What does Christian Transhumanism mean?

It’s helpful sometimes to define terms do that everyone is on the same page.

The Oxford Dictionary defines transhumanism as:

“The belief or theory that the human race can evolve beyond its current physical and mental limitations, especially by means of science and technology.”

The question for many Christians who affirm the historical veracity of Genesis is what is meant by the word evolve. Does it merely mean “change over time” such as the horizontal variation we see in the canine kind? Biblical creationists affirm such observable changes within created kinds. Or does it mean something akin to vertical phyletic change by way of microbes-to-man evolution?

In many cases, it seems to indicate the latter. In his 1989 book, Are You Transhuman?, Fereidoun M. Esfandiary, better known as FM-2030, defined transhumans as “the earliest manifestation of new evolutionary beings, on their way to becoming posthumans.”

Nick Bostrom has defined transhumanism as “the intellectual and cultural movement that affirms the possibility and desirability of fundamentally improving the human condition through applied reason, especially by using technology to eliminate aging and greatly enhance human intellectual, physical, and psychological capacities.”

This appears more palatable at first but then he goes on to clarify

In his essay, Why Christians Should Embrace Transhumanism, Christopher Benek, founding Chair of the Christian Transhumanist Association, addresses the problem many Christians have with the definition of transhumanism:

“Much of the distress about transhumanism by Christians in the past surrounds its proponent’s vocal Atheistic attempts to define the prefix “trans” in ways that advocate individual enhancement through technological means to become “post” human. Many of these perspectives tend to lend themselves to the narcissistic hubris associated with Nietzschean self-actualization that forsakes the needs of the whole of humanity in exchange for self-glorification and exclusive personal gain…

…the aforementioned interpretation of transhumanism is not the only or legitimate understanding of what the movement is or could be in the future.

For instance, a more nuanced meaning of the prefix “trans” is one that implies traversing “across” the scope of what it might mean to be human. Such an understanding does not signify a forfeiture of our humanity but a collective bettering of it. This view of transhumanism thus empowers Christians to advocate for the development and utilization of technology for the intentional goal of participating in Christ’s redemptive purposes for humanity and all of creation. In doing so, we may then be able to continue to technologically enhance humanity in ways that honor God, helping us to more fully flourish as human beings made in God’s Image.”

While Benek’s definition of transhumanism is certainly consistent with Christian doctrine and ideals, it’s fair to ask if this is a legitimate definition of transhumanism or simply a special definition only Christians would use because it’s admittedly more palatable than the one associated with the idea of becoming posthuman and its Neitzchean associations? Are we just saying, “I know what it means to everyone else, but this is what a Christian means when they say that word.” If so, should we not always use the term Christian transhumanism to differentiate it from the more comminly understood definition of transhumanism?

As it turns out, there is support for the historical precedent of this definition …from evolutionist Julian Huxley. In his 1957 essay, entitled Transhumanism, Huxley wrote:

“The human species l can, if it wishes, transcend itself—not just sporadically, an individual here in one way, an individual there in another way, but in its entirety, as humanity. We need a name for this new belief. Perhaps transhumanism will serve: man remaining man, but transcending himself, by realizing new possibilities of and for his human nature.”

Make no mistake. Huxley believed in the grand theory of microbes-to-man evolution, but what he describes hete with man changing but remaining man is simply speciation, an observable horizontal process that creationists affirm.

Having addressed the issue of terms, we also note that the Bible makes it clear that Christians should be at the forefront of easing the suffering of man (just as Jesus did when He fed the poor, cured the sick, and brought the dead back to life) and making this world a better place for the glory of God. Our calling is to preach the Gospel in word, lifestyle AND good works, no matter how dystopian our view of eschatology might be. Jesus may come at any moment, but we are given no Biblical license to fold our hands in resignation because He might also tarry another 2000 years!

It should also be said that many of the aims of transhumanism are possibly achievable if Genesis is historical. Most notably, the Bible records extremely long lifespans for those who lived before the Flood. It is specualted amongst Biblical Creationists that the Flood created a bottleneck effect in regards to the genes associated with extended human lifespans. This may mean that such lifespans as Methuselah’s near-millenial age are forever out of reach. I don’t think this is the case, simply because prophetic passages such as Isaiah 65:20 that seem to promise a future extended lifespan to the righteous. Whether this is accomplished by God’s supernatural power or through genetic manipulation during Christ’s promised Millennial Reign is a question we can only speculate upon.

Hopefully, this gives you a better idea of what is meant by Christian Transhumanism.

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