We live in a generation of “intelligences”—emotional intelligence, creative intelligence, and, more recently, “artificial” intelligence. Artificial intelligence (AI) is a broad field of study within computer science, designing systems that think and act like humans—from playing games to driving vehicles.
Two major subdivisions of AI are “specific” and “general” forms. Specific AI technologies are systems that mimic humans engaging in a particular task (e.g., ChatGPT), while general AI attempts to mimic humans in thought, language, and action more broadly (e.g., the character Data on Star Trek: The Next Generation). Now that specific AI tools like ChatGPT have been unleashed on society, we also hear the term “machine learning.” This refers to systems that have “learned” to execute specific or general tasks.
From a technologist’s perspective, this is an exciting time. Many predict these technologies will be as transformative to society as the printing press (the Enlightenment Age), the combustion engine (the Industrial Age), and the computer (the Information Age).
Common Grace or Real-Life Terminator?
When Christians view AI solely as a tool, we can consider it the way Christians have historically responded to technological development: tools are gifts from God, granted under common grace, to be used for good and wise purposes.
As the Lord says through Isaiah, “Behold, I have created the smith who blows the fire of coals and produces a weapon for its purpose. I have also created the ravager to destroy” (Isa. 54:16). God has ordained that technological advancements increase throughout history. But how we use these gifts of common grace—whether for good or evil—is a theological and moral issue deserving of careful attention.
How we use gifts of common grace—whether for good or evil—is a theological and moral issue deserving careful attention.
We therefore must ask, Have we gone too far with AI technology? Some think so. They suggest AI isn’t merely a tool but an example of the creature (us) trying to re-create a divine image apart from God’s ordained means of procreation—thereby usurping God’s unique authority as Creator. Others remain excited to see how far we can develop and deploy these new technologies to promote human flourishing.
From its earliest days, AI has been about mimicking humans in part by studying and modeling them. There’s a long history of AI research interacting with neuroscience. Just how closely AI will be able to mimic the human mind generates both utopian and dystopian speculation. On the more fanciful side, people speak in the hopeful language of The Jetsons or Star Trek; on the more negative side, think The Terminator or The Matrix.
Don’t Fear Those Who Can’t Create a Soul
Pastors and parishioners are wrestling with questions about what AI is and how it’ll change life as we know it. Many are asking profound and nuanced questions. Will AI make human ingenuity and industry obsolete? What’s a biblical response to AI? If the printing press was a divine gift that accelerated the dissemination of God’s Word and biblical resources, how might AI fit into his plan to grow his kingdom across the globe?
The purpose of this brief article isn’t to answer these questions. We recognize, though, that behind many of these questions is a general unease or fear of the unknown. We simply want to address some biblical principles that may guide developing answers while confronting lurking fears about this new and complex technology.
1. God is sovereign and governs the world by holy, wise, and powerful works of sovereignty.
As exciting or alarming as AI advances might be, our best technological advances are like small children playing house—cute mimicry of their Creator. A fundamental premise of the reformers was that God is the Creator while we are but explorers and discoverers within his world. He alone declares the end from the beginning, and his purpose shall stand (Isa. 46:10). He works all things according to the counsel of his will (Eph. 1:11)—including the place of AI technology in our world.
2. AI technology (along with all other human achievements) doesn’t change God’s plan to glorify himself in the salvation of sinners.
By keeping God’s purpose for redemption in mind, our enthusiasm for AI—or fears of it—may be tempered. Though it can bring about great things, it can’t bring about ultimate things (Acts 4:12). Speaking of AI as savior or antichrist incorrectly assigns to AI a role beyond its purposes.
When the world looks to Seance AI to mimic the voices of deceased loved ones in order to converse again with “them,” we’re reminded of technology’s futility in a world under death’s curse. When our congregants insist AI technology will replace human industry—or, worse, have the capability to eradicate human life—we must remember that Scripture reveals God’s plan for world history.
World history unfolds along the line of creation, fall, redemption, and consummation. We don’t know every plot twist along the way, but we know how the story ends. Jesus died and rose, he’s seated in heaven, and he’ll build his church until he returns to usher in the new creation. Until then, wheat and tares will exist side by side (Matt. 13:24–30). We shouldn’t mistake fear for wisdom.
3. Only human beings bear God’s image.
AI can mimic divine image-bearers (and was designed to), but it doesn’t bear the divine image. Humans aren’t merely physical beings—we’re spiritual beings. We aren’t just bags of biology or complex, organic supercomputers. We’re psychosomatic creatures consisting of both body and soul.
We don’t know every plot twist along the way, but we know how the story ends.
God made the first man from dust and breathed into him the breath of life (Gen. 2:7). We can’t do the same to our machines. God made humans as priest-kings to subdue and rule the earth (1:26–28). No technological invention will ever be crowned with glory and honor—that privilege is reserved for us alone (Ps. 8), complete with our redemptive hope in the Word made flesh: the Lord Jesus Christ.
AI technology testifies to humanity’s God-given ingenuity—an ingenuity to be used in his service (though, of course, many use their creative intelligence for evil). But we needn’t fear those who can create an artificial body but cannot create a soul. Rather, fear him who can destroy both body and soul in hell (Matt. 10:28).
4. We should use this time of change to reaffirm our resolve to be salt and light in a technologically enlightened but spiritually dark world.
We needn’t fear those who can create an artificial body but cannot create a soul.
As with the parable of the two builders, the house on the rock and the house on the sand look identical—prior to the storm (Matt. 7:24–29). AI technology is leaving some disillusioned not due to the technology itself but due to the “foundations” it’s exposing.
AI may be able to mimic your voice after you’re dead, but it can’t raise you from the grave. This technology shouldn’t rocket us toward elation or plunge us into despondency—it should drive us back to God’s Word and to prayerful consideration of our place in his plan. The age of AI is an exciting frontier in which we can exhibit faith, herald hope, and demonstrate love while seeking God’s wisdom for engaging AI under the lordship of Christ.