Cryonics, or cryogenics, is the process of storing human bodies at ultra-low temperatures in an effort to preserve them for long periods of time. Cryogenics’ supposed goal is to keep the body intact until medical science progresses enough to cure whatever disease had afflicted the body and restore the person to full health. The cost of cryogenic freezing is astronomical—far more than major organ transplants—because of the expense of keeping the stored body sufficiently cold for a long time.
Cooling a body using cryogenics without destroying it is difficult. Legally, the process of cryonics may not be performed until the subject is clinically dead—i.e., the heart and brain have ceased functioning. The reason for this regulation is that, by current medical standards, the process of cryogenic preservation renders a body permanently incapable of sustaining life. Cryogenic freezing would kill a living person.
Cryonics-based businesses such as the Alcor Life Extension Foundation have gone to great lengths to placate those who object to cryogenics on moral grounds. Pro-cryogenics groups often point to resurrections in the Bible and scriptural instances where life is chosen over death, even when death would send a person to heaven. Some distinguish between “clinical death” and “absolute death.” Also, cryogenics advocates may downplay the idea that persons undergoing cryonics are seeking immortality.
The arguments for cryogenics have some level of scriptural and factual support. Life, as a gift from God, is to be treasured and protected (Exodus 20:13; Deuteronomy 30:19). Medicine has advanced enough that some persons who would have been abandoned as dead two hundred years ago can be healed today. There are legitimate theological questions about the precise instant that a person becomes “really dead” as opposed to just “clinically dead.”
At the same time, most arguments in favor of cryonics don’t pass the “smell test,” and for good reason. The hope of bodily restoration through cryonics seems to be a distraction from the hope of ultimate restoration with God. Analogies to the miracles of Jesus miss the point of what miracles are all about. Certainly, there is nothing wrong with seeking advancements in medical technology. However, a miracle and a medical advance are two different things. Just because God has done something does not mean man can expect to duplicate His results through future technology.
The costs associated with cryogenics are significant. Given that reversing cryogenic suspension is totally unproved—in fact, impossible by modern standards—the extravagant cost raises questions about financial priorities. Death must come to each of us, so the tremendous expense of cryogenics seems inappropriate in light of the many other financial needs of humanity.
Cryogenics cannot promise restoration. No one knows if science will ever allow a cryogenically frozen body to be restored to life. While there’s nothing wrong with attempting long-odds cures, cryonics represents a different level of unlikelihood. As far as modern medical science is concerned, cryonics renders the body incapable of supporting life. No technology, current or on the horizon, can unfreeze a body without destroying it. Successful thawing from cryopreservation remains science fiction.
In other words, cryonics is the longest of long shots, and support for cryogenics is rooted in blind faith. The Bible defines physical death as the moment when the soul leaves the body (James 2:26; 2 Corinthians 5:8). In essence, those who support cryonics must believe that the only requirement for human life is a functioning body—the existence or location of the soul is of no account. According to this belief, once the body is thawed, repaired, and “jump-started,” the subject will be just as alive as he was prior to the freezing.
Much of the motivation behind cryonics, overtly or not, is a desire for immortality. Cryogenics supporters are not merely seeking relief from fatal injuries or diseases. By and large, they’re trying to replace God’s eternity with man’s eternity. Cryonics tempts man with the idea that science is our ultimate healer and eternal life can be found in cryogenic storage. The Bible teaches that immortality is found only in God and that perpetual physical existence in a fallen world is not God’s plan for anyone.
Nothing about the process of cryogenics is indisputably unbiblical, per se. It is not wrong to freeze a human body after death. Some of the basic assumptions behind cryonics, however, are at odds with fundamental Christian beliefs. In the end, cryogenic storage of humans is most likely a distracting waste of time, emotion, and money.