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AI and the Bible: Like God, We’re Sharing Power with Creative Agents

All the buzz around AI tends to mute one fact: our world is very religious (over 80%) and becomes more so all the time. Bots acing the Turing test of sounding convincingly human exist in a world where over four billion Jews, Muslims, and Christians see humans as “made in the image of God.” What will happen in coming years as religious communities grapple with human-like machines in every area of life? Will AI cheapen our understanding of what it means to be human, or might influence flow the other way: could religious beliefs about the nature of humanity enrich AI with new significance? The latter is to be hoped for, and it begins by discerning the art in artificial.

From a biblical view the emergence of AI is straightforward. In the beginning God fashioned the world, populating it with blazing lights in the sky and a riot of color and life on earth. At the climax of this artistic storm God fashioned a special being, placing it last of all into the world just as the statue of a deity was placed last of all in a newly-built temple. (The symbolism would have been familiar to Israelites in the ancient Near East. The creative week of Genesis 1 makes a point: the universe is a giant temple where God wants to make a home.) This “image” of the deity was different from other animals, endowed with a godlike capacity for imagination and innovation, justice and oversight.

Think of humanity as a sort of meta-creativity. Ordinarily the creative act results in some useful or beautiful product like a garden, a painting, a house, an airplane. All wonderful things. But it’s a different order of creativity altogether to dream up something capable of its own wild brainstorming and implementation. On the Bible’s telling, this is what God did with us. We are created to create, not by accident but by design. It’s very meta. And now with AI we are doing the same thing: putting machines into the world that mimic our own creativity (sort of), yet whose impulses we cannot fully predict or control.

Many of the fears about AI are about lack of control. And the Bible has an interesting precedent here too. In Genesis 1 God shares power right away, tapping the sun, moon, and stars to govern the celestial realms, and humanity to govern the earth (see Genesis 1:16–18, 26–28). Throughout the Bible this theme surfaces time and again: real power is empowerment of others, while power hoarded is power corrupted. Frightening as AI may be, there’s a logic here that chimes with the Bible: in creating creators and sharing power with them, we are doing what it means to be made in the image of God.

Of course, the human enterprise backfired rather quickly. Our first parents were not content to be images of God. They wanted more, and by lunging after a promotion they got the opposite: instead of becoming more like God they became less human, finding themselves exiled from paradise in a life of toil and frustration. (See Genesis 3.) We have to wonder: will our experiments with AI curve into a similarly tragic moral boomerang? Very likely.

If human tendencies truly are encoded in these programs, as many fear, then for all their technical wizardry they will be lacking in one vital thing: humility. We shouldn't be fooled by up-beat marketing about innocuous “tools” and “services” or by innocent names like “Chat.” As Nietzsche warned long ago, “He that humbleth himself wants to be exalted.” And as Hannah Arendt saw in her postmortem analysis of Naziism, the everyday face of evil isn’t as sinister as we imagine. Banal does not mean benign. These clever tools may well be our undoing.

As we enter new frontiers of what it means to be and to know, the collective wisdom of our spiritual past will become increasingly important. The deepest needs of the human heart are not satisfied by intelligence, artificial or otherwise. They are satisfied by things like art, the love that births art, and the God who is love. AI is only the newest form of human creativity, which in turn emerges from God’s creativity. Thus the chain of invention adds link upon link, with all the promise and peril latent in Eden. To be human is to turn a mirror on oneself and ask transcendent questions like: “What’s my purpose? Why am I alive? Why is there anything at all?” AI can pen a lovely essay about these things—instantly, perfectly, on the first try—but it will ever only be plagiarizing insights from a being made in the image of a daringly creative, power-sharing God.


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