Transhumanist Advent: The Angels’ Announcement

Jesus was a social and theological revolutionary. The choirs of angels announcing his birth were at the same time announcing the death of the god of the Pharisees, and every other lesser god. The mission of Jesus was to exemplify and orient a faith to the god worthy of it. Essential to this is relinquishing our ties to the dying or dead god(s). Or, in other words, to finish off the dying gods.

This pattern of relinquishing ties to dying or dead gods has been the persistent narrative of all scripture. The dying or dead gods would include any god whose gospel promotes a lesser vision of human growth and development—as the god (or law) of the Old Testament died with the revelation of the god of the New Testament whose gospel promoted a fuller, loftier vision of human growth and potential.

For starters, the dead or dying god(s) would include the gods of religious and anti-religious dogma; the gods of idolatry; the gods of tautologies; the gods of rote recitations; the abstract as to be meaningless gods; the gods who are responsible for everything; the gods who seem to want that we frequently worship them in ways that avoid the call of the world to heal it; the gods who are at our beck and call to fix annoying, urgent, or life and death problems; or the deal-making gods who will fix problem x, provided we do action y; the gods fixed on indicators of participation in religious traditions; the gods that want us to see the world as unchangeably evil (until they sweep in on some future day); the gods that seem to desire worshippers more than peers; the gods that continually pit ‘us’ against ‘them’; the gods that seem more concerned that we acknowledge them in all things than that we acknowledge that we are more capable than we have acted, and can do more to build a worthy kingdom; and the gods who carry the ultimate burden of justification for the evil and death in the world.

And yet, as Lincoln Cannon has put it, “If we can raise our eyes from the altar of religious and anti-religious dogma, we’ll see that the hand raised to finish the dying God is the sign of the oath to the resurrecting God. … we’ll also see the hand is our own and it holds a blade that’s aged and stained. That’s when we have a choice, either to repeat the old sacrifices of our ancestors, or finally to make the new sacrifice that they always implied: we can put ourselves on the altar and learn to become Gods.” (1)

What would a worthy god do and bring about among humanity? Are there aspects in that that we could do, or with which we could help? That is the call of Christ. And in a broader sense, that is the call of life.

As we hearken to the gospel of Jesus Christ and follow his example, we accept the grace of this responsibility to take on the role and mantle of God to the degree we can. And with this revelation, we recognize and accept that we are, and always have been the ones who carry the true and full burden of justification for the evil and death in the world. So, with Christ, may we meet “the hopes and fears of all the years” (2) today.

-Ben Blair

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2 - “O Little Town of Bethlehem”

Transhumanist Advent: The Lessons of Scrooge’s Ghosts

Dickens’ Ebenezer Scrooge is the recognizable curmudgeon-y old man who just can’t get the spirit of Christmas. Instead of enjoying the season, he sees it as just another excuse to pick a man’s pocket. But if we congratulate ourselves, rather than see ourselves in Scrooge, we miss enduring lessons of the three ghosts.

With Scrooge, for the most part, we are caught up in selfish desires, and our selected idols, and may even feel justified because society encourages these (even praiseworthy values such as thrift, frugality, and prudence have become idols for Scrooge), and shrouds the results of our harmful activities, or our shameful neglect. But there are consequences to our desires, actions, and inaction. Despite the good we may do, in light of the pain and suffering in the world, to feel justified in our efforts--whatever they may be--as if they were enough is to play the Scrooge.

Scrooge is visited by three ghosts. The ghost of the past shows Scrooge his younger years, and demonstrates that he has experienced joy and pain, triumphs and successes in his past. With Scrooge, we hold beautiful memories of kindness and generosity, as well as regret for the coldness we’ve shown, and our misplaced priorities. But no amount of joy or regret we feel about the past or the good we have done may redeem us. The past holds lessons, but no salvation.

The ghost of the Present demonstrates that there is still joy in the world, and our work is to experience and spread it; to welcome and be welcomed into fellowship, and see to the suffering and injustice we might make right. The work of the ghost of Christmas Present is to lift the veil to expose more joy and sorrow than we could otherwise see--to extend the reach of our gaze and responsibility.

While the ghost of the past focused on Scrooge and his immediate acquaintances, the ghost of the present expanded this, to show Scrooge others to whom he was connected, including mankind’s emblematic neglected children: Ignorance and Want. The ghost of the present teaches Scrooge that his work is to do what he can to lift others, to bring joy, food, money, knowledge and fulfillment to those wanting. It’s an inspiring message, one that, to that point, Scrooge had failed in ways both recognized and not. If caring for others, looking after their needs, and expanding the circle of who these others are was all that was required, we would need no third ghost. But a third ghost arrives.

Like all of us, Scrooge fears the Ghost of the Future more than the other two. And for good reason. The ghost of the future shows that, despite our best efforts to welcome others, spread joy, and alleviate suffering and injustices, it’s not enough; death remains the end, for us and others, and it’s knocking at the door. So what if we once had joy? So what if we find and spread a fleeting joy? So what if we right a wrong or a million wrongs? In the end awaits death.

The story ends with a renewed Scrooge, not yet dead, but who has seen how it will all play out, unless he changes course. It’s the exact scenario in which we all find ourselves. So he vows to change: to remember, experience and spread joy and fellowship; alleviate suffering and injustices to the degree he can (a degree that is always expanding), and finally to fight to overcome death. These are the lessons of the ghosts.

Scrooge was better than his word. He did it all, and infinitely more. And to Tiny Tim, who did NOT die, he was a second father. He became as good a friend, as good a master, and as good a man, as the good old city knew.

And so must we all. God bless us in these efforts, everyone.

-Ben Blair

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Transhumanist Advent: A Faithful Position

Two facts exist:

1. Unless there is a drastic change, death is the inevitable end for all of us.

2. Our technological power is increasing at a rate yet unheard of.

Which is the faithful position: That death has been conquered? Or that we may yet be able to conquer death?

-Ben Blair

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Transhumanist Advent: Lift up your eyes and look at the Earth beneath

"Lift up your eyes to the heavens, and look at the earth beneath" (Isaiah 51:6)

In what is often called the overview effect, humans who have travelled into space and have viewed the earth from that elevated vantage point describe intense feelings of euphoria, interconnectedness, humility, awe, and the awareness of the fragility of life. National boundaries fade away, the atmosphere we often take for granted appears paper-thin, and the world appears as an oasis, silently suspended in an endless void.

Religion is at its best when it too produces these same sensations: euphoria, interconnectedness, humility, awe, and awareness of the sanctity of life. It is at its worst when it is used to produce the opposite: dogma, sectarianism, pride, dullness, and disregard for life. Jesus powerfully orients us towards the best in religion: "My peace I give you" (John 14:27), "In as much as ye have done it unto one of the least of these" (Matthew 25:40), "he that is greatest among you shall be your servant" (Matthew 23:11),  and "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son" (Matthew 18:10). Indeed, the "fruits of the spirit" has been canonized as "love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, and temperance" (Galatians 5:22-23).

Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel contrasted the difference between anti-science religion used to dull and oppress vs. science-welcoming religion that can awe and inspire:

“It is customary to blame secular science and anti-religious philosophy for the eclipse of religion in modern society. It would be more honest to blame religion for its own defeats. Religion declined not because it was refuted, but because it became irrelevant, dull, oppressive, insipid. When faith is completely replaced by creed, worship by discipline, love by habit; when the crisis of today is ignored because of the splendor of the past; when faith becomes an heirloom rather than a living fountain; when religion speaks only in the name of authority rather than with the voice of compassion–its message becomes meaningless.” (God in Search of Man: A Philosophy of Judaism)

May we turn to the example of Jesus, lift up our eyes to the heavens in spirit and with our tools and technology, then look at the earth beneath with re-invigorated humility and awe towards the sacredness of our world, life, and one another.

-Caleb Jones

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Transhumanist Advent: The Messianic Pattern

In the scriptures we learn that the Satanic pattern is to vault oneself above all others:

"Who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, shewing himself that he is God." (2 Thessalonians 2:4)

"For thou hast said in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north:" (Isaiah 14:13)

"And it came to pass that Adam, being tempted of the devil—for, behold, the devil was before Adam, for he rebelled against me, saying, Give me thine honor, which is my power; and also a third part of the hosts of heaven turned he away from me because of their agency;" (Doctrine & Covenants 29:36)

We also learn that Christ's pattern is to raise others up with him:

"And he that receiveth my Father receiveth my Father’s kingdom; therefore all that my Father hath shall be given unto him." (Doctrine & Covenants 84:38)

"Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father." (John 14:12)

"They who dwell in his presence are the church of the Firstborn; and they see as they are seen, and know as they are known, having received of his fulness and of his grace; And he makes them equal in power, and in might, and in dominion." (Doctrine & Covenants 76:94-95)

Theologies, therefore, that posit a God who is utterly unique and different from humanity, that are offended when glory is given to anyone but God and seek to reserve glory solely for God, are theologies that posit Satan as God.

On the other hand, theologies that posit a God whose role it is to demonstrate how to be a good person, to show a path that others are capable of following, that invite others to overcome sin and death hand-in-hand with God, that invite others to join the body of Christ and participate in the great atonement of humanity, are theologies that posit Christ as God.

-Carl Youngblood

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Transhumanist Advent: Greater Works Than These

Giving glory to God is good: celebrating God's grace, goodness, and love. But God asks us to worship, not idolize; emulate, not adulate. Jesus exemplified and glorified God's grace, goodness, and love and Jesus challenges His disciples to take upon them these same qualities, not abdicate them to God as an act already performed for us.

"Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father." (John 14:12)

How are we to do works even greater than Jesus? Does our glorifying God forbid this? If so, why? (given Jesus envisioned it). What works did Jesus do? Are we magnifying and amplifying them into this world? In what ways might we be fulfilling this call? In what ways might we be failing? What tools do we have today that didn't exist before which might aid us in fulfilling this call?

We must not let our glorifying God get in the way of our worshipping God. That can make the difference between active emulation and passive adulation. And that is the call Jesus gives to His disciples.

-Caleb Jones

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Mormon Naturalism

I think one of the great strengths of Mormonism is its naturalism; however, the term is equivocal and “naturalism” is sometimes criticized. gives (among others) these definitions of “naturalism”:

Philosophy. The system of thought holding that all phenomena can be explained in terms of natural causes and laws.
Theology. The doctrine that all religious truths are derived from nature and natural causes and not from revelation.

It is in the context of this latter definition that, for example, “naturalistic” approaches to the Book of Mormon sometimes come under fire (typically from Mormon apologetic sources). But it seems there is a dichotomy in this definition that Mormonism rejects.

The assumption in the latter definition seems to be that God is “supernatural.” While this may be definitionally true (one of the dictionary definitions of “supernatural” is anything having to do with deity), there is a lot of baggage here. In Western religious and philosophical tradition, God has been understood to be outside or beyond the universe. But this is not the case in Mormon theology, in great part because of our denial of creation ex nihilo and our interpretation of scriptural creation accounts as pertaining to this earth only, and not to the entire universe.