979
Awarding Body: King's College London (University of London)
Current Institution: King's College London (University of London)
Date of Award: 2008
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From small beginnings in the early 1970s, Alpha, a course in basic Christianity, has grown to become a global success. This thesis is the first comprehensive qualitative study of social science to evaluate the course. Adopting the method of participant observation the dissertation focuses upon six Alpha courses in various denominational contexts. The ethnographic material that ensues is augmented by interviews and analysis of the organisation's publications. The thesis begins with the official rhetoric of Alpha's progenitors, followed by the literature review and an outline in Chapter 4 of the author's sociological methodology. The first aim of the thesis is then evaluated in Chapter 5 which is to compare and contrast the actual experience of Alpha by participants with the official version. While the courses I researched showed a surprising level of conformity to the "Alpha recipe' , there were significant fall-outs in the small group discussion. Chapter 6 investigates the second aim of the thesis: to see in the light of the sociology of conversion, whether Alpha's primary aim of converting non-churchgoers was successful. With the majority of guests on the Alpha course having some religious background, conversion typically turned out to be an "intensification' of a faith acquired in childhood that had become dormant in adult life rather than the initiation of unbelievers into the church Chapter 7 complements the sociological investigation of Alpha by assessing its theological foundations. With insights and illustrations from the empirical data of earlier chapters and adopting the fiduciary framework of classic theology and orthodox Christian tradition the thesis concludes that there is a serious disjunction between Alpha's stated aims and its theological content. In conclusion I contend that Alpha falls between two stools of mission and spiritual formation and consequently ends up as deficient in both areas.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available