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On “Belief”: A Story of Protectionism

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Chapter Summary

In the vociferous debate between Smith and Wiebe, brought substantial theoretical differences between the two clearly and productively into focus. Smith's claim in Belief and History was that the emphasis on "belief" is not present in many or even most forms of religion. Wiebe's review essay focuses primarily on the claim that modern emphasis on doctrinal or propositional "belief" might be only anachronistically projected onto pre-modern Christianity. Nevertheless all forms of religion involve cognitive or noetic elements that we now identify as "beliefs". Wiebe seems to fear that, for Smith, the "subjective certainty" of insiders perhaps supplants or trumps the scholar's "intersubjectively testable evidence attesting the claims to knowledge". For Smith, "faith" and "belief" are conceptually separate, although "faith" perhaps quite rightly involves or assumes "belief". Smith agrees with Wiebe on this point: all forms of "faith" or "religion" involve belief. Thus, Wiebe's critique is still worth taking seriously.

Keywords: "belief"; "faith"; Christianity; Smith; Wiebe



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