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Jesus in an AI World

Updated: Jun 27


For it was not to angels that God subjected the world to come, of which we are speaking. It has been testified somewhere,

“What is man, that You are mindful of him,    or the son of man, that You care for him?

You made Him for a little while lower than the angels;    You have crowned Him with glory and honor,

      putting everything in subjection under His feet.”

Now in putting everything in subjection to Him, He left nothing outside His control. At present, we do not yet see everything in subjection to Him. But we see Him who for a little while was made lower than the angels, namely Jesus, crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God He might taste death for everyone.

-       Hebrews 2:5-9

 

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is the hot topic of the day. With the release of an AI function on almost every web browser and AI bots in chat pop-ups in many websites, it’s not much of an overstatement to say we can’t get away from it. That is, I think, the point of this post. With it being implemented everywhere we turn and integrated into everything we do, AI holds enormous potential to influence life as we know it, as well as the future of the human race. Dramatic statement, I realize, but nonetheless true. At the risk of sounding like a luddite, I admit to some serious concerns about the ideas driving AI development, as well as the direction being pursued by AI system developers.

 

The question that always comes to mind is, ‘what has Truth to do with artificial?’ What has the Truth to do with artificial intelligence? At first glance, one would think that is somewhat irrelevant because the majority of us use AI to get information or to make life simpler and more convenient. John Lennox, the semi-retired Oxford professor in mathematics and philosophy, uses the common illustration of X-ray comparisons for diagnoses. What once took a week or more to diagnose can be done in seconds utilizing AI to search millions of images and match a patient’s X-ray to the correct condition. Similarly, every time we speak to Alexa, Siri, or “hey Google,” we are engaging artificial intelligence. It is fair to say that these are useful applications of AI. Sometimes, I wonder if convenience makes us lazy, but regardless, such applications of AI are helpful.  

 

In just the last several months, nearly every search engine started offering a friendly AI assistant to help you search the internet. My first thought was, ‘thank goodness, an alternative to Wikipedia!’ But no, as it turns out, the AI answers are just as skewed as Wikipedia, except they are worse. AI controls internet search results whereas Wikipedia only controls Wikipedia, which is no small thing because Wikipedia gets 4 billion hits each month. The Manhattan Institute reported that Wikipedia has a mild to moderate left-leaning bias and is being used in training Large Language Models (LLM) of AI where those same biases appear – think: GPT (Open AI), LLaMA (Meta AI), Google’s PaLM AI, and others. Thus, from the outset, AI is shaped by left-leaning algorithms. Here, I am not talking about politics as much as worldview. Left-leaning is naturalistic and atheistic – secular humanism. Such a worldview is necessarily un-Christian, even anti-Christian.

 

Think for a moment of LLM artificial intelligence (more commonly called Artificial General Intelligence: AGI) as similar to an infant with everything to learn. The infant learns whatever it’s taught, from the language of the parents to the lifestyle, values, and beliefs. AGI is much like that, except that it is not sentient and has no conscience. Although AGI may appear to be interacting as a human would, it cannot weigh alternatives or discern moral choices. AGI learns without regard for ethics, human worth, or truth, and it does so because human beings set the parameters for learning through complex algorithms that predetermine what the AI systems will glean from the internet. Christian code writers can impact what AGI learns, but Christian belief will be a minority in the general scope of AGI because Christianity (or any other religion) is not considered knowledge by the majority in the field.

 

There is no neutral worldview, such as the idea that rationality and science are “real” knowledge in contrast to everything else. In reality, science cannot measure the fullness of all that exists, and it is as easily manipulated and biased as any other human endeavor. The issue of rationality or reason is precisely what is at stake in competing worldviews. If one does not believe in God and believes only the material world exists, that contradicts the entirety of Christian faith and life, which is lived out in the union of physical and spiritual. Both cannot be accurate, and the claims of one negate the other.

 

For example, a few months back, I came across a news item that said the State of Texas is considering using AI to grade essay questions (although I been unable to locate the outcome, if any). The benefit is obvious because reading 125-150 essays consumes a great deal of a teacher’s time in the evening and over weekends. But pause a moment and think about using AI to grade essays. If you teach your child that God created the universe and all that is in it (in whatever manner you believe God created), something Christians confess to believe, such an answer will be graded as incorrect. In the scope of AGI research and development, this is but one small example of the difficulty of living in an AI world.



February 2024 ChatGPT response to a request for portraits of the Founding Fathers of the United States,

since removed and updated for facticity.

 

AGI is being heralded as a “super-intelligence” to which human beings can turn for knowing and understanding everything. However, the super-intelligence of AGI is nothing more than the accumulation of the knowledge of human beings, albeit more knowledge than any one human has. Since none of us knows everything, then neither will artificial intelligence – nor can it. Christians are related to the Creator of all that exists by new birth of water and the Spirit, and even though we are given the mind of Christ in our lives and for our generation, we cannot know everything our Father knows. Moreover, artificial intelligence cannot be programmed to know the mind of God at all for it cannot compute the existence of God, His will, or His purposes. Speculations that AI is or will become sentient, meaning self-aware and conscious, are misguided, for consciousness belongs to human beings alone. For many of us, sentient AGI sounds like science fiction such as Star Wars or Star Trek (and it is), but we need to be aware of the aspirations of others that will affect us in ways we cannot imagine.

 

Much greater ambitions with far-reaching implications stretch beyond biased or false information. Billions of dollars are being invested by universities, institutes, and governments (but not churches) around the world to develop AI for a variety of purposes, all of which are predicated on the accumulation of knowledge and the open potential for reshaping human life and indeed the entire human race. This is what philosopher and mathematician Bill Dembski and other like-minded scholars have identified as the idolatry of artificial intelligence. There is a strong inclination to worship AGI as a real god-like entity. Thus, while there is merit to the idea that Christian programmers can make a positive impact, Christians still need to be grounded in faith and recognize the inherent dangers in this line of work. Some developers believe AGI will surpass human beings and inaugurate a new future in which the machine will solve all human problems and build a utopian world, a goal that completely contradicts Christian life and faith.

 

Probably the most prominent public voice for this future AGI-ordered utopia, Nick Bostrom is the director of the Future of Humanity Institute – no small hubris there. Bostrom is also the author of Superintelligence and Deep Utopia in which he explains, defends, and anticipates the potential of AGI including the expected advantages of transhumanism – the melding of human beings with computer technology and nanobots, and longtermism – the extension of life for hundreds of years. What could possibly go wrong?

 

Bearing in mind that this is only one man among many working in this field, I want to share two quotes I came across, with thanks to Lennox. Bostrom, who is not alone in his ideas, defines transhumanism as: “The intellectual and cultural movement that affirms the possibility and desirability of fundamentally improving the human condition through applied reason, especially by developing and making widely available technologies to eliminate aging and to greatly enhance human intellectual, physical, and psychological capacities.”

 

At first glance, that sounds wonderful! Who doesn’t want a long life? But look around at our world – the conflicts, the hatred, the wars, the threats. Apparently, Bostrom, et al, think to turn this into a paradise of some sort by improving the “human condition.” The human condition is sin and death, and while leaders on the forefront of AGI development are working hard to extend life, they understand the problem of sin as a psychological problem that AI can actually solve. As stated above, these ideas contradict Christian faith. Not to put too fine a point on it, the problem of sin and death has already been solved in Jesus Christ. We do not need – nor would we want – an alternative salvation. Jesus Christ came into the world to save the human race and the whole of creation. To trust a machine more than Christ Himself is not only idolatry but is also and inevitably death.

 

We only need to look at Bostrom’s plan for longtermism to know this is true. Bostrom’s strategy for attaining the desired longterm outcome is this: “Priority one, two, three, and four should… be to reduce existential risk. …We mustn’t fritter away our finite resources on feel-good projects of 'sub-optimal efficacy’ such as alleviating global poverty and reducing animal suffering, since neither threatens our longterm potential, and our longterm potential is what really matters.” One can’t help but wonder how those living in global poverty feel about being starved to death for the longterm benefit of Bostrom and his cohorts. Perhaps more importantly, Christians must ask ourselves how God feels about starving people around the globe for our own personal benefit.

 

What I want us to see is the calculated intent of AGI development for perceived goods that entails tremendous evil to attain. The pursuit of life itself is good, but the use of artificial intelligence to acquire life is not. Artificial intelligence is, by definition, artificial, as in, not real. While AI may appear to offer enormous possibilities for humanity, the opposite is true. In Jesus Christ we have the potential to become fully human. With AGI, we have the potential to become machines without conscience or wisdom. If the last thirty-plus years of the internet have taught us anything, it has shown us that with the vast increase in access to data and facts, we have more knowledge with less understanding and even less wisdom.

 

This is enough for now. Discussion of AI could go on and on ad nauseum because no one really knows how this will unfold – no one but God alone. I suspect most of us tend to look at the ease and convenience of AI, but we need to be aware of its increasing potential for evil. AI is not going to become sentient or conscious because consciousness cannot be measured by science; indeed, no one even knows what it is. It certainly cannot be programmed into an algorithm, not even by Christian programmers.

 

The first observation I would make is that although we need to be wise, we waste time being afraid. What has the Truth to do with artificial? If we exclude the narrow function of rapid compilation of data, the answer is nothing. Our Lord is the Truth; He is the Way to Life – to be human as God created us to be and saved us to become. Jesus Christ is the opposite of artifice, and to be fully alive in Him is to be a blockade between the god-sized delusions of atheist aspirations and their success. We cannot escape AGI because it is rapidly being inserted into every area of our lives, and in some cases, we will see some benefits. But AGI is no match for a human being and certainly is not worthy of worship. The one thing AGI does not have and can never attain is a soul. Those are given by our Creator when He grants us life in the womb.

 

For some decades, the Church has needed to be countercultural, but instead, we have sought to accommodate and progress with everyone else. Now, we are being asked to accept the unreality of artificial intelligence – intelligence defined by those who do not believe in God, who believe in nothing beyond themselves. There could be no more obvious contrast between the world and the Kingdom than what is coming in the months ahead – months not years.

 

Frankly, I think the Spirit of God is moving in our world. There are signs of new birth and renewal around the globe in unexpected places. The Spirit has manifested Christ with us in outpourings across our own land, as well. The strength of the rise of that which is evil and the depth of idol worship in hopes of a false utopian salvation are a sign that Satan is trying to stop the work of God. This is the only way Christians can understand the ambitions behind the bulk of the development of Large Language Models of AI. Artificial General Intelligence is what is not real but is what gives us an illusion of controlling the future.

 

In every area of human life, the Truth of the Gospel is increasingly being revealed, and AGI holds the most promise for redirecting humanity away from what is true and just and good. It is not a coincidence that as the Truth of Christian belief becomes stronger, so also does the effort to destroy Christian belief grow.

 

The church needs to become an outpost of reality in a world of artificiality. Already, far too many of this generation of young people live depressed and anxious lives formed within the parameters of social media. Life is not going to be better, less stressful, or less depressing when the whole of reality becomes a fluctuating and moving target. Life will not be freed, but instead, the illusions and pretenses required to conform to what is artificially defined by mere mortals will create an exhausting state of superficiality without rhyme or reason. Who lives, and who dies? Bostrom (or another like him) knows…

 

Our energy is best spent drawing closer to Christ and one another in worship and prayer, and building small communities where love, compassion, and care are real. We need to begin to acknowledge our need for other persons, as well as the inhumanity born in isolation and the misery of a living masquerade. Here, in Christ, we are human, and the more we are together in Christ and the closer we draw to other Christians, the more human we will become.

 

Artificial intelligence is artificial. However fast algorithms run and however much storage a piece of silicon holds, it will be no match for the image of God in an authentic human being. AGI will never possess humility or empathy. AGI will never know the comfort of a human hug or understand the healing power of human laughter. AGI is a manmade creation for a world that has an expiration date by people who do not know what it means to be a new creation in Christ Jesus for participation in the Kingdom of God.

 

Most of all, most of all, we need to remember that God created this world, and while He allows human freedom, nothing we dream up will ever come close to the wisdom and power of our Father. We are safe with Him.

 

When I think about the future, I do not think of what AGI or transhumanist longtermism means to me. Beyond making life more complicated and difficult, these initiatives mean nothing. Instead, I think of the millions of people who will put their hope in an idea or a software system or a silicon chip that will eventually prove false. Their hope is built on the fallacy of human supremacy. God is supreme, and He is good. God alone is good.

 

For the time being, AGI is coming regardless of what we want, so we need now to begin building communities of authenticity, truth, and vulnerability – communities in which our humanity can be restored and where persons can be born anew and learn to thrive. Except for God Himself, there is nothing higher nor superior to the image of God, and together, in genuine love for one another and in worship of Christ our God, we can image Him in life and light to a world that is becoming inarguably and inescapably a place of death and darkness. That is what the contrast between our fallen world and Christ’s Kingdom has always been. The time is rapidly coming in which we will not be able to ignore the difference.

 

Do not be afraid. God is mindful of us. He is crowning us with glory and honor as brothers and sisters of Christ Jesus. Even the artificial objectives and silicon dreams of callous atheists are subject to Him Who reigns over all that is. Time to get to work. We need to prepare ourselves. The salvation we have received needs to be lived by us more fully each day and made available to all others when high-minded fantasies shatter against the rock of reality.

 

In Christ –

 

Rev. Elizabeth Moreau

© 2024

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