The Politics of Jesus, Message Three: “Remaking the Future: The Looming Challenge of Resurgent Islam and Evolving Transhumanism”

The Politics of Jesus, Message Three: “Remaking the Future: The Looming Challenge of Resurgent Islam and Evolving Transhumanism” October 10, 2008

Dr. C. Ben Mitchell, Associate Professor of Bioethics and Contemporary Culture at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, Chicago, IL, spoke on the morning of Friday, October 10th at the “The Politics of Jesus” conference at the First Baptist Church of Durham, NC on “Remaking the Future: The Looming Challenge of Resurgent Islam and Evolving Transhumanism.”  The message was bold and bracing and included much piercing social analysis on the subjects of Islam and “trans-humanism.”

“Remaking the Future: The Looming Challenge of Resurgent Islam and Evolving Transhumanism” 

Kairos moment: the church is at a unique moment in time.

Prophet: nahbi, to effervesce, spoke for God to the people, called the people to repentance and faithfulness, spoke to the nations.

Woe to the prophet who did not speak God’s Word to the people.

1. Two Looming Signs Calling for Prophetic Ministry: First Sign, The remaking of western culture through resurgent Islam

Steyn: “Much of what we loosely call the Western world will not survive the twenty-first century…end of the world as we know it”

Trojan horse: Greeks slipped in as Trojans slept

A. Cycles of resurgence and decline—Islam on the rise currently, Christianity on the decline

           a. 1989-1999 Islam grew 142% in Europe, 257% in Australia

           b. France: 9.6% of population are Muslims

           c. Europe’s current Muslim population of 20 million will likely double by 2025

What will it mean for Britain to become a Muslim nation?


1. Distinctive groups of Muslims in Britain (Kairos Journal scholar’s classing)


a. “Participatory Assimilationists” (10% of Muslims) condemn terror attacks, claim that Islamic terrorists are misrepresenting Islam, participate in broader culture, don’t want Sharia Law, claim to be British first, Muslim second


b. “Separatist Radicals” (8.5% of Muslims) might participate in terror strikes, support terror strikes, call for society to follow Sharia law, loyal only to the community, apostates of the faith are legitimate targets


c. “Participatory Activists” (40% of Muslims) publicly condemn terror attacks, attribute blame for attacks on West, want some Sharia law, exert Islamic influence in state schools, lobby for Islamic programming on tv, urge Muslims to vote, suspicious of UK Jews, emphasize identity as British and Muslims, avoid issue of apostates


i. Impact of this group: establish mosques, influence education, key institutions, culture, active missionaries, form alliances with non-Muslims groups that can assist the Islamic cause, Islamic banking, encourage revisionist history; on the march


                        2. Mosque Construction


                                    a. In Britain: 18 in 1966; 1000 in 2008


                                    b. In US: more than 1000 since 1980


c. Does this present a threat—or an opportunity?  Maybe both?


            B. Population Decline


                        1. Europe is dying


a. 2.1 children are required to replace a husband and wife; Italy’s rate: 1.33, Spain: 1.3, Greece: 1.29, UK: 1.74, Germany: 1.37


b. Presumption nowadays: once you marry, you wait to have children; the opposite of the historic paradigm, for a pro-choice environment has affected us all, whether we know it or now


c. Philip Longman: poses question, how we will replace our cultures?  The Empty Cradle


C. Myths About Islam


1.       The Qur’an and the Bible are equally violent

2.      Islam respects religious liberty

3.      Islam respects and honors women

4.      Islam forbids the killing of the innocent

a.      Muhammad is a warrior in the historic documents

5.      Christianity and Islam spread the same way

6.      The problem today is religious fundamentalism

7.      All Muslims are equally devout


D. Prophetic Ministry

1.       Avoid stereotyping Muslims—there are moderate Muslims (as seen above)

2.      Evangelize Muslims

3.      Support democratization of Muslim countries

4.      Resist establishment of Sharia law in non-Muslim countries

5.      Call for “reciprocity”—churches in Muslim areas

6.      Advocate for the oppressed and persecuted church

7.      Advocate for immigration reform that “welcomes the stranger,” but does not undermine social cohesion

8.     Establish centers for Islamic studies in evangelical schools and seminaries


Read Herb London, head of Hudson Institute (Jewish): “The antidote to the march of Islam is re-Christianizing Europe through a Great Awakening.”


II. Two Looming Signs Calling for Prophetic Ministry: Second Sign, Remaking Humanity Through Evolving Transhumanism


A. Cultural Touchpoints


a. President Bush in 2006: “Human life is a gift from our Creator—and that gift should never be discarded, devalued, or put up for sale.”


            b. He was excoriated for bringing up human-animal hybrids


c. In 2003, Panos Zavos announced the creation of 200 cow-human hybrids


            d. In August 2003, Shanghai scientists had created rabbit-human embryos


e. In August 2006, Ian Wilmut announced plans to create rabbit-human embryos and implant them in the human womb


f. Bill currently in congress: Human-Animal Hybrid Prohibition Act of 2008—forbids creation of human-animal hybrid; has not been passed yet and may not be


g. We are now running experiments on human biological enhancement


            1. What does it mean to be married for 450 years?


B. Cultural Movements


The Transhumanist movement is a serious philosophical movement: affirms possibility and desirability of fundamentally altering the human condition for the greatest possible outcome in order that we might live longer, happier, smarter, with more control over our lives


            a. Emergent techonologies: genetic engineering, cryonics


b. Kevin Warwick: “I was born human.  But this was an accident of fate…I believe it’s something we have the power to change.”


c. Ray Kurzweil: soon “We will be software, not hardware.” The Age of Spiritual Machines; The Singularity Is Near


d. Mitchell: am I against living longer, running faster (actually, I’d like just to run!), and so on?  No!  But humans have a history of the abuse of technology.


e. Katherine Hailes: “The age of the human is drawing to a close.” How We Became Posthuman


f. Shared concerns: quest for good life, longing for immortality, relief of suffering, technological impulse (dominion over creation, whether a paper clip or a shovel or a computer)


B. Worries about Transhumanism


            1. Nietzschean penchant for omnipotence


i. CS Lewis: “power over nature turns out to be a power exercised by some men over other men with nature as its instrument”


                        2. Technological triumphalism


i. Warwick: “The opportunity for me to become a cyborg is extremely exciting.”


3. Myopia (near-sightedness) about allocation of benefits of technology


i. Northern vs. Southern Hemisphere—people in the global South don’t even have access to medicine


                        4. Unwillingness of some to dialogue


                                    i. The “Luddite” conversation stopper


                        5. Cultural Captivity


                                    i. Consumerism—I want what I want when I want it


                                    ii. Technophilia—Bigger and faster is necessarily better.


                                    iii. Baby boom fear of aging/death


III. Prophetic Ministry


1.       Reclaim incarnation (God became flesh) and biblical anthropology

2.      Inhabit holistic Christian worldview

3.      Rethink the educational ministry of the Church to include science and ethics—the church only does prayer (and maybe prayer breakfasts); this should not be

4.      Celebrate our humanity—we were creatures before we were Christians—we need young Christians to enter the field of science and reclaim it for Christ!

5.      Claim biotechnology for the human good

6.      Advocate for sound bio-policy


Closing thoughts: Wilberforce did great things, but he was primarily a faithful Christian and church member.  He sat under the preaching of Henry Venn, a sound preacher who advocated for the public vaccination of children, which was a great good.  We need to recommit ourselves to the God who has made us and called us to be a prophetic force for good in the world.  Christ is our prophet, priest, and king, and He will oversee all that we do in His name.  

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