A Christian’s Perspective on Artificial Intelligence

By

The age of artificial intelligence has dawned upon humanity. Technologies integrating artificial intelligence and digital experiences have become so ubiquitous and seamlessly integrated across mobile devices, vehicles, televisions, grocery stores, work, and the internet that many people do not even realize when they are using artificial intelligence technology. But as AI has become more powerful and capable over the past several years, we are being confronted with the realization that although AI may offer benefits, there may also be significant risks to harnessing increasingly powerful AI technologies. As Christians, our biblical theology should guide all our perspectives regarding the use (and misuse) of artificial intelligence technologies.

To that end, this essay will help Christians understand this new technology: its benefits, its risks, and then some guiding principles to consider. In the end, I will argue that AI is a tool that has real dangers—but also very real possibilities for aiding with the Great Commission.

What is AI and how is it used today?

Artificial Intelligence can be thought of as technology to create organic experiences. IBM defines Artificial Intelligence as technology that enables computers and machines to simulate human intelligence and problem-solving capabilities.

With such a broad definition, it’s no wonder that we are likely to encounter AI every day. Do you use your fingerprint or face to open your smartphone or other similar device? That’s AI. Do you use navigation technology in your vehicle to follow the most efficient route to your destination while avoiding traffic or toll roads? Again, AI. When you shop online, do you ever notice how the online retailer seems to make suggestions for products you may like based on your past purchases? That’s also AI. Do you use spellcheck or autocomplete to write an email or text message? That’s another example of AI. Most likely, you are using AI enabled technology multiple times a day whether you know it or not.

Recently, there have been very significant advances in a specific subfield of AI called generative artificial intelligence. Generative artificial intelligence, or “gen AI,” can be thought of as using computers to generate new content, including text, images, audio, video, and other kinds of data. Specific kinds of generative AI are currently so good at generating new content that it’s often indistinguishable from human generated content. As generative AI technology continues to advance, the content produced will improve in quality, accuracy, efficiency, and complexity.

To give one example: OpenAI, a research company that aims to develop AI systems for the benefit of all humanity, developed and released ChatGPT in November 2022, an AI-powered chat bot that enables a human user to have a conversation, ask questions, explain concepts, and create new text-based content. ChatGPT and other kinds of generative AI models are shockingly proficient at explaining complex concepts, summarizing documents, writing code, recommending solutions to problems, and more.

But the capabilities of generative AI go far beyond text generation. For example, OpenAI’s generative AI model, DALL-E 3, is specifically designed to create images based on a prompt, or a set of text-based instructions given by the human user to the AI model that describe the expected output. These images are artificially created through the use of generative AI, which means that every pixel on the screen was produced using AI.

A group of cartoon characters playing musical instruments in a forest

Description automatically generated
A 2D animation of a folk music band composed of anthropomorphic autumn leaves, each playing traditional bluegrass instruments, amidst a rustic forest setting dappled with the soft light of a harvest moon.

In addition, generative AI has the potential to create extremely realistic videos and audio files that are 100% machine generated. Earlier this year, OpenAI announced Sora, a generative AI text-to-video model that can produce movies up to one minute in length based on a text input. Sora can generate very complex and lifelike videos that may include organic motion, multiple characters, and realistic physics based on the user input prompt. The results are stunning.

It is difficult to overstate the impact that emerging AI technologies will have on the world in the future. We are just now scratching the surface of what is possible with the next generation of artificial intelligence. And what is more, there are endless motivations and financial incentives to pursue this technology.

I spend a significant amount of time speaking at technology conferences and with leaders of organizations that are eager to adopt artificial intelligence to maintain a competitive advantage and/or drive positive outcomes for their organizations. A consistent theme I’m hearing is that this next wave of AI tools has the potential to be very disruptive to a broad range of industries, some say maybe even more revolutionary than the invention of the internet.

What are the benefits to using AI?

The next generation of artificial intelligence tools will have profound impacts on society. Much of the impact of these new AI tools will be driven by new efficiencies based on the use of generative AI in daily activities.

For example, imagine you are returning to work after a weeklong vacation. Many of us are familiar with the sight of an unkept email inbox full-to-overflowing. But enter Generative AI. Integrated with your email inbox, it could quickly and easily sort through your email at your command, identify your most urgent and important priorities, and surface those emails to the top of your inbox.

Or imagine you’ve been looped into a long and confusing email conversation with multiple parties touching on a variety of topics. With the click of a button, AI could summarize the most important points from the email conversation into a neat bullet point list, including the important topics and any relevant action items for you to follow up on. AI could then automatically schedule a meeting for you and the relevant parties with an accurate, predefined agenda at a day and time when most invitees are available based on their electronic calendar. AI could also make day-to-day repetitive or mundane office work less painful and time consuming.

Another example of an area where AI will provide significant benefits is in the area of data-driven decision making. Many leaders of organizations and decision-makers spend significant time, energy, and money collecting, cleaning, optimizing, and structuring data so they can make the most accurate and well-informed decisions possible. Data-driven decision-making can often be the differentiator between success or failure for a business.

On this point, AI has the capability to help organizations quickly process and prepare data by processing raw information into more structured and organized formats so that it can be more easily consumed and understood by the leadership team. And through prompt engineering, the leadership team could ask questions of the datasets to understand the key data inputs that may affect various business metrics or even predict specific outcomes based on historical data.

The latest artificial intelligence tools also can process, understand, and work with images. In the healthcare industry, AI algorithms are being used to analyze medical images such as X-rays, MRIs, and CT scans for the purpose of detecting tumors, broken bones, abnormalities, and other potential medical issues. In marketing, AI is being used to produce customized visuals and graphics for unique marketing campaigns. And in creative professions, AI can help with brainstorming, storyboarding, and sketching out new ideas visually.

AI tools are also having a significant impact on processing and analyzing video. Self-driving automobiles previously were futuristic dreams of science fiction. This is no longer the case. Many people today own self-driving vehicles that can operate on autopilot. Using a 360-degree view provided by cameras and advanced AI capabilities, self-driving cars can steer, accelerate, slow down, park, and more. While today most advanced self-driving vehicles still require some human supervision, it’s easy to imagine a completely autonomous vehicle capable of driving without human input as an imminent possibility.

Can AI help Christians?

The potential for impact and disruption by the latest AI tools is clear. But can these new, powerful AI tools have a beneficial impact in the life of Christians who are striving to obey Jesus and fulfill the will of God? I think the answer is “yes, absolutely”—even though uncertainty and lack of understanding may lead us to fear the use of artificial intelligence tools. Here are a few examples where AI tools could potentially be beneficial for Christians who desire to fulfil the Great Commission of Jesus Christ (Matt. 28:18–20).

First, one of the greatest hindrances to gospel progress is the language barrier. How can the good news be shared if it is not understood (1 Cor. 14:10-11). The latest AI tools, including those created by organizations such as OpenAI, can quickly and accurately translate written text and spoken language to other languages, which can benefit both Bible translations and Bible studies.

For instance, OpenAI’s automatic speech recognition system, Whisper, is designed to convert spoken language into written text in your language of choice. Whisper can understand spoken language and transcribe from one spoken language into multiple other languages nearly simultaneously. Imagine leading a Bible study with a group of people from diverse backgrounds speaking different native languages in attendance.

The language barrier would normally require human translators. But these new AI tools could act as an efficient, personal translator for each person in their language of choice. Microsoft Teams, a realtime collaboration and communication software, currently uses AI-enabled features to provide live captions for virtual meetings with the ability to translate a speaker’s words into captions written in the selected language as the words are spoken. Tools like OpenAI and Microsoft Teams have the potential to make Christian teaching accessible to more people than ever before.[1]

1. Editor’s Note. David Attebury will explain later this month how AI technology helps him research ancient documents never before translated into English.

New AI tools also have the potential to make the Bible available to more people in more languages than ever before. Don Barger, Director of Innovation and MX Labs at the International Mission Board, says approximately 3,700 languages remain without the Bible. One company, Avodah, is trailblazing the use of AI to translate scripture more quickly than ever before. Translators and linguists, assisted with innovative AI tools like those by Avodah, are able to quickly produce rough drafts of translated scripture that can then be verified and refined by human experts. The work by Avodah and other organizations has the potential to enable many more people to hear and believe the gospel.

Another example relates to churches and their virtual presence. In an increasingly digital age, most churches have some kind of online or social media presence. Through the World Wide Web (that increasing antiquated technology) churches communicate events, share news and announcements, invite unreached people in the community to Easter Sunday, and share the gospel. For churches low on staff but high on communicating with visual art and digital graphics, AI may provide the solution.

Very few local churches have full-time staff with the capacity or professional skill to create high quality graphics for use in Christian ministry. But generative AI tools can enable an untrained person to quickly and efficiently produce eye-catching graphics and images that could be used to invite members of the local community to the church Christmas Eve service, Wednesday potluck supper, or a weeknight Bible study. The capabilities of AI tools offer an exciting ability to communicate with and reach out to our communities with the truth of the gospel in a way we haven’t been able to before.

In this way and in many others, AI offers real potential for Christian serving in ministry, not to mention Christians working in hundreds of other vocations.

What are the Risks of Using Artificial Intelligence?

Acknowledging the benefits of AI, what are the risks? Many of us imagine the dangers of AI as malevolent robots or computers enslaving humanity. We live in the Matrix, after all, right? But the reality is that the dangers AI tools in the present are often more subtle and less obvious. Some of the risks associated with using the latest AI tools could be unintentional but still impactful.

Taking Human Jobs

Kristalina Georgieva, Managing Director at International Monetary Fund, wrote in her recent article “AI Will Transform the Global Economy. Lets Make Sure It Benefits Humanity” that 40% of jobs around the world are currently or will be affected by AI technology while 60% of jobs in advanced economies are affected by AI technology. Obviously, this is a double edged sword. Workers who are able to better adopt and succeed with the latest AI technology will likely continue to be successful in their jobs as roles and technologies change. Georgieva also explains, “AI applications may execute key tasks currently performed by humans, which could lower labor demand, leading to lower wages and reduced hiring. In the most extreme cases, some of these jobs may disappear.” Advancing technologies will clearly have an impact on jobs and economies, but to what degree remains to be seen.

Inaccuracy

Another current risk to widespread use of AI is when AI models “hallucinate.” A hallucination is when a generative AI model “imagines” or produces an output that is either nonsensical or completely wrong. For example, imagine you have a friend who wants to paint a horse, but your friend has never seen a horse. So, to be a good friend, you do your best to describe a horse to your friend. But even with your best efforts, your friend’s painting of a horse does not represent a horse with perfect accuracy. Maybe the legs are too long, the eyes too big, and the tail is more alligator than Arabian. The creature depicted in the painting is somewhat “horse-like” but it’s not totally correct in its representation of a horse. A hallucination within the context of AI is when AI gets something wrong, and it’s very important for users of AI to be aware of the risk of hallucinations. When using AI tools, humans should always review the outputs of AI for accuracy, quality, and appropriateness.[2]

2. Cogent readers will recognize that some applications of AI cannot be verified by the user. For instance, when translating from an unknown language to a known language, the user cannot readily verify the accuracy. This is another limiting factor of using AI.

In February 2023, Google’s generative AI chatbot, Gemini (formerly known as Bard), attracted unwelcome publicity when it incorrectly stated that the James Webb Space Telescope took the very first pictures of an exoplanet outside the solar system. The mistake was costly. Alphabet, Google’s parent company, lost approximately $100 billion in market value in the following days. Sometimes AI makes mistakes, and while the latest AI tools are continuing to improve in accuracy and reliability, its important for users of AI technology to validate and confirm the accuracy of outputs produced by AI. But mistakes are not the only problem that AI can make.

Deepfakes

In Romans 1:30, Paul described mankind left to their own devices as “inventors of evil.” And because mankind is continually pursuing new ways to disobey God, the potential to use AI in ways displeasing to God is real and present.

AI technologies can be used to produce artificial videos, sometimes known as “deepfakes,” to purposefully deceive and mislead people. A deepfake is a video or audio file that replaces one person’s likeness with the likeness of another person. Using this method, a malicious person using cutting edge AI technology could film a person doing and saying potentially shocking things but then replace the likeness of the original person with that of an influential political figure, celebrity, or other person for the express purpose of doing damage to their reputation or image. Deepfake AI technology has become so accurate and lifelike, it’s often undetectable by the average person unfamiliar with the technology.

In 2021 for example, quirky videos of movie star, Tom Cruise began to appear on social media platforms seemingly depicting Tom Cruise talking and laughing about a variety of topics. The person in the video seemed to look, sound, and act like Tom Cruise—but it was not actually Tom Cruise. The videos were created by Chris Umé, a visual effects artist. Umé filmed actor Miles Fisher and used AI technology to replace the likeness of Fisher with that of Cruise, and the success of these viral videos led to the creation of his AI technology firm.

It’s not difficult to imagine the potential damage that could be done to a person, their family, or business if a deepfake video were to be produced depicting that person engaging in activity damaging to their reputation. Sadly, according to social media expert Henry Ajder, 96% of the deepfakes found online during his research were pornographic in nature. Imagine your horror if you discovered yours or a loved one’s likeness being used in an explicitly violent or pornographic video being viewed by thousands of people or more across the internet for their sordid pleasure.

Leftward Bias

Another risk that is present with the use of AI technologies is bias. In the context of artificial intelligence, bias refers to the tendency of an AI system to generate outputs that are systemically prejudiced. The Washington Post reported last year that research conducted at the University of East Anglia revealed OpenAI’s ChatGPT has a systemic bias towards the political left. And if you need an example of bias in AI tools, compare the outputs from ChatGPT when asked to write a joke about Jesus and a joke about Allah.

Screens screenshot of a chat

Description automatically generated

How can artificial intelligence be biased towards an ideology, belief system, or political party? The answer is that the creators of AI models use biased data to train the algorithms. It should come as no surprise that the AI tools being developed by imperfect people corrupted by sin contain errors, inaccuracies, and outright lies.

Three Biblical Considerations for Christians Living in the Age of AI

Because of the kindness and love of God, he has given us his Word as a lamp to our feet and a light unto our path (Ps. 119:105). And going forward into the Wild West of Artificial Intelligence, we are going to need the principles of Scripture more than ever. As we close, therefore, let me offer three biblical considerations for Christians living in the age of AI.

1. AI Does Not Threaten God’s Sovereign Rule

The printing press, the telegraph, and the internet all represent revolutionary changes in information, and yet through all these the sovereign God has remained on his throne. We should not be afraid of uncertainty as the revolution of artificial intelligence continues to advance and machines begin to outperform humans. In uncertain times, we might be tempted to trust in our own ability to guard ourselves from the risks of rapidly advancing technologies, but we ought rather to rest on the promises of God: the church will prevail (Matt. 16:18); God is with us to strengthen and uphold us (Isa 41:10); God will provide for our needs (Matt. 6:25–34); and king Jesus will one day return (1 Thess. 4:13–18). A world full of artificial intelligence changes these truths not one iota. While the power of AI may far surpass the abilities of even the most talented human beings, AI will never surpass the power of an almighty God.

For those cleansed by the sacrifice of Jesus Christ and adopted into the family of God, there is no good reason to fear what the future holds in the age of AI. Do not give in to the temptation to fear the things of man. Trust God and draw near to him. He will be near to his people whatever the future holds for humanity.

2. The Bible is True and Trustworthy.

The world and the people in it are full of deception. Since creation, mankind has been lied to and manipulated through various methods, and AI technologies now introduce a new attack vector for spreading falsehoods, manipulation, and deception. Decades from now, when screens are flooded with AI-generated content that may or may not be true, Pilate’s question (“What is truth?”) will become critically significant. Even so, God’s word, the Bible, is the standard of truth that will not change even in the AI age. The scriptures are an inerrant guide to judge what is good and pure or untrue and unholy. It never hallucinates. It never generates what it thinks you want to hear. It doesn’t make information up. Why? Consider what Psalm 19:7–9 says,

19:7 The law of the LORD is perfect,
reviving the soul;
the testimony of the LORD is sure,
making wise the simple;
19:8 the precepts of the LORD are right,
rejoicing the heart;
the commandment of the LORD is pure,
enlightening the eyes;
19:9 the fear of the LORD is clean,
enduring forever;
the rules of the LORD are true,
and righteous altogether.

AI technology is sometimes inaccurate and unreliable. But the instruction of the Lord is perfect, trustworthy, reliable, and righteous, making the inexperienced man wise and the heart glad.

3. Christians Have a Christ-given Responsibility to Contribute to Advancing the Gospel.

In an age where human ability is being eclipsed by machine power, and in a time when the nature of truth itself is becoming uncertain, Christians have an excellent opportunity to present the very gospel that addresses these fears and more. Jesus died on the cross to forgive the penalty of sin and to break the power of sin—and AI cannot do this. Jesus rose from the grave in omnipotent power, and as powerful as AI may become, it will never bring life from death. Confessing with one’s mouth and believing in one’s heart that Jesus is Lord will deliver from the fear of death—even death via AI apocalypse. AI holds out no such comfort. In an age of AI deepfakes, fake news, and claims of conspiracies, the Christian holds out to the world the unbreakable word of truth from the God who never lies. The gospel is just as relevant and true today as it was when Jesus first defeated death for all time, and Christians will do well to diligently cling to the truth of the gospel and boldly share to all the world what Jesus has done for mankind.

The Great Commission of Jesus Christ given to us makes it clear that God wills that people of all nations be made into faithful disciples of Jesus. And our obedient fulfillment of this charge has been historically accelerated by advances in technology. Moveable type printing, steel ship hulls, radio communication, commercial air travel, accessible websites—all of these have been harnessed by wise Christians in the past to bring the message of the cross to more people. At the dawn of a new technological revolution, we have the unique ability to use AI tools in ways never before possible to share what Jesus has done with the world. If we believe the truth of the gospel, we should wisely do everything in our power to achieve the effective communication of the gospel as obediently and faithfully as possible.

Conclusion

In the book of Genesis, God instructed Adam and Eve to exercise dominion over the earth. This command involves being good stewards of the gifts God has provided by exercising authority without being destructive or harmful. The dominion of man extends to every area of life, including the physical world, our finances, emotions—and also artificial intelligence technology. While guarding against idolizing this technology, we have the responsibility to exercise dominion over this technology and use it for good and holy purposes. Christian men and women should not avoid AI; they ought rather understand how AI can be used to promote obedience to God while opposing sin.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Author

  • Dustin Ryan

    Dustin Ryan is a Data & AI Specialist at a big tech company based in the United States. Dustin has worked in the business intelligence, analytics, and artificial intelligence fields since 2008, supporting education institutions in their adoption of cloud data and AI technologies. Dustin is also an author, contributor, and technical editor of books focused on business intelligence, analytics, and data. Dustin resides near Jacksonville, Florida with his wife and three children, and faithfully attends and serves the First Baptist Church of Jacksonville.

Dustin Ryan

Dustin Ryan

Dustin Ryan is a Data & AI Specialist at a big tech company based in the United States. Dustin has worked in the business intelligence, analytics, and artificial intelligence fields since 2008, supporting education institutions in their adoption of cloud data and AI technologies. Dustin is also an author, contributor, and technical editor of books focused on business intelligence, analytics, and data. Dustin resides near Jacksonville, Florida with his wife and three children, and faithfully attends and serves the First Baptist Church of Jacksonville.