Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Resurrection Technology, Morals, and God's Order

In response to my last post, I received several very helpful and insightful comments.  I genuinely appreciate and have learned from them.  Thank you for sharing.  I especially appreciated how many of these comments included affirmations of faith.

As I understand it, here are the key themes from these comments.

  • God generally respects our agency and allows us to learn for ourselves.
  • God uses natural law to accomplish His purposes, including creation, resurrection and other miracles--and the scriptures don't explain how he did this--just that He did it.   
  • This use and understanding of natural law--ancient or modern--could be called "technology"
  • God wants us to do things--to use our talents and abilities to become like Him, not wait around for Him to do it for us.

I actually agree with all of these ideas.   Lincoln Cannon also responded with a new post that was insightful and helpful.

I believe in a God who has tremendous respect for our agency.  Just as a parent or a soccer coach cannot help a child learn something by doing it for them, perhaps God wants us to learn how to figure things out, including resurrection, on our own? 

I support that basic concept. In fact one of my frustrations with working with parents of youth is that they try to do too many things for their youth and that stunts their children's growth.

I believe that God uses and fully understands natural law and uses it to make things happen. I certainly won't claim an understanding of the methods or "technologies" he used to accomplish the resurrection or other miracles. 

I actually love and embrace the development of new technologies and find it "miraculous" that we can now quite easily restore sight to many people, eradicate certain diseases, communicate instantaneously, and many other things.  I also believe we can learn much about accomplishing the things God does through diligent research and experimentation.

My primary worry about transhumanism as a means to resurrection is that a belief that we can figure it out on our own tends to take Christ out of the picture. 

If we can figure it out ourselves using only the scientific method, why do we need Christ? Where is the need for faith? What about grace? How about an order and type of resurrected body based on God-like righteousness and moral action?

The scientific method doesn't require Christ, faith, grace, or righteous and moral action. It makes no distinction among the moral values of the experimenter.  Pure scientific experimentation allows Kim Jung Il to develop a nuclear weapon, just as easily as it does the U.S.   It allows Saddam Hussein to develop the same biological weapons that we can develop.

Yet, the scriptures are clear that the resurrection will be ordered based on the moral behavior of the people being resurrected.  Yes, everyone will be resurrected--but not all in the same order, and not to the same level of perfection.  

How does a process based entirely on the scientific method ensure that kind of order?  Who or what ensures that order is based on moral judgements?  

I fully support agency, technology, and the use of natural law to accomplish God's purposes.  However, I worry that suggesting we can resurrect ourselves tends to decrease our faith in Christ as the one who broke the bands of death, and who will do it in the future.  I also feel more comfortable with Him being the judge as to who gets resurrected first and to what degree of perfection, and not some scientific committee of peers.


  1. Vblogger, here are my thoughts: http://lincoln.metacannon.net/2011/07/jesus-christ-and-our-atonement-in.html

  2. Vblogger, I appreciate your effort to be understanding and to engage in respectful dialog on this topic.

    I really like Lincoln's thinking on this. For me, the idea that Christ's atonement isn't complete without our participation is powerful and inspiring. I also recommend his sacrament meeting talk titled "Practicing Atonement": http://lincoln.metacannon.net/2009/04/practicing-atonement.aspx

    I think Elder Packer expressed this participatory aspect of atonement in a powerful way in his 1995 conference talk, "The Brilliant Morning of Forgiveness":

    "Some years ago I was in Washington, D.C., with President Harold B. Lee. Early one morning he called me to come into his hotel room. He was sitting in his robe reading Gospel Doctrine, by President Joseph F. Smith, and he said, 'Listen to this!'

    '"Jesus had not finished his work when his body was slain, neither did he finish it after his resurrection from the dead; although he had accomplished the purpose for which he then came to the earth, he had not fulfilled all his work. And when will he? Not until he has redeemed and saved every son and daughter of our father Adam that have been or ever will be born upon this earth to the end of time, except the sons of perdition. That is his mission. We will not finish our work until we have saved ourselves, and then not until we shall have saved all depending upon us; for we are to become saviors upon Mount Zion, as well as Christ. We are called to this mission."'

  3. VBlogger, for what it's worth, one of the primary motivations for forming the *Mormon* Transhumanist Association is that we also have serious concerns about the risks of thinking that technology *in itself* will solve the world's ills. We need to act with faith in Christ, taking his name upon us, and engage the world. The technological advancements of Transhumanism are coming; the question is how we will be involved. Will we sit on the sidelines, proclaiming that all this science is vain without Christ? Or will we see the hand of God in science as well as religion and become saviors on Mount Zion, as in the wonderful quote from Elder Packer, by using the means God provides to further his work?

    Your concerns in this post are similar to those that made us see a need, in the mostly secular and atheist Transhumanist community, for the influence and acknowledgment of faith, morality, and religion. This is why we did not simply join an existing Transhumanist organization; rather, we formed one that is explicitly supportive of religion and its intersection with Transhumanism. And Mormonism *is* the most Transhumanist religion there is.

  4. Thanks for your responses--

    Nathan--like the quotes, and agree about the idea of our participation in the atonement and our efforts to help others. This is very interesting stuff. Surely Christ's and our work is to save everyone. Yet, I imagine there are varieties of what it means to be "saved," depending on people's individual agency and interests. For example, here he must be including Celestial, Terrestrial, and Telestial all in the category of being "saved."

    Christopher--I can see your quest is noble, and I appreciate you reaffirming your faith. With you, I've seen how transhumanism as a movement and philosophy seems to reject faith, grace, and atonement. Perhaps Mormonism is the most transhumanist religion, but I still see large differences between the two philosophies, and question the value of merging them.

    I can see some significant value and additional insights that Mormonism brings to those who are already primarily transhumanists. But, I struggle to see what value and new knowledge transhumanism brings to Mormonism. Mormonism--as a doctrine, if not fully as a culture--already openly embraces and promotes scientific and technological discovery.

    On the other hand, I can see some risks that transhumanism may erode some principles of faith and grace that are core to Christianity, including Mormonism.

  5. VBlogger, I agree that Mormonism's doctrine embraces and promotes scientific and technological discovery. But we struggle with this culturally, and I think there is some cross-over in the sense that the cultural struggle is too often mistaken within Mormonism for doctrine. In other words, many Mormons mistakenly think that Mormonism's doctrine cannot be reconciled with science and technology. This is part of the problem we hope to address by promoting transhumanism.

    Another way in which transhumanism can potentially influence Mormons is when it runs up against topics about which we have no settled doctrine. In many cases, these areas require us to develop a greater sense of humility about how much knowledge we have and maybe even reconsider some of our interpretations of what we do have doctrinally. This is not to say that transhumanism becomes Mormon doctrine, merely that when we take transhumanist ideas seriously (and we should), we may need to rethink some of what we thought we knew. And this is a healthy exercise.

    Finally, I agree that there is a risk that some transhumanist ideas, accepted without question, may erode some core Mormon principles. However, as Paul says, "Prove all things; hold fast that which is good." The same may be said of nearly anything. I think D&C 91 is instructive in this regard.