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ix FOREWORD Heather Templeton Dill In 2016 the judges for the Templeton Prize selected Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks as the 2016 Templeton Prize Laureate. Rabbi Sacks was honored for his effective engagement with faith leaders outside of the Jewish tradition, for his pioneering leadership of the Jewish community in the British Commonwealth, and for his ability to communicate what Rabbi Sacks called the dignity of difference, a recognition that the differences between faith traditions are a source of strength and not something to be deemphasized in the search for peaceful coexistence. Sir John Templeton created the Templeton Prize in 1972 because he worried that his friends and colleagues had come to see religion and religious belief as boring, old fashioned, and even obsolete. Sir John’s concerns may have been justified. As Rabbi Sacks explains in his opening essay, the secularization thesis seemed to capture the cultural zeitgeist that prevailed during the last third of the twentieth century, even as the tenets of that thesis were beginning to unravel. Today, there is room to question the secularization thesis, as many authors in this volume make clear. But while religion has the capacity to impact the world for good through its moral teachings and its ethical standards, religion has and continues to be a source of great conflict and division. Rabbi Sacks has pointed out on numerous occasions that religion is a source of many geopolitical problems and social tensions. But he has also said that religion must be part of the solution. This x Foreword insight is another reason the judges for the Templeton Prize chose Rabbi Sacks as the 2016 Templeton Laureate. At the root of Rabbi Sacks’ work is a deep commitment to scholarship and spiritual reflection. When Rabbi Sacks delivered the Templeton Prize lecture entitled “Faith in the Future: The Promise and Perils of Religion in the 21st Century” at the 2016 meeting of the Academy of American Religion and Society of Biblical Literature, he challenged theologians and professors of religious studies to pursue academic study for the sake of breaking down barriers between religious traditions. “Every one of us knows,” Rabbi Sacks said, “that every religion has hard texts, texts which if taken literally and applied directly lead to hatred and violence and terror and war.” Because these so-­ called hard texts can be condemnatory in nature, Rabbi Sacks says they must be reconsidered and reinterpreted. “The interpretation of religious texts has suddenly become incredibly important in the twenty-­ first century,” Rabbi Sacks argued in his lecture. “I believe the only response adequate to the challenge of violent religious extremism in the twenty-­ first century is to begin a long process of rereading those hard texts in the context of the twenty-­ first century.”1 But rereading “hard texts” also requires spiritual reflection. In his book The Dignity of Difference, Rabbi Sacks writes about the significance of diversity, “the glory of the created world,” as manifested in part through the great variety of religious institutions and the distinct beliefs and practices that characterize the world’s great religious traditions . “If we listen carefully,” he writes, “we will hear the voice of wisdom telling us something we need to know.” This is not, however, a straightforward claim. “This is a large and difficult idea,” says Rabbi Sacks, “and I came to understand it only after wrestling with the place of religion in the modern and postmodern world.”2 This book builds on Rabbi Sacks’ interest in examining the paradoxes and complexities that often keep us from seeing the true nature of reality, and responds to the directive he issued to the theologians, philosophers, and biblical scholars at the 2016 AAR/SBL Conference. At that lecture, Rabbi Sacks encouraged religion scholars, theologians, and biblical scholars to work on the hard texts found in the Torah, the Bible, and the Qur’an. In this present volume, Rabbi Sacks seeks new insights and calls for further reflection on the stories that define our religious commitments and our spiritual identities. The scholarship we pursue to understand and reassess religious teachings and religious narratives can sow the seeds of mutual respect and a generosity of spirit Foreword xi between faith traditions. Because religion isn’t going away, as Rabbi Sacks has said, it must therefore be a source of reconciliation. “Interreligious theological enquiry,” an idea William Storrar discusses in his contribution to this book,3 will play an important role. Sir John Templeton was not a steadfast adherent to a particular faith...


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