Jesus & Elon
[Christ] is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by Him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through Him and for Him. And He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.
- Colossians 1:15-17
I like Elon Musk. I don’t agree with everything he thinks, but besides being stunningly intelligent, I do think he’s got more sense than most university faculties. Recently, I watched his two-part interview with Tucker Carlson (formerly of Fox News, I know – not relevant here), but Carlson’s wasn’t the first interview with him that I had seen. The Babylon Bee interviewed Musk in late 2021. How is it not interesting to listen to an interview with a man who thinks colonizing Mars is important for sustaining the human race an extra billion years? Just a guess, but based on the national debt alone, not that many of us are interested in our grandchildren’s future.
Carlson’s interview with Elon Musk had a different tone than the Babylon Bee chat, what with Carlson being a journalist and the Bee, a site for Christian satire. Still, the last year has made us aware of all sorts of new possibilities and potentialities on the horizon. The bulk of the interview seemed to be on the topic of AI – artificial intelligence – but wandered to things like low birth rate, commercial real estate values, sourcing energy, international monetary policy, other life forms in the universe, and such. Whether one likes him or not, Elon Musk is a forward-looking innovator extraordinaire, and he is definitely for humanity, which I am not sure can be said for most other international figures of the day. He is not, however, naïve about the world in which we are living.
Musk does not believe that everything being developed is good, especially on the AI front, even though he was a leader in AI development until selling his non-profit to Microsoft. I am inclined to agree that not everything shiny and new is good. Or rather, I am inclined to think that everything shiny and new is not going to be put to use by only good people who are committed to the best interests of humanity. Musk seems to have the same concern, and given the direction of AI research, he’s considering starting up a new AI venture. I’m sure there are advantages to AI, but I am not sure they outweigh the potential disadvantages. Do you want to visit a physician whose research was done by AI or the doctor’s own intelligence? Realize this… A high degree of intelligence only serves to reach answers faster than others. Intelligence is no guarantee of the right answer, just a fast trip to an answer – a fact I experienced first during my seminary education. The same necessarily applies to artificial intelligence. Getting an answer quickly does not guarantee getting a correct and wise answer. Can AI even possess wisdom? I digress…
As I listened to the interview, the question that ran through my mind was this: how is the church to bring Jesus into this conversation intelligently? We have a Savior Who walked the dusty roads in towns and villages on the edge of the Roman Empire over 2,000 years ago. What has He to do with today? Who is Jesus of millennia ago when faced with a visionary like Elon Musk, especially in light of the wherewithal Musk possesses to bring much of that vision to reality? Does Jesus have enough to offer that even someone like Elon Musk needs Him?
I raise these questions not solely in reference to Musk, but for the multitude in our society who never bother to think of Jesus at all. Many are certain that He is a delusional crutch for weak people, and the loudest voices in our nation have expelled Jesus from any participation in our discourse and our future. Unless Christians make our perspective heard, the many who do not know will never hear, because, the general consensus is that, even if there is a God, no one needs Him anymore. We’ve moved beyond that.
Have we? Or more importantly, how many of us live our lives as if we have, simply by default? Going with the flow, it is easy to forget that nothing would exist without Christ. As Paul wrote, “all things were created through Him and for Him. And He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.” I admit to you that I believe we have cause for concern when people want to take human life outside what Christ holds together.
If our God does not know more than Elon Musk, if He can’t keep up with twenty-first century technology, or is ineffectual against pretensions to the brave, new world, then why would anyone worship Him? Why would you and I worship Him? If we do not have a God Who is big enough to encompass, answer, overcome, or redeem every new thing – every human being – in the world today, then we do not have a God Who is worthy of worship.
My intention is not to pick on Elon Musk. As I said, I like him, at least the little I know of him. For all his wealth and success, he comes across (to me) as surprisingly grounded without excessive arrogance. But what he does represent is the complexity of thought and innovation in this generation, and it’s awfully difficult to hold that side by side with the Messiah of ancient Judea. Regular people – neighbors, co-workers, friends, and family – have a hard time accepting that we still need Jesus. All of the new possibilities hold a great deal of allure. When we look at the potential for our future with revolutionary technologies and their applications in science and medicine, this advanced knowledge makes it easy to set Jesus to the side of our lives and to save Him for the pesky problem of life after death. And that, we cannot do.
Whether we are ever called upon to defend the intellectual integrity of our faith, we need to have the intellectual depths of our faith for ourselves. We need this so that we will not be afraid of new ideas in our world, but we also need to understand the God of our faith well enough to recognize when new ideas have taken the turn to become bad ideas. It is always a bad idea to think we know more than God, and it is equally always a bad idea to try to change the image of God into a different, manmade concoction of human imagination and experimentation. Do we understand where that line is drawn?
There is not a real absence of belief among Christians. If one makes the effort to get up and go to church with some semblance of regularity, then belief in God and commitment to Christianity are important to a person. Likewise, there is not an absence of concern for our neighbor among most Christians. Churches, which consist of Christian people, do an enormous amount of unattributed good in our society. Food banks, clothing and household goods donations, prison ministries, ESL classes, and more are found in towns and cities across the nation, and this does not include countless individual Christians’ donations of time and money that cannot be measured, such things as carrying meals to homebound, volunteering at soup kitchens, reading or tutoring with school children, and so much more. Truly, if Christians suddenly stopped trying to care for our neighbors, the loss for communities would be stunning in its scope and impact.
What is missing among us is trust, not belief. We believe in God, but do we trust Him? Do we trust that He formed the universe? Do we trust that He is the Source of all knowledge, and no matter how sophisticated AI becomes, it will never be a match for our Creator? Do we trust He created us in His image and knows how we will best flourish? Do we trust that He is wiser and stronger than the greatest minds of our day, especially those who believe they have the right to control our lives and determine humanity’s future?
Toward the end of the interview, Carlson asked Musk about alien life in outer space. Musk answered that, in all the study and exploration he’s done, he’s never found any evidence of conscious beings, of any consciousness out there in all that space. Christians should recognize how to respond to such a statement, and the answer doesn’t have anything to do with the number of days in which God created or what astronomers speculate about other galaxies. How would you answer?
For what it’s worth, here is mine: The intelligence to search for conscious beings is a participation in the invisible Intelligence from which all true thought and knowledge spring, the Intelligence revealed in the immeasurable beauty of the complex and diverse span of creation. That human beings possess sufficient self-aware consciousness to seek the existence of other conscious beings is a gift of the inexpressible and inexhaustible Being that all consciousness reflects. Even the yearning to explore the vast expanse of the heavens is the soul’s deepest cry for what we lost when we could no longer see God, the mind’s insistent search for the Majesty and Grandeur that reveal the human creature’s own majesty and grandeur.
Science is not going to discover anything too hard for God. No one is ever going to form a lasting epoch of human flourishing without Him, for the world and all that is in it are created by Him. If each of us who call ourselves Christian would spend just a minute each day in the eternal presence of Christ, dwelling in His love and basking in His joy, our fears would fade, and we would become an unquenchable and irresistible source of light and life in this generation.
In his conversation with the team at the Babylon Bee, Musk shared a revealing story from his childhood. As they talked, it was clear that Musk had studied Christianity. He’d read the whole Bible, noting that the Old Testament was “kind of dark.” Indeed… But he admitted he didn’t know what to make of the stories in the New Testament. If I recall correctly, he asked his Sunday School teacher how two loaves could feed 5,000 people with bread left over? Did the bread grow somehow? How was that possible? Elon Musk didn’t understand God’s intervention in His own creation, His power to create ex nihilo, and his teacher didn’t have a reasonable explanation for him. So, even though a part of him would have liked to believe, Musk let it go. The story of Jesus just wasn’t believable.
Please, Lord, don’t let that be us! While we are unlikely to debate anyone into faith in God, we do need to know Who God is and be able to answer basic questions about Him. Likewise, we are invited to live in Christ Himself, and when we do, we will be able to love people to Him. We will be bearers of the light that reveals what is true and what is false, what is good for human beings and what destroys.
Look around… Our world needs a Savior. Conveniently, we have One. Are we ready to offer Jesus to people – His mind, His wisdom, His will, His ways, His salvation? “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by Him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible…”
In Christ –
Rev. Elizabeth Moreau
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