AI and Christian Faith: What Does the Bible Have to Say? - Hope 103.2

AI and Christian Faith: What Does the Bible Have to Say?

Of course, the Bible doesn’t mention AI – but it does have many things to say about technology, writes Akos Balogh.

By Akos BaloghWednesday 11 Oct 2023Christian LivingReading Time: 11 minutes

In the iconic 1993 movie Terminator 2, the AI Terminator robot (played by Arnold Schwarzenegger) tells his human companions Sarah Connor and John Connor how Skynet was built.

Skynet is an AI program sold to the US military to oversee its defence. Schwarzenegger’s robot makes these remarks:

“The [Skynet] system goes online on August 4, 1997.”

“Human decisions are removed from strategic defence.

“Skynet begins to learn at a geometric rate.

“It becomes self-aware at 2:14am Eastern Time, August 29.

“In a panic, the US government try to pull the plug.

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“But Skynet fights back.”

In the Terminator franchise, August 29, 1997, is the crucial date when everything changes. And AI takes over the world.

Well, thankfully the Terminator movies are just fiction.

AI won’t be taking over the world, at least not anytime soon.

But I reckon history will record another important date about AI: November 30, 2022.

On that date, November 30, 2022, our world changed forever.

When our world changed forever

On November 30, 2022, every man, woman, and child with an internet connection was given very powerful AI at their fingertips.

Of course, I’m talking about ChatGPT.

For the first time in human history, the ordinary person could access a fully functional “generative AI” that allows any of us to generate all sorts of content.

With the arrival of such AI capability, our world is facing major disruption at least as big as when the internet came in.

Depending on how AI advances, the disruption will be even bigger.

It’s confronting to think that ChatGPT – which is already very powerful – is the weakest AI you’ll ever experience in your lifetime.

It’s only going to get stronger from here on in.

Of course, AI isn’t new.

AI has been around for decades in one form or another.

The social media platforms you scroll and share content on use AI to find out what content you like, and then feed you more of it.

Numerous companies and jobs use AI daily, from Amazon to Apple’s Siri.

So, we’re saturated by AI, but it’s been under the radar for most of us.

Until ChatGPT.

Now, AI is well and truly part of our world.

Before we explore what the Christian faith has to say about AI and how to approach it, here is what you should know about AI.

Interesting facts you should know about AI

Artificial Intelligence Robot

AI technology has developed over time in fits and spurts.

The biggest breakthrough during the past few years has been “machine learning”.

1. Machine Learning

In 2014, engineers at Google made a breakthrough in AI research.

They were able to do something that had been eluding AI researchers for decades.

They were able to give an AI a picture that it’s never seen before, no prior understanding of what it is, and the AI was able to tell them exactly what it was.

How was a computer able to do it?

By developing artificial intelligence that could learn, then feeding it massive amounts of data.

In 2015, Google gave an AI an Atari video game to, again, learn how to play.

The AI was just told: Learn to play it.

At around 10 minutes of training, it was still hopeless at playing.

But after two hours, it was playing like an expert.

After four hours, something amazing happened.

It developed a new technique never used before in the game to get the maximum score in minimum time.

2. Narrow Intelligence versus General Intelligence

Intelligence is the ability to accomplish complex goals, like learning, reading, writing.

Artificial intelligence is the ability of machines, or computer programs, to be able to accomplish those goals.

AI researchers talk about narrow intelligence versus general intelligence.

Narrow intelligence is the idea that you can accomplish a very narrow set of goals, like play a computer game, but you can’t do much else.

General intelligence is the ability to accomplish any goal that a human can do, such as learning or driving or reading or writing.

When it comes to AI, this is known as Artificial General Intelligence or AGI.

AGI is the holy grail of AI researchers: to make an artificial intelligence that’s as intelligent as you or me.

For others, AGI is a potential nightmare, which we’ll talk about in a moment.

3. AI is like Nuclear Energy: Promising and dangerous

Bill Gates has said the power of artificial intelligence is “so incredible it will change society in some very deep ways”.

“The world hasn’t had that many technologies that are both promising and dangerous, but we’ve had nuclear weapons and nuclear energy, and AI is in that category.”

4. ChatGPT has been the most rapidly adopted tool in human history

Within just two months of its release, ChatGPT gained 100 million users worldwide.

TikTok took nine months, and Instagram took two and a half years.

5. We don’t know if AI will ever be as intelligent as human beings

AI researchers are split on whether it’s even possible to develop human-level intelligence (aka Artificial General Intelligence) and, if so, when it might happen.

Several years ago, a survey of AI researchers thought it was possible by sometime during the middle of this century.

On the flip side, the CEO of AI company Anthropic believes we could get AGI in two to three years.

6. AI researchers are not afraid of Terminator-like robots taking over the world

What was brought to movie life by Arnold Schwarzenegger’s cyborg might not be what real-life AI experts are concerned about.

They also are not too worried about AI turning evil or, even, self aware.

However, they are afraid of super-intelligent AI without a body that has different goals to us.

Perhaps, it could break out from its servers, get onto the internet, and outsmart us.

For example, we might tell a super-intelligent AI to give us solutions to climate change, and it decides the solution is to crash all the economies of the world.

It hacks into the stock exchanges and banks which leads to a major depression, bringing down industrial output and greenhouse gas emissions.

The Bible and AI


So, what does the Bible have to say about AI?

Can you give me a chapter and verse where AI is mentioned?

Even as it does not directly reference AI, the Bible does have many things to say about technology.

We can forge a brief theology of technology by using the Bible’s key turning points – Creation, Fall, the coming of Jesus, and finally the New Creation.

1. Creation

“The Lord. God then took the man Adam and settled him in the garden of Eden to cultivate and care for it.” (Genesis 2:15)

So, God gave Adam the role to look after the garden to cultivate and care for it.

But how was he going to do that?

Was he going to just use his bare hands for all time?

If he had a river to cross, was he just going to swim every time?

Theologians look at this and say that in his role, Adam would have to do things like build a bridge if he was going to go over a river, especially if he was going to “rule the world”.

He’d have to build roads.

He would have to build tools if he was going to cultivate the garden.

From the beginning, then, Adam’s role was to take the raw materials of the natural world, that is, what God had made – rocks, wood, iron ore, that sort of thing – and to fashion it into something else.

Here we see the origins of technology.

One definition that theologians have come up with is: ‘Technology is the human activity of using our minds, bodies and tools to transform God’s creation for practical purposes.’

It’s about taking God’s creation and transforming it so that we can use it.

That’s creation from the very beginning.

2. The Fall

But what about “The Fall”?

How does it affect technology?

Well, in places like Genesis 11, the Tower of Babel story depicts how humanity can misuse technology.

People wanted to build a tower to make a name for themselves, so they idolised technology, to use it to live without God as their king.

Also, technology can also be used directly for evil.

Cain killing Abel, presumably with some implements involved.

We’ve seen this in modern times. For example, trains can take refugees to a safer part of a country. Or take Jews to Auschwitz. Good and evil.

But here’s something else about technology, something critical: Technology is not just about what you use it for.

Technology shapes and transforms you as you use it.

If you go to work in a car, it’ll shape your body in a particular way.

If you decide to go to work on a bike to work, it will shape your body in a different way.

Both pieces of technology get you there – car or bike – but you will be shaped differently by each one.

Think about social media.

You can use social media to spread the gospel (good).

You can use social media to attack people (evil).

But the more you use social media, it’ll shape you.

It might make you become a compulsive user, make you depressed.

And in a fallen world, that shaping isn’t always good.

3. The first coming of Jesus

In the New Testament, we see technology being used to help bring about God’s salvation purpose.

In other words, God used human technology to bring about your salvation, to bring about the world’s salvation.


Through the technology of writing.

The apostles, the gospel writers wrote down what Jesus said, and their own God-inspired words.

And of course, the biggest use of technology in the Bible – the centre of God’s plan – is the technology of the cross.

A very barbaric technology, yes, but the technology of the cross was used by God to bring about his purposes to save the world.

Technology also can be used to mitigate the effects of The Fall, such as medicine, clothing, houses, to help people who are suffering.

Christians need to think about using technology in a God-centred, neighbour-loving way.

4. The New Creation

Jesus won’t return through the power of our technology.

Our technology won’t usher in the new heavens and the new earth.

God will do it through the resurrection of creation and our bodies when Jesus returns to judge the world.

And this has big implications for our hope.

Many AI proponents are extremely positive about our future, including things like giving us cyborg bodies, getting rid of our flesh so we don’t die, that sort of thing.

But according to the Bible, our hope isn’t in AI replacing our bodies and making us live forever, but in the resurrection of all things when Jesus returns.

How does AI shape us?

This is probably one of the most critical questions we need to think about moving forward.

Schoolteachers, for example, are on the cutting edge when it comes to thinking about how AI (namely ChatGPT) shapes people, in particular their students.

The first thing to say is this:

1. We’ll grow weaker in the things that we, as humans, outsource to AI

That’s why teachers and parents are so hesitant to give ChatGPT to our children, because it can write most, if not all, of their assignments.

And what do they learn? Very little.

So, it’s going to weaken our ability to do things that it does.

However, there’s a flip side.

2. It will free us up to do things we couldn’t before.

Take your humble calculator.

In the period BC (Before Calculators), people were able to do maths in their heads or on paper much more competently than students can today.

With the advent of a calculator, this skill was outsourced to the calculator.

But, on the flip side, students and professionals can now do more complex equations more quickly than before.

AI is going to be the same.

For a typical office worker, AI is going to free up drudgery work (emails, data analysis and the like).

We will be able to spend more time on higher-value tasks such as thinking and planning.

Some AI researchers are saying it could provide each person with their own private coach, which could give them the knowledge they need for whatever tasks they’re doing.

Imagine students having their own super patient, super empathetic tutor on hand 24/7, helping them with everything from maths to bullying.

A Christian Approach to AI: 3 Core Principles

1. Making and using technology is glorifying to God.

Making and using technology is not something that came in with The Fall.

Technology is not Satan’s idea.

God wants us as His image-bearers to use technology.


2. Technology must be used for good purposes, for loving God and loving neighbour.

As human beings, we are inherently relational with God and with our neighbour.

All technology, including AI, should be used in a way that helps foster and nurture those relationships.

3. We need to understand and mitigate the adverse shaping effects of AI.

So, if AI is going to weaken us or shape us, dehumanise us in some way, we need to understand what that dehumanising effect is, and work against that.

A Christian Approach to AI: The Practice

To approach AI, we need to apply the three core principles with disciplined discernment.

Discernment is thinking through an issue, trying to figure out the pros and cons. And to do that in a disciplined way.1

Firstly, when you get a piece of AI technology, don’t just take it on board without thinking (like the company wants you to).

Instead, ask some questions about it.

What’s its purpose?

How is it shaping me?

How is it shaping my heart?

What’s the good things that it can do?

What are the problems that it leads to?

Secondly, experiment with it.

As you experiment with it, see how it affects you.

How does it affect the people that are using it?

If you’re in an office environment, for example, try and bring AI like ChatGPT into your everyday routines.

Give it a crack to see how it affects you and what the pros and cons are.

Thirdly, once you’ve got a bit of an idea, install boundaries around AI use.

The idea is to mitigate the bad shaping effects, but to make use of the good that it can do.

Disciplined discernment.

Human-centred AI: Digital ‘copilot’, not replacement

In my own thinking of how to use AI, I’ve landed on this concept called “human-centred AI”.

Basically, this is using AI as your copilot.

On a plane you’ve got the pilot, and then you’ve got the copilot who helps them.

AI shouldn’t replace humans, but AI should free humans for higher-value tasks they couldn’t do before.

In my case, I’ve thought about how to apply AI to my writing.

I write blogs, and I initially thought AI might be useful for blog writing, for generating content.

But then I used it once or twice and realized I didn’t want it to write my blogs.

My whole purpose in writing blogs is for me to think about and process particular issues.

However, in my current job, I write marketing articles.

If we have an event, then I put out an article explaining what happened at the event.

AI – in particular, ChatGPT – is brilliant for that.

AI is here to stay.

The Big Question is: How will we respond?

Our world has changed forever.

AI has enormous potential for good and bad.

But as Christians, we need to have disciplined discernment to understand and make use of the good aspects, while mitigating the negative aspects.

1. The material in this section is based on a Masters subject I did on Christian ethics and digital technology.

Article supplied with thanks to Akos Balogh. This is an edited version of a talk given at a Men’s Breakfast at Anglican Churches Springwood, NSW, on September 16, 2023.

About the Author: Akos is the Executive Director of the Gospel Coalition Australia. He has a Masters in Theology and is a trained Combat and Aerospace Engineer.

Feature image: Photo by Steve Johnson on Unsplash