AI: Not ‘Artificial’ or ‘Intelligence’ – but Willful Delusion

A few weeks ago a congregation of more than 300 gathered for a church service in Germany – with a twist. The service was AI-generated; the sermon was written by ChatGPT, and delivered by a virtual avatar. Of course, a computer can’t do anything on its own: 29 year-old theologian Jonas Simmerlein from the University of Vienna instructed ChatGPT what to include. The obedient computer-generated “pastor” exhorted listeners to ‘leave the past behind,’ ‘never lose trust in Jesus,’ and to ‘overcome their fear of death.’ Riveting stuff.

Twitch stream “ask_jesus” offers an AI-generated version of the Savior (see at right). This computer-generated Christ provides a 24/7 Q&A site for gamers, spiritual seekers, and online trolls. The online “Jesus” gazes off into the distance, while its mouth moves to match its voice. Creators draw from Jesus’ teachings to provide spiritual guidance. Whatever you ask, “Jesus” responds with something about compassion and love. Some take this seriously; most use it to make fun of Jesus and Christians.

More troubling than these, an advisor to the World Economic Forum (WEF) has called for AI to rewrite the Bible “correctly” – to produce a ‘new religious text’ that “might actually be true.” The proposal was made by Israeli Yuval Harari, who compared AI with other historic inventions like the printing press. But unlike the printing press, AI can come up with entirely new ideas. Says Harari, “The printing press printed as many copies of the Bible as Gutenberg instructed it, but it did not create a single new page. It had no ideas of its own about the Bible. Is it good, is it bad, how to interpret this, how to interpret that. AI can create new ideas. [It] can even write a new Bible.”

No, it can’t. It can’t produce one original thought. It can follow instructions of a programmer, who instructs it to take words or pictures or figures or sounds – anything that can be reduced to a combination of zeroes and ones, and put them together in various ways. Twitch’s “Jesus” uses words drawn from Gospel accounts to produce pious-sounding responses, but don’t look for any references to judgment, sin, repentance, or the devil. You see, this “Jesus” is an intentional fake. An AI “Jesus” or “Bible” are both the products of fallen man, and all they can offer is willful delusion.

What looks like a technological marvel is just the latest counterfeit – and not a very good one at that. The AI sermon was a collection of mindless platitudes. Twitch’s “Jesus” verbally ‘pats everyone on the head’ and tells them to be good. An AI “Bible” will say what it’s instructed to say. And none of it will speak to the heart.

Way back in the first century, the first Christians faced counterfeits – “false apostles, deceitful workers,’ men “disguising themselves as apostles of Christ” (2 Cor. 11.13-15). As if having actual flesh-and-blood false teachers isn’t enough, now we’re getting computer-generated ones! AI creations may look like Jesus or sound like the Bible, but just as he did 2000 years ago, still today “Satan disguises himself as an angel of light” and “his servants also disguise themselves as servants of righteousness.” For what God thinks of this, read the end of 2 Cor. 3.15!

Cyberspace is always producing new slang words, and this week I learned “delulu.” It’s shorthand for “delusional,” and derisively refers to someone who believes something for which there is no evidence. It’s most often used when a young person interprets a trivial interaction as signifying ‘true love.’ (Example: “I think Susie loves me!” Response: “I think you’re delulu.”) To all those who fall for AI preachers, Christs, or Bibles, let me be clear: “You’re delulu!”

Don’t be delulu! The word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart (Hebrews 4.12). The grass withers, the flower fades, But the word of our God stands forever. (Isaiah 40.8).