Engaging culture

The Resurrected Body Is Not a Cyborg

Understanding and responding to the false promises of “techno-immortality.”

Per a recent announcement, Apple is going all in on artificial intelligence—or Apple Intelligence—with its entire line of products. This announcement only adds to the technological changes we have seen since large language model machine learning (like ChatGPT) became widely available in November 2022, and it is only one example of the ways in which technological change is part and parcel of our current moment.

To help understand the implications of A.I. on Christians and the Church, let’s explore the ideas of a group who desire to push technological change to its limit, toward what they envision as a kind of techno-immortality.

In 2016, a California man named Zoltan Istvan—a true believer in techno-immortality—ran for president on an obscure political party’s ticket. His platform was: 

“First…eliminate poverty with a universal basic income that will guarantee $5,000 per month for every…household forever. (He’ll do this without raising taxes, he promises.) The next item in his in-[box] is eliminating death. He intends to divert trillions of dollars into life-extending technologies—robotic hearts, artificial exoskeletons, genetic editing, bionic limbs, and so on—in the hope that each…man, woman, and AI…will eventually be able to upload their consciousness to the Cloud and experience digital eternity.” 

This is techno-immortality in a nutshell. But how should we, as followers of Jesus, think about such ideas? And what should we do? 

What is “techno-immortality”?

The word that is most often used for what I am calling techno-immortality is transhumanism. The term transhuman was coined simply by combining the words “transitional” and “human.” Most transhumanists trace the origin of the term to a 1927 essay by Julian Huxley (the brother of Brave New World author Aldous Huxley) in which Julian suggests “transhumanism” as the name for humanity transcending humanity (“man transcending man,” in the language of that day) “by realizing new possibilities of and for his human nature.” 

The transformation from human to posthuman will represent a decisive break with and an advancement beyond humanity as it currently exists.

At a basic level, transhumanists believe that science and technology are intrinsic to our humanity and that part of what it means to be human is to discover, build and advance in these areas. Further, our scientific and technological advancements should be put to use to transform the human condition and humanity itself. 

The World Transhumanist Association defines transhumanism as “a way of thinking about the future that is based on the premise that the human species in its current form does not represent the end of our development but rather a comparatively early phase.” 

To put it another way, Transhumanism is: 

 “The intellectual and cultural movement that affirms the possibility and desirability of fundamentally improving the human condition through applied reason, especially by developing and making widely available technologies to eliminate aging and to greatly enhance human intellectual, physical, and psychological capacities.” 

Note well that the transformation of the human condition in view here is a transformation of human nature and human being itself. They state

 “Just as we use rational means to improve the human condition and the external world, we can also use such means to improve ourselves, the human organism. In doing so, we are not limited to traditional humanistic methods, such as education and cultural development. We can also use technological means that will eventually enable us to move beyond what some would think of as ‘human.’” 

Notice how they set their views and goals on a continuum with education and cultural development. If we can improve humanity this much through education, we can do so much more to improve humanity through the focused application of science and technology.  

Hava Tirosh-Samuelson points out that the term transhumanism “denotes the transition from human to posthuman existence as well as activities and attitudes that one is expected to promote in order to bring about the ideal, posthuman future.”  

The transformation from human to posthuman will represent a decisive break with and an advancement beyond humanity as it currently exists. It will be the next evolutionary step after or beyond humanity. It will be truly post-human.  

We can identify three ways in which posthumanity may come to be. It may come about by: 

  1. Merging humans and machines. 
  2. Uploading human consciousness into computers, onto computer networks, into robot or synthetic bodies, or some combination of these.  
  3. Artificial intelligence or superintelligence that humans initiate and by which humans are subsequently surpassed, superseded and perhaps even eliminated. 

Human beings have long desired to overcome human limitations, probably for as long as there have been human beings. The Genesis account demonstrates a desire to understand why death is a part of life.

From where do transhumanist ideas emerge? Oxford philosopher Nick Bostrom points out that the quest for immortality relayed in the Epic of Gilgamesh indicates that human beings have long desired to overcome human limitations, probably for as long as there have been human beings. The Genesis account of death entering the world demonstrates a desire to understand why death is a part of life.  

More recently, and more directly, transhumanism can be traced to the rise of humanism, particularly “rational humanism, which emphasizes empirical science and critical reason—rather than revelation and religious authority—as ways of learning about the natural world and our place within it, and of providing a grounding for morality.”

The development of the theory of evolution allowed us to consider humanity as part of a continuum of development. It provided the groundwork that now allows us to look forward to what the next step or stage of evolutionary development might be.

In addition, works of culture such as novels, films and even television series both reflect and help to shape ideas of what is desirable, what is possible and what is probable. Indeed, popular culture often imagines possibilities that are at least theoretical extensions of actual scientific and technological advancements.

It should come as little surprise, then, that science fiction has had an influential role in debates around technology, especially works such as Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World and George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four. More recently, we have the writings of Philip K. Dick, William Gibson, Neal Stephenson, Ernest Cline, Blake Crouch and others. 

A key aspect of the transhuman perspective is that information is a disembodied reality, unrelated to and unaffected by the medium in which it exists. Relatedly, the essential element of the human person is the information—the coding, if you will—that makes up our history, our thought processes, our memories, our very selves.


At one level, the central theme of transhumanism can be summed up as overcoming human limitations and/or enhancing humans. 

While human enhancement can take many forms, there are recurrent themes or emphases in and around transhumanist discourse regarding the most sought-after enhancements. Transhumanists seek to overcome four specific aspects of human life: “aging, cognitive shortcomings, involuntary suffering, and our confinement to planet Earth.” The first two of these receive the bulk of the attention in transhumanism, so let’s turn our focus there. 

The Life-Science Revolution will lead to the ability to alter the very nature of what it means to be human.

1. Aging 

Perhaps the most intuitively accessible transhuman theme is the desire to live longer. Transhumanists tend to use the language of “overcoming aging,” “enhancing longevity” or “radical life extension.” The ultimate goal is the ability to avoid “unwanted death,” which is effectively self-directed, technologically enabled immortality.

Of course, the idea is not simply to live longer but to live longer as a healthy person or “to radically extend people’s active health-spans.” Associated with longevity, then, is the eradication of disease and the addition of increased strength. 

Many transhumanists are working to stay alive long enough so that they can take advantage of hoped-for medical and technological advancements that will counter and reverse the effects of aging. This is known as “longevity escape velocity,” the point at which new medical and technological developments each year add more than a year to a person’s life. 

2. Cognitive shortcomings 

Overcoming cognitive shortcomings or increasing intellectual capacity may come about through smart drugs, brain-computer interfaces, or by scanning and uploading or reconstructing the human brain in ways that allow for “whole brain emulation.” 

In addition, some speak of increased ethical capacity or “moral enhancement.” This could come about as an aspect of increased intelligence, through genetic or biochemical enhancement and/or through artificial intelligence, which may be able to assist humans with making decisions in the midst of particularly thorny ethical dilemmas.  

Why does this matter? 

The technologies that human beings have and are developing are shaping and can shape individuals, families, communities and indeed humanity itself in various ways. Journalist Walter Isaacson says that we are on the cusp of what he calls

“…the third great revolution of modern times. These revolutions arose from the discovery, beginning just over a century ago, of the three fundamental kernels of our existence: the atom, the bit, and the gene.” 

The Physics Revolution led to the atomic bomb, nuclear power, space travel and more. 

The Digital Revolution led to microchips, computers, the internet and so on. 

The Life-Science Revolution will lead to the ability to alter the very nature of what it means to be human.  

Isaacson writes:  

“Figuring out if and when to edit our genes will be one of the most consequential questions of the twenty-first century.” 

The transhumanist perspective is, at its core, deeply religious.

Even if transhumanism remains distant from our lives and thoughts, some of the ideas of technological progress toward a better—even if not wholly utopian—future for humanity are undoubtedly a part of our current cultural climate and narrative. 

One writer points out that transhumanism “functions as a religion for some,” even for those who “most strongly deny that function.” 

“There are the sacraments of nutrition supplements, the rituals of cryonics, the prophecies of indefinite healthy life extension, the spirits of substrate-independent minds, the apocalyptic and messianic postures toward artificial intelligence, the millennial paradisiacal hope of life and abundance beyond present notions of suffering and poverty, and ultimately the pantheon of post-humanity.” 

But of course, there’s more to it than that. Transhumanism’s vision ultimately presents an anthropology, a soteriology, an eschatology and more.  

The transhumanist perspective is, at its core, deeply religious. 

What should we do?

As I mentioned earlier, most trace the origin of the term transhumanism to Julian Huxley. Others, however, particularly those interested in the intersection of religion and transhumanism, trace the term's origin back to Dante’s coinage of “trasumanar” in Paradisio to describe the degree of transformation involved in entering paradise.

In a thoughtful piece on “transhumanism’s simulation theology,” an essayist describes the setting like this: 

“Dante has completed his journey through Paradise and is ascending into the spheres of heaven when his human flesh is suddenly transformed. He is vague about the nature of his new body. In fact, the metamorphosis leaves the poet, who has hardly paused for breath over the span of some sixty cantos, speechless.”  

Dante writes: “Words may not tell of that transhuman change.” 

Philippians 3:20-21 states clearly: 

“But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.” 

The Lord Jesus Christ will transform our lowly bodies—literally, “the body of our humiliation.” Indeed, our bodies can be a source of humiliation, particularly in times of illness. So, it’s not that transhumanists see a problem that isn’t really there. Indeed, they are hitting on something real and true. They call it “the human condition.” 

Technology will not ultimately solve our most profound problems. Only the Triune God who created us and who invites us into loving, covenantal fellowship that overflows from God’s own being can do that.

But the transhumanist technological solution is profoundly misguided. Based in an anthropology that sees human beings merely as information to be processed, it offers an eschatology of human striving and human making.  

Scripture, however, offers an anthropology that sees human beings as bearers of the very image of God and an eschatology of divine work and divine power.  

Peter O’Brien writes of these verses: Jesus’ “resurrection is the guarantee of their [and our] resurrection, and his resurrected body is the prototype and paradigm of theirs [and ours].” 

Nothing I’m saying is meant to deny the goods technology can bring into our lives. But it is to question where we locate our confidence. 

R.R. Reno recently pointed out in First Things that: 

“…many of us are functional transhumanists. We act as though, with proper and rigorous application of science and technology, we can fend off death. Every accident is preventable. With the right safeguards and early detection, every disease can be cured. This amounts to saying, if we could get things just right, nobody needs to die.” 

A key aspect of Jim McClendon’s ethics is what he terms the anastatic strand of ethics or the Easter Hope. He means that at the center of Christianity is the Easter event, a radical in-breaking that decisively alters everything. Because of the radical nature of this in-breaking and because of the scope of the alteration, this Easter Hope has implications for all areas of ethics. 

The future, ultimately, is not solely what human beings will make of it, but rather, it is what God will do. We must always leave room for—and indeed live in anticipation of—the in-breaking, anastatic work of the Triune God.  

Technology will not ultimately solve our most profound problems. It can ease some burdens and alleviate some symptoms (and it often comes with new and unforeseen problems of its own). But it will never fully deliver us from disease, decline, and death. Only the Triune God who created us and who invites us into loving, covenantal fellowship that overflows from God’s own being can do that.  

Perhaps the way in which this is most clearly evident is in the contrast between the transhumanist hope of posthuman transformation and the Christian hope of resurrection. Jeffry Bishop, a friend of CBHD, writes:  

“The resurrected body is not a cyborg, as some…imagine. It is the resurrection of the frail material that has captured the traces of its life. The particular wounds and injuries, the particular marks of, for example, having lived under the brutal Texas sun, in the hard Texas soil.” 

The resurrected body is not a cyborg. It is so much more than that. 

So then, may we make wise use of the technologies in our world as we rely ultimately on “the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.” 

For further development of the ideas in this piece, see Dr. Eppinette's lecture from the 2023 Henkel Conference, available on YouTube. 

The topics discussed of this article closely align with the theme for the 2025 EFCA Theology Conference: "Theological Anthropology." Learn more.

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