I make a lot of fuss about the similarities of what mankind is doing with A.I. and what mankind has done with idols. The comparison often falls on deaf ears, stuffed with Airpods, and I plant my feet firmly in the sands of what it means to do theology honestly in the face of no longer being a cool kid.
I get called a traditionalist and old-fashioned and get accused of holding the church back from using new technologies, and have yet to, but expect it shortly, get told that my hesitance is tantamount to sin because of where and what these technologies can do for the church. I'm waiting patiently for that last one. I know it's coming, and this blog post is my litmus test for the idol worshipers who will bring that last question to me.
I don't mind being called names that don't apply to theologians doing their jobs. I don't mind being labelled with words that get thrown like distractions either. Because I've learned over the years that if there's one thing pagans hate. It's being labelled properly. Use of words like sodomy, mutilation, sexual deviant and pervert, gets their metaphorical panties in a bunch, and their actual panties in a bunch. So if you're following along in the hymnal, you know who I'm talking about when I say those three or four identifying words. You know because labels only mean things when they relate to and describe the person place or thing being labelled. Call a married couple with three beautiful kids "sexual deviants" for their behaviour, and the label falls on deaf ears and blind eyes. But it sticks to the rainbow flag like velcro and is just as loud when you try to separate it unironically.
I say all this to illustrate what properly addressing sin and impropriety can look like in one realm. So you can imagine how it looks in another realm as well.
So where's the litmus test? And how does this relate to A.I.?
Can you imagine an area of human experience in which A.I. as we have it now, can't make it potentially better?
Let's give you some options to choose from to start. Let's take Dating, Cooking, Real Estate, and Microbiology.
If you're being honest with yourself and your understanding of the nature of generative A.I., can that same A.I. make any of these wildly disparate and broad themes better. We both know the answer like we both know what the word marriage actually means, or man, or woman, but popular discourse has wormed its way into our lives and will soon be on parade on a regular basis as well. A.I. is being heralded as the Salvation and Destruction of the world as we know it, and is being crammed into everything that it can fit into, onto, and otherwise around. It's already in the church and that's where I come in because it shouldn't be on principle. But most people can't see why. Or maybe, they can't say why.
When you do this litmus test, when you find the answer being yes for all four of the categories listed above, I'm hoping that you realize what happened when I posed the question. Because it really didn't matter which words I gave you. It didn't need to be Dating, it could have been Demographics. It didn't need to be Cooking, it could have been Cars. And it didn't need to be four categories, it could have been one. But often, we need a body of evidence to see the problem. And the problem is that you can in fact apply A.I. to everything you can think of. And it's really only been mainstream for a year or so now.
Being able to be everywhere from Cooking to Cars and Dating to Demographics, in the same way and for the same reasons is a kind of omnipresence. Not all tech is like this. Hammers enjoy no such ubiquity even though they do tend to see every problem as a nail when given the chance. In that regard, A.I. and hammers are alike. They insist upon themselves. But the hammer, wrongly thinks that the solution to modern dating is hitting things with a hammer. I'm not convinced A.I., and those who worship, it are so dissuaded.
Yes. I used the word Worship because I meant the word worship and that's because I used the word omniprecence and meant that too. Even if I didn't Bold it for you I know what it means to try to be a god. And that's because I have a relationship with God. You don't need a hammer to be everywhere the same way you don't need a phone to be everywhere either. Though that little piece of tech came close. A.I. is on a trajectory to hit its target hard. We need A.I. to fit everywhere because that's what you require from small-g gods.
An idol, properly understood, is the physical manifestation of a demonic power.
"Behold Israel after the flesh: are not they which eat of the sacrifices partakers of the altar? What say I then? that the idol is any thing, or that which is offered in sacrifice to idols is any thing? But I say, that the things which the Gentiles sacrifice, they sacrifice to devils, and not to God: and I would not that ye should have fellowship with devils. Ye cannot drink the cup of the Lord, and the cup of devils: ye cannot be partakers of the Lord's table, and of the table of devils. Do we provoke the Lord to jealousy? are we stronger than he? All things are lawful for me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but all things edify not."
1 Cor 10 18-23 KJV
Now that's an honest exaggeration so long as it's still the hammer treating every problem like a nail. But A.I. isn't getting that kind of treatment. Is it? We all know that A.I. could be the modern-day version of a small-g god and we all dismissed it as meat sacrificed to idols too. The issue here isn't that the people who use A.I., specifically in the church, think that A.I. is a small-g god. The issue is they're not treating it like it's anything less than that.
It's one thing to buy your top sirloins from the back of Baal's BBQ. Because you know it's cheap and it makes for good fare at the men's bible study. It's another thing to host the bible study and cook the steak to Baal's specifications as if the preparation didn't matter so long as you call them Jesus steaks. The meat isn't a problem if it's being treated as meat. But if it's treated like the sacrifice that it was. If it's honoured or valued or even given preference to. Then we have a problem and a conflict of what we partake in.
This is why I don't think it's a problem, at all, for Christians and pastors to use artificial intelligence in the things they do. Like when Grammarly shows me where I've misspelled Deutoronomy. Because that is a Christian using a tool for the tool's intended purpose. And that purpose is subjective based on it's use. Not neutral, subjective. Grammarly, certainly edits what little is left of the articles written for porn these days. But that it's used for x-rated articles and sermons alike is secondary to its use as a spell checker. There's no conflict here except for really, really, REALLY weak brothers in Christ. But there is conflict for the normally weak brothers in Christ who dabble in writing worship songs, sermons or asking prayer-like questions with generative A.I. because "It's just a tool, bro."
What that is, is Idolatry. It is the presupposing of divine attributes into or onto an object that man has made.
Worship songs should be coming from the conviction of a Holy Spirit and Believer in unison and through that same Holy Spirit's gifts. Not a data set and prompts.
Sermons, similarly, are the outcropping of a spiritual gift, not content to be generated. A pastor who can't find time to properly search the scriptures and craft a sermon, isn't strapped for time and resources in the busy modern church office. He's biblically unqualified to lead.
"A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behaviour, given to hospitality, apt to teach;"
1 Tim 3:2 KJV
When we introduce generative A.I. into this what we are asking of the A.I. is what is supposed to come from God. You can not ask an object for spiritual blessings and expect God not to treat you as he would an idolater. Because that's what you're doing. Or were you confused about who this next verse might be talking about?
"Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity."
These two examples of sermons and worship songs, are two of the growing list of examples of where Christians don't see that they are doing exactly what pagans are doing with their tech. But calling it "Christian" as if that authorizes the practice and makes it fit for Christian consumption. The same pagans, I might add, that are scared to death of what happens when their A.I. god gets bigger than they can manage and prompt. They're terrified of the nightmarish, sci-fi possibilities of an all-knowing entity and wanted to pump the breaks around the same time we were letting this kind of thing preach in German churches.
We just sing Sunday school songs about Him.