AI replacing pastors and rewriting God’s Word?
Western societies today increasingly exhibit a lack of reverence for God and His Word and instead we seemingly worship our computing apprentice, AI (Artificial Intelligence) and ourselves. This attitude comes to the fore in the presumption by some people today, that God has not been able to preserve or relay His Word, so it needs editing (by a computer), and pastors may be substituted by AI.
The website Christianpost.com recently carried a headline including the words, “vegan-friendly AI Bible rewrite”.1 The article explained that the animal rights group PETA had the audacity to insert a completely new storyline into Genesis, where Abraham and Sarah “add to their growing family by adopting a dog named Herbie”.1 It continues, “As they walked with Herbie, Sarah and Abraham thought of the importance of adopting dogs from shelters and rescue organizations rather than purchasing them from breeders.”1 We will stop the Herbie nonsense there.
PETA acknowledges that the Bible teaches that God created the entire world in six days and He gave every sentient being green plants for sustenance—the latter undoubtedly being of most importance to them because Genesis 1:29–30 indicates that animals are not being killed for food. This acknowledgement is in stark contrast to their evolutionary view:
- “Humans evolved to be herbivores”,2
- “all beings … share the same evolutionary origins. We are all the same”,3 and
- “Humans, too, are animals”.4
Nonetheless, PETA is up front about taking years to rewrite the Bible. In case you are wondering, they say they will leave sacred writings of other religions alone! It is yet another anti-Christian move, in spite of PETA’s claim that it “embarked on this project at the behest of its Christian members”.1
What’s more, they argue that, “This chatbot interpretation of the creation story clarifies and highlights God’s intended message of kindness, gentleness and love for everyone.”1 Really? So, a computer now explains what God really meant? How about taking God’s Word seriously (and reverently) when He says that people are created in His image, instead of using AI to invent a god in PETA’s image (see the exchange between a PETA member and a creationist here)?
Unsurprisingly, in their messaging to Christians, PETA ignores Genesis 3 and the first animal(s) slain for the original sin. Also, they do not draw attention to the Levitical sacrifice system. The God of the Bible does not delight in offerings as much as He does in obedience (1 Samuel 15:22). Rather than learning from and obeying God’s Word, PETA offers the blasphemous suggestion that, all this time, the Scriptures were wrong, but now their ChatGPT Bible rewrite will set the record straight.
People still control AI though, don’t they? Well, in St Paul’s church in Fürth, Bavaria, Germany, an animated AI preached the homily on Sunday 11 June 2023, after receiving instructions by University of Vienna theologian Jonas Simmerlein.5 This took place, during the Deutscher Evangelischer Kirchentag.6 With an estimated 98% of the service filled in by the AI, it must have been the novelty of listening to a computer-simulated entity—‘who’, ironically, was preaching about not fearing death—that caused people to flock in their hundreds to hear this virtual shepherd. It is reminiscent of the inhabitants of Athens in Acts 17:21, who “spend their time in nothing except telling or hearing something new”. Despite Simmerlein being the instigator of this experiment, he did point out the rather obvious fact that AI cannot replace a pastor. After all, the AI ‘pastor’ obviously cannot ‘itself’ be born again, when it is not even alive to begin with (see John 3:3–6). Choosing a female pastor as an example, Simmerlein stated:
“The pastor is in the congregation, she lives with them, she buries the people, she knows them from the beginning. Artificial intelligence cannot do that. It does not know the congregation.”5
Whatever your perception of AI, it is here to stay and is being explored for all sorts of applications. Many will be good, but some will/should bring concern to Christians.7 We should not knee-jerk against modernisation and new technology, but we desperately need to “test everything, hold fast what is good” (Thessalonians 5:21).
References and notes
- Giatti, I., PETA sells vegan-friendly AI Bible rewrite where Abraham skips sacrificing Isaac, befriends a lamb instead, christianpost.com, 11 May 2023. Return to text.
- Moore, H., Humans evolved to be herbivores, peta.org, 9 Jan 2018. Return to text.
- PETA, What PETA really stands for, peta.org. Return to text.
- PETA, An end to speciesism, peta.org. Return to text.
- Brown, J., ChatGPT delivers sermon to packed German church, tells congregants not to fear death, foxnews.com, 11 Jun 2023. Return to text.
- German Evangelical Churches Congress. Return to text.
- Thomas, D., The AI revolution: What does it mean for you? Creation 45(3):18–23, July 2023. Return to text.