A Grander Story, Rick Hove and Heather Holleman. Orlando: Cru Press, 2017.
Summary: An invitation to professors and graduate students who are Christians to live for the grand vision of God’s story in their life in higher education, including narratives of six professors, and practical recommendations.
Very simply, this book nails it in casting a vision for Christians called to academia. The writers, associated with a sister ministry to the one I work with set out a vision of lives nobly lived as part of God’s great story. I found myself saying “Amen” on almost every page and thinking of groups of grad students and faculty who would be helped by reading and discussing this book.
The opening four chapters of the book articulate the grander story, the story of God’s redemptive purposes in the world and the grand person of Christ at the heart of the story. Then they turn to discuss the grander being and grander doing that faculty captivated by this vision might experience. It begins with being a different kind of person under a new leader. It extends into all that faculty do in teaching, research, relationships, and service. They invite faculty to consider the metanarratives of their disciplines and the distinctive contributions Christian thought might make in the research questions they explore. This life is also marked by the different ways they engage disagreements and how they serve others.
The second part of the book consists of six narratives by faculty working in different fields: Ken Elzinga in economics, Susan Siaw in psychology, Walter Bradley in mechanical engineering, Phil Bishop in exercise physiology, John Walkup in electrical engineering, and Heather Holleman in English. Their accounts describe their academic work, their relationships with students and how they have had opportunities to witness to Christ with students and peers, opportunities in missions, and participation in faculty groups on their campuses. Heather Holleman’s account was especially striking to me in its narrative of how she intentionally arrives early and prays for each of the students who will be in the seats of her classroom.
The final two chapters summarize these accounts in “best practices” and a concluding chapter that articulates the authors longings for higher education and Christian presence in this arena. The book also includes two appendices dealing with legal questions. Many professors are obeying laws that don’t exist and not availing themselves of the freedoms they have. At the same time, there are appropriate cautions of being aware of policies about use of university emails and facilities.
The book is designed to be read and discussed by graduate students and faculty. Short chapters with many personal examples that readers can identify with are very helpful. Each chapter ends with several discussion questions that could be discussed in a 45 minute luncheon meeting. I also think the book does a great job in casting a vision and offering hope for what can happen in colleges and universities for those in the church who might despair about the “godless university.” Anyone who reads this has to conclude that our colleges and universities and the people who work in them are part of the grander story God is writing.