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AI and the Church

By Pastor Tom Anderson

Artificial intelligence is everywhere. It’s appeared on all our browsers. Ask it any question and instantly it provides answers. It’s like an encyclopedia at your fingertips. But there’s so much more. Ask it to write an essay. Specify the topic, the length, even the tone and boom, there it is. It will be difficult for any teacher to know if it is or is not the genuine work of a student. Now you can see the threat to education!

How does it work? AI simply takes sentences, paragraphs and words from millions of documents online–books, websites, blogs–and recasts them into answers to your questions, essays, poems, jokes, whatever form you request. The legality of this is about to be disputed by some of the original creators of all those documents.

How will AI affect the church? It will be tempting to use AI to write Bible Studies, discussion questions, children’s lessons, blogs, congregational emails, letters, and yes, sermons. Here’s what I say: Just don’t. Don’t use AI to write any gospel communications for the church.

Here are four reasons not to use AI in the church:

1. It teaches Christians not to think. Why think about the meaning, purpose or application of a Bible passage when AI can do it for you? Yes, thinking is work and by nature we are lazy and would actually prefer to let someone else think for us–even if it is a machine. This is the mark of our fallen human nature: we stop thinking or we out-source our thinking to the world. But thinking is at the heart of the Gospel. Romans 12:2 says, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” Christian identity is under threat when we stop thinking.

2. It teaches Christians to plagiarize. This breaks two of the Ten Commandments: It bears false witness and it’s stealing other people’s work. If you do use AI you should always state plainly, “This text was written by AI, not me.”

3. It turns us away from relying on the Holy Spirit. Instead of prayer and seeking God’s wisdom, we could turn to AI to write a lesson or a sermon. Such a process betrays the whole purpose of our faith! Why would we want to substitute listening to God for an AI-generated message? Jesus said, “my sheep will listen to my voice.” (John 10:16) God speaks to us! This is the most precious thing in the life of faith. What a tragedy that a Christian would trade away the process of prayer, searching the scriptures and thinking for an AI generated message.

4. It can be ideological slanted. AI generated letters and text have been found to put a subtle ideological spin on things–in ways that don't align with Gospel values. It merits a careful proof-reading of AI generated messages and a discerning mind to edit out ideological insinuations or sympathies. And if you’re going to put all that work into proof-reading and editing AI text, why not just write your own?

It’s always been possible to use someone else’s words for your own. But AI has made it quick, easy and very difficult to detect. I don’t know about you, but I’d rather hear a poorly worded testimony that came out of someone’s heart experience with God than a slickly produced AI religious essay any day. One is filled with the Spirit, the other is just a machine.


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