WeeklyTech #178

Southern Baptists address the ethics of AI

Last month in New Orleans, Southern Baptists passed a historic resolution on the ethics of artificial intelligence that I had the honor of helping to craft alongside a top notch resolutions committee. As part of my research role at ERLC, I served as an advisor to this year’s committee, helping them think through the various ethical and political aspects of the resolutions presented to the messengers. I am really proud of how the committee handled this resolution and extremely grateful for Southern Baptists speaking so clearly on such pressing matters of life in a technological society.

To our knowledge, this is the first ever denominational statement on artificial intelligence and it follows the first ever faith-based statement of principles that the ERLC released in 2019 which was signed by over 70 evangelical leaders from across the nation. Both of these documents help to illustrate a proper relationship with technology as well as a Christian ethical framework, centered on human dignity and embodied in love of God and neighbor, for addressing both the opportunities and challenges we face with these powerful technologies.

Below is the full text of the resolution adopted by the messengers:

On Artificial Intelligence and Emerging Technologies

WHEREAS, All technology, including powerful tools such as artificial intelligence (AI), is created by human beings with the gifts and abilities that God has granted to us as the pinnacle of the created order (Genesis 1:26-28, 2:7, 5:1-2) and can be harnessed for human flourishing as we seek to love God and neighbor (Deuteronomy 6:4-5; Leviticus 19:18; Matthew 22:37-39; Mark 12:30-31); and

WHEREAS, Although these tools are designed with distinct values and purposes in mind and shape us in subtle, yet meaningful ways—including our understanding of God, humanity, and the world around us—we alone, as distinct moral agents created by God, bear the moral responsibility for their development and use (Romans 12:1-2); and

WHEREAS, The Fall has adversely affected every aspect of creation, including the development and use of these powerful innovations; and

WHEREAS, AI raises deep, crucial questions that challenge society’s false assumptions about what it means to be human which are often rooted merely in human capacities rather than in divinely granted ontological status; and

WHEREAS, AI and other emerging technologies afford us unprecedented opportunities for advancement across industries and throughout our societies, but may also have dangerous and dehumanizing outcomes if not utilized with godly wisdom and discernment; and

WHEREAS, Technologies are often developed and deployed merely to maximize profit, efficiency, and productivity, including at the grave cost of the dignity of our fellow image bearers; and

WHEREAS, These emerging technologies will increasingly perform tasks once reserved for humanity and even surpass human ability in particular ways; and

WHEREAS, The Baptist Faith and Message states that “[a]ll Christians are under obligation to seek to make the will of Christ supreme in our own lives and in human society” and that we “should seek to bring industry, government, and society as a whole under the sway of the principles of righteousness, truth, and brotherly love” (Article XV); and

WHEREAS, The 2019 Evangelical Statement of Principles on AI, led by our own Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, states that Christians are “called to engage the world around us with the unchanging gospel message of hope and reconciliation” and that “[t]he church has a unique role in proclaiming human dignity for all and calling for the humane use of AI in all aspects of society”; now, therefore, be it

RESOLVED, That the messengers to the Southern Baptist Convention meeting in New Orleans, Louisiana, June 13-14, 2023, acknowledge the powerful nature of AI and other emerging technologies, desiring to engage them from a place of eschatological hope rather than uncritical embrace or fearful rejection; and be it further

RESOLVED, That we affirm that God’s unchanging Word is more than sufficient for whatever ethical challenges, questions, and opportunities we may face today or in the future as these technologies continue to be developed and deployed in our communities; and be it further

RESOLVED, That we state unequivocally that our intrinsic value is as image bearers—not rooted in what we do or contribute to society—and that human dignity must be central to any ethical principles, guidelines, or regulations for any and all uses of these powerful emerging technologies; and be it further

RESOLVED, We must proactively engage and shape these emerging technologies rather than simply respond to the challenges of AI and other emerging technologies after they have already affected our churches and communities; and be it further

RESOLVED, That we call upon civic, industry, and government leaders to develop, maintain, regulate, and use these technologies with the utmost care and discernment, upholding the unique nature of humanity as the crowning achievement of God’s creation; and be it further

RESOLVED, That we encourage all who employ these tools to do so in honest, transparent, and Christlike ways that focus on loving God and loving our neighbor as ourselves, never seeking to willfully deceive others or take advantage of them for unjust gain or the accumulation of power; and be it finally

RESOLVED, That we confess that God alone has the power to create life, that “God, in His own time and in His own way, will bring the world to its appropriate end” (Baptist Faith and Message, Article X), and that no innovation or emerging technology will ever be able to usurp the sovereignty and power of God.

The Rundown

Why Baptists Can’t Be Theonomists by Joe Carter | The Gospel Coalition

Two recent events highlight that being a Baptist is incompatible with being a theonomist or Christian nationalist. During their recent annual meeting, representatives for the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) issued a resolution “On Christ’s Sole Lordship Over Every Human Conscience.”

The 2024 presidential race is the AI election by John Frank | Axios

Top technologists are portraying a dystopian landscape in 2024 in which misinformation and disinformation proliferate with a speed and ease that means “you can’t trust anything that you see or hear,” as former Google CEO Eric Schmidt puts it.

Social Implications of Spurgeon’s Gospel by Alex Diprima | The Gospel Coalition

It’s at least plausible, then, that the twin developments of the rise of theological liberalism on the one hand and state subsidies on the other sapped conservative evangelicalism of what had been its characteristic zeal for mercy ministry. Nonetheless, Charles Spurgeon should challenge us in this regard. If his social concern seems unusual today, perhaps it says more about us than about him.

A Call to Christian Academics Regarding Medical and Technological Ethics by Larry G. Locke | Christian Scholar’s Review

Now is the time for Christian academics and Christian ethicists to apply themselves and all their skill to these and other looming questions. Our generation has been gifted with an opportunity to bring the wisdom of Scripture and of our forebearers to point us all towards a world that is both good and safer for us all.

Pornhub blocks access in Mississippi in response to new law by Lacey Alexander | MPB

Pornhub — one of the largest and most well-known adult content websites in the U.S. — has banned Mississippi users from accessing its content in response. Dylan McLemore is an associate professor of communications at the University of Central Arkansas. He says bills like these raise questions about first amendment rights.

How to Fight Well in the War against Porn by Ray Ortlund

Many people believe they’ll flourish from the outside in, but we believe we flourish from the inside out. We believe the great things in life come not from our outward advantages but from our inward resources. Which means that, however bad this world gets, with the risen Jesus living within you, you can always have something positive to offer everyone you meet.