Tomáš Halík Wins 2014 Templeton Prize

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2014 Templeton Prize Laureate Tomáš Halík. Credit: Templeton Prize/Tony Isbitt
2014 Templeton Prize Laureate Tomáš Halík. Credit: Templeton Prize/Tony Isbitt

The 2014 Templeton Prize has been awarded to Msgr. Prof. Tomáš Halík, a Czech priest and philosopher who risked imprisonment for advancing religious and cultural freedoms after the Soviet occupation of his country. He has since become a leading international advocate for dialogue among different faiths and non-believers, arguing that today the key difference is not between theists and atheists, but between “dwellers” and “seekers.”

The difference turns on how individuals engage with the Big Questions that have become a hallmark of the Templeton Prize and reflect the deep interest of its founder, Sir John Templeton. Alongside a collection of his writing on the Prize website, Halík discusses topics in five videos including whether evil in the world proves there is no God and whether God is an answer or a question.

[sz-youtube url=”https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aMu5nNNWksY” caption=”Tomáš Halík speaks on the Big Questions” /]

Halík argues that doubt is an implicit part of faith because it leads to maturity. He also stresses the virtue of patience. In fact, Patience with God, the title of a book published in 2009, is what theistic and atheistic fundamentalisms fail to cultivate. Halík believes that a majority of people today hold a spiritual hope in an unnamed “something,” even in his highly secularized home country. His own faith, Christianity, values such marginal convictions because it follows Jesus, the man who gravitated towards the margins of the community of believers.

In his book Night of the Confessor, published in 2012, Halík develops the theme by reflecting on his long experience as a priest, sitting with people who confided in him with their conflicts and doubts. “The confessor comes into contact with something that is more general and common to all, something that lies beneath the surface of individual lives and belongs to a kind of ‘hidden face of the times’,” he writes. This is an honest yearning that is characteristic of our age and speaks of a kind of faith that has more to do with love than belief, he continues.

After all, we cannot believe in God in the same way that we believe in the existence of another human being, because God is not another being but the source of being itself. Belief in God is, therefore, more like seeing in the light. “I cannot see light,” Halík explains in another recent book, Chci, abys byl (I want you to be). “I can only see things in light. Likewise I cannot see and visualize God… With faith all I can do is ‘see’ the world ‘in God’.”

Halík epitomizes spiritual progress in his pursuit of greater truths, noted Dr. Jack Templeton, president and chairman of the John Templeton Foundation. “Whether risking prison to liberate the minds of his nation or daring to engage views that many keepers of the faith would shun as heretical, Tomáš Halík has continually opened vistas that advance humankind,” he said. “For many years, Prof. Halík has been building bridges between various religions, cultures and nations,” said Karel Schwarzenberg, the former Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Czech Republic. “Through his life and work, he has helped foster respect for spiritual and religious values among secular public opinion.”

[sz-youtube url=”https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_1MvpWrP7yk” caption=”Templeton Prize News Conference” /]

The award was announced extensively in the world’s press. Reuters reported that he would use the prize money to develop his work on dialogue with other faiths and atheists. The Prague Daily Monitor said that Halík received the prize also for his work in the underground church under the communist regime. The Catholic Herald called Halík a “deserving winner.”

Valued at £1.1 million (about $1.8 million or €1.3 million), the Prize is one of the world’s largest annual awards given to an individual and honors a living person who has made exceptional contributions to affirming life’s spiritual dimension, whether through insight, discovery, or practical works. Its 43 former recipients include Mother Teresa, who received the inaugural Prize award in 1973, Rev. Billy Graham (1982) and Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn (1983). Last year’s Templeton Prize recipient, Desmond Tutu, the former Anglican archbishop of Cape Town, South Africa, followed the 2012 Templeton Laureate, His Holiness the Dalai Lama. Tomáš Halík will be formally awarded the Templeton Prize at a public ceremony in London in May.