Learn About/Subscribe:
Christian Union
Christian Union: The Magazine
July 21, 2016
CU-Today-TranshumanismTranshumanism, the belief that we can use technology to alter our lives in order to outlive our natural lifespans, shares its core beliefs with the ancient Christian heresy, Gnosticism, which rejects the body as evil. James Hoskins, writing for CAPC, explains the connection between the two erroneous beliefs.

Transhumanists, like Gnostics, tend to place little importance on our bodily appetites, reducing them to the level of distractions — things we must do to survive, but wish we didn’t have to. Take, for example, the new food-replacement drink Soylent, which has become popular among techies, “life-hackers,” and others of the transhumanist persuasion. Soylent, as its advertisements claim, is intended to “free your body” from the chore of preparing and eating traditional food, while still providing all the essential nutrients your cells need through a chemically engineered sludge. Unsurprisingly, some who have tried it complain that Soylent takes the joy out of eating.

Both the transhumanist and Gnostic views divorce the body from the soul, elevating the soul and denigrating the flesh. This is in contrast to the biblical perspective of the body as God’s very good creation; though it is marred by sinned and subject to decay, it is destined for Resurrection and an eternal destiny. Transhumanism rejects the essential value of the body, or at least its inconveniences. These beliefs, however, raises some troubling questions.

But what if, in all their excitement to jettison their biological limitations, transhumanists, like the Gnostics before them, have overlooked something essential? What if transhumanist assumptions about the world are horribly mistaken, both on a value level and on a physical level? What if there is something really important, even sacred, about the way we currently feed our bodies? What if the only way to experience the deep oneness of a sexual bond is through biological union — by becoming “one flesh” with another person? What if part of the transcendent beauty of music is due to the material way it is transmitted? What if consciousness is not something that can be digitally simulated? What if we were never meant to be free of Nature? These are all very relevant questions that I do not hear many transhumanists asking. Perhaps they should.

The rise of transhumanist ideas should prompt Christians to turn to Scripture to affirm a biblical theology of the body, based on a clear understanding of the goodness of God’s creation, with a robust and hope-inspiring grasp of the Resurrection. 

And perhaps, with transhumanist ideas becoming more and more popular, Christians should, in turn, be reminded of the goodness of God’s creation. With the amount of corruption, disease, and injustice in the world, it is easy for many Evangelicals to develop an attitude of negativity toward our terrestrial existence and instead, dream of a “home in the skies” future in which God destroys the universe and our souls escape to heaven, eternally liberated from our physical substrate. But that’s not the future that the biblical writers envisioned. They looked forward to a time when God would redeem the physical universe, not annihilate it; a time when they would live on a renewed Earth in renewed physical bodies. And they looked forward to that future because they believed the past — they believed God’s joyous declaration over the physical world: “It is very good.”

God’s creation is good, although languishing under sin. The early church lived in joyful expectation of the Resurrection; in the meantime, God’s is at work in and through these “jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.”