Consolation for Jesus with Science and Technology
26 May 2010 (updated 15 May 2020)
Expressing concern about the status of Jesus and emotion, Vblogger has written some additional thoughts about Mormon Transhumanism. I welcome the opportunity to respond to some of those thoughts, and hope Vblogger will continue to probe.
Vblogger: “At the same time, he admits that science does not describe a means for all persons to be resurrected, even though he agrees that universal resurrection is a requirement in LDS doctrine.”
While there is no scientific consensus on any particular means for resurrection, contemporary science is compatible with the possibility of resurrection. Frank Tipler of Tulane University is a noteworthy example of a scientist that has speculated on means for resurrection. That does not yet make resurrection a matter of science, but all science begins with speculation.
Vblogger: “It wasn’t just some ‘Christ in us’ force that we all have inspiring us. He was a real person that many people knew, saw, and felt.”
Acknowledging the important practical ramifications of taking on us the identity of Christ and participating in God’s work to bring about immortality and eternal life, in accordance with ancient and modern Christian scripture, need not detract from anyone’s esteem for Jesus. To the contrary, for many years my esteem for Jesus was far less than it is now, and that changed primarily as a consequence of studying the writings of Paul in the New Testament and becoming persuaded of the value of that great mystery hid from ages: Christ in you. Without that understanding, I could hardly distinguish Jesus from the many other ancient gods that have contended for human hearts and minds. With that understanding, I found Christ in Jesus, the god that would raise us together as joint heirs in glory. The Jesus I read about in the scriptures is not concerned with his exclusive godhood, but rather with our communal godhead. That makes all the difference. While some feel that it detracts from Jesus when we do not emphasize his historicity, I feel that it detracts from Jesus when we DO emphasize his historicity. While some posit Jesus’ historicity to be the source of his salvific power, I observe that power in his gospel and call to unity in the body of Christ. Note, of course, that my perspectives on these matters do not necessarily reflect the perspectives of other Mormon Transhumanists.
Vblogger: “I’d rather just enjoy some miracles, particularly this most important one, as miraculous. I don’t feel this exercise of faith is superstitious just because I don’t make an effort to explain it scientifically. I can find plenty of evidence in my own feelings, and in other historical witnesses to back up my faith without creating a full explanation for how it happened.”
We can enjoy miracles without being superstitious, so long as we do not claim them to operate contrary to science or willfully embrace ignorance of their causes. However, our feelings about miracles are not on their own sufficient as evidence for anything beyond the feelings themselves. As indicated repeatedly in scripture, inspiration is not only an emotional or solitary matter. It is also a rational and communal matter. The hard work of pondering and sharing our experiences illustrates that we respect others’ experience, and that we care about that which is beyond ourselves, which is charity. Science is epistemic charity. Science is epistemic atonement.
Vblogger: “Resurrection requires faith …”
I agree. I’ll qualify this agreement only by adding that resurrection may require PRACTICAL faith - the kind of faith that moves us to create that in which we put our faith. Maybe it doesn’t. Maybe merely passive faith will prove sufficient. However, I’m unwilling to gamble on the side of passive faith because only active faith purports to present any possibility of making a difference, by definition.
Vblogger: “… and is controlled and ordered by God’s moral judgments of people’s behavior, not their access to scientific knowledge or technology.”
I agree that ethics will play a role in any resurrection. I also agree that dead persons (and probably even most living persons) would not need access to scientific knowledge or technology in order for others to produce a resurrection. On the other hand, our purpose is not merely to be transfigured or resurrected, but rather to become as God, which we can do only insofar as we learn to think (science) and act (technology) as God.
“Whatever principle of intelligence we attain unto in this life, it will rise with us in the resurrection. And if a person gains more knowledge and intelligence in this life through his diligence and obedience than another, he will have so much the advantage in the world to come.” (D&C 130: 18-19)
Vblogger: “The LDS embracing of technology and science does not extend to resurrection …”
The LDS Church has no position on the question of whether our science and technology will play a role in the anticipated resurrection, yet our scriptures clearly urge us to recognize that God will not save us if we do not make use of the means at hand for our salvation.
Vblogger: “If [Lincoln’s] ‘universalist perspective on salvation,’ means that almost everyone will attain Eternal Life with God, or exaltation, that concept contradicts several scriptures about God’s judgment, and the pattern of the Book of Mormon in which the more part of the people were destroyed. It also contradicts much of my life experience with many people who don’t have any real interest in striving for eternal life. Thankfully, though, I’m not the judge, and I do hope and work towards the goal of everyone reaching eternal life.”
The scriptures do not necessarily contradict universalist perspectives on salvation, although our differing interpretations of scripture may. Patterns of destruction in the scriptures and others’ attitudes toward eternal life should not inform our attitudes toward universal salvation. As illustrated by Vblogger’s expressed hope, we have a moral obligation to universal charity. Anything short of universal salvation will always be short of the fullness of the glory of God, and will always indicate that the work is not yet finished.
Vblogger: “Finally, I just feel that this emphasis on explaining everything scientifically and logically may be intellectually interesting, but does not contribute much to our path to be like Him, and it ignores feelings, emotion, and faith that are vital components of religion.”
The Mormon Transhumanist Association does not lack an emphasis on faith, particularly of the practical sort. If anything, it is heavy on faith to a point that would make some scientists and engineers uncomfortable. Moreover, there certainly is no intent of ignoring feelings or emotion. To the contrary, all Mormon Transhumanists that I know well would extol the importance of feelings and emotion as some of the most beautiful aspects of humanity, toward which our scientific understanding and technological capacity have only begun to aspire. Positive futures will not result from putting rationality and emotionality at odds with each other, but rather will result from leveraging both as best we can.