My first duty is to welcome you all to this the sixth celebration of The Templeton Award. Any of you who, like myself, are here for the first time, perhaps even, again like myself, for the first time hearing what The Templeton Award is all about, must be moved and stirred that such an event could take place at all. I say it again, you are all very welcome.
At the first celebration of the Award in 1973 the Chairman was His Royal Highness The Duke of Edinburgh. We thank him for his continued interest and for the proof of it in his having presented the Award to Professor Torrance in person this very morning.
My predecessors in this chair have been very distinguished. But Lord Butler, Master of Trinity College, Cambridge, who had accepted an invitation to take the Chair today is unfortunately not well enough. We must all regret his absence and wish him speedy recovery of good health. In the meantime you find yourselves today Chaired by an Archbishop from the other part of the world. I am standing in for Lord Butler and am immensely honoured.
There are others besides Lord Butler who would like to have been present today. Telegrams have been received from Mr. Leo Tindemans, Prime Minister of Belgium and others.
I must also on your behalf, say a word of thanks to the very distinguished (and no doubt extremely busy) men who have judged the Award. There cannot be many for whom it might be claimed that in any one year they have led the world in ‘increasing man’s love for God or man’s understanding of God’ (to quote from the brochure in your hands). But I can imagine that it might be extremely difficult to decide which amongst the few outstanding people should receive the Award. We thank them for all the time and care they have given to their most uncommon task.
It will be for Dr. McCord to express to Professor Torrance our congratulations and to speak about him. I hope you will allow me at this point to give him my personal thanks. As a good Presbyterian he would be critical — not without good reason — of the claim of Bishops to be ‘doctors of the Church’. But whether they deserve the title or not — and certainly ‘doctor’ is a word that makes too great a claim — they are commissioned at Consecration to teach the Faith, and whether they like it or not, their job compels them to teach. This has been my experience as a bishop and I want to tell him that I have been greatly aided by his writings and by the writings of many other leading theologians who, in this day and age — a very strange and difficult age — have helped us to read the Bible with a new understanding of its greatness, and have helped us to understand the relevance of the Gospel to this and every age, and to preach it — so at least we hope — in words and thought-forms that can be understood by men and women and boys and girls whose minds have been dominated — even sometimes conditioned — by a hangover of a materialist philosophy, claiming the support of the almost incredible advances in every branch of science. You might perhaps wonder what theology has got to do with The Templeton Award for forwarding the ‘Progress of Religion’. The answer is easy: (a) The Church needs its research students of science. (b) We all need to try to understand our faith: No understanding: No practice.
And that leads me to say thank you to Dr. Templeton for having thought of such an Award and for having founded and endowed it. I am sure that he and his wife would insist that neither the idea nor the gift originated with himself. He would say that he was ‘led’ to think of it and ‘given’ the where-with-all to make it. We all quite rightly applaud the leadership in religion that has been given by six recipients of the Award. But we also applaud the leadership that Dr. Templeton has himself given.
We thank him for the breadth and depth of the scope of the Award: it aims at ‘providing recognition of ideas, insights or accomplishments which have been or may be instrumental in widening or deepening man’s knowledge or love of God, and thereby furthering the quest for the quality of life that mirrors the Divine’.
Let me ask you, by way of introduction to our main business, to fix your thoughts for a few minutes, on this statement of aim — under three headings: mystery, humanity and community.
A certain man typical of the urban dweller of our ‘all-mod-cons’ western cities, was standing in his back garden with his 10-year-old son, one fine night, looking up at the stars. The man, un-typical in that he was a church-goer, was moved to exclaim. ‘The heavens declare the glory of God and the firmament showeth his handiwork’. The boy, also looking up at the stars, said ‘Dad, which did we put up?’ Both the exclamation and the question are perfectly legitimate. The glory of the sky spoke to the father of the glory of God, to the boy of the glory of man — though he could not have put it like that. The tragedy of our day, so clearly perceived by Dr. Templeton, is that not just the boy, but a whole generation, a whole world, is becoming blind to the glory of God and is being moduled — even conditioned — by the marvels of applied science to see only the glory of man. The one saw mystery through and beyond the physical, the other saw only human achievement in the conquest of the universe and a challenge to greater conquests still. The Templeton Award is given to encourage those who are giving the world the double sight so desperately needed — the vision of the greatness of human personality but at the same time a vision of the mystery of God who stands above the created universe, and is its creator.
‘Mystery’ writes Alan Ecclestone, ‘is not a problem or a puzzle to be solved, but a truth which outstretches yet commands the attention of the human mind, defies discovery while it courts it, evokes veneration while it offers itself to be known by the least of its creatures’ . . . ‘it embraces God and man’. One could feel sorry for the boy in that his up-bringing and environment had made him blind to mystery and had impoverished his life. He could have been so rich. Hilaire Belloc once said that he felt sorry for the atheist: he had no one to thank for the good things and the happinesses of life which he knew he hadn’t made or earned.
And yet the glory of a human being consists chiefly in this very thing, that he or she is a most mysterious being and has the capacity to perceive mystery. Archbishop Temple told his Oxford audience of the Londoner who always if he possibly could, travelled by underground because, as he said, ‘in the underground I see only man- made achievement. If I travel by bus I am bound to see a tree, one of the works of nature, and I am disturbed by the mystery of living nature which is beyond the contrivance of any human being’. But in fact, even in the underground, he could not escape the mystery of life which confronted him in every fellow traveller. And the Templeton Award is concerned to remind us of the claim — the infinite claim — that every human being makes. The first person to receive the Award was Mother Teresa — a living witness to the claim upon us of every human being, even the lowest, the poorest and the most helpless.
The Templeton Award is indeed concerned with the advancement of knowledge by theological science and physical science: it is also concerned for progress in the care of human beings first because they are human and therefore spiritual beings. But it is also interested in the progress of the Kingdom of God, or, if you prefer it, in progress towards communion, community, fellowship: it doesn’t matter what word you use. I fancy that it was as a great leader in Christian community that Brother Roger of the Taize Community was chosen to receive the Award. It is here that denominational and cultural boundaries mean less and less, and where alas, far from progress being made, class conflict and race conflict are sheer violence that seem to be destroying the small achievements in community which for the first few years after the war where showing signs of growth. The Templeton Award has no boundaries. It has already done a great deal to encourage the spiritual progress which it was founded to support.
We thank God for it and we shall pray that what has been so bravely begun will continue to receive His blessing.