Rabbi Sacks Awarded 2016 Templeton Prize

Rabbi Lord Sacks FKC, PhD alumnus and Emeritus Professor of Law, Ethics and the Bible at King’s College London has been awarded the 2016 Templeton Prize.

The Templeton Prize honours a living person who has made an exceptional contribution to affirming life’s spiritual dimension, whether through insight, discovery, or practical works. Established in 1972 by the late Sir John Templeton, the Prize aims to identify outstanding individuals who have devoted their talents to expanding our vision of human purpose and ultimate reality.

Rabbi Sacks has received the 2016 Templeton Prize in recognition of his lifelong work bringing spiritual insight to the public conversation through mass media, popular lectures and more than two dozen books, much of which he has done at King’s. Nominated by former Archbishop of Canterbury and King’s alumnus Lord Carey, Rabbi Sacks joins a distinguished group of 45 former recipients, including Mother Teresa, the Dalai Lama and another fellow King’s alumnus Archbishop Desmond Tutu.

Central to his message is appreciation and respect of all faiths, with an emphasis that recognizing the values of each is the only path to effectively combat the global rise of violence and terrorism.

In his most recent book, Not in God’s Name: Confronting Religious Violence, Rabbi Sacks writes: “Too often in the history of religion, people have killed in the name of the God of life, waged war in the name of the God of peace, hated in the name of the God of love and practiced cruelty in the name of the God of compassion. When this happens, God speaks, sometimes in a still, small voice almost inaudible beneath the clamour of those claiming to speak on his behalf. What he says at such times is: ‘Not in My Name.’”

Last week Rabbi Sacks joined a special panel event at King’s to discuss the impact of the analysis in his book, with fellow King’s academics and scholars, at which he described his experiences of interfaith meetings and dialogues during his time as Chief Rabbi. He said how inspired he was sharing prayers with Imams, Rabbis and Christian priests at Ground Zero in New York in 2002. It was, he said, the perfect illustration of the juxtaposition of the good and bad of religion in one single place.

Rabbi Sacks has also boldly defended the compatibility of religion and science, a response to those who consider them necessarily separate and distinct. “Science takes things apart to see how they work. Religion puts things together to see what they mean,” he wrote in his book, The Great Partnership: Science, Religion, and the Search for Meaning.

Each year’s Prize Laureate is presented with a series of Big Questions, a tradition that echoes the legacy of founder Sir John Templeton, the legendary investor and philanthropist who sought to foster and recognize spiritual progress. Rabbi Sacks tackles many issues, in a series of videos , including the recent spread of religious violence which he argues has been sparked by the export of Western secularization.

Unfortunately, he says, that secularization has failed to provide guidance on core issues of human identity, creating a vacuum being filled by religious fundamentalism that often stokes hatred. The parallel rise of social media has engulfed an ever larger swath of the population, especially youth.

The solution, he contends, is to match the violence with “a message of love as powerful as the message being delivered by the preachers of hate,” adding, “it really has to speak to young people and we have to use the same social networking, the same technology as the extremists and we’ve got to do it as well and better than they do.”

Professor Ed Byrne, President & Principal of King’s College London, said, ‘It is testament to Professor Rabbi Lord Sacks’ standing that he has been awarded the Templeton Prize, an impressive and outstanding achievement. We’d like to congratulate him on this honour which recognises his important contribution to interfaith relations and our greater understanding of the importance of different faiths around the world.’

The Revd Canon Professor Richard A. Burridge, Dean of King’s College London and Professor of Biblical Interpretation said: ‘We’re delighted that Rabbi Lord Sacks has received this prestigious award. His contribution to King’s and our wider community has reached far beyond the university campuses and Rabbi Sacks is the second prize winner from King’s in four years, joining Archbishop Desmond Tutu, who received his award in 2013. It is also significant that Rabbi Sacks was nominated for this honour by Lord Carey, so King’s is clearly making an impact!’

In nominating Rabbi Sacks for the Prize, Lord Carey, himself a fellow King’s alumnus, wrote: “There are public intellectuals and religious leaders, but few who are both at the same time. There are academic scholars and popular communicators, but he is both, reaching out far beyond his own constituency through the spoken, written and broadcast word.”

Jennifer Simpson, Chair of the John Templeton Foundation Board of Trustees, noted that Rabbi Sacks epitomizes future-mindedness, a characteristic revered by her grandfather, Sir John Templeton and father, the late Foundation president and chairman Dr. Jack Templeton. “After 9/11, Rabbi Sacks saw the need for a response to the challenge posed by radicalization and extremism and he did so with dignity and grace,” she notes. “He saw the need for the strengthening of ethics in the marketplace long before the financial crisis.”

Rabbi Sacks will formally receive the Templeton Prize at a public ceremony in London in May.