God and AI

Everybody who pays attention knows that industrial automation and Artificial Intelligence are working huge changes in society, and that those changes are going to continue for a long while to come. What may not be recognized is the scope of its implications.

It’s easy to predict that a lot of jobs are going to be lost. The traditional reaction is … so what? New technologies mean new opportunities, new jobs, new riches, ‘creative destruction’ and all that — spinoffs. The loss of retail jobs thanks to online shopping, however, hasn’t been accompanied by an offsetting opportunity somewhere else; the guy who used to sell refrigerators at Sears in now getting old hustling boxes around an Amazon warehouse — and that job will soon be taken over by a robot. And what has become of the decorators who used to design those store window displays?

We are headed toward a world where the number of people who have useful skills will steadily diminish, and a steadily growing number of people will — literally — be unemployable. This has implications for governance itself, and a lot of the professions. Some medical services, for instance, are already provided remotely, by AI-driven robots controlled over the Internet.

The American Philosophical Association has organized task forces to sort out the likely effects of changing technology and begin preparing for the inevitable changes, and so has the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers.

And so, believe it or not, have the Southern Baptists.

Artificial Intelligence: An Evangelical Statement of Principles

As followers of Christ, we are called to engage the world around us with the unchanging gospel message of hope and reconciliation. Tools like technology are able to aid us in this pursuit. We know they can also be designed and used in ways that dishonor God and devalue our fellow image-bearers. Evangelical Christians hold fast to the inerrant and infallible Word of God, which states that every human being is made in God’s image and thus has infinite value and worth in the eyes of their Creator. This message dictates how we view God, ourselves, and the tools that God has given us the ability to create.

In light of existential questions posed anew by the emergent technology of artificial intelligence (AI), we affirm that God has given us wisdom to approach these issues in light of Scripture and the gospel message. Christians must not fear the future or any technological development because we know that God is, above all, sovereign over history, and that nothing will ever supplant the image of God in which human beings are created. We recognize that AI will allow us to achieve unprecendented possibilities, while acknowledging the potential risks posed by AI if used without wisdom and care.

We desire to equip the church to proactively engage the field of AI, rather than responding to these issues after they have already affected our communities. In light of this desire and hope, we offer the following affirmations and denials about the nature of humanity, the promise of technology, and the hope for the future.

Well … I applaud them for recognizing that we are on the cusp of epochal social change, and making an effort to get ready. I recognize their earnest good intentions, too; I would expect no less of a study group organized by Russell Moore, one of the very few men in the SBC’s leadership for whom I feel any genuine respect.

But these are Baptists.

Article 6: Sexuality

We affirm the goodness of God’s design for human sexuality which prescribes the sexual union to be an exclusive relationship between a man and a woman in the lifelong covenant of marriage.

We deny that the pursuit of sexual pleasure is a justification for the development or use of AI, and we condemn the objectification of humans that results from employing AI for sexual purposes. AI should not intrude upon or substitute for the biblical expression of sexuality between a husband and wife according to God’s design for human marriage.

It’s been almost 2-decades since I set foot in any church for any reason but an unavoidable funeral or wedding but, I swear, I’d love to be there the day Pastor Bubba solemnly condemns sex with robots and summons the specter of eternal flames.

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