Southern Baptists engage AI with 'eschatological hope'

Southern Baptists engage AI with 'eschatological hope'

Southern Baptists engage AI with 'eschatological hope'

Southern Baptist messengers from around the country are back home after spending two days in New Orleans for their annual meeting last week. While there, they addressed topics such as America's immigration crisis, the controversies surrounding so-called "gender transitions" – and a biblical response to artificial intelligence.

Most of the media reports coming out of New Orleans were focused on what Baptists think about the role of women in the church – but several other issues were addressed that are just as important, even if ignored. Of note, the SBC became the first faith-based entity to speak to the emerging technology of artificial intelligence (AI).

Resolutions Committee chairman David Sons said the resolution that was approved sets an optimistic vision for the denomination by acknowledging "the powerful nature of AI and other emerging technologies" and "desiring to engage them from a place of eschatological hope rather than uncritical embrace or fearful rejection."

Programmers have been working on artificial intelligence since the 1950s, but the recent introduction of chatbots like ChatGPT has peaked public curiosity and fear. Jason Thacker of the SBC's Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission says the issue for Christians is being clear about where man's creativity ends – and God's continues.

"It's something that we're dealing with. It's something that's in our churches, in our seminaries, and in our schools," he states. "No longer is AI something 'out there,' but it's actually something that is deeply already influencing and shaping how we think about what it means to be human."

Christians, says Thacker, should be confident that the Word of God can speak to issues like AI even though the technology was millennia away when it was written.

"The Bible is not an outdated set of rules that is archaic, that doesn't speak to the contemporary issues of our day," he argues. "It is actually speaking directly to that because it's answering those fundamental questions of who is God, what does it mean to be made in His image, and how do we interact with the world around us?"

Gender, immigration, etc.

Resolution 8 – which declares the SBC's opposition to gender-mutilation surgeries, specifically for children – was adopted by the messengers. That resolution, explains ERLC president Brent Leatherwood, "affirms those state governments that have taken steps to protect children from becoming pawns in the sexual revolution through harmful interventions and surgeries" – and at the same time "confirms the SBC will continue to be a strong voice advocating against these exploitative efforts that render far too many children and young people vulnerable."

A resolution adopted regarding immigration and the border crisis reaffirms the SBC's commitment to "twin principles" that Leatherwood says "should never be pitted against one another": a secure border and dignified treatment for immigrants.

But the biggest applause of the week was when Paul Chitwood, president of the SBC's International Mission Board, introduced the dozens of missionaries commissioned to take the gospel to the uttermost parts of the earth.

"Today we get the honor of sending 79 of the newest members of your home team: the IMB missionaries who will share the gospel with people and in places where Jesus is not known or named," Chitwood stated.