An examination of the psychology of faith through the theologies of Paul Tillich, H. Richard Niebuhr and Wilfred Cantwell Smith : together with its implication for the construction of a universal theology
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The subject of faith has long been a subject of study for both theologians, whose prime concern has usually been with the nature and object of a particular faith, and philosophers of religion who have been more concerned with the relationship between faith and reason. This thesis differs from both such approaches in that its primary aim is to examine the psychological structure, functions and experience of the general phenomenon of human faith; that need to trust, be loyal to and centre one's life in something outside of oneself, It should not be identified with any one school of psychological theory; rather, its intention is to use a psychological description of faith to enhance the theological understanding of faith. Its methodology is to examine the psychology that underlies three particular theologians' understandings of faith: Paul Tillich, H, Richard Niebuhr and Wilfred Cantwell Smith. In addition to examining the psychology of faith, a second aim is to examine what the present author sees as a practical implication of such a psychological understanding of faith as expounded by W. C. Smith in his proposal for the construction of a universal theology. Chapter One is a general introduction to the thesis, a definition of terms and a brief examination of the place a psychology of faith has in the wider field of the psychology of religion. Chapters Two, Three and Four follow a similar format: each is a separate examination of the psychology that underlies Tillich's, Niebuhr's and Smith's understandings of faith respectively. In the case of Tillich and Niebuhr a differentiation is made between an objective psychological understanding of faith which concerns the functions and structure of faith and a subjective understanding which concerns the experience of faith. Chapter Five is in the form of a conclusion and proposes a uniform understanding of the psychology of faith based on the previous three authors. It also examines the main discrepancy between the authors' understandings of faith in their descriptions of the final object and source of faith. Following Chapter Five is a Postscript which examines W. C. Smith's proposal for the construction of a universal theology which the present author sees as a practical application of understanding faith psychologically.
Thesis, PhD Doctor of Philosophy
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