What Does it Mean to Be Human?

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Latha Christie, Stefan Lindholm & Garrett Starr

Understanding Transhumanism

Transhumanism has been defined as: 

  1. The intellectual and cultural movement that affirms the possibility and desirability of fundamentally improving the human condition through applied reason, especially by developing and making widely available technologies to eliminate aging and to greatly enhance human intellectual, physical, and psychological capacities. 
  2. The study of the ramifications, promises, and potential dangers of technologies that will enable us to overcome fundamental human limitations, and the related study of the ethical matters involved in developing and using such technologies.1 

As with all ideologies, transhumanism did not originate of its own accord, but rather owes its foundation to a specific set of philosophical antecedents. Transhumanist philosophy is grounded in Aristotelian metaphysics (‘the philosophical study of the nature of being or reality’2) and Enlightenment humanism (in which there is a strong emphasis on the priority of the importance of human beings and the future improvement of the human animal). In addition, transhumanism is also rooted in Darwinian naturalism (human beings are a recent evolutionary development and we should control and accelerate our own evolution3), the Nietzschean concept of the Übermensch (the idea of the self-created self in transhumanist thought cannot be overstated4), and Marxist ideology (‘[T]he importance of material conditions and particularly, technological advancement, for revolution; conceptions of human nature; and conceptions of nature in general.’5).

(…) transhumanism rejects the validity of traditional monotheistic and polytheistic religions and denies the very existence of God.

In terms of ideological priorities, transhumanism rejects the validity of traditional monotheistic and polytheistic religions and denies the very existence of God. While some proponents of transhumanism seek to merge faith with transhumanist philosophy, the vast preponderance of its adherents are avowed agnostics or atheists.6 Therefore, transhumanists also reject the possibility of any transcendent eternal truth, and dismiss metanarratives, like the Bible, that lay claim to absolute truth. Transhumanism also opposes the centrality of traditional family values. This worldview supports the ideology of transsexualism and the practice of gender reassignment as viable means of changing human physical expressions because these are viewed as aspects of controlling human evolutionary progress. Indeed, in praxis, transhumanism is focused on controlling and accelerating humanity’s evolutionary progress through the application of advanced technologies and medical innovation to human biology.

To accomplish this lofty goal of making human beings into something that we are not, transhumanists advocate the use of present and future technologies like genetic engineering, molecular nanotechnology, supercomputers, prosthetics, biotechnology, cryonics, mind uploading, cloning, virtual reality, and artificial intelligence (AI) to extend human life spans, increase human cognitive and physical abilities, eliminate diseases and suffering, and ameliorate social and economic inequalities. Transhumanists work to realize these posthuman goals by influencing cultural, social, and economic institutions. Ultimately, transhumanists hope to facilitate a human-machine synergy that will result in a technology-enabled cyber immortality in which the perceived limitations of present human phenomenology will give way to a posthuman utopia—a future in which human beings will exist, not in physical bodies, but rather in a disembodied state of digital perfection.

Ultimately, transhumanists hope to facilitate a human-machine synergy that will result in a technology-enabled cyber immortality

If this all sounds strikingly similar to most of the science fiction movies that you have seen, then you are beginning to understand the perspective of the transhumanist worldview. While some of transhumanism’s goals are shared by those outside of the philosophy, like curing disease, eliminating human suffering, fostering economic growth, and the overall contributing to human flourishing, the tenets which underlie this worldview and the methods by which transhumanists goals will be accomplished, not to mention the goals themselves, are untenable positions for Christians. Therefore, since transhumanism is an anthropocentric worldview, with humanity as the center and measure of all things—so as to contradict the biblical doctrines of man, sin, the incarnation, salvation, the meaning of the atonement, and forgiveness among others—transhumanism is emerging as a 21st century challenge to the missional presentation of the biblical gospel. In the stark light of day, the beliefs, practices, and goals of transhumanism seek to undo human beings as the imago Dei, the unique creation of God who bear his image, and redefine us into a flesh-machine hybrid that will continue to evolve until we no longer resemble who we currently are. Whether the goals of transhumanism are even achievable is not the primary issue for the church. Rather, the challenge lies in recognizing the pervasive influence of transhumanist philosophy and how it will affect the world, the church, and the Great Commission for the next quarter century.

Effects of Transhumanism

The world

Transhumanism is not merely a future state that is hoped for but a set of themes that are now part of the mainstream culture. Hava Thiros Samuelsson aptly notes that:

‘[. . .] today transhumanism is not a mere speculation on the fringe of mainstream culture, but a presence that shapes contemporary culture as transhumanist themes, vocabulary, values, and style frame contemporary film, science fiction, horror genre, video games, performance art, new media art, literature, and cyberpunk. Today all aspects of being human—embodiment, sexuality, subjectivity, emotionality, and sociality—have been thoroughly transformed by the hybridization of the organic and the mechanical, artificial intelligence, new digital and virtualizing media, cyberspace, online gaming, digital collectivities, networked information, and new media arts. If we want to make sense of our contemporary culture, we cannot ignore the transhumanist themes that pervade it.’7 

Due to the pervasiveness of cultural phenomena that seek to mesh the organic with the artificial, there is a certain plausibility structure that raises the general acceptance level of transhumanism ideas and technologies in the full sense. 

In the transhumanist literature there are various ways of describing as well as evaluating transhumanism’s effect in the world. Transhumanists like Max More believe that ‘transhumanism (like humanism) can act as a philosophy of life that fulfills some of the same functions as a religion without any appeal to a higher power, a supernatural entity, to faith, and without the other core features of religions.’8 In More’s “A Letter to Mother Nature,” he gives a list of seven amendments to the human condition: ‘We will no longer tolerate the tyranny of aging and death.9 Through genetic alterations, cellular manipulations, synthetic organs, and any necessary means, we will endow ourselves with enduring vitality and remove our expiration date. We will each decide for ourselves how long we shall live.’

However, there are several critical voices in the debate as well. One common objection here is that a transhumanist world runs the risk of becoming ethically and politically divided because there are commercial as well as personal interests that will decide who will get access to enhancement technologies. Another concern is that if technology can replicate and improve itself, there may not be a place for any humans (trans- or post-) at all. Moreover, there is the problem of identity. What kind of status (moral and spiritual) will the emergence of transhuman people have? Will the emergence of transhuman people involve the destruction of biologically based humanity? 

The church

The attempt of transhumanism to enhance what it means to be human and overcome natural limitations is often described in secular discourses, as ‘playing God’. Playing God means by wielding the power of technology, human beings overreach themselves and transgress divinely imposed limits influencing human evolution. Ferkiss asks, ‘What if the new man combines the animal irrationality of primitive man with the calculated greed and power, lust of industrial man, while possessing the virtually Godlike powers granted him by technology?’10 The ascription of divine attributes is obviously metaphorical, but this practice is a slippery slope. Due to our cultural milieu, mentioned above, the step to replacing powerful machines with God is not far away. Quite straightforwardly, due to the impressiveness of machines and power, humanity—and also the church in extension—runs the risk of technological idolatry. 

While some Christian theologians have raised warnings about transhumanist technology, others have promoted the use of it with a sense of urgency. While Ted Peter argues that since the ethics of transhumanism is based on the ‘survival of the fittest’ and an altruistic and benevolent hope for a better, more-than-humane future, they are unable to notice the difference between technological and eschatological immortality.11 Philip Hefner says that humanity as a ‘created co-creator’ is capable of transgressing its biological limitations and become a hybrid.12 Having coined the concept of ‘created co‐creator,’ Hefner seeks to outline what it means to be created in the image of God and also exercise a significant degree of freedom in relation to God, such that our activities contribute to the unfolding of the cosmos. Garner argues that Christians are ‘citizens of Heaven’, though they live on a different, earthly plain of existence, and there then exists a well-grounded tradition for hybridity and cyborgs in Christian theology.13 

That is why it is important to build a robust theological position with gospel-centeredness and honest recognition of human sinfulness. In this respect, transhumanism stands opposite to the Christian conviction that humans are under divine judgment. The attempt to play God can be interested as a sinful pride and the virtue of humility is dismantled by the pursuit of transhumanism. Since cybernetic immortality is the goal of transhumanism, leading to the final evolution of humans, transhumanism posits a distinctively secular eschatology. It aims to achieve this goal through human efforts alone rather than with divine intervention, which is opposed to the Christian eschatology. A Christian response to these matters within the public sphere is necessary, especially a response to those in the scientific community who do not want ethics to get in the way of their research. 

The Great Commission

The soteriological message of transhumanism is that we need to be saved from our limited and fragile biological prisons. Hence, the transhumanist strategy is to develop such technologies that allow us to remedy the immediate problems. However, Christianity offers a better future with the eternal goal that those who are saved by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ will receive immortal bodies. Paul expresses this transformation in 1 Corinthians 15:54, ‘When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.”’ The book of Genesis is foundational in developing a Christian understanding of technology. Creation of space, time, and matter with physical laws, including man, made in the image and likeness of God, and given dominion over creation and sin, and its consequences, and the redemption through Christ. All these items have connections to the development and use of technology, how we have to use technologies to mitigate suffering but not to exalt human beings in opposition to God.

Opportunities and Challenges for Great Commission Efforts

Since transhumanism is both terrifying and fascinating to people, it evokes big questions. What is a human being? What is a good life? What is the meaning of life? Due to a world now steeped in transhumanist themes, there has probably never before in history been a time when anyone can bring up such questions virtually with anyone else without having to care too much about their cultural differences and educational backgrounds. Just think of some of the standard transhumanist themes such as anti-aging or mind-uploading. Although a person who is not trained in transhumanist thinking initially may be dismissive or reserved about transhumanist hyperbole on such issues, the underlying questions provokes an existential response: ‘Would it not be great if we can cure all diseases?’ and ‘Don’t you want to live forever?’

Transhumanist themes provide us with a context which no other period of human history has exemplified. Humans today, though the internet as well as our globalist culture and politics, are more interconnected than ever before. Previous cultural contexts have not brought humanity together in the way technology has. But this also means that that technology (or ‘technique’ as Jacques Ellul said)14 is not to be viewed as a mere instrument which can be used for good or for bad. Technology is the total environment in which we live, move and have our being. 

The church is called to respond apologetically to the transhumanist vision and a part of that calling is also to build bridges, so that the gospel may be heard and understood in our techno-cultural context. The task of bridge-building, we suggest, is essentially a task of discernment (Rom 12:1–2). We shall end this article by indicating four brief points relevant for evangelization. 

1. How not to respond 

There are two common, but ineffective, responses to the transhumanist challenges. The first is to dismiss transhumanism as something of relative or no importance. The second is to get all too worked up about it, perhaps by (simplistically) identifying it with eschatological nightmares. Transhumanism does present a challenge to Christian faith and, as with every other new ideology, the church has to take its time to prayerfully work it through. In other words, Transhumanism is here to stay as a cultural phenomenon and, therefore, attitudes of avoidance and fear are not helpful. Churches and leaders need to walk the thin line between these extremes. 

2. Shared concerns, different solutions 

As we have seen, Transhumanism and Christianity share some ultimate concerns, such as the problem of death and suffering (of all kinds) and our longing to overcome these. These shared concerns, although radically different from those of the Christian faith, are excellent starting points for dialogue as they seem to strike a deep chord in the human heart. Outspoken transhumanists are often prone to talk about these deeper questions. The culture shaped by transhumanist ideals is also predisposed to deeper engagement with the big questions of life.15 Instead of dismissing transhumanist hyperbole, a Christian response should address the underlying real concerns. 

3. The blindness of the church 

Communicating the gospel in our cultural milieu will be fraught with its own set of problems (just as any other time in history). One problem for the church is its own intellectual, moral, and spiritual blindness to the ways we are already affected by the transhumanist vision of life and the many subtle ways that already has shaped the way we communicate (or not) the gospel in word and action. Leaders and laypeople are, therefore, wise to start with the house of God. Addressing transhumanism is not merely relating to a worldly phenomenon ‘out there’ but something that permeates the lives and minds of Christians also. 

4. Transhumanism and materialism

Discernment involves unmasking the idols of our day—ideas that are false or incoherent, both in light of secular knowledge and a God-centered view of reality. One important area that the church’s theologians need to work on is the implied materialism of transhumanism (‘materialism’ being the doctrine that matter is all there is and no further explanation or principle than material ones are needed). As we have noted above, transhumanism’s materialism will change the way we view human beings. As Jacques Ellul once remarked, ‘When Technique displays an interest in man, it does so by converting him into a material object.’16 Transhumanism’s rampant materialism is thus the exemplary display of Technique’s ‘interest in man.’ 

Transhumanism’s challenge lies in the fact that it presents, in popular as well as philosophical terms, a convincing case for materialism, but not just any form of materialism. Take the issue of the nature of the mind or even matter itself. Transhumanism is committed to the idea that ultimate reality is material but also talks about the mind as information-patterns, suggesting that particular feature of the mind will be uploadable to a hardware other than the brain. This parsing of mind and matter is both elusive and evocative to modern people, for it contains a view of human beings as basic information-patterns that can migrate to new forms of life and also ‘improve’ upon itself. Herein we find the merging of science and the modern view of human autonomy as freedom from any constraint to shape one’s own life. Transhumanist rhetoric presents these issues in the form of solid science (of the near future) and conveniently sidelines the classical Christian view of humans as created in the image of God, a being both material and spiritual. The Christian church needs to return to a classical anthropology, which has the resources needed to meet the materialist challenge.


  • Jacob Shatzer. Transhumanism and the Image of God: Today’s Technology and the Future of Christian Discipleship. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2019.
  • Steve Donaldson and Ron Cole-Turner, eds. Christian Perspectives on Transhumanism and the Church: Chips in the Brain, Immortality, and the World of Tomorrow. Palgrave Studies in the Future of Humanity and its Successors. 1st ed. London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2018.
  • Robert Ranisch. “When CRISPR Meets Fantasy: Transhumanism and the Military in the Age of Gene Editing.” In Transhumanism: The Proper Guide to a Posthuman Condition or a Dangerous Idea? Edited by Wolfgang Hofkirchner and Hans-Jörg Kreowski, 111–120. Cham, Switzerland: Springer, 2021.
  • Patrick Hopkins. “A Salvation Paradox for Transhumanism: Saving You Versus Saving You.” In Religion and Transhumanism: The Unknown Future of Human Enhancement, Edited by Calvin Mercer and Tracey Trothen, 71-81. Santa Barbara, California: Praeger, 2015.
  • H. Tristram Engelhardt Jr. The Foundations of Bioethics. 2nd ed. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1996. 37–67.
  • Stefan Lindholm. “Forever Young? Understanding Transhumanism” Modern Reformation. Last modified March 1, 2021. https://modernreformation.org/resource-library/articles/forever-young-understanding-transhumanism/


  1. https://nickbostrom.com/views/transhumanist.pdf
  2. J. P. Moreland and William Lane Craig, Philosophical Foundations for a Christian Worldview (Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2003), 173.
  3. Peter H. Kahn Jr., Technological Nature: Adaptation and the Future of Human Life (Cambridge: The MIT Press, 2011), 12.
  4. Brian Leiter, “The Paradox of Fatalism and Self-Creation,” in Nietzsche, ed. John Richardson and Brian Leiter (New York: Oxford University Press, 2006), 282.
  5. James Steinhoff, “Transhumanism and Marxism: Philosophical Connections,” Journal of Evolution and Technology 24, no. 2 (May 2014): 1.
  6. It is worth noting that some Christian groups are attempting a synthesized version of Christian transhumanism. See https://www.christiantranshumanism.org/ as one example.
  7. Hava Tirosh-Samuelson “In Pursuit of Perfection: The Misguided Transhumanist Vision”, Theology and Science, (2018) 16:2, 200-222, (quote on page 202) DOI:10.1080/14746700.2018.1463659
  8. Max More and Natasha Vita-More. The Transhumanist Reader: Classical and Contemporary Essays on the Science, Technology, and Philosophy of the Human Future. Chichester, UK: Wiley-Blackwell, 2013.
  9. Max More, “A Letter to Mother Nature: Amendments to the Human Constitution”, August 1999, http://strategicphilosophy.blogspot.com/2009/05/its-about-ten-years-since-i-wrote.html.
  10. Victor C Ferkiss The Future of Technological Civilization. New York: George Braziller, 1974.
  11. Peters 2013. “Progress and Provolution. Will Transhumanism Leave Sin Behind?” In: Cole-Turner, R. (Ed.) Transhumanism and Transcendence: Christian Hope in an Age of Technological Enhancement. Washington, D.C.: Georgetown University Press: 63-86. 
  12. Philip Hefner, The Human Factor. Evolution, Culture and Religion (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1993), 31-32
  13. Garner, S. 2013.“The Hopeful Cyborg.”In: Cole-Turner, R. (Ed.) Transhumanism and Transcendence: Christian Hope in an Age of Technological Enhancement. Washington, D.C.: Georgetown University Press: 87-100. 
  14. Jacques Ellul, “The Technological Order”, in Technology and Culture, vol. 3, No. 4, Proceedings of the Encyclopedia Britannica Conference on the Technological Order (Autumn, 1962): 394-421.
  15. https://nickbostrom.com/views/transhumanist.pdf.16.Stefan Lindholm, “Jacques Ellul and the Idols of Transhumanism”, Religion & Liberty: vol. 32, no. 4 (November 2022).

Authors' Bios

Latha Christie

Dr Latha Christie is a Senior Scientist with over 35 years of experience with the Government of India. She completed her Bachelor's with honors and later her Master's and Ph.D. in Aerospace Engineering from the Indian Institute of Science, India. She completed her International Executive Diploma in Project Management, M.Div, and M.A. in Christian Studies. She is a certified counselor. She received the Women Achiever Award, Prof Satish Dhawan Award for Engineers and the AGNI Team Award for Excellence. She has around 70 published papers and has authored four books. She is the host of the science and religion web series called The Grand Cosmic Story on her YouTube channel. https://www.youtube.com/@LathaChristie

Stefan Lindholm

Dr Stefan Lindholm is an ordained priest in the Church of Sweden and professor of systematic theology at Johannelund School of Theology, Uppsala. He is editor of Theofilos and the author of Jerome Zanchi (1516­–1590) and the Analysis of Reformed Scholastic Christology. For 10 years he worked at L’Abri fellowship with his wife, Lois, in England and Sweden.

Garrett Starr

Dr Garrett Starr earned a Bachelor of Science at McMurry University, a Master of Divinity at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, a Master of Theology at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, a Doctor of Ministry in Apologetics with an emphasis in hermeneutic methodology at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, and a Doctor of Philosophy in Biblical Studies/Apologetics from Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. His Ph.D. dissertation, “Transhumanist Philosophy in Christian Perspective: A 21st Century Analysis”, is a theological and metaphysical diagnosis of and biblical response to transhumanist philosophy. Dr Starr serves as the Lead Pastor of Faith Baptist Church in Kaiserslautern, Germany, and is an Adjunct Professor at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.