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Cultural Intelligence: Living for God in a Diverse, Pluralistic World Paperback – September 15, 2020
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—Claude Alexander, senior pastor, The Park Church, Charlotte, NC
“Many Christians today are experiencing a ‘cultural concussion.’ Frustrated that they’ve lost something from the past and no longer sure of where they are, Christians in the West find themselves grasping to get their bearings and fearful of an uncertain future. Unsure of how to proceed, the temptation for the church is to either ‘come out swinging’ or retreat to the safe confines of their own communities. Cultural Intelligence offers a different way forward, which includes both a cure and a calling: a gospel that connects us to God and transforms our whole lives—not only what we believe, but also who we are, what we say, and how we say it. Darrell Bock is a world-class New Testament scholar with a pastor’s heart, a doctor with a bedside manner, who helps us not only get our biblical bearings but also shows us how the church can recalibrate our approach to become a field hospital for sinners.”
—Joshua D. Chatraw, executive director, Center for Public Christianity, and theologian-in-residence, Holy Trinity Anglican Church
“Dr. Darrell Bock’s challenge in Cultural Intelligence is a critically needed and gentle course correction for the church in America today if we ever hope to bridge the sacred-secular divide. He convincingly admonishes us from six key New Testament passages to become ambassadors of reconciliation, introducing complicated modern lives to the truth of the Bible, not the other way around, with a gentle and respectful tone. He reminds us that engagement’s purpose is to get a hearing for the gospel which offers a despairing culture a powerful hope. Dr. Bock’s approach to engaging the American culture, minus the Judeo-Christian safety net, resembles the thoughtful and intentional preparation of a cross-cultural foreign missionary serving in a creative access country.”
—Mike Chupp, chief executive officer, Christian Medical & Dental Associations
“Darrell Bock addresses in readable fashion the ways in which we have engaged as Christians in culture wars, pointing out that there is little evidence to prove we’ve won any of them. I often talk about the most effective approach being one of a firm center and soft edges. Cultural Intelligence takes this thought and goes deep, giving us the big picture and practical advice on staying biblically rooted (firm center) and engaging with charity (soft edges). Darrell provides an antidote to so many of the ineffective ways in which Christians have navigated the complexities and culture wars of our day, such as firm center and harsh edges or spongy center and soft edges. This book strikes the right balance of being full of grace and truth.”
—Barry H. Corey, president, Biola University
“Very few people in public life have given more thought to the way our Christian faith influences the way we think about our world more than Darrell Bock. This is why this book is a must-read for pastors, leaders, and anyone wanting to be faithful in this faithless age. Too often we are guilty of simply reacting, based on our partisan sympathies rather than doing the hard work of getting underneath our current debates. You may not agree with every conclusion Dr. Bock makes, but you will come away not only with compelling insights but with intellectual tools to help you think well.”
—Daniel Darling, senior vp of communications, National Religious Broadcasters
“Darrell Bock is recognized as one of the finest evangelical biblical scholars of our generation. With the publication of Cultural Intelligence, readers are privileged not only to see Bock’s keen insights into the meaning of key biblical texts, but to hear Bock’s heart as he provides timely application to guide believers toward faithful discipleship in this fallen world in which we live. After providing helpful framing of our current context and culture, Bock calls for individual Christ followers, churches, and the Christian community at-large to engage and renew the culture in a grace-filled manner. Believing that cultural intelligence can only be developed with biblical conviction and Spirit-enabled kindness, Bock encourages believers to prioritize God’s reconciling work in the world through Jesus Christ, along with the themes of hope, love, and the transformational power of the gospel. I pray that believers will reflect the fruit of the Spirit called for in Bock’s fine work as we all seek to put into practice the author’s wise counsel. I am delighted to recommend this thoughtful book.”
—David S. Dockery, president, International Alliance for Christian Education; theologian-in-residence, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary; and former president, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School
“Cultural Intelligence is a much-needed word in our world of hostile, tribal responses. It is rooted in Scripture and full of practical advice for how to engage as believers in our challenging, pluralistic world. It is a needed course correction for how to battle for the faith by pointing to the faith. It suggests how to have conversations of value versus debilitating debate. In short, it is a must read.”
—Tony Evans, president, The Urban Alternative, and senior pastor, Oak Cliff Bible Fellowship, Dallas, TX
“Christians urgently need to develop sharper cultural intelligence, whether in politics or in Hollywood or in everyone’s daily work, and there are few better able to help us than Darrell Bock. This book bridges the gap between deep biblical wisdom and lived experience with the rapidly changing challenge of our culture. Bock provides both a firm scriptural foundation and an up-to-date approach to culture that is truly constructive, rather than destructive or complacent. He demonstrates how to reunite the long-opposed agendas of evangelism and social activism, showing that if we have cultural intelligence grounded in a gospel of reconciliation, we can reconcile these concerns into a fruitful mission for the church in the world.”
—Greg Forster, director, Oikonomia Network
“All of us as church leaders want to effectively engage our culture, but where do we begin? How do we choose those moments? What aspects of culture do we address first? More than that, which culture are we seeking to engage? In a time when the church is working without the safety of a Judeo-Christian worldview, how do we seek to redeem our fallen cultures? Darrell Bock has provided a biblically grounded and pastorally sensitive guide for Christians to intelligently and compassionately begin those conversations of grace and redemption. This book should be the beginning point of any church or group that is looking for a way to make a difference in the world around them. No, it doesn’t give you all of the answers, but it will guide you to begin to ask the right questions. And we know, that’s half of the battle.”
—Mike Glenn, senior pastor, Brentwood Baptist Church, Brentwood, TN
“Darrell Bock’s book Cultural Intelligence is like a gentle rain in a parched land. How should Christians live during this divisive time, where everything is angrily dichotomized by red or blue, Christian or non-believer? Bock answers simply and profoundly, ‘People are not the enemy, they are the goal.’ Cultural Intelligence is a must read for Christ followers who want to engage others in this post-Christian age by honing their listening skills and living biblically based lives of hope.”
—David C. Iglesias, director, Wheaton Center for Faith, Politics and Economics, and Jean and E. Floyd Kvamme Associate Professor of Politics and Law, Wheaton College
“This book is a needed reminder that it is not only necessary for us to speak the truth, but how we speak it matters. Darrell Bock points out that we as Christians have often appeared angry and combative, alienating many people from considering Christianity. From Scripture and personal experiences, he shows that we must hold tightly to the truth, but with a caring and understanding spirit. The better we know our culture and the secular mindset the better we will know how to gain a hearing. I intend to read this book again, and if you read it, I think you will do the same.”
—Erwin W. Lutzer, pastor emeritus, The Moody Church, Chicago, IL
“After decades of brilliant scholarship plumbing the depths of the Bible for the benefit of the church, Darrell Bock has focused his formidable abilities on crafting a biblical model for the church’s engagement with the world. In Cultural Intelligence, Darrell’s masterful walk through the key passages that govern engagement with outsiders demonstrates that God cares at least as much about how we communicate as he does what we communicate. I heartily recommend this work which focuses on how to build bridges not barriers and encourages us to see our role as ambassadors involved in cultural engagement rather than culture wars.”
—Larry Moody, chaplain, PGA and CPGA Players, and president and founder, In the Game Ministries
“Not since the early church has the cultural chasm between Christ-followers and the outside world been this vast. And growing by the day! What we need are relational bridges built with mutual understanding and concern. This requires tact, relational skill, and, in a phrase, ‘cultural intelligence.’ In this winsome, biblical primer on cultural engagement, Darrell Bock imparts the analytic and relational tools Christians need to live out their sacred calling as salt and light.”
—Samuel L. Perry, associate professor of sociology and religious studies, University of Oklahoma
“Oh, how Christians need a constructive orientation on how to engage the public square and those with different ideologies and views! Drawing from key scriptural texts and years of experience, Bock recalibrates discussion on how to understand our witness and calling in the world. What is needed is a humble tone, a new entry into the Bible, and the recognition that such a stance can be costly. This is a timely book!”
—M. Daniel Carroll R. (Rodas), Blanchard Professor of Old Testament, Wheaton College and Graduate School
“I am delighted to see Cultural Intelligence become available and hope it is widely read. It is thoroughly biblically grounded, and contains a rich reservoir of practical advice on how to engage cultures wisely and winsomely. The final section on teaching the Bible in today’s culture is worth the price of the entire book! A must read for church leaders and those interested in meaningfully interacting with the cultural mosaic facing the church today.”
—Scott B. Rae, senior advisor to the president for university mission, dean of faculty, and professor of philosophy and Christian ethics, Talbot School of Theology, Biola University
“Looking at a time well before the advent of MTV or the Internet, or the ruling in Roe v. Wade, Darrell Bock identifies the roots of our social upheaval and cultural war. He navigates the tensions caused by a loss of a Judeo-Christian ethos with discernment toward the skepticism secularization creates about the message of the gospel. This is a work of politically non-partisan, practical wisdom for thinking and living as dual citizens who honor Christ as Lord of all and interact with love toward those who have differing beliefs. Those in both pulpits and pews, and in parish and parachurch ministry, would do well to ponder these insights so that we might gain a much greater hearing in our public squares.”
—Eric C. Redmond, professor of Bible, Moody Bible Institute, and associate pastor of preaching and teaching, Calvary Memorial Church, Oak Park, IL
“People are not the enemy but the goal of the Great Commission. But how do we carry out the Great Commission in a world rejects our Christian worldview? In Cultural Intelligence, noted New Testament scholar Darrell Bock helps us understand how our divine imperative to love one another drives us to engage people who disagree with us. Moreover, he shows us how to take real life situations through biblical and theological lenses as the means by which we can participate in significant dialogue. I highly recommend this book as it seeks to create a path for Christians who desire to live out their theology in an ever-changing cultural landscape.”
—Ben Skaug, senior pastor, Immanuel Baptist Church, Highland, CA, and adjunct professor, California Baptist University
“When someone writes from their life work, a simplicity after complexity emerges proving deep wisdom can come in small packages. Cultural Intelligence is a not a long read but is full of deep wisdom. It is right thinking with compassionate tone equipping the reader to speak truth with love. Darrell Bock is training us not to confront culture, but to transform culture through scriptural grounding and relational engagement.”
—Brad Smith, president, Bakke Graduate University
“I spent 35 years at Christianity Today ‘preaching’ the gospel’s message of beautiful orthodoxy, so you can imagine my excitement over this exceptional book by Dallas Seminary’s Darrell Bock. Written for such a time as this—with vitriol characterizing our cultural speak and disrespect our motif for ‘enlightened’ engagement—Dr. Bock’s Cultural Intelligence provides a biblically-solid, intellectually-accessible, powerfully-practical guidebook for how every serious Christ-follower can live out impactful lives keynoted by gospel conviction and grace.
The world will only listen to the good news if we the church—as God’s ambassadors—fully become the walking, talking expressions of his radical love. And to that end, Dr. Bock has written a primer for how our Spirit-directed words and opinions can be heard in the public square and ultimately make a difference for the whole of humankind. Yes, this is an essential read for any Christian who longs to winsomely make Christ known in a confused twenty-first century where men and women are still searching—wittingly and unwittingly—for the one way, truth, and life.”
—Harold B. Smith, president emeritus, Christianity Today International
“Few biblical scholars and theologians have invested in and engaged with issues of culture as much as Darrell Bock. He offers sane, wise, and practical teaching to enable Christians to relate meaningfully and missionally with their often alien and fractured culture. This is a book the church needs and to which it should give attention to rethink its own identity and practice.”
—Klyne Snodgrass, emeritus professor of New Testament studies, North Park Theological Seminary, and former president, Institute for Biblical Research
“Karl Barth has been credited with the well-known phrase, ‘A preacher needs a newspaper in one hand and a Bible in the other.’ What does it mean for church leaders and everyday believers to hold the Bible in one hand and a newspaper in the other? In other words, what does it look like to be biblically faithful while maintaining cultural relevance? Darrell Bock, in Cultural Intelligence, outlines for believers how culture and theology interact in the context of the church’s mission. With Scripture as his guide, Bock masterfully articulates a way in which believers can gently and graciously navigate the tumultuous waters of cultural complexity while focusing on the church’s core mission. This book couldn’t come at a more appropriate time.”
—Ed Stetzer, executive director, Billy Graham Center and Billy Graham Chair of Church, Mission, and Evangelism, Wheaton College
“Bock’s pithy but robust word invites us into intelligent cultural engagement. We enter a gracious conversation and sacred space to discern how we engage our families, friends, colleagues and acquaintances, and by extension the world, to consider the winsome, radical Jesus and a coherent Christian worldview. In a society increasingly bereft of even a cultural memory of a biblical narrative, Bock invites us to communicate our faith from a refreshing ‘life to the Bible’ vis-à-vis the older model. I am helped to love my own secular city of Austin as well as the younger generations of my beloved Latin America where secularism has captured minds and hearts. Thank you, Darrell.”
—William D. Taylor, president, TaylorGlobalConsult, and former executive director, the Mission Commission, World Evangelical Alliance
“As I read this wonderful and rich book, I was reminded of the sons of Issachar, who understood the times with knowledge of what Israel should do (1 Chr 12:32), a verse that has been my life verse for more than forty years. Reading this book reminds me of the story of the creation of the FedEx logo. We need to understand our culture and the forces that form it through relationships and engagement. Dr. Bock reminds us of the full purpose of salvation, the biblical imperative of love, and how we can understand that. Our cultural intelligence shows itself through the tone of our engagement and relationships within society.”
—Hon. Rollin A. Van Broekhoven, federal judge, Armed Services Board of Contract Appeals, Washington, DC
“Not since the 60’s has the American culture, and the American church, experienced so much distress and confusion on moral issues of the day. Not only are there constantly new issues causing highly politicized dissension in the world, but those disagreements have invaded the church walls as well. This has left Christians confused and divided; and has contributed to a growing disregard for Christianity in the public square.
This book by my friend Darrell Bock introduces many of the key issues culturally, biblically, and theologically that must be considered. It provides an excellent introduction to the complexities Christians encounter interacting with our non-Christian neighbors. And it seeks to provide direction for how believers can engage. Because of its length, Cultural Intelligence cannot treat these complex issues thoroughly, and the reader is left desiring more detail. But Dr. Bock’s greatest contribution is the spirit of the book. As always, he seeks to move the reader to thought and actions that are guided by the commands of Scripture, and specifically the love of Christ.”
—Andy Wileman, lead pastor, Grace Bible Church, Dallas, TX
“At times of political crisis, racial tension, religious dissension, and much more, we need reminders of how to engage well with those around us tethered to the core tenets of our faith as a way to point people out of the brokenness and into the hope of Christ and his kingdom. Our public engagement is ultimately a fruit of our private discipleship, and this book is a much-welcomed resource that encourages and equips us to respond to others with graciousness, reason, compassion, mercy, and love. This book doesn’t provide trite platitudes or easy answers but rather encourages us in the hard work of building relationships with others rooted in love. I’m grateful for Darrell’s ongoing leadership in helping us develop a cultural intelligence that will help us transcend division, intolerance, and even apathy, and instead helps us pursue love of neighbor because of our love for God.”
—Jenny Yang, vice president of advocacy and policy, World Relief
About the Author
- Publisher : B&H Academic (September 15, 2020)
- Language: : English
- Paperback : 160 pages
- ISBN-10 : 1535981938
- ISBN-13 : 978-1535981934
- Reading age : 18 years and up
- Item Weight : 7.2 ounces
- Dimensions : 5.5 x 0.4 x 8.5 inches
- Customer Reviews:
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How should Christians face the culture around us? How should we engage in the cultural debate? What is our responsibility? What should we expect?
The purpose of the book is to reconsider these issues and reexamine our approach to engage the culture. He says, “Has the church’s approach to doing battle been effectively defined and practiced? Have we missed the exact nature of the battle and misdirected our mission?” The book is divided into six parts. The first is a consideration of how we got to where we are and what the changes mean. From there he moves to the Bible and what it says about engaging in the world around us. Then, he observes how Paul’s presentation of his message was dependent on who he was speaking to and his exhortation to communicate the Gospel with gentleness and understanding. In the fourth section, he considers how we should talk to those who disagree with us about issues of importance, approaching this both from a positive and negative perspective. Next he considers the Biblical call to love and what it means not only within the body but to the rest of the world. Finally, he proposes that we read the Bible not just to understand what the particular passage is saying and how we can apply it to our lives but that we put more effort into understanding how it fits with the larger context of the entirety of Scripture and eventually also how it relates to those around us who do not have the faith in the Bible that we have. As we study the Bible, we need to also consider how the Bible applies to life and then how we can approach people on the issues of the day.
We must realize that our battle is spiritual not earthly and that the enemy is the spiritual powers of darkness. People are not the enemy. People are the mission. “Our mission is not to defeat or crush people. It is to stand with spiritual resources against an unseen enemy.” We should see people as lost and needing to be found and that will change how we engage with people and with the culture. He notes (from 1 Peter 3:15) that our faith is ultimately not just ideas but is a hope. The gospel is a communication of hope. And yet, what we hear from many Christians sounds more like fear than hope. And immediately after Peter says that, he calls for us to engage with gentleness and respect. Calling people idiots, leftists, and a variety of other names is neither gentle nor respectful. We still must challenge others, but the challenge is in the hope of the Gospel and should be, as Paul says “gracious, seasoned with salt.” The solution is not political but a change of heart. Political change will only put a bandage on the surface without curing the wound.
People are changed by the power of the Spirit, not by our words. The church grew most rapidly in the Roman Empire when the church had no power. And, Paul’s various lists of terrible sins were a description of Greco-Roman culture. All of those were just assumed to be the norm by the culture around them. Yet, Paul only speaks to the church about those things, exhorting Christians not to return to that lifestyle. When he speaks to those outside the church, he doesn’t speak in the same way.
Dialogue is sabotaged when we cannot talk and cannot listen to others. We are presented with a fact and answer with a “yes, but…” We put a label on something (radical, liberal, right-wing, conservative) which then ends the discussion. Or, we question one’s motives, which then puts them on the defensive. And, every issue becomes all or nothing.
Dr. Bock gives creative tools for approaching issues. He gives specific examples of various issues that are a current cultural conflict and how to analyze and discuss them without taking sides.
The church’s mission is not to attack and destroy people. God loved the world enough to give his son. It is not our choice to decide who we love and who we reject. This book should be required reading for every Christian and should affect how we deal with every issue. It’s a reminder of what is important. It calls us to reevaluate our mission and purpose on this earth both personally and as the church. It may be the most important book that I’ve read this year.
Key verse (of many) -- Ephesians 6:12: For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.
Key quote -- "People are not the enemy. They are the goal."
I even learned a few new words like triphonics and glocalization. :)
In one of the most famous passages from the book bearing Esther’s name, Mordecai quips, “It may very well be that you have achieved royal status for such a time as this!” (Esther 4:14, NET)
Bock’s book is a book for such a time as this. His book touches upon something the Church desperately needs: cultural intelligence. Before discussing the meat of the book, I want to provide a brief description of why this book is such a gift to the Church.
We are living in uncertain times. At this point, we are still awaiting the votes of the Electoral College. Many news organizations have proclaimed Joe Biden and Kamala Harris as the winners of the 2020 Presidential Election. However, many Republicans are challenging this announcement through legislative action. The Church, filled with those who identify as both Republicans and Democrats, are at each other’s necks. Besides, there are a variety of views regarding sexuality, immigration, and other “hot topics.” In the midst of this, the Church has damaged her witness by her interactions with those in the world. Bock’s book is a reminder of the Church’s mission and how she can engage in that mission in a way that glorifies God and bridges divides. His book also contributes to how the Church engages the world and for what purpose.
Personally, this book came at a needed time. I have struggled with the various responses of my brothers and sisters in Christ. I have wondered how our faith relates to the public square. In this book, based on Scripture, Bock provides guidance.
Overview of the Book
The book is comprised of five chapters. The first chapter builds a theology of cultural intelligence. That is, Bock uses six passages of Scripture that believers need to know their mission, identify the enemy, and engage in spiritual rescue. One of the prominent contributions of this chapter is how believers are to engage in conversation. Contrasted with the vitriol of the political section, believers are to communicate with grace and love.
In chapter two, Bock works with two passages of Scripture written by Paul. In Romans 1:18-32, Paul provides an in-depth look at humanity. This is written to the Church for the Church’s benefit. Bock also examines Acts 17:16-34 to describe how Paul related to the people he describes in Romans 1:18-32. Again, this provides a biblical example of how believers are to engage with the differences in culture and views today.
Chapter three opens the door to conversation. In a time in which discussion and communication are difficult in general, it seems the Church has failed to continue growing in interacted with individuals holding different views. Bock discusses what a conversation is. He also identifies ways that the Church can develop the skills needed to engage in helpful conversation.
Bock then moves onto salvation and the fruit of that in believers lives in chapter four. While present-day Americans tend to view salvation through an individualistic lens, Bock connects Scripture with the greater work of God in His children. It is not simply individualistic salvation (though Bock does not dismiss this), it is much more. It moves on to the whole of creation. One manifestation of this is the love believers are to extend to all others, what he refers to collectively as “the ethical triangle.”
Chapter five wraps everything up by providing specific examples of how believers can and should engage the various cultures and worldviews that are present today. He provides helpful breakdowns of implementing the discussions of chapters 1-4 that enable believers to take action. Ironically, one of the primary actions believers should take is to listen.
Strengths of the Book
The book is incredibly helpful for many reasons. I will offer a few highlights in the hope that it will stir your hearts to purchase the book.
• The reminder of the main mission of the Church.
Bock does a great job of reminding believers of the mission of the Church. In our highly politicized society, we have equivocated politics with our walk with God. Unfortunately, this has harmed not only her witness but also her mission. God is not God of the Republican or the Democrat party. However, Christians can become caught up in this political identity. Bock writes, “For decades the church fought a culture war where we often made other people the enemy. But this core biblical text [referring to Ephesians 6:10-18] reminds us that our real battle is spiritual….Our mission is not to defeat or crush people. It is to stand with spiritual resources against an unseen enemy.” We can see how destructive this confusion is on any social media platform. This, I think, is one of the most helpful aspects of Bock’s book.
• The art of engaging in conversation.
While building on the theology of cultural intelligence, Bock provides an incredible gift to the Church by describing how to engage in conversation. Primarily found in chapter three, Bock examines what occurs during a conversation (what he refers to as “triphonics”). He also briefly discusses the ways we can end conversations through our actions, what he refers to as “sabotage.” He offers five ways we can develop conversations, of which the last is, in my opinion, the most helpful. He writes, “I often tell my students that they need a scale on which to rather their level of conviction.” Discerning the level of one’s conviction is important in our interactions within and without the Church.
• The last contribution that I would like to highlight (though I admit it was hard to narrow it!) is his discussion of “from life to the Bible.” Building upon a significant discussion on the change our culture has experienced, Bock provides a helpful way to connect Scripture to the lives of people. While previous generations enjoyed a certain base understanding and acceptance of Judeo-Christian values (see page 85-89), present-day believers do not, particularly in the United States. However, Bock describes this way to connect life to Scripture with several suggestions. To begin with, we need to evaluate culture through Scripture and praise its good qualities while pointing out the faults. It also “requires listening.” The third and fourth elements tie into theology and communication. He states, “Theological translation involves putting terms that we understand (but that someone else may not) into more mutually transparent language.” That is, believers must learn to communicate clearly without using theological terms that people may not understand. Finally, from life to the Bible also requires a deep understanding of the whole of Scripture. This prohibits us from cherry-picking Scripture and engaging in imbalances.
Weaknesses of the Book
The only weakness of the book is the limited treatment of the thesis. That is, I would have liked to see Bock provide more examples and materials on those examples. He does include tough topics (e.g., immigration, gun rights, and sexuality). I found this helpful, but I would love to see further discussion and perhaps even presentations of actual interactions with comments.
Who should purchase this Book?
Every single Christian should read and implement this book, particularly Christians who reside in the United States. With the volatile atmosphere and the divide in the US, Christians should not withdraw and disappear from the public square. However, when engaging in conversation, Christians cannot continue as they have previously. We must acknowledge our sins of previous and even present engagement, learn what the Scriptures teach, and then engage in the cultures to which God has called us.