The Rev. Dr. Christopher J. Benek
"From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked."
Following the recent historic International Summit on Human Gene Editing, held in Washington DC, it has become clear that humanity is on the verge of experiencing a radical technological transformation that will challenge our preconceptions as to what it means to be human. And while these advancements rightly raise questions regarding the ethical application of these emerging technologies they are also challenging preconceived notions regarding theological belief. One place in theology where such technological developments will certainly have a dramatic impact is on the current Christian concept of spiritual gifts.
It is often articulated in society that Christianity and science/technology are at odds. While most people of faith do not hold this belief, it is imperative that the church universal continue to dispute this negative stereotype. The most effective way that Christians can do so is by actively affirming their support for people called to work in the fields of science and technology.
In the next 20 years intelligent machines will eliminate a large percentage of human jobs. The impact of this change has the potential to create, at least temporarily, vast levels of unemployment, increased poverty, and homelessness. In light of this coming event, churches seeking to aid those affected should begin to prepare for how they will help people to address these future concerns.
There is a great debate happening around the world regarding the future of Artificial Intelligence. Some people believe that AI will bring forth the end of humanity. Others fear that robots simply won’t have humanity’s best interest in mind. I am not so pessimistic. Actually, I believe Artificial Intelligence will one day lead people to new levels of holiness.
As technology continues to increasingly develop it exposes human intention while eliminating our privacy. The result of this accelerating trend is that the confidentiality that we currently maintain as persons will continue to erode. As such, we should begin to prepare ourselves for the biggest reveal of all: The day when technology exposes the thoughts of our mind.
Have you ever been in an online community where you trying to discuss information that you are deeply invested in and then someone, seemingly out of nowhere, begins to deliberately sow discord among the group? The intentional introduction of inflammatory, extraneous, or off-topic posts with the deliberate intent of disrupting regular on-topic group discussion – commonly known as Internet trolling – has become a favorite pastime of many Christians in the world today. Unfortunately, many folks haven’t yet learned that one cannot serve both God and Internet trolling.
25 years ago most people didn’t imagine that the Internet would reshape the way that they existed on a day-to-day basis. 25 years from now people will think about Virtual Reality the same way we think about the Internet today – we won’t even be able to imagine our global existence without it. One of the largest beneficiaries of this technological development could be the global church because VR is going to change the way that Christians participate in worship.
Recently, at each of our church’s worship services, I asked the members of the congregation I serve to indicate, by a show of hands, how many of them believe that they will not die. Not a single person answered in the affirmative. I would venture to guess that my congregation’s response to this question is typical among the vast majority of Christians across the world today. Even so, the eschatological hope of avoiding death that was prevalent in the early of days of Christianity may soon return to the church universal via a seemingly unlikely source – mainly – human technological advancement.
I am an advocate for transhumanism, rightly defined. I am certainly not a technophobe who perceives all technology to be bad. In my opinion, human technology – like all matter – is a tool that can be used for good or evil. That being said – as an advocate of transhumanism – I cannot in good faith advocate that anyone support the Transhumanist Party that has recently been formed in the United States.
Transhumanism, by definition, is a worldwide cultural and intellectual endeavor that has the end objective of transforming humanity by developing and extensively providing technologies that significantly enhance the intellectual, physical and psychological capacities of human beings. During much of the transhumanist movement, advocates of Christianity have rightly opposed supporters of transhumanism because of ideological differences. But the time has come for Christians to embrace transhumanism.
It is a popular claim by Atheists that eventually science will somehow eliminate the need for religion. Many even argue that, in our present age of exponentially advancing technology, we are already beginning to see the numerical decline of religious persons in the United States. This, they claim, is evidenced in such studies as the Pew Research Center’s recent Religious Landscape Study. I disagree with such assertions. What we are actually seeing isn’t the initial stages of the demise of Christianity. Instead, what we are witnessing is the reoccurring periodic rise of societal arrogance and immaturity.