Recently, there has been a surge, both in development and in conversation, of what is known as Artificial Intelligence, or AI. While admittedly, I have nothing to offer the world in terms of what the development of AI actually looks like, and I probably do not have much to offer the world either in terms of contributing to the public conversation about it either. I am just an average seminary student who has a full-time job at a coffee company; yet I have some very serious concerns about where our world is headed.

I want to be upfront from the beginning: I know very little about the intricacies of AI. I don’t understand much of how it works, why it works, who makes it, or even what it really is. I have not done much in-depth research into it. I am mostly going off of what I have heard other people say about it, what I think are some common-sense observations, and of course, some general principles I think we can take from Scripture as it relates to AI and technology more broadly (because, of course, the biblical authors could never have dreamed of technology like what we have today).

So, with all of those disclaimers in mind, I’d like to discuss a few things I believe Christians should consider when thinking about Artificial Intelligence.

What’s in a Name?

Before we talk more about AI, we should, at the very least, try to understand the basics of what it is. Here is one simple definition of AI that I found relatively simple to comprehend: “Artificial intelligence is the simulation of human intelligence processes by machines, especially computer systems.” In other words, a computer can be used to create things that normally would be created by humans, hence, it simulates or imitates the human functions of data gathering, output, and so much more. Of course, AI is not self-sufficient, as humans are still needed to set up the algorithms, parameters, and computers in the first place, but once it is set up, its capabilities are certainly extraordinary.

For example, one of the more recent developments in AI is a program called Chat GPT. One of many things this program can do is write a paper for you. If you’re in college (or seminary, like me), you can simply put in a prompt for what you want the paper to be about, and the AI will write the whole thing for you. You could put it, “Write a persuasive paper arguing against the use of pineapple on pizza,” and you would have your work cut out for you without doing any more typing yourself.

I had never actually heard of this technology until I started this semester of seminary. At our very first class meeting back in January, my professor had to make a clarification that I had never heard a professor make before, whether at my college or seminary. He said that we are not allowed to use AI to write papers for us because while it is technically original work, it is not our work; we did not write it. Even just a few years ago at my secular college, I never once heard a professor warn students against turning in work using this method. Technological advances are being made much faster than we realize.

There are many other things that AI can be used for. Computer programs have been made that can play chess, and self-driving cars are slowly coming into the works (for those who can afford them). Even for the average person, AI has many uses such as spam filters for your email, recommendations that pop up when you are shopping on Amazon or watching something on YouTube, and fraud prevention for credit cards.

However, there are also many dangers that AI presents, especially with some of its more recent advances.

Danger at Hand, and Ahead

As already mentioned, AI programs can be used by those in education to “do” class work that is not their own, also known as plagiarism. But this is not the only potential danger of AI. There is also something known as deepfake technology, which is essentially Photoshop, but put into video or audio form. I first encountered this as I was scrolling through Instagram a few months ago, and came across a video that seemed to be fairly normal, but I noticed that there were a lot of comments under it, so I clicked on them only to see many people expressing worry, discomfort, and concern. I didn’t understand what I was looking at at the time, but now I know that it was a video of well-known actor Morgan Freeman that was, well, not actually Morgan Freeman. The voice and video had been manipulated to look and sound like him using deepfake technology.

There are now programs online that are AI text-to-speech generators. You can type in a phrase, any phrase, select the “voice” of who you want to say it, and out will come audio that truly sounds like the real person said what you typed. Of course, this could be used in good fun, such as making public figures say funny things that they would never say, and it can also be used for good. One article points out that in medicine, “the [deepfake] technology can be used to render fake patients whose data can be used in research. This protects patient information and autonomy while still providing researchers with relevant data.” But at the same time, we should beware that the possibilities for danger are almost endless. For example, deepfakes have also been used to make pornographic content of people without their consent, resulting in much shock and devastation.

The dangers of AI can be boiled down to this: whether used for good or evil, AI makes it increasingly more difficult to distinguish between what is real and true, and what is fake and false in the world.

Cultural Context

However, we should not see AI as developing in a vacuum and disconnected from the rest of the culture. When you think of what some of the key marks of the “culture war” have been over the past decade or so, one has certainly been to blur the lines, remove distinctions from what we have always known to be true, and make the truth harder to discern. Consider the hot topics of life, marriage, and gender.

When it comes to the issue of life, I, of course, am talking about the issue of abortion. Though there have been recent victories in the pro-life movement (beginning with the Supreme Court decision in the Dobbs v. Jackson case last summer), there is much more work on that state level that needs to be done to secure the right to life for the unborn. But when you think about what the arguments from the pro-abortion side have been over the past 50 years, they have almost all centered around blurring the lines of truth.

  • “My body, my choice.” This claim fails to acknowledge the fact that the baby growing in the woman’s body is a distinct, living, and individual human being made in the image of God. While it is growing in, and dependent upon the woman’s body, it is its own person.
  • “It’s just a clump of cells.” This is an attempt to lessen the value of human life simply because it is in the womb and not outside of it. Since when do we place a lesser value and dignity on others just because they are not as developed as others?
  • “Abortion is liberating.” The unborn baby is treated as a disease like a tumor would be, and getting it removed is an active good, instead of recognizing it for the great evil and tragedy that it is.

Similarly, the wars on marriage and gender have centered around lies and trying to overturn what God has ordered in creation. We are constantly told that in order for men and women to be truly equal, they must have the exact same roles and function the same exact way in the home and in society. This is why our culture sees no problem with men “marrying” men, or women “marrying” women; it’s because when you remove the importance of the basic duties, functions, and responsibilities of what biblical husbands and wives should look like, you are really only left with a shallow and subjective feeling of “love” that has no basis in true commitment. At that point, anyone can marry anyone.

This has led to the recent surge in the gender revolution, where the distinctions between men and women are trying to be erased by not just saying that men and women are essentially the same in function, but that a man can actually be a woman, and a woman can actually be a man. All of this is a total rejection of the truth, as well as the beautiful differences that God made between man and woman so that we could complement one another.

This is what I mean when I say that recent developments in AI are all part of the broader cultural movement for humans to become more removed from truth and reality. I could give other examples, such as attempts to “artificialize” nearly everything. Virtual reality creates the illusion of the real world, social media creates the illusion of community, and even things we consume like meat and milk now have many alternatives that taste the same or similar, but are not the true thing.

It is important that we recognize these larger movements in the culture instead of seeing them on an individual basis. Doing so helps us think more critically about why certain things are happening in the world rather than just noticing that they are happening.

Biblical Context

But what can we say biblically about AI? Obviously, as I stated at the beginning, there is nothing that we can say directly from the Bible, since you will never find a chapter and verse that mentions it. But that does not mean that we can say nothing at all from the Bible about how Christians should think about AI because there are still broad, overarching principles we can take and apply to our specific situation. We must truly believe that “His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence” (2 Peter 1:3). So, with this foundation laid, I want to touch on just two points of consideration as we think about AI from a biblical perspective.

First, the New Testament teaches that Christians are to be sober-minded and self-controlled. While there are specific groups of people who are commanded to live this way, such as those who aspire to be pastors (1 Timothy 3:2), their wives (3:11), and older men (Titus 2:2), there are also passages that apply this broadly to all believers. “Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 1:13). Additionally, Peter says a few chapters later, “The end of all things is at hand; therefore be self-controlled and sober-minded for the sake of your prayers” (4:7).

When we think about what it means to be sober, we may think of not being intoxicated by alcohol or other substances that can impair someone’s judgment and cause them to act in ways that they would not normally act. To be sober-minded is a similar idea. It is to be free from the influence of the world and the temporary pleasures it offers, and to have a mind and heart that is set on living for the Kingdom of Heaven. John puts it this way:

Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.

1 John 2:15-17

This applies to the way Christians should think about AI because God gave us minds to do just that: think. We are not to be just mindless robots, going with every changing flow and trend the world puts before us each and every day. God gave us minds and hearts that are capable of thinking, believing, loving, and feeling; all of which overflow into how we conduct our lives and what we do.

As I recently heard someone say, our concern with AI should not be with it becoming sentient and self-aware and taking over the world. We should not fear that we’ll eventually be ruled by robots like we’ve seen in movies. Rather, our fear should be the opposite, that humans are becoming more and more like robots. It can be so easy to allow our lives to be so easy, automated, and mindless; this is why we must always be sober-minded and “be filled with the Spirit” (Ephesians 5:18).

Second, people are given the mandate to “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth” (Genesis 1:28). This fits into the point I was making above where, for many years now, humans have been trying to artificialize and automate almost everything rather than taking seriously the God-given mandate of Genesis 1:28.

I vividly remember just a few months ago walking into a Walmart and instead of seeing lots of cashiers standing at their posts checking people out, almost every single checkout line had been turned into a self-checkout lane. While personally, I prefer these because I tend to enjoy doing things on my own, and I also like getting in and out of the store as quickly as I can, it hit me just how replaceable people are becoming in the workplace with how fast technology is advancing.

You might think of that as a silly example, but I think it speaks to a broader issue in our culture where, if there is a more efficient way to do something, we should do it, even if it means removing human will, effort, and thought in the process. Humans were made to have dominion over things, whether it be their simple job as a cashier, or the high-stakes position of a CEO. It could also be their family as a mother or father and bringing their children up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord, rather than simply plopping their kids down in front of the TV or handing them a phone and letting those things “raise” them. Wherever it may be, this is the calling of all people, to not let machines subdue the earth and have dominion over it, but to do it themselves.

Will it be harder and less efficient? Of course. But so was the way that God chose to make the gospel spread like wildfire as Christianity was just beginning. Consider first who Jesus chose to be his disciples. They were not educated men, like the Pharisees. But unlike the Pharisees, they were teachable and receptive to Jesus’ teachings (through many reproofs, of course). It was through these men that Jesus chose to start his church with, the church that he said that the gates of hell would not prevail against (Matthew 16:17-18).

Would it have been easier for God to just write the message of the gospel up in the clouds? Certainly. But if you read through the stories of the Bible, it is never the easiest and most sensible means that God uses to accomplish his purposes. This was exactly the apostle Paul’s point.

For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.”

1 Corinthians 1:26-31

It brings honor to God when, just as he exercises dominion and authority over all things (Colossians 1:17; Hebrews 1:3), we who are made in his image faithfully steward and exercise dominion over what he has placed in our care, even if it takes longer and is harder than just letting a machine do it.

As I close, I want to be clear: I do not think that AI is bad in and of itself. There is much good that it can and should be used for. However, as Christians, we should be mindful that we live in a fallen world and that inevitably, even the best of human innovation is subject to sin and corruption. We should use wisdom in determining how much we let AI technology influence our lives, as well as how we think about it in the world around us. And, in all things, may we as Christians be salt and light to the lost and dying world around us, even as we wrestle with things as seemingly unrelated to the gospel as AI.

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