Dr. Darrell Bock speaking at a podium at The Table conference

Six leading Christian scholars took the stage at Bent Tree Bible Fellowship in Dallas this weekend. The inaugural Table Conference drew nearly 500 attendees who were encouraged to think theologically and historically about the Christian faith.

With the theme “Presenting God to Those Who See Christianity Differently,” the two-day conference covered issues related to the credibility of the gospels, the formation of the New Testament canon, and the beliefs of the early church.

"I hope the participants appreciated how reliable the faith is and how they can talk about it calmly with those who disagree, using good solid positions to make the case for the faith," said Dr. Bock, conference chair and executive director of cultural engagement at the Hendricks Center at Dallas Theological Seminary.

Lee Strobel, bestselling author of The Case for Faith and The Case for Christ, shared his journey from atheism to Christianity to kick off the conference Friday night. He was followed by a lineup of recognized experts in New Testament studies:

  • Darrell Bock, Executive Director of Cultural Engagement and Senior Research Professor of New Testament Studies at DTS
  • Craig Blomberg, Distinguished Professor of New Testament at Denver Seminary
  • Daniel Wallace, Professor of New Testament Studies at DTS
  • Charles Hill, Professor of New Testament at Reformed Theological Seminary
  • Michael Svigel, Associate Professor of Theological Studies at DTS

Modeling effective cultural engagement

For Dr. Bock and the Hendricks Center staff, modeling a tone of respectful engagement was as important as giving participants an archaeological history of the New Testament manuscripts.

"I hope participants heard that being authentic as a Chrsitian is as important as the arguments we make for the faith, as well as the role played by being patient and prayerful," he said.

Although audience members ranged from lay people to senior pastors and from middle school students to retirees, conference organizers were particularly impressed by the younger crowd’s passion. In a lunchtime breakout session, students peppered Dr. Bock with questions about how to respond to books like The Da Vinci Code, talk to their friends about current events, and dialogue with professors at their secular universities.

"It was exciting that half our audience consisted of high school and college students who fully participated,” Dr. Bock said. “It was a blast to interact with their thoughtful queries.”

DTS's cultural engagement initiative

This was the inaugural conference for the seminary's cultural engagement initiative launched last fall. The conference is expected to be an annual event, and organizers are already working on a theme for 2014. Future plans may also include restaging last weekend’s talks at other seminaries around the U.S.

“Apologetics is but one element of what we are doing in the cultural engagement initiative,” Dr. Bock noted. “Not every conference will treat biblical reliability or apologetics.”

Other pieces of the initiative include the Table Podcast and chapels on current events.

Resources on cultural engagement

  • To order your copies of The Table Conference audio and video recordings, visit the Hendricks Center Store.
  • Visit the Table Podcast page to watch episodes on topics such as homosexuality, the new pope, Muslim Europe, and Christians in the media.
  • The Hendricks Center hosts numerous conferences and trainings on leadership and cultural engagement throughout the year.