Last Christians?

We should not dismiss the idea of becoming more than what we are.

In Nietzsche's Thus Spake Zarathustra the idea of the Overman is central. Nietzsche longed for a new kind of human being to develop in order to lead humanity from its present state of  "last man" into new realms of flourishing.

The "last man" for Nietzcshe is the modern man, addicted to security and comfort, who despises the ascetic life and lacks vision for anything greater than what he already knows. Nietzsche blamed Christianity, among other sources, for this condition, and he sought, in his own way, to chide humanity on to greater achievement.

In our day a new contingent of thinkers, scholars, and techological innovators are taking up Nietzsche's challenge and thinking about ways of getting beyond our present state of human life to an existence as "posthumanity" or "transhumanity." Varying versions of this effort exist, and they do not all agree with one another. The fundamental idea, however, is interfacing the human brain with technology to create super-smart, super-visionary, and perhaps even super-strong "post-humans" who will then be able to lead the world out of its suffering into the redemption it deserves.

This is not pie-in-the-sky. Money and time are going into the effort to find ways of wedding the human mind with as-yet undeveloped forms of artificial intelligence in order to overcome the tedia of politics to discover real solutions to human and cosmic dilemmas (see Summer, 2011, issue of The Hedgehog Review for some good articles on this topic).

The feeling among transhumanists is that secular, materialistic human beings have become Nietzsche's "last man" and will be quite content for the growing secular state to take care of their every need. But transhumanists believe it is possible to intervene in the process of evolution, take over the mechanisms of human development, and accelerate the pace toward the next stage of human excellence.

The idea may sound far-fetched, but we should not dismiss it. Central to the Christian project is the idea that human beings can become more than they've ever been before. Liberated from sin and endued with power from God to live in righteousness, peace, and joy, every believer should expect to grow from glory to glory and to increase from strength to strength in a life abounding in good works and love. The transhumanist impulse is as much a prompt from the image of God, with which all people are endowed, as it is an expression of impatience with evolution's slow pace or exuberance about the prospects of technology.

We should not dismiss the idea of becoming more than what we are - in character, spiritual vitality, fruitfulness, and industry for the Kingdom of Christ. We would not want our generation of believers to become the "last Christian" - content in our spiritual complacency with no taste for a disciplined life and no vision for a brighter future.

The transhumanists may be more cunning in their generation than the children of light. But that doesn't mean we as the followers of Christ can't take a cue from their vision, energy, and resolve and envision new stages of Kingdom progress in our own lives and times. We should see the transhumanist effort as a goad from our Shepherd/King, prodding us to remember who we are and what we're called to in seeking His Kingdom, and reminding us that He stands ready to do in and through us exceeding abundantly above all that we've ever dared to ask or think.

If only we would dare.

Related texts: Genesis 1.26-28; 2.15; Ephesians 3.20; Philippians 3

A conversation starter: "Transhumanists want to make us more than human. Do you think we should just leave well enough alone?"

T. M. Moore, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

T.M. Moore

T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in Essex Junction, VT.
Books by T. M. Moore