Should Christians support Radically Extended Lifespans and Transhumanism?

Questions about God, the Bible and the Christian culture 

(Click here to read Monday Musings ... the place where I discuss the thinking that went into this article.)

Question: Should Christians support efforts to extend lifespans? Some people say that, with a little tweaking, we could live for hundreds of years. Should Christians support efforts to give us longer lifespans? — ones in which we can be healthy and vital at old age?

Answer: The issues you brought up are usually discussed under two different terms: Radical Life Extension and Transhumanism, so let’s explore those.

First of all, God’s “ideal” for us was to live vastly longer than we expect to live today. According to the following passage, lifespans approaching a thousand years — like those before the flood (Genesis 5:27) — can be expected sometime in the future. The question is, by what agency? Will God do this directly — with no help from the earthly systems he has set up? Or will he use advances in science to accomplish this? Whether or not he was the direct agent of these changes, he would always be their primary agent.

Never again will there be…
an infant who lives but a few days,
or an old man who does not live out his years;
the one who dies at a hundred
will be thought a mere child” (Isaiah 65:20, NIV)

But that’s just the Old Testament view. We have newer information in the New Testament. We will receive glorified bodies (Philippians 3:21), we will live for eternity (Matthew 25:46) — and eternity is infinitely longer than 1000 years.

Now, I do not think that “science” will have any part in creating those glorified bodies. I think that’s all on God! But your question focuses on this age — and it’s a good question. If Christ does not come back for hundreds of years, how far should we “cooperate” with the processes of Radical Life Extension? If we do cooperate, does this mean that we agree with the philosophy of Transhumanism? And if that is so, are we somehow challenging the Creator?

Before antibiotics were developed, my grandparents lost a child to a simple infection. I was born after antibiotics were invented — which is a good thing! I have used them several times where I probably would’ve gone septic and died otherwise. So, was I participating in Radical Life Extension by taking antibiotics, or was this just normal life? And if I consider the use of antibiotics normal, does that make me a Transhumanist?

I think you can see where we are dealing with perceptions, definitions and age-sensitive customs. I am a Christian who accepts every reasonable life-improving and life-extending medical treatment, but believers from the Christian Science tradition accept almost no medical intervention. The implication is that the rest of us are faithless people by comparison, but I think we are more on the normal end of that scale. My point, though, is that the scale exists... and where there are scales there will be the judgment of other Christians irrespective of whether or not there is judgment from God on this issue.

Some Christians support Radical Life Extension, and Micah Redding is one of them. He concluded his article in the Huffington Post like this:

So is this scenario of increased lifespans consistent with the Biblical vision?

St. Paul describes this in 1 Corinthians 15 and Romans 8 as a process that begins with Jesus and spreads outward until death is eradicated, and the entire cosmos is filled with freedom and life. For the first Christians, this was the mission of God. And they would participate in that process.

First, it’s consistent with the Biblical commission to heal the sick, and the Christian tradition of establishing hospitals and caring for the ill.

Second, these technologies would be repairing physical damage — which is continuous with current medical treatment and practice.

Third, it would relieve vast amounts of human suffering — the currently unavoidable disease and degeneracy of late middle age.

Fourth, it would improve the depth and wisdom and resilience of our culture.

And finally, it is exactly what the prophet Isaiah hoped and longed for — a day when everyone would get to see their grandchildren and their grandchildren’s grandchildren — a day when your hundredth birthday meant you were just a child.

I agree with Redding more than I disagree with him. I see no problem with Radical Life Extension methodologies. They do largely what we do now — or what we should do now — to relieve human suffering and promote human flourishing. These are consistent with God’s objectives for his creation (Genesis 1:28). Because he has given us the brains and the tools to extend or enhance life at this time and place, we would be irresponsible not to pursue the betterment of our species.

In like manner, the affirmations of the Christian Transhumanist Association do not molest my faith. Just the opposite is true: I find them reasonable and compelling.

Affirmations of the Christian Transhumanist Association

  1. We believe that God’s mission involves the transformation and renewal of creation including humanity, and that we are called by Christ to participate in that mission: working against illness, hunger, oppression, injustice, and death.
  2. We seek growth and progress along every dimension of our humanity: spiritual, physical, emotional, mental—and at all levels: individual, community, society, world.
  3. We recognize science and technology as tangible expressions of our God-given impulse to explore and discover and as a natural outgrowth of being created in the image of God.
  4. We are guided by Jesus’ greatest commands to “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength…and love your neighbor as yourself.”
  5. We believe that the intentional use of technology, coupled with following Christ, will empower us to become more human across the scope of what it means to be creatures in the image of God.
    In this way we are Christian Transhumanists.

Take careful note of the concluding statement of the above affirmation (emphasis mine): “In this way we are Christian Transhumanists.” There are different ways to be Christian Transhumanists — and I’m sure I disagree with many of them. But this group is careful to bring people back to what they mean by the phrase as specified in their affirmations. I readily sign off on their version.

This is a complex issue. My prayer is that our short discussion gave you some tools to investigate further. God bless you.

 (Mainsail Ministries articles often have a preamble where I discuss the thinking that went into them. These are called Monday Musings — and if you haven’t read the one associated with this article — consider doing so at the following link: 20210125 An evil and adulterous generation).

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