Transhumanist ideology is advancing among scholars who profess Christianity so the question must be asked, is the dream of a post-human (Human+) existence compatible with the Christian faith? More specifically, is transhumanism (H+) compatible with the doctrine of Adam and Eve as the first humans created in the “image of God” (imago Dei)?
The answer is no. The biblical doctrine that God’s image exists in every human person — and also in humanity as a whole — shuts the door to transhumanism. We can see this if we look at what the Bible teaches about anthropology, ethics, and salvation in Christ alone.
Anthropology: Who does the Bible say that we are?
First, the transhumanist history of human origins and Human+ destiny denies that God made human persons with a fixed and final nature that glorifies our Creator. In practical terms, H+ is a gnostic endeavor that celebrates the immaterial — and disparages the material — embodiment of our souls. In contrast, the Bible teaches that, while the image of God was deformed by the fall (Genesis 3), the impact of sin did not destroy the sacred nature of human personhood. Nor did it undermine the intrinsic value of our “soulish” bodies.
The paradox of human sacredness and sinfulness is resolved in the Apostle Paul’s affirmation of our identity in Christ (Galatians 2:19–20). For Paul, the incarnation of Christ, and his subsequent death and resurrection, affirms the dignity of our bodies, and yet promises to transform every believer into a glorified state. In 1 Corinthians 15:49, he assures believers that, “just as we have borne the image of the earthly man, so shall we bear the image of the heavenly man.” The transformation offered through the cross of Jesus Christ does not imply that humans evolve into something beyond the human. Even in the final eschaton, when our salvation is made complete, Scripture does not teach that we somehow transcend humanity. The image of the heavenlies of which Paul speaks is a glorification of our humanity, both body and soul, and not the elimination of it. Therefore, the beauty of our humanness as it exists today — seen through the lens of Christ’s redemption — shuts the door on transhumanism which treats the human species as only one short stage along an infinite spectrum of evolved forms.
Ethics: What sort of ethics underlies transhumanism?
Second, H+ is the programmatic de-humanization of humanity. Just as Darwinists search for the missing link to our past, transhumanists seek to make each human a new link toward our unknown future. For transhumanists, the value of an individual person is tied to their perceived utility as an agent of technological evolution. Rights and dignity are tied primarily to the survival of the collective and only secondarily to the individual. Humans are no longer a uniform kind but a hierarchy of inferior vs. ever-evolving superior beings.
Consequently, the Christian duty to care for the sick and poor is altered into a duty to advance the species by giving economic privilege to the strong. Ultimately, this Nietzschean vision of the evolving Übermensch does not eliminate suffering but justifies the use of techniques that cause individuals to suffer for the greater good of the species. And while the pursuit of technology to eradicate suffering, biological defects, and infirmities is compatible with biblical Christianity, the sacrifice of the imago Dei on the altar to the collective good shuts the door on transhumanism.
Salvation is in Christ alone, not in Christ plus technology
Finally, Christian transhumanists use ambiguous terminology to improperly connect technological transformation to the Bible. To achieve technological salvation, the human body is diminished and demeaned as a hindrance to Human+. Given transhumanist anthropology, it is no surprise that their theology emphasizes technology as the path toward post-human salvation. To make their case, transhumanists equivocate on the term “change” in the Darwinian sense of random mutation and equate it to “change” in the biblical sense of salvation through the cross of Christ. Despite this claim, there is no etymological, scientific, or hermeneutical connection between biological/technological change and biblical change except in the imagination of transhumanist theologians.
Finally, it is a category error to equate the universal salvation of the human species through technological advance to the particular salvation of the individual person through the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Even more, what H+ soteriology offers is not the salvation of humanity per se but the elimination of humanity in favor of a transcendent Human+ race. The mission to self-evolve beyond humanity begs the question, how is humanity “saved” through technological advancement designed to eliminate humanity? In light of Scripture, transhumanist soteriology seems nothing more than a replay of Isaac Asimov’s I, Robot, where the AI determines that the only way to save humanity is to exterminate humanity. In the final analysis, it seems self-evident that the biblical doctrine of imago Dei shuts the door on transhumanism.
Here are all five short essays in the series by J. R. Miller:
With transhumanism, what happens to human rights? The transhumanist accepts suffering for the individual if suffering can advance the evolution of the species toward immortality and singularity. If humans can redefine what it means to be human, what prevents us from eliminating anyone opposed to this grand vision? (January 1, 2022)
Eugenics, transhumanism, and artificial intelligence If we were to succeed at creating an ethical decision-making AI, whose ethics would it abide by? The utilitarian goal of a “sustainable future” must be guided by a higher ethic in order to avoid grave mistakes of the past. (January 13, 2022)
The deadly dream of Human+ Look at the price tag… Some are prepared to sacrifice actual humans now for the hope of future immortality. Without a fixed and final definition of human personhood, there is no foundation for a fixed and final ethic of “human” rights. (January 20, 2022)
Can Christian ethics save transhumanism? J. R. Miller looks at the idea that the mission to self-evolve through technology is “the definitive Christian commitment.” In Miller’s view, Christian transhumanists do not provide a stable and persistent definition of human personhood, thus cannot ground human rights. (February 27, 2022)
Why the imago Dei (Image of God) shuts the door on transhumanism. As the belief that technology promises us a glorious post-human future advances among scholar who profess Christianity, we must ask some hard questions. The mission to self-evolve beyond humanity begs the question, how is humanity “saved” through technological advancement designed to eliminate humanity? (March 20, 2022)