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Doing the Templeton Twist

Part 2: Dancing With the Stars

By Sarah Leslie and Pastor Larry DeBruyn

Maybe one of the attributes of God is change. Did He decree the survival of the fittest? Maybe God intends us in some way to use the new power He has put into our hands in relation to selective breeding and recombinant DNA, to improve the human race.
-John Marks Templeton[1]

In “Dancing With the Stars,” Part 1, we reported on a symposium called “The Vibrant Dance of Faith and Science: Empowering the Church to Transform the Culture,” which was billed as “How Science Supports Christianity and Christianity Supports Science.” The history behind this event indicates that the merger of evangelical faith with science has been ongoing for decades, the recent symposium representing but the tip of a massive iceberg, As such, full reporting on the history and interconnections of the merger of faith and science lies beyond the scope of this blog.[2] However, several key points merit immediate scrutiny and, perhaps, further consideration and research.

Follow the Money Trail$$$$$

Numbers of links exist between the “Vibrant Dance” symposium’s co-sponsoring organizations and the Templeton Foundation. Most, if not all, of these groups have in some way or another benefited by funding from this foundation. The controversial Discovery Institute, one of the symposium’s co-sponsors and a chief purveyor of the Intelligent Design worldview, was at one time chiefly funded by Templeton.[3] The BioLogos Foundation also benefited from “a grant from the John Templeton Foundation.”[4] Both Calvin College and Regent College have received numerous grants from the same foundation.[5] Chuck Colson’s Center for Christian Worldview received a foundation grant for “Doing the Right Thing,” an “ethics” course,[6] as well as many other grants.[7] (In 1993 Colson received the Templeton Prize for Progress in Religion.[8]) Other links exist between Templeton Foundation personnel and these co-sponsoring organizations.[9]

These “Vibrant Dance” symposium’s co-sponsoring organizations are connected with the co-sponsor known as the ASA, The American Scientific Affiliation, an organization with longstanding ties to John Marks Templeton. Started in 1941 for the purpose of integrating science and religion, the ASA remained a somewhat obscure evangelical group for decades.[10] As early as 1978, the ASA reported favorably on the Templeton Foundation Prize for Progress in Religion, and said its purpose was “to highlight original and fruitful spiritual projects; to act as a catalyst in the quest for deeper understanding and pioneering breakthroughs in religious knowledge.” Significantly, the Affiliation’s newsletter announced that the award that year went to a professor who was described as a “pioneering influence in the new field of ‘theology of science.’”[11] The persistence of ASA can be accounted for by reason of the unceasing labors of Dr. Ralph Winter of Fuller Theological Seminary, who was possessed of a passionate interest for merging science and faith.[12] During the 1990s, the ASA became funded and dominated by one of its longtime members, John Marks Templeton.[13] Based on this group’s newsletters for decades, it is apparent that affiliated scholars, theologians and scientists were very interested in this “new field of ‘theology of science.’” They hoped to push the boundaries to expand the definitions of what constituted “science,” and as a corollary, what defined “truth.”

John Marks Templeton’s Quantum Quest

In understanding the current movement to merge science and faith, the role of John Marks Templeton cannot be underestimated. By pioneering the use of globally diversified mutual funds, Sir Templeton became a billionaire[14] who philanthropically employed his financial empire to fund his “passionate interest in ‘progress in religion’ and ‘research or discoveries’ on the nebulous borders of science and religion.”[15] When he died in 2008, one obituary explained his life’s quest:

In a career that spanned seven decades, Templeton dazzled Wall Street, organized some of the most successful mutual funds of his time, led investors into foreign markets, established charities that now give away $70 million a year, wrote books on finance and spirituality and promoted a search for answers to what he called the “Big Questions” in the realms of science, faith, God and the purpose of humanity.[16]

Interestingly, though “Templeton maintained a long association with the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A)” and “served as a trustee on the board of Princeton Theological Seminary,”[17] his religious beliefs were diverse; so much so, that in 1972 his foundation “began awarding the Templeton Prize for Progress Toward Research or Discoveries about Spiritual Realities.”[18] Hindus, Buddhists and Muslims were invited to serve on the panel of judges that awarded prizes. As noted:

[H]is annual Templeton Prize for Progress in Religion grew out of the philanthropist’s belief that honors equivalent to Nobel Prizes should be bestowed on living innovators in religious action and thought. Mother Teresa of Calcutta received the first prize in 1973. Other winners include evangelist Billy Graham, author Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn and theoretical physicist Paul Davies, one of several scientists so honored. Hindus, Jews, Buddhists and Muslims have been on the panel of judges and have been recipients.[19]

In accord with the makeup of the panel of judges, it can be noted that Hindus, Jews and Muslims also became recipients of prizes.

In 1987, Templeton set up the John Templeton Foundation and “contributed a sizable amount of his fortune to it.”[20] The Foundation became well known for funding research into the origin of life, evolution, cosmology and physics. Templeton was also involved in the Unity School of Christianity, “a religious movement within the wider New Thought movement.”[21] New Thought is best known for its “metaphysical beliefs concerning the effects of positive thinking, the law of attraction, healing, life force, creative visualization, and personal power.”[22] One obituary described how Unity influenced Templeton’s ideas about the cosmos:

Although he was a Presbyterian elder active in his denomination and served on the board of the American Bible Society, Templeton espoused what he called a “humble approach” to theology. Declaring that relatively little is known about God through scripture and present-day theology, he once predicted that “scientific revelations may be a gold mine for revitalizing religion in the 21st century.”

Templeton took a broad view of spirituality and ethics. He was influenced by the Unity School of Christianity, a movement that espouses a non-literal view of heaven and hell and a shared divinity between God and humanity. As he wrote, “We realize that our own divinity arises from something more than merely being ‘God’s children’ or being ‘made in his image.'”[23]

In John Templeton’s popular book The Humble Approach: Scientists Discover God, he identified the Unity School of Christianity as a source for his doctrine on the divinity of man and the evolution of revelation. He admitted:

The profound mutual indwelling between man and God may be better stated by the Unity School of Christianity, “God is all of me: and I am a little part of him.” Such a notion implies an interdependent relationship between God and us. And even “a little part of him,” we realize the mutual unity of God and his creation. We realize that our own divinity arises from something more profound than merely being “God’s children” or being “made in his image.”[24]

From his own writing, the following quotes evidence Templeton’s metaphysical beliefs:

And God is revealing Himself more and more to human inquiry, not always through prophetic visions or scriptures, but through the diligent research of modern scientists into observable phenomena and forces. The “golden age” of creation is being reached as God reveals Himself to human minds.[25]

God is five billion people on Earth and He is much more…. God is all of you and you are a little part of Him.[26]

Differing concepts of god have developed in different cultures. No one should say that God can be reached by only one path.[27]

Scriptures have been very beneficial to the whole world, but I am hoping we can develop a body of knowledge about God that doesn’t rely on ancient revelations or scripture.[28]

Humility of Heresy

Like many evangelical leaders, John Marks Templeton also talked about “the possibility of a great new reformation”[29] where men could “develop a vastly larger cosmology and a wider, deeper theology.”[30] He anticipated a “new renaissance” where “research into the laws of the spirit should be taken” by trained scientists and theologians.[31] To accomplish this, Templeton urged the readers of his book, The Humble Approach, to “humbly… admit that we know only a very little of God’s truth,”[32] be “open-minded” to “heretics,”[33] and accept “strange new ideas.”[34] These “strange new ideas” included ongoing “research in modern physics and cosmology and the new understanding of evolution in terms of the self-organization of the cosmos.”[35] Throughout his book, Templeton implied that theologians must become more “humble” so that they could accept heresy, particularly that evoked by evolutionary science. But he wasn’t talking about scientific evolution. He was referring to the mystical evolution articulated by the French Jesuit philosopher Pierre Teilhard de Chardin. In laudatory terms Templeton explained how “Teilhard believed we now possess a higher, more organic understanding of the cosmos which could serve as a basis for a new, unprecedented religion.”[36]

The Emergent Merging of Spirituality, Science and Mysticism

Sir John Templeton served on the Council for a Parliament of World Religions, a group which “promotes inter-religious dialogue and plans for the world’s ‘spiritual future by having government institutionalize a global ethic.’”[37] This organization held its first meeting over a century ago in 1893, and launched the world’s first major effort to unify all of the world’s religions. Templeton also funded the Metanexus Institute, an organization that crosses over the divide between New Age and postmodern evangelicals (metanexus means the above connection):

“When the Metanexus Institute on Science and Religion solicited research proposals for studying ‘spiritual transformation,’ its officials didn’t expect to be inundated with 500 applications…. Scientists proposed examining changes in the brain during prayer and the effect a religious CEO can have on corporate culture….

Metanexus, a scholarly organization funded by the John Templeton Foundation,will award 20 grants of between $75,000 and $150,000 to specialists to study the process of spiritual transformation in a variety of contexts…. Spiritual transformation is a dramatic change in world and self views, purposes, religious beliefs, attitudes and behavior… ‘Traditionally, transformation happens because of suffering, love and beauty,’…

“The gulf between science and religion remained until about 25 years ago. Since then, significant research has included studies described in The Transformed Self: The Psychology of Religious Conversion, a 1989 book by Chana Ullman. Ullman compares ‘conversion processes’ across different religious groups.”[38]

The Metanexus Institute was founded to be an organization completely compatible with Templeton’s ideal to bridge this “gulf between science and religion.” The organization’s history is explained by Dr. Solomon Katz, past president of Metanexus:

The John Templeton Foundation first funded the Metanexus Institute to develop and conduct a program of scientific research focused on spiritual transformation (STP). In July 2001, at the formal beginnings of the Metanexus Institute, we accepted the challenge of extending the already developed constructive dialogue between religion and science into a newly emergent field, hypothesis-driven, empirical research at a transdisciplinary scientific level focused on spiritual transformation.[39]

The Metanexus Institute is widely listed in New Age directories across the planet.[40] It is easily connected with the Institute of Noetic Sciences (IONS),[41] which was founded by New Age leader Willis Harman.[42] Templeton and the IONS have numerous interconnections.[43] The Templeton-funded Metanexus Institute is also connected to What Is Enlightenment? magazine (WIE),[44] (now called EnlightenNext magazine) a radical New Age publication headed by guru Andrew Cohen[45] that bills itself as “the magazine for evolutionaries.”[46] WIE is frequently at the cutting edge of promoting the New Spirituality, often under the guise of appearing to be scientific or technical.[47] Most of EnlightenNext’s articles cover topics like meditation, mysticism, evolution, the New Spirituality and the future.[48]

The Metanexus Institute publishes the journal called The Global Spiral which frequently talks about New Age topics.[49] Currently one can see on the The Global Spiral main webpage a link to an article about Andy Crouch, who moderated the “Vibrant Dance” symposium.[50]

The Metanexus Institute appears to be a well-funded hub for the new “quantum spirituality” movement. The Metaxexus Institute’s webpage listing of all of their “Global Network” groups and organizations indicates the substantial scale of this movement.[51] The Metanexus Institute also stretches deep into the mainstream evangelical world, particularly through some of its outreaches. This becomes a very important fact when one considers the scope of involvement between Metanexus and Templeton. For example, one TARP grant (Templeton Advanced Research Program) is “Imitation, Mimetic Theory, and Religious and Cultural Evolution,” a study for the purpose of “transforming human relationships and culture through infinitely more imaginative and non-violent ways of relating.”[52] It is described as:

Sponsored by the John Templeton Foundation, the Metanexus Institute, and the Travis Research Institute of Fuller Graduate School of Psychology, this two year project brings together some of the world’s most prominent scientists, philosophers, and religious scholars in an attempt to explore current theories of human imitation and their converging implications for contemporary psychosocial, religious, and scientific thought….[53]

The amount of research required to track down all of the organizational and personnel interconnections is mind-boggling. The funding of academic projects for religion, spirituality, science and cultural evolution is extensive.[54]

Finally and disheartenly, the point at which all of this connects with evangelicalism is through an organization known as ACT (Academy for Christian Thought), which includes prominent churches such as Redeemer Presbyterian Church pastored by the well known Tim Keller. Metanexus Institute is listed as one of the sponsors of ACT.[55] ACT is described as,

an educational non-profit organization based in New York City. Our goal is to engage the urgent issues of our times and persistent questions of all ages. We encourage interdisciplinary engagement with every field of human inquiry to better understand the impact of history, philosophy, culture and the natural sciences on the Christian faith.[56]

And sure enough, the Academy for Christian Thought (ACT) is listed right at the top of the Metanexus list of “Global Network Group.”[57] ACT describes its mission as “providing a theological safe space,” a curious statement which raises more questions than it answers. Its agenda of “missional” blends right into the emerging rhetoric of Dominionism, as one of the stated goals of providing this “theological safe space” is to “interact with every cultural sphere of influence and human inquiry.”[58] They explain their approach:

We do this by examining how the sciences, history, the arts, philosophy and ethics (SHAPE) have influenced our interpretation of the biblical texts as we engage the world of commerce, academia, media, politics and sports (CAMPS) and formulate a worldview by thinking things through, theologically. [59]


When money talks . . . everybody listens. Money also corrupts, and absolute money corrupts absolutely. From a cursory overview of the megalithic Templeton funding machine and its fundamentalist ($$) recipients, it has become evident that evangelical academia has become extensively corrupted by reason of the network and interconnections which the money grants created. The extent of this liberal leavening is so widespread that evangelical “orthodoxy” now feels quite comfortable in merging itself with the rising New Age/New Spirituality. How clever a strategy it is to hold an academic symposium to articulate the synthesizing of spirituality with science, and then intersperse performances of “vibrant dance” to celebrate the merger that is “happening”!

This investigation barely scratches the surface of the network now undermining the faith of Bible believing Christians. This report is incomplete. Investigation must therefore be ongoing. But whatever its shortcomings, it seems important to bring this material forward now. It appears that this wedding between faith and science—a joining together that Templeton advocated—is incubating and birthing (if it has not already done so with many), a belief system totally at odds with the Holy God revealed in Scripture.

This dialectic dance between faith and science can only end in hugging heresy.

The Truth:

“For I am the LORD, I change not” (Malachi 3:6a)

1. John Marks Templeton, The Humble Approach: Scientists Discover God, (Philadelphia & London, Templeton Foundation Press, 1981, 1995), p. 52.
2. Indeed, it would take a book, or a series of books, to chronicle the subject material that will be presented in this brief blog post.
3. See, for example, the lengthy Wikipedia report detailing many of this group’s controversial activities and stands here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Discovery_Institute
4. “About the BioLogos Foundation,” http://www.biologos.org/about. See also: http://www.templeton.org/what-we-fund/grants/the-language-of-god-biologos-website-and-workshop
5. See these colleges mentioned as part of a $2 million grant, “Science for Ministry Initiative,” http://www.templeton.org/templeton_report/20091007/ and also http://www.scienceforministry.org/ which includes funding the Trinity Forum (which Dallas Willard is connected with) to develop a curriculum. See also “Templeton funds values and virtues in China,” October 30, 2009, http://www.calvin.edu/news/2009-10/templeton-china/http://www.calvin.edu/nagel/events/. This was a $3.3 million for a project called “Values and Virtues.” For several decades the Templeton Foundation has funded worldview programs that attempt to change people’s values (programs such as character education, global ethics, etc.) without the Gospel of Salvation. See also, for example: http://www.calvin.edu/~jks4/cv.pdf
6. “Doing the Right Thing: A Six-Part Exploration of Ethics,” http://www.colsoncenter.org/ethics
7. For example, the “Better Hour Context” was funded by the John Templeton Foundation, https://www.colsoncenter.org/commentaries/2551-a-better-hour
8. See the Wikipedia entry on Chuck Colson, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charles_Colson. A description of the Prize can be found here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Templeton_Prize and evangelicals will recognize Billy Graham’s and Bill Bright’s name on the list of recipients. The prizes are awarded to an eclectic mix of philosophers and mystics, church leaders, theologian and physicists.
9. See, for a brief example, personnel at these links: “Board of Advisors,” http://www.templeton.org/who-we-are/our-team/board-of-advisors/all/M and http://www.templeton.org/who-we-are/our-team/board-of-advisors/dorothy-f-chappell
10. http://www.asa3.org/ASA/aboutASA.html
“’THEOLOGIAN OF SCIENCE’ WINS 1978 TEMPLETON PRIZE,” ASA Newsletter, (Apr/May 1978) http://www.asa3.org/asa/topics/NewsLetter70s/APRMAY78.html
12. Ralph Winter’s involvement in the merger of faith and science was substantial and enduring, and in his position as a theological and mission leader he formulated new doctrines to match his evolutionary worldview. Winter was the subject of several Herescope posts that explained his metaphysical worldview. See, for example: https://herescope.net/2007/07/cultural-mandate.html and https://herescope.net/2007/07/radical-contextualization.html and https://herescope.net/2008/04/tinker-with-theology-tinker-with-man.html
13. See these ASA newsletters, for example: http://www.asa3.org/asa/topics/NewsLetter90s/AUGSEP92.html; www.asa3.org/ASA/topics/NewsLetter80s/APRMAY83.html; http://www.asa3.org/asa/topics/NewsLetter90s/FEBMAR91.html; http://www.asa3.org/asa/topics/NewsLetter90s/MAYJUN99.html; http://www.asa3.org/asa/topics/NewsLetter70s/APRMAY78.html
14. http://www.iht.com/articles/2008/07/08/america/obit.php, “John Templeton, investor and philanthropist,” Robert D. McFadden, International Herald Tribune (7/8/08), also posted on: http://www.nytimes.com/2008/07/08/world/americas/08iht-obit.4.14336594.html and http://www.nytimes.com/2008/07/09/world/americas/09iht-obits.1.14358556.html
15. Ibid.
16. “Legendary philanthropist Sir John Templeton, founder of the Templeton Prize, dies aged 95,” Michael Ireland, ASSIST News Service (7/8/08), http://www.assistnews.net/Stories/2008/s08070044.htm
17. Ibid.
18. Ibid.
19. “Pioneering investor Sir John Templeton, Winchester native, dies at 95,” Jennifer Peebles, accessed at The Tennessean on July 8, 2008, http://www.tennessean.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20080708/NEWS01/80708010/1006
20. Ibid.
21. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Unity_School_of_Christianity

22. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_Thought
23. “Sir John Templeton, Religion and Science Philanthropist, Dies,” Katherine T. Phan, The Christian Post (7/9/08), http://www.christianpost.com/article/20080709/sir-john-templeton-religion-and-science-philanthropist-dies.htm
24. The Humble Approach, p. 22.
25. Ibid., p. 24.
26. Ibid, p. 38.
27. Ibid, p. 46.
28. Ibid, p. 137.
29. Ibid, p. 70.
30. Ibid.
31. Ibid, p. 119.
32. Ibid, p. 54.
33. Ibid, p. 51.
34. Ibid, p. 53.
35. Ibid, p. 133.
36. Ibid, p. 32.

37. “Science eager to study spiritual change,” article cited in “The Templeton Foundation: Merging Religion and Mystical ‘Science,” by Berit Kjos, http://www.crossroad.to/Quotes/spirituality/templeton.htm
38. http://www.crossroad.to/Quotes/spirituality/templeton.htm Emphases in original, italics added.
39. Solomon Katz, “A Brief History of the Spiritual Transformation Scientific Research Program,” http://www.metanexus.net/magazine/tabid/68/id/10609/Default.aspx
40. Just a few listings include: http://www.newparadigmjournal.com/NP_links.htm, http://thegreatstory.org/links.html and New Age leader Neale Donald Walsch’s Humanity’s Team: http://www.humanitysteamsa.org/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=44&Itemid=114.
41. Dr. Solomon Katz was part of a “Science of Spiritual Transformation” teleseminar, accessed at the Institute of Noetic Sciences: http://www.noetic.org/search/?q=Solomon+Katz See also http://noetic.org/directory/
42. See, for example: http://www.crossroad.to/articles2/007/global-mind-1.htm. Willis Harman had connections with evangelical leaders dating back to the late 1970s. Follow the links in these Herescope posts:
https://herescope.net/2009/07/quantum-eschatology.html; https://herescope.net/2005/09/leonard-sweet-willis-harman-spiritual.html; https://herescope.net/2005/09/barbara-marx-hubbard-willis-harman-and.html; and https://herescope.net/2005/10/evangelicals-club-of-rome.html
43. Simply type in a Google search of “Templeton” and “Institute of Noetic Sciences” to grasp the full scope of this statement.
44. http://www.metanexus.net/relatedorganizations.asp#. This webpage was originally accessed in 2008. Under the list of “Metanexus Global Network Group” on the right column, is a listing for: “EnlightenNext and What Is Enlightenment? Magazine; Cambridge & Lenox, Massachusetts; New York, New York; and London, England; Voices from the Edge.” The Metanexus Institute officially denies that it is “New Age” on this page: http://www.metanexus.net/faq.asp
45. See this fascinating account of Andrew Cohen: John Horgan, “The Myth of the Totally Enlightened Guru,” http://www.johnhorgan.org/the_myth_of_the_totally_enlightened_guru_15274.htm. Ironically, this author received Templeton monies, but wrote an article critical of the Templeton merger of faith and science. See “The Templeton Foundation: A Skeptic’s Take,” http://www.johnhorgan.org/the_templeton_foundation__a_skeptic_s_take_52371.htm
46. http://www.enlightennext.org/magazine/themes/ Page accessed in 2008. Main page is located: http://www.enlightennext.org/ and described as: “
EnlightenNext (formerly What Is Enlightenment?), the award-winning spiritual, cultural, and philosophical magazine bringing an evolutionary perspective to spirituality, politics, business, science, the arts, and the environment.”
47. See, for example, http://www.enlightennext.org/magazine/bios/george-ellis.asp, which is a profile of George Ellis who has longstanding connections with Templeton, including Templeton Press. He co-authored a book with Nancey Murphy of Fuller Theological Seminary (See http://www.iamplify.com/enlightennext/product_details/EnlightenNext/Nancey-Murphy—Intelligence-by-Design/product_id/6068). Also see:
“Teilhard and the Texture of the Evolutionary Cosmos,” by Kathleen Duffy posted at http://www.metanexus.net/magazine/tabid/68/id/9358/Default.aspx and http://www.metanexus.net/Magazine/Default.aspx?TabId=68&id=9358&SkinSrc=%5bG%5dSkins%2f_default%2fNo+Skin&ContainerSrc=%5bG%5dContainers%2f_default%2fNo+Container. Templeton Press, and its role in the merger of science and faith is extensive and beyond the scope of this brief article. However, to catch a brief peek at the Templeton Press and the publishing angle of all of this, see: http://templetonbookspark.com/category/author-qa/ and http://templetonbookspark.com/2009/06/23/keith-ward-interview-at-enlightennext/
48. Take a tour around this website and see for yourself: http://www.enlightennext.org/magazine/
49. http://www.metanexus.net/Magazine/Home/tabid/66/Default.aspx The Metanexus Institute main page is: http://www.metanexus.net/magazine/
50. Ibid.
52. See project description at http://www.mimetictheory.org/ and http://www.mimetictheory.org/about.html
53. Ibid.
54. See, for example, http://www.templetonadvancedresearchprogram.com/index.htm, http://www.spiritualtransformationresearch.org/news/PR_June1_release.html, http://www.human-nature.com/nibbs/02/katz.html, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spiritual_transformation, and http://www.spiritualcapitalresearchprogram.com/award_release.asp
55. “Board of Directors,” http://biz31.inmotionhosting.com/~actmin5/content.php?navid=2&cid=28
56. “About ACT,” http://biz31.inmotionhosting.com/~actmin5/content.php?navid=2&cid=2
57. http://www.metanexus.net/relatedorganizations.asp. Note also that the ASA is the second organization listed on the lefthand column.
58. http://biz31.inmotionhosting.com/~actmin5/content.php?navid=2&cid=2. Bold and link added. We are indebted to Lighting The Way Worldwide for bringing this issue to the surface on a post on November 14, 2010, http://lightingtheway.blogspot.com/2010/11/another-former-member-of-redeemer.html