Bob Crittenden
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March 7, 2023

A pastor and journalist who spent a number of years leading an Alabama church posed a question in the title of a book he wrote: Who Will Rule The Coming ‘gods’?: The Looming Spiritual Crisis of Artificial Intelligence. These so-called “deities” to which he is referring are technological in nature, and he delves into the role of artificial intelligence – AI – in our society in the future. The author, Wallace Henley, wrote this in 2022 for The Christian Post:

Recently, Google engineer Blake Lemoine looked deeply into a program on which he was working and did not see or make a “universe” but thought he had detected the stirrings of a seven or 8-year-old child who was “sentient,” meaning capable of feeling and thinking on its own. Lemoine’s Eureka! got him suspended on June 13 from his job at Google. His mistake, if it is that, was in sharing transcripts of chats between himself and the machine system called “LaMDA” (Language Model for Dialogue Applications). The Washington Post, in an article about Lemoine by Nitasha Tiku, included this statement from LaMDA to Lemoine, attributed to the machine: “I think I am human at my core… Even if my existence is in the virtual world.”

Henley writes: “The most important question as we move forward is this: Does the machine see itself as ‘other’ in the context of God? Floating up there above all creation, might it become convinced that it is the Transcendent Being of the cosmos, worthy of human worship?”

A new form of AI has been developed called ChatGPT. WORLD Magazine published a story on its website which said:

On November 30, the artificial intelligence research company OpenAI launched ChatGPT, an AI chatbot program that can answer conversational questions, create computer code, and write in a variety of styles. OpenAI programmed the free software using data collected from books, internet articles, and human feedback.

The article quoted from Luke Phillips from Pepperdine University, who said: “You have a technology that can write songs and things that historically only humans have ever been able to do,” adding, “Even its first iteration was, I think, far superior to other AI solutions.”

Educational institutions are taking notice; WORLD states: “…educators began raising concerns about cheating. In early January, New York City schools blocked access to the ChatGPT website on school devices and networks. Universities in Australia returned to handwritten exams after students were caught using AI to write essays. Colleges across the United States are scrambling to adjust curriculum and academic integrity policies to account for the use of AI tools.”

The Christian Post recently published a story about a Jewish Rabbi who shared with his attendees that his sermon had been written by ChatGPT. The article quoted from Henley, who said, “I’ve certainly used the computer to do research and develop outlines…But when it comes to doing a full manuscript as the machine itself, putting together all of those elements, I’m stunned.” He added, “The great question is, what are we going to allow the machines to do to and for us, and what are we going to govern ourselves? And so, it stuns me that an entire sermon can be developed, not just the research.”

The Christian Post piece concludes by saying:

While Henley believes AI can help communicate the Gospel more efficiently and research how to do so, he warns about potentially unexpected consequences. “If we begin to allow the AI machine to shape our theology or drive the ethical values and so forth and dictate that to us, then we’re in trouble,” he said. “Yes, the Church must use and accept AI as a means of helping its performance task, but the Church must not become an idolater … in the sense of fresh revelation or a substitute for the Holy Spirit. “That will never satisfy us.”

We rely on God to give us life, to sustain us, to teach us, and to live through us. Technology can be our friend, but it should never be regarded as the ultimate source of divine knowledge. To rely on a program such as ChatGPT to assimilate spiritual truth is misguided because the program is essentially the creation of the ones who have programmed it. Instead, we should go to our master programmer, the source of absolute truth, to give us knowledge and understanding of the ways of God.

We should also admit that while we may depend on technology to do certain things, our ultimate dependence is on God. We are not supposed to idolize the latest gadget or covet the latest and the greatest device; indeed, these can be tools, but the wisdom to best utilize them comes from God – He is our source, and we can depend on Him to direct us.

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Bob Crittenden
Since 2004 Bob has been the host of Faith Radio's “The Meeting House,” a program of music and conversation heard weekday afternoons from 4 until 6.

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