Spirituality and Artificial Intelligence
I recently went to ChatGPT, where I typed,
“Write a one-minute sermon about artificial intelligence,
using Proverbs 4:7 as a supporting verse
in the style of Craig Hadley from Paradox Church in Redlands, CA,”
in the prompt.
This is what Chat GPT came up with:
Dear Paradox, today we delve into a topic that challenges the boundaries of human understanding—artificial intelligence. In our quest for knowledge and innovation, we are reminded of the timeless wisdom found in Proverbs 4:7: "Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom. And with all thy getting, get understanding.”
As we navigate the world of artificial intelligence, we are called to seek wisdom and understanding. AI is a testament to the incredible potential of the human mind and our God-given capacity to create. It has the power to transform our lives, from healthcare advancements to addressing complex global challenges.
Yet, this power comes with great responsibility. As we embrace AI, we must also consider its ethical implications. Our faith teaches us to use our knowledge for the betterment of humanity, to love our neighbors, and to pursue justice. In the realm of AI, this means ensuring that our creations reflect these values.
So, let us remember the wisdom of Proverbs 4:7 as we journey through the age of artificial intelligence. Let us seek understanding, discernment, and compassion in all our technological endeavors. And may we use the knowledge we gain to honor our Creator, to benefit our communities, and to advance the cause of justice and love in this ever-changing world. Amen.
I’m worried that when ChatGPT figures out how to add Fast & Furious references,
then a sermon authored by AI may become indistinguishable between
what I have written and what a computer has composed in my style!
All jokes aside, this is frightening to me.
My unique contribution to the world are the sermons I write.
And here is a public and open AI engine which, in its earliest stages,
is already close to writing sermons at a quality and level of a professional
after I have spent over a decade honing my craft.
And while the Bible has nothing to say about artificial intelligence
and Christians in church history have never faced the ethical dilemmas AI brings to the table,
we can learn how to live in love in response to this technology
by discussing a story from scripture
and a story from church history.
About 3300 Years Ago (1300 BCE)…
…God liberated the enslaved Israelites from the Egyptian empire
with a mighty and miraculous hand.
Once free, God led them into the wilderness,
but also promised that one day, they would have land of their own.
Eventually, that day arrived.
And God told the Israelite leader, Joshua, to ready the Israelites for war.
Now, one would assume that to get ready for war,
the Israelites would run tactical military drills,
research new weapons,
and practice attack formations.
But God presented a very different preparation plan with three distinct steps.
The Israelites must build an altar.
The Israelites must circumcise all the men.
The Israelites must make the Passover Offering and eat the Passover Feast.
This unconventional plan reveals the central theology of Joshua:
Wars are won and lost by the gods, not human beings.
Therefore, as along as the Israelites devote themselves entirely to YHWH,
they will never lose a battle.
And so, on the doorstep of a war zone,
Joshua and the Israelites demonstrated their devotion to YHWH by religious practice
and YHWH delivered the Canaanites into their hand.
About 300 Years Later (1000 BCE)…
The Israelites are at war with the Philistines
and a battle begins to brew when the Israelites camp on one side of the valley of Elah
and the Philistines camp on the other side.
The Philistine champion, Goliath, struts into the valley and dares the Israelites to
settle the battle with a one-on-one duel.
The author of 1 Samuel describes Goliath this way:
(Goliath) wore a bronze helmet, and bronze armor plates that weighed 125 pounds. He wore bronze greaves on his legs with a bronze javelin slung over his back. The spear shaft could serve as a weaver’s rod, and its iron point alone weighed fifteen pounds.
This story takes place during the bronze age
and the Philistines and Goliath are rich
with the latest and greatest military technology.
The author tells us that the Israelites are
when they look upon the Philistine champion in bronze.
Which is understandable,
because every human being is sacred whenever our enemy
possesses superior military technology
than our own nation.
However, one man, David, is unafraid.
He goes to fight Goliath one-on-one
without any bronze on him.
He only holds a stick, a sling, and a handful of rocks.
Before the battle begins, David declares that he is going to win
so that the entire world will know that the battle belongs to YHWH.
What is David doing here?
He’s calling Israel back to the theology of Joshua.
With the advancement of bronze, we can imagine people whispering,
“If we can protect ourselves in battle with bronze…
…then do we even need God anymore?”
So religion chose to condemn bronze through the story of David and Goliath
because religion was worried the adaptation of bronze may lead people to stop trusting God.
About 2500 Years Later (1610 CE)…
A man named Galileo Galilei publishes The Starry Messenger in 1610 and Dialogue in 1632.
These books provide scientific explanation and support
of Copernicus’ idea of heliocentrism (the earth revolves around the sun)
and dismisses the idea of geocentrism (the sun revolves around the earth).
In response, the church takes issue with Galileo’s writing.
This issue stems from the fact that there are numerous verses
in the Bible which claim the sun revolves around the earth.
The church passionately believes that if Christians start
thinking the earth revolves around the sun
then they will stop trusting the Bible.
With these stakes on the table, the church takes bold, swift, and cruel action.
They place him on trial
find him guilty
ban his books
demand he publicly repents
and then place him under house arrest for the rest of his life.
The church does this because they can imagine Christians whispering to each other,
“If the earth moves and revolves around the sun…
…then do we even need God anymore?”
They feel strongly that a heliocentric cosmos threatened the value of the Bible
so they choose to condemn heliocentrism, in order to protect their understanding of God.
About 400 Years Later (Present Day)…
When we consider the story of David and Galileo today, a question we must ask is,
“What happened after the stories of David and Galileo?”
After defeating the bronze giant, Goliath, David eventually became king.
And when he was king, he hoarded bronze.
Not only that, but his son, Solomon, decorated YHWH’s temple with an abundance of bronze.
And then David’s grandson, Rehoboam, made bronze shields for his guard to protect him while he slept at night, because he frequently feared for his life.
In just a few years after the battle with the bronze giant,
Israel became a nation of bronze
but they still relied on God.
In the story of Galileo,
the church is convinced that his heliocentric ideas,
if proven to be true
will threaten the entire existence of God.
But the entire world over has now accepted heliocentrism to be true,
and many of us still believe in God.
What this teaches us is that when
religion offers a spiritual ultimatum in response to a new scientific discovery,
the pattern that unfolds afterward is always the same:
Science wins, religion loses, and God survives.
And whenever we talk about the ethics and spirituality of artificial intelligence today,
we must all acknowledge that artificial intelligence is going to win
but God is going to survive.
Artificial intelligence will expand and change our understanding of God,
but I have no doubt that human beings will continue to speak of God
and believe God
in the years, decades, and centuries to come.
As we look toward the future ahead of us
and the uncertainty artificial intelligence brings to the table,
we must always remember
no matter how sophisticated artificial intelligence becomes,
it will never be human.
Therefore, the best way to navigate the future of AI
is to grow in gratitude for humanity.
So how do you appreciate your humanity?
How do you celebrate another’s humanity?
How do you hold space for the beauty of our universal humanity?
These are the questions that matter as we step into the future of artificial intelligence.
For me, I appreciate humanity by…
…preparing and eating a delicious and nutritious home-cooked meal with loved ones. My specialty right now is a vegan red curry, and the conversations I share with my wife, my kids, my parents, and my friends remind me how it is good to be alive.
…admiring how easy it is for kids to play together. One of the tragedies of being an adult is that we do not make as much time to play with our friends as we used to, and that lack of play is suffocating our relationships. But when I see my daughter and my son digging in the sand with someone they barely know, I remember the beauty of what it means to be alive.
…exploring this beautiful earth and giving myself permission to stop and stare at the natural beauty all around me. In these moments, I am overwhelmed by the sheer unlikeliness of it all. Here we are, on a rock, hurtling through space, and somehow, someway, there are trees and mountains and rivers and animals and life brimming all around us.
…living in a community with people who love one another. While this community is a church for me, you may have found that community in another religious entity, or a social club, or a tight-knit group of friends. Whenever someone calls to check on me, loves me for who I am (weaknesses included), or genuinely cares about what I am doing, I feel grateful for this opportunity to be alive.
…attending weddings. If you know me, you know I LOVE weddings. The more personal a couple makes their wedding, the better. The greatest celebrations of love and joy in my adult life are weddings, and I will never turn down the opportunity to dance (poorly) the second they open the floor to everyone in attendance. These parties bring a smile to my face, because the love I feel from others is what makes me remember I am a human being, and I love being who God has created me to be.
May you love being human.
And may we all grow in gratitude for our humanity.