Christian leaders as well as laypeople have a great opportunity to help shape upcoming debates about humanity’s rapid changes ahead. I do hope that Christians and people of all faiths make thorough assessments of the directions our genetic, robotic, information, and nano technologies are opening to us. It will require clear and well rounded handling of philosophy of technology and theologies of bodies that are in keeping not only tradition, and scripture, but science.

Horn’s essay “An Open Letter to Christian Leaders of Biotechnology and the Future of Man” is a great call bringing attention to the manifold issues inherent in technology, and I appreciate his writing it and hope that many Christians who care about the future (and present) can use it in beginning discussion.
However, a number of issues in the essay give me pause.

1) The masculine language throughout. Thoughtful writing has long left ‘mankind’ and ‘Man’ to be replaced with humankind and humanity and I would eagerly suggest Horn to edit his essay appropriately.

2) The use of CS Lewis. Lewis is not the best source to cite in most contemporary issues and his Abolition of Man is not well suited to bring a concise perspective on today’s issues to light. Specificially in the portion used, Lewis makes a very weak argument and it would be better to leave it behind. He makes no appeal to righteousness, values, or God, but rather Clotho–fate. I believe that many people of good conscience would not want to allow their world to be left to fate. There does appear to be an ethical imperative to indeed influence the world towards greater love, justice, health, compassion. I would be interested also to hear what example Lewis would give of a tool given to a generation that has pre-ordained them how to use it? We know humans have a knack for usurping ideas, hacking and appropriating for innovative ends, and even turning weapons into art for peace. There must be better Christian voices to weigh in on this subject. If not, we must start finding them quickly!

3) The inclusion of the Nazi eugenics program: Can we please keep our future discussions of technology amongst Christians free from references of Nazism (and Frankenstein and Brave New World)? The immediate revulsion reaction is cheap and often the connections are specious. Placing this reference right before germline genetic therapy is inappropriate also. Decreasing or eliminating birth defects and genetic disorders before fetal development is a far cry from the horrific programmes of the Nazi era.

4) More a sense of foreboding and looming threat than promise and call to redemptive action. I do say ‘sense’ for Horn does well at giving multiple voices in the debate. However, there is overall less a message of “this is a call to use these technologies in Christian-loving ways” than there is “this is challenging our theologies”. I suggest that theological development is always changing and responding to what the Church is doing in the world and yes, it may be sooner than later that Christian doctrines will have to account for multiple types of human level intelligences and beings who are hardly recognizable as being what we would call ‘human’ today. 

Some Christians will undoubtedly see cause to draw their own line in the sand of technologies to accept or avoid. There are a number of Christian groups that have already done this and their faith is strong and no one should be shamed for not buying into the possibilities that GRIN developments are offering. However, I myself feel a strong draw towards using these developments to further dignity for living beings, further the health of women, children, families, and lessen the hardships of poverty, hunger, and climate change.

Let’s continue this conversation within all our faith communities and let us not succumb to a spirit of fear, but rather use well the tools we have to create peace and loving communities throughout the world.

Thomas R. Horn’s essay “An Open Letter To Christian Leaders On Biotechnology and the Future of Man”