Initiative: Methods of Inquiry

We’re always seeking to improve the methods of inquiry into the existence and nature of spiritual realities.

According to Sir John, diversity—or in TRT parlance, pluralism—means progress, for “diversity provides for a freedom and a loving and healthy competition without which there might be only lesser progress.” (The Humble Approach, 168) And here it is important to note that Sir John was interested in two types of diversity or pluralism: methodological and religious.

This initiative is seeking to improve the methods of inquiry into the existence and nature of spiritual realities, making them more diverse (in a mutually reinforcing way), more nuanced, more reliable, and more fertile. Methods of inquiry includes the social and normative aspects of human knowledge acquisition.


Now, by “methods” we mean what Bernard Lonergan described (with reference to method in theology) as “a normative pattern of recurrent and related operations yielding cumulative and progressive results” (Method in Theology, 17), and by “inquiry,” we mean what he meant when he said: “Every inquiry aims at transforming some unknown into a known. Inquiry itself, then, is something between ignorance and knowledge. It is less than knowledge, else there would be no need to inquire. It is more than sheer ignorance, for it makes ignorance manifest and strives to replace it with knowledge. This intermediary between ignorance and knowing is an intending, and what is intended is an unknown that is to be known.” (Method in Theology, 24)

Put simply, by “inquiry” we mean both the state of being “between ignorance and knowledge”—how little we know—and the striving “to replace [ignorance] with knowledge.” As a program initiative, methods of inquiry begins with how little we know—less than 1%—coupled with an optimism rooted in critical realism. We are always seeking, in this case, to replace ignorance with knowledge, and this by way of diverse methods and interdisciplinary engagement.

Strategy: Art Seeking Understanding

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Is there an empirical connection between art and understanding?

Various theories have been advanced over the years — pleasure, beauty, expression or stimulations of emotion — but, as the philosopher Gordon Graham writes, “none of them can on its own explain the special value of great art.” So what does Graham propose? That art is valuable as a source of knowledge and understanding. But is there an empirically demonstrable connection between art and understanding with reference to what Sir John referred to as spiritual reality? Can art provide new spiritual information?

Strategy: Science & Religion In Context

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How and why do people think about science and religion the way they do?

What factors influence the ways that people react to the findings of science and the teachings of religions, particularly when they seem to intersect? Arguments and evidence certainly have a role to play. But what accounts for the wide spectrum of opinion about the relationship between science and religion? Why are some people persuaded while others are not by the same arguments and evidence? How do underlying psychological, social, cultural or other contextual factors shape the different ways people approach the relationship between science and religion in various settings and with respect to various issues?

Initiative: Covenantal Pluralism
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How can we transform religious diversity from a troublesome fact we’re stuck with and simply have to learn to tolerate into a positive asset?

What conditions contribute to progress in religion? In religions, as in science and the economy, progress is possible, but under what conditions? Sir John Templeton believed that a key factor is cooperative, constructive engagement across deep religious differences. Religions are often seen as competing for people’s hearts and minds, and to some extent this is true. But can religions engage one another cooperatively and constructively? How can we leverage religious diversity to make the world a better place? What are the conditions under which this can happen, and what are the most effective ways of fostering cooperative engagement across deep differences?

Initiative: Social Consequences of Religion
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Are religions part of the problem or part of the solution?

What do we really know about the social consequences of religions, and what more can we learn about them? Sir John Templeton regarded religious faith and practice as a dynamic, prosocial force—a force for good in the world, part of and even a source of solutions to the wide range of problems we face, like poverty and sickness. But religions are often associated with negative social outcomes like intolerance and conflict. How can we increase the social dividends associated with religious faith and practice and reduce the negative effects that can occur when religions gets mixed up with other factors, like fear or greed?

Templeton Prize
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Dr. Pumla Gobodo-Madikizela Receives 2024 Templeton Prize

Co-funded by the Templeton philanthropies, and administered by the John Templeton Foundation, the Templeton Prize honors individuals whose exemplary achievements advance Sir John Templeton’s philanthropic vision: harnessing the power of the sciences to explore the deepest questions of the universe and humankind’s place and purpose within it.