Last night I was in a meeting when a Christian brother told me that he wants to live to 120 years old. His former target was 65 years old. I have often wondered about the Christian ethics of the anti-aging movement. Is it permissible for Christians to try to prolong their active lifespans?
Todd Daly, assistant professor of theology and ethics from Urbana Theological Seminary wrote an interesting article in Christianity Today entitled: Chasing Methuselah: Exercise, technology and diet help us to live longer. Should those who look to eternal life care?
In On the Incarnation, the 4th-century bishop Athanasius describes Adam’s original state as one in which his soul was submitted to God. Thus, his body was perfectly submitted to his soul. Adam’s body was always tending toward decay, but his soul slowed aging so long as his soul was submitted to God. However, when Adam sinned by turning his attention away from God to material creation, his body and soul were thrown into disorder. His bodily desires began to rule his soul. This brought God’s pronouncement of death, and hastened the decay of Adam’s body. It’s this condition, said Athanasius, that Jesus Christ, the incarnate Word, came to rectify.
Based in part on 2 Peter 1:4, which speaks of our participation in the divine nature, Athanasius repeats a well-known formula: “Christ was made man that we might be made God.” Athanasius argued that part of this transformation involves the human body. He did not blur the distinction between God and the human creature. Christians hold to the promise that one day we will be like Christ (1 John 3:2). Athanasius, like many in his day, was suspicious of the material and favored the spiritual. Still, he affirmed that the way to redemption, opened up by the Incarnation of Christ, begins by attending to the body.