3 Lessons I Learned from My Mentor, Darrell Bock

My Internship at Dallas Theological Seminary

This semester, I’ve had the privilege of beginning a mentoring relationship with Dr. Darrell Bock. This is part of my Master of Theology (Th.M) internship, working with the Howard G. Hendricks Center for Christian Leadership and Cultural Engagement. Dr. Bock is a Senior Research Professor of New Testament Studies and Executive Director for Cultural Engagement at Dallas Theological Seminary.

Darrell Bock

Besides my mentoring meetings with Dr. Bock, I’m also enjoying creating titles and show notes for The Table Podcast, being in the studio while the interviews are recorded live, and even being a guest on the show (look for my episode this summer).

My career goal is to have a full-time faculty position at a Christian university, while continuing to speak and train at apologetics conferences and local churches. So why choose Dr. Bock as mentor? I admire his ability to move from writing scholarly stuff in the academic world, to speaking at churches or showing up on ABC News while making “heady” concepts about the Bible accessible to anyone. And if you know me, you know I’m all about making ideas that have to do with defending the faith simple to get and easy to remember. In a word–accessible. 

3 Lessons From My Mentor

After our weekly department meetings, I get spend some time sitting down with Dr. Bock in his office. We talk about Jesus, apologetics, cultural engagement, my course of study and anything else that might come up. I appreciate his practical advice and helpful insights into cultural engagement and apologetics. In this post, I’ll share just three quick things I’ve learned during our mentorship meetings:

1. Attitudes Are Often Absorbed

Dr. Bock often highlights the idea that we live in a culture where, for many people, “the Bible isn’t the answer–it’s the question.” It’s very different world from 19th century America, where you could easily quote the Bible and have people at least pretend to show some respect for the faith because of their family or cultural background. Sponge Today, getting into spiritual conversations often means you’re almost immediately hit with emotional challenges and tough questions. Where’s all this coming from? Often times, people’s attitudes toward Christianity show us the ideas they’ve absorbed, like a sponge, from the culture. For example, your skeptical friends have probably seen comments like this online:

“Jesus was a great moral teacher…somebody as intelligent as Jesus would have been an atheist if he had known what we know today.” – Richard Dawkins in an interview with The Guardian [1]

They might have also heard ideas like this on TV:

“There were many other gospels written in the early Christian centuries: The Gospel of Mary Magdalene, The Gospel of Thomas, lots of others…The early Christian movement had a lot of different movements in it, and many of them were censored, and then, one version got branded as orthodox.” -Elaine Pagels on the Cobert Report [2]

How prepared are we to engage with our friends when they bring up challenges like these?

2. We Need Switch-Hitters

Switch HitterDr. Bock also taught me a baseball term I’d never heard before: “Switch-hitter.” A switch-hitter is a baseball player who can bat both right-handed and left-handed.  Kind of like this, Christians should be skilled in both “going from the Bible to life,” and “going from life to the Bible.” The church needs more Christians who can “switch-hit.” Here’s what I mean: We need to be able to look at a passage of Scripture and ask “How does this apply to our lives?” And this is what we’ve pretty much focused on in terms of Christian education in our Bible colleges and seminaries. But it can’t end there. See, many people go through tough situations in their lives that drive them to look for answers in the Bible. This is why we’ve also got to look at the conversations going on in our own lives and ask “How does this connect to the Bible?” Whether it’s hot-button issues like abortion or homosexual marriage or even how to share your faith with a Muslim friend or just be a faithful Christian working in the business world, the government, the media or wherever you are.

The Table Podcast briefs you on important issues like these from a Christian worldview–in a way that’s accessible to anyone.
Another way to be a switch-hitter is to do what Dr. Bock does: Write scholarly works and influence the academic community, while also being able to communicate at a more popular level. This is why I like leading workshops at local churches, speaking at apologetics conferences and blogging. I’m trying to be a better switch-hitter.

3. Cultural Engagement Is More Than Apologetics

The Apostle Peter commanded believers to have respectful answers ready when people ask us about the hope that we have in Christ (1 Peter 3:15). But how should we act when we’re not defending the faith? Bible and Coffee

Thinking in terms of cultural engagement helps us learn to move beyond merely responding to challenges from atheists, Muslims or others in our lives. It’s living like Jesus in a culture that’s often antagonistic toward Christianity. It’s engaging our skeptical friends, family members and co-workers in a way that isn’t “in-your-face,” and naturally turning the conversation towards the Bible’s take on important issues you’re already facing together in this world.

Dr. Bock calls this being “a presence that gives them pause.” When you do confront people with Scripture, let them know that accepting your view isn’t a condition for friendship.

We need more Christians saying, “I’ll be your friend, no matter what. But let’s go on a journey as we look into this spiritual stuff together.” Remember, we’re Christ’s ambassadors 24/7. Let’s reflect Jesus’ character in our everyday lives–even when we’re not in “question and answer” mode.

[1] Evolutionary Biologist and best-selling author of The God Delusion, quotation from in an interview with The Guardian’s John Harris. [2] Professor of Religion at Princeton University and author of Reading Judas: The Gospel of Judas and the Shaping of Christianity. Quotation from Season 3, Episode 50 of The Cobert Report.

Video: Watch me interviewing Darrell Bock about the Historical Jesus at an apologetics event we worked on together: The very first Table Conference: Presenting God to Those Who See Christianity Differently.



2 Responses to “3 Lessons I Learned from My Mentor, Darrell Bock”

  1. Bethany R. April 14, 2013 8:19 AM

    I really appreciated this. Thank you for taking the time to write it up. :)

    • Apologetics Guy April 14, 2013 11:23 AM

      Glad you enjoyed this, Bethany. Thanks for taking the time to drop an encouraging comment.