Want an ‘eternal existence’ in a computer?
Let us face it, death is the most dreaded and inescapable reality which makes our living worthwhile. Had the milestone of death not been before us, we would have lost the purpose in our existence, losing the urgency to get matters done and move on to the next. Humanity would have been roaming the world like zombies having lost the perception of time, and relevance for our work, food, relationships, sexuality etc. Anything we read or hear about what happens beyond our biological death, outside the framework of the Bible, are just figments of fertile imagination and speculations. No one has, except for the Resurrection of Jesus Christ, returned from death to tell us what to expect after death. Religions of the world had, for centuries, tried to deal with the mortality issue without any definitive and credible evidence to substantiate the claims made. Here again Christianity stands aside from all of them, we know our destination and our eternal existence after we cross over.
Gnostics have been active since the 1st Century AC, advocating the mystical or esoteric knowledge based on direct participation with the divine. In substance, Gnosticism undermined the eminence of Jesus Christ, His sacrificial death for the redemption of sinful human race and His offer of Grace for the eternal existence in His glorious presence. Gnosticism persisted throughout the centuries as an undercurrent of western culture, manifesting with the Renaissance as Western esotericism, taking prominence with modern spirituality. The argument is that there is something more to our mortality which is encapsulated in the realm of higher knowledge.
This line of thinking has given inputs to the rise of the idea of transhumanism. Ray Kurzweil who is a prophet of transhumanism believes that “Our bodies are governed by obsolete genetic programs that evolved in a bygone era, so we need to overcome our genetic heritage.” The idea of transhumanism is that we can evade our biological bodies. See how close this thought process is to the Biblical teachings. In 2 Corinthians 5:2-3 we read, “We grow weary in our present bodies, and we long for the day when we will put on our heavenly bodies like new clothing. 3 For we will not be spirits without bodies, but we will put on new heavenly bodies.” Kurzweil believes that this can be achieved technologically when he talks of ‘mind uploading’ which means, “the ability to extract the cognitive dimension of the human experience, digitize it, separate it from biological mass, discard the biological body, and end up with some sort of consciousness contained inside a computer who is you, eternal you, deathless you.” In simple terms your inner self, which survives death, is uploaded into a computer along with your experiences and ‘knowledge’ and you continue to exist inside the computer memory for eternity, all knowing but without the ability to act.
For the sake of discussion, even if we accept this conjecture, imagine the state of our inner self. Tony Reinke. Senior writer, desiringGod.org describes this thus: “In the transhumanist view, all of the things we now take for granted: our biology, our sexuality, our reproduction, our biological gender, our work, our food, and the fabric of our family heritage, all of it gets quickly emptied of its embodied value. The ideal becomes the liberated self-consciousness, now free to evolve in perpetuity, unburdened from biological baggage.” Placed in such a state, we would be like people stuck in a conscious coma, aware of everything around them but unable to move their mouths or bodies. At some point in such an existence our conscious self would yearn for an escape, the Ctrl-Alt-Del which may or may not be available to us. The question remains, even if a technologist press Ctrl-Alt-Del for us where would the released soul go? The transhumanist has failed to answer that question.
Christianity teaches us how to deal with our death. In 1 Corinthians 15:25-26 we read, “For Christ must reign until He humbles all His enemies beneath His feet. 26 And the last enemy to be destroyed is death.” The defeat of death comes when it becomes a gateway to enter the New Creation of Jesus Christ, His Kingdom and to possess eternal life. In His Kingdom “He will remove all of their sorrows, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. For the old world and its evils are gone forever." - Revelation 21:4.
It is necessary to briefly touch upon the world view about after death existence, to put matters in perspective. Atheists believe that at death one ceases to exist. There is no afterlife or eternal soul that continues in eternity. Some of the religions, including Hinduism, hold a pantheistic worldview and teach that one goes through an endless cycle of reincarnations until the cycle is broken and the person becomes one with the divine. Some others believe that after death the human soul remains on the earth or travels to join the departed spirits of the ancestors in an unknown world, at times, believed to be in the realm of the shadows. Islam teaches that at the end of time, God will judge the works of all men and those whose good works outweigh their wrong doings are accepted into the Paradise and others consigned to hell. Most world views are based on suppositions and are not supported by hard evidence.
However, Christianity is quite different. The nature of the eternal existence is demonstrated by Jesus Christ through His resurrection and appearances to many people. It would not be wrong to say that while all the other religious leaders lie dead in their graves, Christians have a living God who has conquered death. That brings us to the topic of resurrection. What really is a resurrection? Though the term resurrection is not found in the Old Testament, I am inclined to accept the definition found in Hosea 13:14a: “I will ransom them from the power of the grave; I will redeem them from death: O death, I will be thy plagues; O grave, I will be thy destruction:” The interpretation of this passage could be, from the power of the Death and the Grave Jesus will redeem and recover us. He has already redeemed us, in our life before death, through His sacrificial death on the cross and will now proceed to redeem us from death and grave. It may sound confusing. The second redemption could be the resurrection of our inner self or soul. In doing so we are transported to His magnificent presence. Some believe that on death the soul comes into the presence of Jesus immediately and on the last day the resurrection the body will take place and receive back the soul. Assuming that we are born perfect in body, it is unlikely after going through the process of ageing and/or the abuse the body sustains that it would be the most desirable container of our purified soul. Jesus would not want to reunite a deficient body and a glorified soul. I would not want my present body back for my eternal life with my Lord. What matters is where our souls will be for eternity, definitely not inside a computer memory. The Bible teaches us that the soul is actually the entire person, and not some part that survives death. It means that the person I am is my soul. Just close your eyes and meditate on the person that you are. You will see yourself apart from your body and that is your soul.
Someday, the new era Technological Gnostics will understand their folly when they stand before the Judgement Seat of our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen
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