Conference on Faith and History
Introduction to William Vance Trollinger's plenary presentation:
I agree with Prof. Sommerville that in too many places the secular university has trivialized religion and religious commitment, and that it is high time for religion to be welcomed into our academic debates. I say this even while I take issue with some of the particulars in Prof. Sommerville’s book. I will give two examples related to our discipline of history.
First, Prof. Sommerville decries that “secularist humanities have declared war on metanarratives because of their hegemonic power.” But I confess that I am very pleased to see the demise of metanarratives in our discipline of history, not only because such metanarratives are hegemonic (of course they are), but also because they are false and distortive, and do not mesh with our understanding of ourselves as sinful human beings with only partial understanding.
Second, while I agree with Prof. Sommerville that there are problems with moving willy-nilly from Western civilization courses to courses in “world history” — precisely because it has proven to be very difficult to construct meaningful historical narratives that actually encompass the globe — I also think that the folks who have pushed us to think about much more carefully about global connections and global encounters and the world beyond Europe have done all of us a great favor by making clear that the notion of “Western civilization” is, in the end, a very problematic construct that has never been neutral in its content.
Copyright © 2008, William Vance Trollinger.
Place of Publication
Trollinger, William Vance, "A Response to John Sommerville’s 'The Decline of the Secular University'" (2008). History Faculty Publications. 13.