Faith, Works, Grace, and Tacos
In my work at the Mormon Transhumanist Association, I am often asked, “Where does faith fit into Mormon Transhumanism? Are religious transhumanists just faithless, closeted-atheists with no trust in God? What about grace? Are faith and grace relics of the past, left in the wake of a hubris pursuit of godhood? Have these transhumanists lost their minds!?!”
Before I can answer those questions, there is an important premise I need to clarify:
Just because something is false, doesn’t mean it is impossible. The first step to making something possible is believing that something false has the possibility of being true. This is a key feature to a more robust faith in the Gods we worship.
Here are some examples to clarify what I mean.
Statement: I am eating tacos.
Response: False. I am not eating tacos. I am giving a presentation to all of you. However, this statement does not mean it is impossible for me to be eating tacos at present. It just means I’m not eating tacos at present. That could change in the future but hasn’t yet.
Statement: I am sitting.
Response: False. I am currently standing. However, I was sitting when I wrote this, or by the time you read or watch this presentation this statement might be true—there’s no way to know what the future holds until we get there. I might be standing or sitting the next time you hear this statement. The statement is false now, but true when I typed it. Our ideas of true and false change.
Statement: Women are ordained to the priesthood within the LDS Church.
Response: False. Women are not ordained to the priesthood within the LDS Church. However, it is possible that this statement could be true through continuing revelation. Though it is false, it is not impossible.
Statement: God exists.
Response: For the sake of argument, let’s say this statement is false and God doesn’t exist. However, that doesn’t mean there won’t be Gods tomorrow or there never have been Gods before. Also, semantics play an important role in how we determine what is true and false. It could be argued that God exists in my imagination, therefore God exists in the capacity of my imagination. Or it could be argued certain types of God existed through specified particulars. The semantics can be ambiguous.
These examples demonstrate that while something is false, it is not impossible, and determining what is true and false is influence by many variables such as timing, semantics or particulars. Likewise, though something is false now, it might be true in the future. The point is the line between what is true and false can be rather ambiguous.
Now we can talk about faith, works, grace, and tacos.
I’m hungry now. We’ve been here for a while and it’s almost lunchtime. I am not eating tacos right now, even though I greatly desire tacos. If I really want tacos, first, I have to believe it is possible that I could be eating tacos. Then I need to plan and work to get the tacos, which usually entails putting on my pants, getting in my car, and driving to Taco Bell. On the way there, I will likely pray to God that Taco Bell gets my order right because no matter how badly I want tacos, no matter how hard I work, there is still a chance Taco Bell will hand me a nasty steak burrito and quesadilla instead of the two delicious shredded chicken tacos that I ordered. Taco Bell has demonstrated on multiple occasions that what I order, is not always what I get. There are results that are out of my hands.
Faith is the belief that I could be eating tacos.
Works is the effort I put into getting the tacos.
Grace is if I actually get to eat the tacos.
Sometimes grace and works apply in varying degrees. It could be the case that I desire tacos, and by the graces of my husband, he walks in the door are hands me two shredded chicken tacos. Halleluiah! By the grace of God, I have two delicious tacos just by desiring I had them. This is certainly possible. However, it is more likely that I will get tacos if I extend some effort. Even a little effort. Sending a text to my husband could mean the difference between two tacos and no tacos. No tacos!? For me, I wouldn’t want to gamble the value of two deliciously shredded chicken tacos by not sending my husband a text message. Works can influence to the results of grace, but works doesn’t dictate grace.
Now, let’s say my husband didn’t hear my prayers—I’m sorry, I mean receive my texts. If he doesn’t respond to my efforts to get the tacos, am I just going to sit pantsless on the sofa and hope that he shows up with tacos anyway? Probably not. I’m the type of person to put on pants, drive to Taco Bell, and order the tacos. As demonstrated above, there is still a chance that even with all my works I may not get the tacos. They could give me the wrong order, or who knows, unbeknownst to me the whole place could have burned down. If that’s the case, how badly do I want tacos? Am I willing to drive to another Taco Bell? There is a chance I may never get the tacos, no matter how much faith and works I impart into the endeavor? If it comes down to it, am I willing to go the grocery store, buy the ingredients and make the tacos myself? How far am I willing to go to get tacos?
If there is one thing to take away from this analogy, it is to believe that things are possible even when they are false. If there is a false statement in your life that you desire to be true, the first step in its actualization is believing the statement could be made true. That’s faith. However, belief alone in the potential truthfulness of a false statement is not enough to make it true—you must act. That’s works. Then if your faith and works lead to the desired outcome, even though there are variables out of your control, that’s grace.
I cannot speak for all religious Transhumanists, but I suspect many of them see transhumanism as the works to their faith. I don’t know what the future holds, but if it turns out to be as beautiful as I dreamed, that’s grace.
This analogy could be applied to how we worship our Gods and in engage in our religion. For me, I’m a Mormon. One cherished doctrine in Mormon theology and ritual is theosis—meaning everyone has the potential to become a God, just like our Heavenly Parents.
If the goal is to become a God, the first step is having faith that I can become a God. If I don’t think it is possible to become a god than my belief may significantly decease my chances of it happening. Faith is the starting point.
The next step is works. This is where transhumanism comes in. If we truly have faith in the trajectory of godhood, ought we not work toward that trajectory? After all the scriptures teach us, faith without works is dead. How great would Noah be if his faith wasn’t followed by his works? When Jesus healed the man that was born blind, he put clay on his eyes and told him to go wash in the river. The man did not respond by saying, “I don’t need to go wash my eyes, because I have faith alone and that’s enough." No. Instead “…he went his way therefore, and washed and came seeing.” (John 1:7) This tells me that if we have faith in heavenly visions, our works should reflect our sincerest beliefs.
Even so, faith and works are still not enough. It might be popular to think that we have a significant amount of control over our lives, decisions, and outcomes, but the truth is there is a host of variables that are completely out of our control—be they biological, environmental, social, political, or spiritual. We need grace—all of us do. Even with the purest of faith, sincerest of intentions, and incredible works, there are still forces at work that are beyond my influence. It’s my recommendation that to whatever extent we desire to be offered grace and mercy, we should be at least as graceful or merciful. If you have done it unto one of God’s children, you have done it unto God.
I do not know with any empirical certainty that immortality or godhood awaits us in the future. I can’t tell you the clear distinction between what’s true and false, what exists now and what will exist in the future. This is why I have faith—I choose it. My active engagement is transhumanism is a direct product of that faith, Mormonism. Even still, I recognize I need grace. I am only one small human on a blue dot in the outskirts of a cosmic prism. I need all the grace I can get.
Essentially, I’m saying: Have faith. Be a transhumanist. Pray for grace. And with some elbow grease and luck we may even get to eat some tacos.
*Presented at the 2018 Christian Transhumanist Association Conference