Analyzing Smith´s The Meaning and End of Religion

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In his seminal work, The Meaning and End of Religion, Wilfred Cantwell Smith proposes using two separate concepts for religious studies. Believing that the conventional approach of studying “a religion” or “the religions” is inadequate and misleading, Smith states, “If religion or a religion is anything at all, it is not only in fact but in theory something in which actual living, historical persons are involved” (1838). Therefore, he offers his theories of examining “faith” and “cumulative tradition” as more valuable for any intellectual analysis of the religious experience of mankind. With these two separate, albeit, related concepts, Smith theorizes that religious studies can better grasp both the mundane and the transcendent aspects …show more content…
A severe rift has recently developed in the United Methodist Church concerning this very topic. While the church’s laws, found in the Methodist Book of Discipline, officially welcome and value homosexuals as members of the church, the laws also declare that the practice of homosexuality violates the church’s teaching, and they thereby prohibit practicing homosexuals from serving in the clergy and bar clergy from officiating at same-sex unions (Wangsness). Some members of the church have called for changes to the Book of Discipline, believing that the passages on homosexuality are contradictory. A number of clergy have even come to their own interpretation of church law, or openly violated it, when acting in accordance with their personal faith by officiating at same-sex unions (Otterman). This split in the United Methodist Church over gay marriage provides an excellent example of Smith’s reference to a Christian Church whose theology is inadequate and which could benefit from conscious reevaluation. To find a resolution to its current discord, Methodism may not survive in its current form. When examining the Methodist struggle with the issue of same-sex marriage in relation to Smith’s concepts of personal faith and cumulative tradition, one can better understand what the future may hold for the Methodist Church.
At a United Methodist trial held in Pennsylvania on November 19th of this year, the Rev.
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