Tuesday, June 25, 2024

AI and the Church

“We understand AI isn't everyone's thing. But as long as it's around, we might as well put it in the service of the Kingdom.”  At least that is how Catholic Answers put to rest complaints about their use of an AI priest named Father Justin to give answers and spiritual direction to those who asked.  I do not think we have much to worry about having something similar show up on the LCMS.org website.  That does not mean that people are not going to try.

Already we have folks who suggest that AI could be used to assist with sermon preparation (or replace it) and thus aid the already busy calendars of pastors.  No.  It is not good.  Don't do it.  AI, even if it came up with a better sermon, is not the one tasked with preaching God's Word to God's people.  Besides, sometimes we pastors are just lazy enough or desperate enough to utilize AI on our own.  Same answer.  No.  It is not good.  Don't do it.

Others have suggested that AI might relieve some of the burden of research or preparation for everything from Bible studies to doctrinal essays.  Again, we do not need to farm out to a technology that cannot believe what tasks belong to the faithful and those who serve them.  Some have suggested that some of the tedius stuff could be offloaded to AI -- review of church constitutions, for example.  The same answer applies.  Even if AI could, it is not the one tasked with this duty or responsibility.  Don't farm out to a soul-less entity the work of carrying for souls. 

Frankly, I do not get what the attraction is -- except that it is new and different.  We daily deal with the limitations as well as blessings of our technology.  We know that this is not a panacea for things we either do not want to do or think we cannot do well.  The smarts in the boxes and in the clouds are only as smart as the people running them.  For now, at least.

The last thing we need is a program to apply to people what belongs to those on whom the authority of an office has been conferred.  God does not need a glorified answering machine (human or digital!).  God needs people to wrestle with the content and apply that content to real people with a pastoral heart.  No digital substitute can or ever will be able to do that. 

Good grief, we have plenty of big problems in Christianity without trying to add to them by making a digital assistant to replace the pastors and lay leaders in their exercise of the responsibility given to them.  AI may not be everyone's thing but it should never be the Church's thing.  I would be far more comforted with a flawed sinner wrestling with such things than I am by a digital entity who mines data according to algorithms in order to accomplish what the same technology screws up on my phone, my laptop, my social media, and my apps.  Enough said.  Stop it.

1 comment:

jwskud said...

We do have access to an AI version of Dr. Luther (https://deepai.org/chat/martin-luther). I've only spent about 15 minutes with it, but I wasn't able to find any improper doctrine or teaching.

If this Luther AI is only drawing from Luther's works, it's actually a useful resource, since Luther wrote too much for most of us to read! Thus, a summary is useful.

We also have the Luther Insulter: (http://ergofabulous.org/luther/) which is fun (and cites the sources).