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Wilfred Cantweil Smith's concept of faith: a critical study of his approach to Islam and Christianity

Stevens, Philip Terence (1985) Wilfred Cantweil Smith's concept of faith: a critical study of his approach to Islam and Christianity. Masters thesis, Durham University.



The aim of this study is to present and evaluate Wilfred Cantwell Smith's concept of faith, and to examine the way in which he uses it to approach and understand material from the traditions of Islam and Christianity. Chapter one consists a brief introduction and a biography of Wilfred Cantwell Smith. The second chapter analyses Smith's concept of faith, relating it to cumulative tradition, belief, truth and his vision of a world community. Chapter three examines Smith's treatment of various material from the Islamic tradition: the meaning of Islām, the shahādah, truth, the Qur'ān, and some studies of faith. Chapter four examines material from the Christian tradition: faith in the New Testament, faith in the baptismal rites of St Cyril of Jerusalem, and religious pluralism. These items illustrate his concept of faith and the way in which it is used in his approach and understanding of Islām and Christianity. Chapter five provides an evaluation of Smith's concept of faith and of his approach to Islam and Christianity. It is argued that although the concept of faith helps the student of religion in general and Islam and Christianity in particular to keep his eyes open to the personal existential aspects of human religious life. Smith's approach has some serious deficiencies. In particular faith itself is difficult to study other than in a selective, subjective way. His approach undervalues the corporate, institutionalized aspects of religious life, and the symbolic function played by the externals of religion. Furthermore, his understanding of faith is ill-equipped to handle the conflicting truth-claims found amongst the various traditions.

Item Type:Thesis (Masters)
Award:Master of Arts
Thesis Date:1985
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:08 Feb 2013 13:48

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