Storming the Gates of Paradise

by Tim Pauls

Olga Khazan recently authored a piece about transhumanism for The Atlantic entitled, “Should We Die?” Transhumanists believe that death is an unnatural disease, and they’re hard at work to defeat death by means of science, medicine and technology. Khazan’s centerpiece for her article is Zoltan Istvan, an atheist (and 2016 Transhumanist presidential candidate) who declares in an embedded video that it is time to “become godlike and overcome death.”

Adam and Eve might have an opinion on the relationship between death and being “like God,” but transhumanists appear in favor of a plan akin to storming the gates of Paradise, overpowering the cherubim and eating from the Tree of Life.

The article is more than a science report: Khazan spends some time lightly exploring the ethical and philosophical implications. On the bright side, eternal life gives opportunity to reach our full potential: There is literally time for everything.

On the other hand, if there is time for everything, would we ever do anything? If life has no story arc from birth to death, how do we define ourselves and measure our lives? Khazan mentions dangers of economic inequality, discrimination and concerns of overpopulation and the need to severely limit new births.

Defeating death

Goals notwithstanding, even transhumanists admit that they can’t really defeat death; while they hope to prolong life by halting aging processes, they can’t make sure the parachute opens when you try sky-diving on your 650th birthday. Even if mankind managed to defeat aging and live as long as this world turns, the world is going to stop turning. Despite the dream, there’s no hope of defying death.

Transhumanists are quite optimistic about human nature, but I must pose this question: In a transhumanist world where adherents reject Christ and live for centuries, why would anyone expect them to be better and nobler when the curse of death seems vanquished, but original sin remains? As long as it remains, greed and lust and covetousness would only make the world worse; in fact, I suspect that life-expectancy would drop from violence and bloodshed. I can even cite historical precedent, specifically an era that ended with 8 souls on an ark.

Someone better

When Luther writes about God barring Adam from the Tree of Life, he moves quickly to the Gospel. Rather than let Adam and Eve regain life by their own efforts of eating fruit, God gives them better: the promised Seed, who restores their life by His work and suffering. Rather than return them to life in the garden where the devil could tempt again, the Seed brings eternal life and the devil’s defeat.

With Easter in such close proximity, rejoice in this: The Tree of Life – eternal life – was planted for you long after Eden on a hill between two thieves. One of them, aware of his sin and death, appealed to Jesus and said, “Remember me when you come into your kingdom.” Jesus’ response? “Today, you’ll be with me in Paradise.”

There it is: Don’t storm the gates. Be joined to Christ, and eternal life is yours.

The Rev. Tim Pauls serves as pastor at Good Shepherd Lutheran Church, Boise, Idaho.

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