Christians must not fear AI because it ‘cannot talk to God’

RELIGIONS NEWS AGENCY (REDNA) – Christians should not fear artificial intelligence (AI) as it cannot talk to God, the former head of the Church of Scotland has said.

The Very Rev Albert Bogle said AI was “not alive or even intelligent” and cannot replicate what “humans do in an act of worship”.

Instead he argued that congregations and presbyteries would be “foolish” not to consider embracing technological advances to try and spread the gospel of Jesus.

He noted that the first artificially created service was held in Germany in June, with 98 per cent of its content attributed to AI, but argued that it was the “human two per cent that gave it meaning.”

Writing in next month’s edition of the Church’s house magazine, Life and Work, he said that Christian worship occurs “only when hearts and minds are joined together by the power and presence of the Holy Spirit”.

Christian theologians are grappling with an array of new ethical and philosophical questions posed by AI, with some in the Church of England having previously expressed concern that the technology is “akin to playing God”.

Tesla entrepreneur Elon Musk has warned that “out of control” development of AI could “pose profound risks to society and humanity”.

Along with thousands of academic and tech industry leaders, he signed an open letter in March warning it could lead to the development of “nonhuman minds that might eventually outnumber, outsmart, obsolete and replace us”.

Concern has grown after the recent public success of ChatGPT. Academics at Microsoft, which has invested in the technology, recently said the latest version of the software, GPT-4, was showing signs of approaching human-level intelligence.

Urging the Church to “be aware of the changes”, Rev Bogle wrote: “AI will help us share our digital mission but it can never shape it. It is God’s mission from beginning to end and we in the Church are called to be his agents of mission.”

He said AI was “challenging all aspects of our lives”, with everything from telemarketing to computer code being targeted, and warned “it will influence how we prepare our church services and how we organise church.”

More than 300 people attended the AI-generated service at St Paul’s church in the Bavarian town of Furth, which included virtual avatars delivering sermons written by ChatGPT.

It was organised by Prof Jonas Simmerlein, a theologian from the University of Vienna, who wanted to demonstrate how religious leaders could use AI.

But Rev Bogle, who was moderator of the Church of Scotland between 2012 and 2013, wrote: “We must not fear AI, for nothing can separate us from the love of God. We are told this in Paul’s letter to the Romans. We need to remind ourselves, AI is not alive or even intelligent.”

He added: “Indeed it is not the words of the liturgy or the order of the content, or the notes of the music that create worship.

“It is only when hearts and minds are joined together by the power and presence of the Holy Spirit, bringing all of their lives, all of themselves, as a response in faith to the grace of God that worship becomes what was known for years as ‘Divine Worship’.”

Millions of jobs in the US alone are expected to be replaced by AI by the end of the decade and Rev Bogle admitted it would be “disruptive”.

“But AI is not conscious, self aware, or able to completely replace what humans do in an act of worship,” he said.

With the Church of Scotland having lost more than half its membership since 2000, he said it was “getting more difficult to keep writing inspirational articles” about its “renewal”.

“However if we wish to be completely inspirational in our mission strategy we need to be Holy Spirit led risk takers, and that is something I think AI will never be able to replicate,” he concluded.

Source: The Telegraph


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