This text appeared as the introduction to the Possibilities newsletter dated September 26, 2017.
One of the most inspiring parts of my role at the John Templeton Foundation is the stewardship of the Templeton Prize, created by my grandfather in 1972 (long before the Foundation itself!). Thanks to the expansive nomination and selection process, conducted by distinguished judges independent of the Foundation, each year the Prize winner is in many respects notably different from the last — including, over the years, noted humanitarians, scholars, religious leaders, and scientists. In recent years, we have conferred the Prize on the Czech Catholic priest Father Tomáš Halík, L’Arche founder Jean Vanier, and British Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks. They all have inspired me with their intellect, heart, character, and spirit.
And this past Sunday, in a ceremony at the Field Museum in Chicago, we awarded the 47th Templeton Prize to another remarkable figure, Dr. Alvin Plantinga, the American philosopher who made belief in God a serious option within academic philosophy.
Indeed, Dr. Plantinga’s career is a beautiful illustration of a central idea that Sir John wanted to advance — captured in the original name, “The Templeton Prize for Progress in Religion.” In an era where “progress” was associated with science and technology, Sir John believed that “a more than one hundredfold increase in spiritual information” was just as possible. Over his long career, Alvin Plantinga set the philosophy of religion on more rigorous and fruitful foundations while defending the essential rationality of religious belief. The fact that his efforts are now carried on by hundreds of philosophers all around the world, from many religious traditions, surely counts as exactly that kind of progress.
My grandfather wanted to bring greater attention to spiritual entrepreneurs “not so much for their own benefit but for the benefit of people who might be inspired by them.” In this special issue of Possibilities, drawn from the program of Sunday night’s memorable ceremony, we hope to inspire you in your own quest — whether or not you consider it a religious one — for the spiritual progress that still awaits us all.
Stay curious —
Heather Templeton Dill
President, John Templeton Foundation