By Gracy Howard; originally published in PHC Herald, 1/21/11. Pictures by Art Cox.
Patrick Henry College
Dr. Gareth Cockerill
Despite heavy course loads and other commitments, many students attended evening as well as morning sessions, listening to Dr. Gareth Cockerill’s teaching on the book of Hebrews. Several expressed excitement about the administration’s plans to continue holding Biblical Emphasis week every spring semester.
“It’s an amazing idea… as soon as I heard it, it made complete sense,” senior Brooke Butler said. “We need that foundation for the rest of the semester. With it, there’s a much greater chance of keeping our eyes on Christ. I know I will look back at the things said (in the session) this semester.”
Junior Nathan Hall said he would like to have Biblical Emphasis Week twice a semester, preferring its format and style to the customary Faith and Reason Lecture. “I think you can dig into the Bible a lot more -- you’re studying it for a week.”
While he doesn’t envision a Biblical Emphasis Week in the fall, Dr. Graham Walker does want to make it a yearly tradition for the spring semester, as a means of focusing on Scripture “at the beginning of things,” he said.
For PHC’s first Biblical Emphasis Week, Dr. Gareth Lee Cockerill, professor of New Testament and Biblical Theology from Wesley Biblical Seminary, taught on the Book of Hebrews.
“I want students to come away with a sense of the full sufficiency of Jesus Christ, and a determination to live as if the promises of God are true and His power is present,” said Cockerill, who served for nine years as a missionary in Sierra Leone, West Africa. He also recently published a commentary on Hebrews as part of the New International Commentary on the New Testament Series, and has written several other pieces on Hebrews.
The theme of Christ’s all-sufficiency and power was prevalent throughout his teaching, clearly impacting many of the students who attended his sessions.
“He showed that we can’t snap our fingers and make that faith happen,” Butler said. “It’s a choice. And when we read His Word, we make that choice.”
Cockerill taught five messages on “The Gospel in Hebrews”; although the evening sessions were not required, both teachings boasted a sizeable turnout. Over 50 students attended the Tuesday evening teaching, and approximately 60 were present on Wednesday night, including several professors and alumni.
Students attend one of Dr. Cockerill's lectures during Biblical Emphasis Week, spring 2010.
“Dr. Cockerill is an incredible orator,” Hall said. “I think a lot of students are actually getting spiritual growth out of it. It’s hard to find time for the Word here, it’s always so hard to find time, but it’s so important to make time. I think this week showed people that.”
Junior Abby Wolking said she often has skimmed over the “Hall of Faith” chapter in Hebrews 11. The sessions have encouraged her to look more closely at the text.
“I like the way he delved into it and explained it more,” Wolking said. “It definitely showed me that the chapters you skim over are important, and you should take the time to read them.”
Dr. Walker hopes that Biblical Emphasis week will give students a “renewed love for the text of Scripture, and a fresh habit of lingering in it daily.”
While admitting it is difficult to find devotional time at PHC, Eckel did not believe that Biblical Emphasis Week would necessarily change the way or amount students study. Rather, she said that previously cultivated habits are what make the difference between regular time in God’s Word, and forgetting to study.
“It can be difficult… but it’s more about picking a time and sticking with it,” she said. “If you try to order your day around it, it’s not a problem at all.”
Many students were inspired by Dr. Cockerill’s love of God’s Word, which was evident to them in every session. “I want to be like him when I grow up,” Butler said. “We can all have that passion -- that’s supposed to be the norm, not the exception… But do these Scriptures motivate us the way they motivate him? The way they move him to tears?”
This passion shone through at lunch on Monday, as Dr. Cockerill talked with several students about Melchisedec and shared insights and tips on devotional time. He was often on the verge of tears as he talked about the Bible.
“I always want to draw people in to love God’s Word more,” he said. “I love it. I love it so much.”