July 12, 2011
The other day I was speaking with my father, who, as many of you already know, is a pastor of a protestant church. Somehow we got to speaking about medicine and recent advances in technology, and I began telling him about synthetic organs. Naturally I’m very excited about them. I recently came across an article where a patient received a synthetically engineered windpipe, grown from the patient’s own stem cells.
Dad acknowledged the technology as being a great thing, but he was worried at the idea that mankind will eventually escape death, or at least attempt it. The thought that we could stop aging, and replace any damaged internal organs by growing new ones didn’t seem to fly well with him. He believed that God will have to intervene before that happens. I wondered how we’re supposed to value human life, and do all we can to preserve it, and then not, both at the same time.
For example, he doesn’t believe in abortion. That’s wrong. No questions asked, it’s murder. You ask him about assisted suicide, such as terminally ill patients, and that too is murder. You do that and both the doctor and the patient are sent to hell for sure (absent the physician later repenting). We must keep people alive for as long we can; that is our duty, and anything less is murder in the eyes of God. Ok. So then us scientists keep working on better and better technology, extending the human lifespan further and further. Considering the human body is pretty much just a machine, and we’re learning how all its parts works, it’s inevitable that we’ll eventually end aging and death. Then he gets uncomfortable.
Ultimately it comes down to this: Christians want to save and preserve life, but only to a certain extent. Eventually people need to die so that they can be judged by God for their actions. Dad argued that he wouldn’t want evil people living forever.
Is there any room in Christian thinking for technology keeping us alive indefinitely? I don’t think so. They want us both to live and to die, and as technology improves, this going to become more and more of a problem. True eternal life can only be granted by God, after you’ve been properly judged. The Christian concept of heaven is a world where all the bad people have been jailed in hell, and only the saints are allowed into heaven. Technology keeping us alive indefinitely ruins this entire paradigm, and even the need for a savior. Maybe not all Christians think this way, but I’d be interested to hear how they intend to solve this problem.