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Can Hope Endure?

Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.


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The spate of books written recently on Christian higher education highlights a common theme - how numerous colleges founded by church bodies have gradually lost their religious moorings, often culminating in what historian George Marsden calls "established nonbelief." Can Hope Endure? examines the history of Hope College in Holland, Michigan, as it has struggled to find a faithful middle way between secularization and withdrawal from mainstream academic and American culture. Authors James Kennedy and Caroline Simon track Hope College's responses to various social and intellectual challenges through careful analysis of school records, newspaper stories, extant histories, and interviews with faculty members and past presidents. Hope's history reveals that the school is exceptional, having followed the predictable trajectory, yet changing course in some ways. Given this unusual history, the story of why and how Hope College moved toward reestablishing the role of religion in its institutional life yields important lessons for other schools facing the same challenges. Neither an attack on Hope College nor the kind of celebratory institutional history that so many schools have authorized, this book is instead a thoughtful, instructive study written by two professors who have witnessed firsthand many of Hope's struggles to retain its identity and purpose. The book's narrative is enriched by the "binocular vision" provided by a professional historian and a professional philosopher, and collaboration has afforded Kennedy and Simon the critical distance necessary to ask hard questions about Hope and, by extension, other institutions like it. Can Hope Endure? will be of real interest not only to readers associated with Hope College but also to those following or participating in the ongoing conversation about Christianity and higher education.

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