4 November 2023

AI: How could Christians use it?

Simon Hope

A photo shows a white robotic hand holding a black pen to paper.

Simon Hope considers the potential impact of artificial intelligence.

From Marvel’s computer assistant J.A.R.V.I.S to Arnold Schwarzenegger‘s character in The Terminator, artificial intelligence (AI) is not a new idea. One of the first explorations of the concept came way back in William Grove’s 1889 novel The Wreck of a World. While we’re not yet seeing such advanced human-like intelligence, recent developments have seen AI become a particularly hot topic. This past week, for example, the UK hosted the world’s first global AI safety summit at Bletchley Park.

What is AI? Simply put, it is the ability of a computer to use large datasets to do tasks that can usually only be performed by humans, such as generating images, managing information, writing essays or engaging in conversation. In itself, AI is neither good nor evil – it is a tool that can be wielded for good or evil – but there are big discussions unfolding across society about the ethical use of such systems and the nature of artificial ‘sentience’.

I’m certainly not qualified to speak into these. Instead, I tried asking ChatGPT – an AI-powered chatbot – what it ‘thought’ about the matter, especially in relation to Scripture. Here’s what it wrote in reply:

‘As we journey into the future, the emergence of AI brings to mind the wisdom of Proverbs 3:5 and 6: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.” AI may indeed reshape our path, and it’s crucial that we trust in God’s guidance as we navigate this new frontier.’

The message has a point! There’s no making AI go away; it’s here to stay. Our response – as in all things – is to seek the Spirit’s guidance in how we interact with it, recognising that our Father already knows more about this new technology than we ever will.

While the Church has wrestled with new scientific developments in the past, there can be benefits: without embracing emerging technologies, we wouldn’t have had the first printed Bible. Imagine what might be achieved with AI in the coming years. Will we one day see programmed pastors or mechanical ministers? Well, I think not. While the output of AI can sometimes appear convincingly human, there’s no understanding or empathy behind it.

But, if used correctly, AI could help a budding preacher put together their first sermon or help generate kids’ content to supplement the morning meeting every week. To paraphrase an old saying, why let the Devil have all the best tech? Could AI become a key component in our work leading people to fullness of life with Jesus?

This technology will undoubtedly be used unethically by some, but that doesn’t preclude its potential use for good. Whether we each choose to resist it, reject it or embrace it, the use of AI is rapidly becoming widespread and we cannot just ignore it. The key difference for us is putting Jesus at the centre of it all.

Reflect and respond

  • Would you pray a prayer generated by AI? Why or why not?
  • Read Hebrews 13:20 and 21. How might AI equip you in doing God’s will?
  • Listen to ‘Oceans (Where Feet May Fail)’. How can God uphold, empower and guide you through times of rapidly developing technologies?

Written by

A photo of Stevie Hope.

Simon Hope

Editorial Assistant

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