Theological Questions Raised by Cryonics

From: Shiva
Organization: Priests Of The Woodlands Nations

[I must strongly caution those who would read this that "Priests Of The Woodlands Nations" are not priests of any Christian Church. Indeed, the first Catholic missionary to encounter my culture said our religion was "pagan." This confused my ancestors somewhat as they didn't know what religion was and thought thier family histories were somehow displeasing this strange man. We say priest because that English word comes closest to meaning makadewikonayewinini. I am a priest in the same sense a Shaolin monk is a priest and a theologian because I have modest training in that discipline.]

The theological questions that are raised by a notion as profound as reviving a cryogenically preserved human are not simple. These belong to such august bodies as the College Of Cardinals, the faculties of philosophy departments at respected universities, the theological seminaries of the Roman Catholic Church...the credentialed and published theologians of our (and future) time. Among those who believe the soul leaves the body and proceeds as a sentient entity when the body dies, cryonics raises the most profound of questions. These are not the realm of the local Deacon nor can they be addressed by a layman with a bible in one hand and a Catholic Catechism in the other. The Nazarene himself may have anticipated cryonics (...last shall come first...); the great apologists and philosopher/theologians did not.

If cryonicists are someday successful: if a human who has been legally dead, with an internal temperature way below the freezing point of water, someday gets up and walks it will be stunning. If he is self aware and has his memory intact, it would seem at a glance to defy Roman Catholic and Greek Orthodox beliefs. If he has the ability to do abstract reasoning (the "knowledge of good and evil") it may establish his soul is present (or did not exist in the first place).

However, theology isn't done at a glance. If these things happen they may actually confirm the teachings of Jesus of nazareth and they may confirm the words of John the Apostle, as written on the Island of Patmos (location recently contested), around the year 66 CE. That is, the whole body has been resurrected, is in perfect health, is incorruptable (handy things those nano-doohickies) and the soul has returned to it.

I do not wish to suggest that I adhere to such a notion. I suggest that until the Vatican, the Eastern Orthodox Church and the Cosmopolitan take a position, cryonic attempts cannot be said to challenge faith or beliefs of anyone claiming Christianity. Protestants may object to my preferences for authoritative source but this is not about religious practice or organizational identity; it's about theological construct begun by Paul in Rome, but dependent at its roots on Judaism all the way back to "Genesis." The Vatican is authoritative in these matters because that's where the head librarian hangs out.

The conclusions which are drawn and actually published by the Holy See are not intended for today and tomorrow. They must stand the test of centuries. In this case, the questions cannot even be formally addressed until the event occurs. As to whether or not the attempts themselves are a failing of faith, the Vatican has not spoken. I am not aware of any pronouncement to the Bishops of the Catholic Church that interment in liquid nitrogen is to be condemned. Indeed, there is nothing to prevent a Catholic priest from conducting a requiem mass for a new cryonaut while standing at the chamber. Whether or not the cryonaut is going to get up and walk again is not relevant to the proceedings and Catholic dogma says he is going to do just that anyway.

The next time you are tempted to respond to a "Christian" who challenges cryonic attempts on religious grounds in a newsgroup, try to hold yourself in check. Your antagonist has not the Papal Imrimatur and you probably don't know too much about it either.