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Philanthropic Vision

Dialogue between Science and Religion

A centerpiece of Sir John's vision of the future was the prospect of an informed, far-reaching dialogue between science and religion:

Does the present offer theology a greatly expanded vision of the cosmos and of historical process and potentiality? Most excitingly, is an important challenge for theology opened up on the possibility of spiritual progress? How can theologians and religious communities research ways to develop real and beneficial aspects of spiritual progress? [Possibilities, p. 99]

Does the possibility of additional spiritual information depend upon scientists humble enough to admit that the unseen is vastly greater than the seen and upon theologians humble enough to admit that some older concepts of god may need to grow? Both hopefully can develop a vastly larger cosmology and wider, deeper theology, especially by working in creative dialogue. [Possibilities, p. 104]

A New Vocabulary for Spiritual Discourse

A productive dialogue between science and religion may require the development of a new vocabulary to facilitate communication among all parties concerned. Sir John called attention to this need:

Could discovery be accelerated if we find words with greater clarity to be used in place of some old words that instantly arouse prejudices in the minds of many great intellects? If the word theology is used mainly by those who study biblical concepts, could another word be found to show that discoveries of all sciences may be, in reality, discoveries of infinite intellect?

In the minds of some scientists and other intellectuals, do the words infinite intellect arouse fewer unconscious prejudices than the ancient word god which has been so different in various civilizations? Can the word revelation come to mean not only god revealing himself but also humans diligently discovering more of infinite intellect? [Possibilities, p. 151]

Leadership by the Best Minds

Sir John expected those with exceptional cognitive talents to play a special role in humanity's search for new ideas:

Perhaps only about one child in a million is born with talents which seem almost superhuman in one or more ways. Why does god's process of evolution produce these rare geniuses on earth? Is it the divine plan that they should help all people to progress?

The one in a million who contributes a new idea to humanity can be a blessing to billions, which helps god's creation continue to progress. [Possibilities, p. 43]

There is also a special role for those with exceptional spiritual gifts:

In addition to the geniuses given more-than-human minds, god also creates saints and prophets gifted with more-than-human souls. A prophet is a pioneer in the vast uncharted regions of the spirit. For spiritual progress to flourish, do we need to cultivate interest and humility to listen carefully and learn from such people, recognizing their important gifts? [Possibilities, pp. 43-44]

Sir John therefore urged strong support for those exceptional people who will lead the search for new spiritual information:

A major aim of the Templeton Foundation is to help those relatively rare and visionary entrepreneurs who are trying to encourage all religions to become enthusiastic about the concepts of spiritual progress and new spiritual information, especially by linking with scientific methods and lines of inquiry.

If benefits from this approach can be practically demonstrated, then it may be welcomed and can help to reinvigorate appreciation for and to supplement the wonderful ancient scriptures which stand at the core of most religious cultures. [Possibilities, p. 11]

Benefits for All of Humanity

Sir John acknowledged that there was no consensus about the nature or possibility of spiritual laws:

When any field of research is begun, no one can possibly predict what may eventually be discovered. Astronomers before Copernicus could not have predicted or even imagined the galaxies or supernovas or pulsars that we are now aware of. In the same way, no one can yet say what laws of the spirit will be formulated and eventually verified. [Possibilities, p. 158]

But he was impressed by the many contributions to spiritual understanding already furnished by the world's great religious traditions, especially concerning the power of love:

Maybe we will discover that love is indeed the basic force in the spiritual world. Could Dante have been correct when he said, ""It is love which moves the sun and stars"? Can both theologians and scientists be enthusiastic to convince skeptics by many various experiments and by collecting many statistics to test repeatedly worldwide many such spiritual laws? [Possibilities, p. 163]

Indeed, Sir John believed that the power of love might well hold the key to advances in human spiritual and material welfare:

Bestowing technology and know-how on people in poor nations is a blessing; but the lasting blessing may be people who can radiate love and joy as they research and teach the basic spiritual realities, which then lead to progress, improved skills, spiritual wealth, and also material prosperity. Who can devise additional scientific or statistical research to test these concepts? [Possibilities, p. 129]

Conclusion

Sir John Templeton wanted his philanthropy to reach scientists, theologians, and opinion leaders, but his ultimate audience was all of humankind. He hoped to help every man and woman to acquire a passion for humble discovery, including discovery about God and God's purposes.

Sir John's aim was to liberate and empower the human mind, to encourage people to overcome their passivity and fatalism and to ask probing questions about life and existence. Humility and open-mindedness provided the surest path, he believed, to both material and spiritual progress.

In the face of God's creation, Sir John was consumed by a deep and abiding gratitude. Each new discovery reinforced this sense of gratitude and provided, in Sir John's view, evidence of both God's love for humankind and His call to each of us to join a process of continuous creativity.

Published Works:

Is Progress Speeding Up? Our Multiplying Multitudes of Blessings (1997)

This book is a thought-provoking view of the progress of humankind in the last century. Sir...

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