Alpha– heard of it? Its that course put together by a church in London for people to think about the Christian faith. Or, its a free series of 11 meals with a mediocre after-dinner speaker. Or its an amazing way of creating an intimate community where people can ask the questions they’ve never felt able to ask about God. Or its amazing, or rubbish… or you’ve never heard of it.
Anyway, the idea is that a guy called Nicky Gumbel has been running these courses for yonks now and you can either use a DVD of the talks, completely rewrite them around the same theme (which isn’t, ahem, strictly what you’re meant to do) or you can adapt them to fit your life and your context. We’re in the process of running an Alpha course here in North Devon and thats what we’re doing. This week I was the after-dinner speaker/the one giving the talk, which lasts about 40minutes. People are kind and i didn’t notice anyone snoring or drooling onto their neighbour’s shoulder, and after the talk some stayed for another hour discussing… stuff.
I’m not going to put the whole talk on here, but just the final page… enjoy:
What’s the difference between faith and knowledge?
When I used to work as a climbing instructor I used to go out on Baggy Point, near Croyde several times every week to teach climbing. And I often went to the same spot, where there was a lovely little crag, with a sun trap at the top and a really easy route to climb up, and some really solid rocks that you could use to set up the safety ropes that we used. And I knew exactly where to put the bits of equipment- a loop there, a bolt there, a self-loading doobrie-whatsit up there… I knew how to make this crag, the experience of abseiling and climbing with me, really really safe. But for the people I took climbing, this was often their first experience of doing this- they had no idea what the kit did, or how safe it was. And so we, my colleagues and I, we understood that we needed to help them trust the safety lines, and we’d give a demonstration of abseiling where we often ended up lying upside down on the cliff, to show them that they didn’t have to worry. But, while they might have trusted our word, and had faith the kit now they’d seen it work… there was no replacement for the look in someone’s eyes when they first leant back into the ropes and trusted their whole body weight to them- that look of relief and the knowledge- this works. And once they’d managed that first step, you’d often end up with folks running down the cliff and racing back up who at the start had been really nervous. That combination of faith based on evidence that’s put before you is not entirely dissimilar from what it means to put your faith in Christ. You make a decision and you take a step of faith. It’s not irrational, it’s not a blind leap of faith; it’s a step of faith based on evidence.
But once they’d taken a step of faith, then they knew.
And inviting Jesus in is a step of faith. But when he comes in, the Holy Spirit testifies: he ‘testifies to our spirit that we are children of God’ and that we’re loved by him. That’s how we know that we’re in a relationship with God: we know it because of the promises of God — he will come in. We know it because of the death of Jesus for us, what he did for us. And we know it because the love of God is poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit.