Dr. David Cunningham

Professor of Religion and Director of NetVUE
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Dr. Cunningham is a Christian theologian and ethicist. He teaches courses in these areas, both on campus and abroad (in Hope’s Vienna Summer School program). He also teaches Introductory German and occasional First-Year Seminar or Senior Seminar courses.

Dr. Cunningham came to Hope in 2003. His first role at the college was as Founding Director of The CrossRoads Project, a program that focuses on the theological exploration of vocation. He works with other Hope faculty to develop a wide range of programs across campus that are designed to fulfill that program's goal: helping students to discern their vocations and to “think theologically about career, calling and life.”

In 2009, Dr. Cunningham helped to found a national consortium of colleges and universities that offer programs on vocation and calling: the Network for Vocation in Undergraduate Education (NetVUE). He currently directs that group’s Scholarly Resources Project, which is developing a series of books on the topic. The first of these, At This Time and In This Place: Vocation and Higher Education, will be published this year by Oxford University Press.

Dr. Cunningham’s scholarly research focuses on the relationship between Christian theology and the arts — especially literature and theater. He has published several books on this topic, and his current project examines the theological idea of revelation through the lens of drama theory and theatrical performance. He is also a theater enthusiast — primarily as a spectator, but occasionally as a participant. During his first semester at Hope, he played the Earl of Gloucester in the college’s production of King Lear.

AREAS OF expertise

  • Christian philosophical and systematic theology, with a special focus on theological method, the doctrine of the Trinity and the doctrine of revelation
  • The relationship of Christianity to philosophy, literature and drama in the modern era, with particular attention to the work of Shakespeare, Dostoevsky, Marx and Nietzsche
  • Christian ethics, especially its appropriation of the language of virtue from Aristotle and the incorporation of this language through the work of Augustine, Thomas Aquinas and modern authors
  • Vocation and calling, including programs for reflection on and discernment of one’s calling — understood both as a theological category and in its broader sense, focusing on living a life of meaning and purpose
  • The broader relationships between Christian faith and higher education, both in church-related liberal arts colleges (like Hope College) and theological seminaries
  • German language and literature
  • International education and scholarly exchange, with particular connections to the cities of Cambridge (England), Freiburg (Germany) and Vienna (Austria)
  • College writing centers and the administration of writing programs


  • Ph.D., Christian theology, 1990, Duke University
  • B.A./M.A., theology and religious studies, 1985, University of Cambridge
  • B.S.S., communication studies, 1983, Northwestern University


  • Louisville Institute, Christian Faith and Life Grant, 2009–2010
  • Alexander von Humboldt Fellowship, Freiburg (Germany), 2002–2003
  • Foreword magazine, Gold Award for Reading is Believing, 2002
  • Alan Richardson Fellowship, University of Durham (England), Easter Term 2000
  • "Sustaining the Theological Exploration of Vocation," a grant from the Lilly Endowment ($500,000) to extend the work of the CrossRoads Project at Hope College
  • "The Chicago Collegiate Seminarians Program," a grant from the Lilly Endowment (US$418,500) to bring college students to seminary for a term
  • The Bross Prize ($10,000), awarded once per decade for the best book on “the relation between any discipline or topic of investigation and the Christian religion,” for Faithful Persuasion, 1990


Authored Books

Edited Books

Selected articles and chapters

View Dr. Cunningham's work in Digital Commons

Outside the College

Dr. Cunningham lives in Holland with his wife, Marlies, and has two adult children, Nick and Lee. He is a member of Grace Episcopal Church in Holland. He and his family enjoy travel, languages, art museums, theater, hiking and food. These days, his favorite reads (other than Julia Child’s cookbook) are The New York Times, The New York Review of Books, and The New Yorker. (Is there a theme here? Yes, but although he gets to New York City fairly often, it’s not as often as he’d like.)

Dr. Cunningham grew up in Salina, Kansas, where his parents still live. He’s not a big sports fan, but to the extent that he pays attention to anything, it would be the German national soccer team, the Kansas City Royals, and Duke basketball — which means that, as he puts it, “it’s been a very good year.”

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Dr. David Cunningham

Phone Number616.395.6750

DeWitt Student & Cultural Center - Room 127 141 East 12th Street Holland, MI 49423-3617
A map showing the location for Dr. David Cunningham DeWitt Student & Cultural Center - Room 127 141 East 12th Street Holland MI 49423-3617