4 keys for the graduate

May 22, 2017

Christians view parenting as a really big deal. We invest almost two decades teaching our children to love God, to know his Word and to walk in his ways. Parents guide, model, inspire and correct.

Your parents may have done a good job, but it’s also likely they missed the mark along the way. But graduation day is not about what your parents did or did not do. Graduation day announces that it is now your turn. No more delay. This is the day you step forward. But you may have noticed the hand-off from one generation to the next does not always go so well. After Joshua, the great leader of Israel, died, the next generation walked away from God:

“The Lord raised up judges, who saved them from the power of their marauders, but they did not listen to their judges. Instead, they prostituted themselves with other gods, bowing down to them. They quickly turned from the way of their fathers, who had walked in obedience to the Lord’s commands. They did not do as their fathers did.” Judges 2:16-17

This new generation “quickly turned from the way of their fathers.” Their parents had walked in the way of the Lord, but the kids did not. It doesn’t have to be that way for you. Many Christians are wringing their hands and worried about the future, but this is no time to run and hide. This is no time to lose heart. Your generation has the opportunity to show and tell the gospel with a clarity we have not seen since the Protestant Reformation.

I don’t want to over-speak at this point, but I do not want to under-challenge you either. Instead I want to offer you four keys for your future. These four keys may or may not be new to you, but if you will use them, God will open new opportunities for you to live on mission with him that you never thought possible.

Key 1: Anthropology

I know, you thought school was out, but anthropology is the news of the day. Technically, anthropology is the study of humanity. It helps us answer the question of what it means to be human. What is male and female? How are humans different than animals? It seems the influence of humanistic, evolutionary philosophy has trickled down into every part of our lives. As a result, we often don’t know how to think about the differences between men and women, or the foundation and purpose of marriage, or roles and responsibilities of a husband and wife, or the value of children.

While we may be familiar with a Christian culture in our home, too often, we don’t have a well-formed biblical worldview when it comes to the basic question: “What is a human?”

“Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, according to our likeness. They will rule the fish of the sea, the birds of the sky, the livestock, all the earth, and the creatures that crawl on the earth.” So God created man in His own image; He created him in the image of God; He created them male and female.” Gen.1:27-28

We are not little gods, but as human beings, we were created in the image and likeness of God. That simply means we were created to represent God. Unlike any other created being, humans were created to reflect the glory of God. The image of God stamped on our hearts gives us a distinctive dignity and an eternal purpose.

Contrary to popular opinion, God did indeed created us male and female so that we could complement one another and complete one another in marriage for his glory. While the pervasiveness of sin confuses us and tempts us to distort our understanding of sex, marriage and gender, God created us male and female. Marriage, sexual orientation and gender are not subjective notions of our psychology; they are objective realities of our biology. In other words, we are not what we think or say we are. We are what God created us to be. And that is not a consolation prize. It is God’s greatest good for us to live, breath, marry and procreate for his glory.

Key 2: Authority

Whenever things go bad for a generation, we can always look back and find the moment when that generation rejected authority. That’s how sin entered the world from the start. The serpent tempted Eve by saying, “Did God really say . . . ” (Gen. 3:1). After the death of Joshua, it is said the people of Israel turned away from the commands of the Lord (Judges 2:17). Then at the end of Judges we read:

We like our independence, so we tend pick and choose the authorities we prefer.

“In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did whatever he wanted.” Judges 21:25

Just as a reminder, it never goes well to do just whatever we want to do.

“There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death.” Prov. 14:12

We like our independence, so we tend pick and choose the authorities we prefer. We see ourselves as the ultimate authority over our authorities. And while not all human authorities always deserve our allegiance, our divine authority does.

“All Scripture is inspired by God and is profitable for teaching, for rebuking, for correcting, for training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” 2 Tim. 3:16

The Bible is not chicken soup for our soul. It’s not simply good advice. It’s not inspirational art for our coffee mug, bathroom painting or our tattoo. The Bible is the revelation of God that invites us to know him by placing our trust in his Son Jesus as the Lord of our life. So when we read that the Bible is inspired by God, that doesn’t mean it’s just inspiring. It means that is it God-breathed. It is God’s eternal, authoritative Word to us.

The result is that our posture toward God’s Word is one of humility. It means we adjust our life to God’s Word rather than expecting God’s Word to adjust to our life. It means we interpret our experiences through the lenses of God’s Word rather than interpreting the Bible through the lenses of our experiences. It means that rebuking and correction from God’s Word are normal parts of our life as we learn to follow Jesus and make him known. So graduation day is not Independence Day. It’s submission day—the day we yield our lives to the Word of God that we may walk in his ways.

Key 3: Community

God said, “Let us make man in our image, according to our likeness” (Gen. 1:27a). From the very beginning, we see the triune Godhead of Father, Son and Holy Spirit functioning in community together. The relationship of the Godhead is a mystery we’ll only fully understand in heaven. Nevertheless, it’s a model for how we function in community with others.

When God called Abraham, he called him to build a people. After the Exodus, God’s people lived in smaller tribes, then later in territories and cities. And when the Holy Spirit birthed the church in Acts 2, he launched a church planting movement from Jerusalem and throughout the known world. Believers would gather in communities of faith called local churches to worship God, grow in the Word, serve one another and share the gospel.

Despite a world that’s more connected through technology than ever before, we frequently live isolated lives. What’s more, family is an extremely confusing thing for most people. Many of us don’t even come from a two-parent family anymore. So we really don’t know how to relate to people, build friendships, have meaningful conversations or serve one another. We live on an relational island. Solomon had this to say about that,

“One who isolates himself pursues selfish desires; he rebels against all sound judgment.” Prov. 18:1

Isolation is not only selfish, it’s dangerous. We usually don’t accomplish anything meaningful that we accomplish alone. We were made for community. Some people are critics of texting. I’m not one of those people. Some of the best conversations I have with my wife are through texting, while in the same room together. But there are some things that words alone cannot do. Sometimes people just need a friend with skin on, a helping hand and to see love in action.

So the local church is not just a group of friends who enjoy music together. It’s a gospel community built on the person of Jesus Christ. The church is not an event we attend with cool activities and inspirational teaching. It’s a people to whom we belong in order to live out the mission and declare the message of Jesus Christ. The church is God’s “plan A” for making Jesus known in all the world. There’s no “plan B.” That means as individual followers of Jesus, one key to fulfilling God’s purpose for us is to build biblical community in a local church.

Key 4: Calling

As you graduate, the primary question is not what career you will pursue. The question is not who you will marry, if you will marry, where you will live or how much money you will make. The big question is not what you will do with your life. The biggest question is: What will you do with Jesus? This is not a cliché. This isn’t a guilt trip. This is a question of what it means to be a follower of Jesus in this generation. The question of what you will do with Jesus and how you will live on mission with him is a question of calling.

We often think that we’re here to pursue our own pleasure. “Do what you love, and you will never work a day in your life!” is the advice we often hear. And I want you and my kids to do what they love. But what we love is discovered in the God who first loved us. God created us. He loves us. And he sent his Son Jesus to redeem us from sin and give us new life.

King Solomon, who achieved amazing wealth and influence, finally came to the place where he understood that meaning and significance in life is rooted in the glory of God. Everything else is emptiness. Instead, it’s the glory of God that defines our calling in life.

So our vocation, our family, our hobbies, our location, our friendships and our faith are not separate compartments competing against each other. Instead, we offer the whole of our life to announce the glory of God and beauty of the gospel to the people around us.

The finish

We aren’t in a hurry for you to grow up, but that’s out of our hands. Graduation is the day we say, “It’s your turn, because this is your time.” This is your moment. Whatever your parents or friends or church have done, you are now responsible. I’m praying and believing that as you turn the keys of anthropology, authority, community and calling, God will unleash a Jesus movement in this generation that will turn the world upside down.

This article originally appeared here.

Daryl Crouch

Following 28 years in pastoral ministry, Daryl Crouch now leads Everyone’s Wilson, a community transformation initiative that helps churches bring the whole community around every school so that every student, educator, and family can live whole. He’s married to Deborah, and they have four children. Read More by this Author

Article 12: The Future of AI

We affirm that AI will continue to be developed in ways that we cannot currently imagine or understand, including AI that will far surpass many human abilities. God alone has the power to create life, and no future advancements in AI will usurp Him as the Creator of life. The church has a unique role in proclaiming human dignity for all and calling for the humane use of AI in all aspects of society.

We deny that AI will make us more or less human, or that AI will ever obtain a coequal level of worth, dignity, or value to image-bearers. Future advancements in AI will not ultimately fulfill our longings for a perfect world. While we are not able to comprehend or know the future, we do not fear what is to come because we know that God is omniscient and that nothing we create will be able to thwart His redemptive plan for creation or to supplant humanity as His image-bearers.

Genesis 1; Isaiah 42:8; Romans 1:20-21; 5:2; Ephesians 1:4-6; 2 Timothy 1:7-9; Revelation 5:9-10

Article 11: Public Policy

We affirm that the fundamental purposes of government are to protect human beings from harm, punish those who do evil, uphold civil liberties, and to commend those who do good. The public has a role in shaping and crafting policies concerning the use of AI in society, and these decisions should not be left to those who develop these technologies or to governments to set norms.

We deny that AI should be used by governments, corporations, or any entity to infringe upon God-given human rights. AI, even in a highly advanced state, should never be delegated the governing authority that has been granted by an all-sovereign God to human beings alone. 

Romans 13:1-7; Acts 10:35; 1 Peter 2:13-14

Article 10: War

We affirm that the use of AI in warfare should be governed by love of neighbor and the principles of just war. The use of AI may mitigate the loss of human life, provide greater protection of non-combatants, and inform better policymaking. Any lethal action conducted or substantially enabled by AI must employ 5 human oversight or review. All defense-related AI applications, such as underlying data and decision-making processes, must be subject to continual review by legitimate authorities. When these systems are deployed, human agents bear full moral responsibility for any actions taken by the system.

We deny that human agency or moral culpability in war can be delegated to AI. No nation or group has the right to use AI to carry out genocide, terrorism, torture, or other war crimes.

Genesis 4:10; Isaiah 1:16-17; Psalm 37:28; Matthew 5:44; 22:37-39; Romans 13:4

Article 9: Security

We affirm that AI has legitimate applications in policing, intelligence, surveillance, investigation, and other uses supporting the government’s responsibility to respect human rights, to protect and preserve human life, and to pursue justice in a flourishing society.

We deny that AI should be employed for safety and security applications in ways that seek to dehumanize, depersonalize, or harm our fellow human beings. We condemn the use of AI to suppress free expression or other basic human rights granted by God to all human beings.

Romans 13:1-7; 1 Peter 2:13-14

Article 8: Data & Privacy

We affirm that privacy and personal property are intertwined individual rights and choices that should not be violated by governments, corporations, nation-states, and other groups, even in the pursuit of the common good. While God knows all things, it is neither wise nor obligatory to have every detail of one’s life open to society.

We deny the manipulative and coercive uses of data and AI in ways that are inconsistent with the love of God and love of neighbor. Data collection practices should conform to ethical guidelines that uphold the dignity of all people. We further deny that consent, even informed consent, although requisite, is the only necessary ethical standard for the collection, manipulation, or exploitation of personal data—individually or in the aggregate. AI should not be employed in ways that distort truth through the use of generative applications. Data should not be mishandled, misused, or abused for sinful purposes to reinforce bias, strengthen the powerful, or demean the weak.

Exodus 20:15, Psalm 147:5; Isaiah 40:13-14; Matthew 10:16 Galatians 6:2; Hebrews 4:12-13; 1 John 1:7 

Article 7: Work

We affirm that work is part of God’s plan for human beings participating in the cultivation and stewardship of creation. The divine pattern is one of labor and rest in healthy proportion to each other. Our view of work should not be confined to commercial activity; it must also include the many ways that human beings serve each other through their efforts. AI can be used in ways that aid our work or allow us to make fuller use of our gifts. The church has a Spirit-empowered responsibility to help care for those who lose jobs and to encourage individuals, communities, employers, and governments to find ways to invest in the development of human beings and continue making vocational contributions to our lives together.

We deny that human worth and dignity is reducible to an individual’s economic contributions to society alone. Humanity should not use AI and other technological innovations as a reason to move toward lives of pure leisure even if greater social wealth creates such possibilities.

Genesis 1:27; 2:5; 2:15; Isaiah 65:21-24; Romans 12:6-8; Ephesians 4:11-16

Article 6: Sexuality

We affirm the goodness of God’s design for human sexuality which prescribes the sexual union to be an exclusive relationship between a man and a woman in the lifelong covenant of marriage.

We deny that the pursuit of sexual pleasure is a justification for the development or use of AI, and we condemn the objectification of humans that results from employing AI for sexual purposes. AI should not intrude upon or substitute for the biblical expression of sexuality between a husband and wife according to God’s design for human marriage.

Genesis 1:26-29; 2:18-25; Matthew 5:27-30; 1 Thess 4:3-4

Article 5: Bias

We affirm that, as a tool created by humans, AI will be inherently subject to bias and that these biases must be accounted for, minimized, or removed through continual human oversight and discretion. AI should be designed and used in such ways that treat all human beings as having equal worth and dignity. AI should be utilized as a tool to identify and eliminate bias inherent in human decision-making.

We deny that AI should be designed or used in ways that violate the fundamental principle of human dignity for all people. Neither should AI be used in ways that reinforce or further any ideology or agenda, seeking to subjugate human autonomy under the power of the state.

Micah 6:8; John 13:34; Galatians 3:28-29; 5:13-14; Philippians 2:3-4; Romans 12:10

Article 4: Medicine

We affirm that AI-related advances in medical technologies are expressions of God’s common grace through and for people created in His image and that these advances will increase our capacity to provide enhanced medical diagnostics and therapeutic interventions as we seek to care for all people. These advances should be guided by basic principles of medical ethics, including beneficence, non-maleficence, autonomy, and justice, which are all consistent with the biblical principle of loving our neighbor.

We deny that death and disease—effects of the Fall—can ultimately be eradicated apart from Jesus Christ. Utilitarian applications regarding healthcare distribution should not override the dignity of human life. Fur- 3 thermore, we reject the materialist and consequentialist worldview that understands medical applications of AI as a means of improving, changing, or completing human beings.

Matthew 5:45; John 11:25-26; 1 Corinthians 15:55-57; Galatians 6:2; Philippians 2:4

Article 3: Relationship of AI & Humanity

We affirm the use of AI to inform and aid human reasoning and moral decision-making because it is a tool that excels at processing data and making determinations, which often mimics or exceeds human ability. While AI excels in data-based computation, technology is incapable of possessing the capacity for moral agency or responsibility.

We deny that humans can or should cede our moral accountability or responsibilities to any form of AI that will ever be created. Only humanity will be judged by God on the basis of our actions and that of the tools we create. While technology can be created with a moral use in view, it is not a moral agent. Humans alone bear the responsibility for moral decision making.

Romans 2:6-8; Galatians 5:19-21; 2 Peter 1:5-8; 1 John 2:1

Article 2: AI as Technology

We affirm that the development of AI is a demonstration of the unique creative abilities of human beings. When AI is employed in accordance with God’s moral will, it is an example of man’s obedience to the divine command to steward creation and to honor Him. We believe in innovation for the glory of God, the sake of human flourishing, and the love of neighbor. While we acknowledge the reality of the Fall and its consequences on human nature and human innovation, technology can be used in society to uphold human dignity. As a part of our God-given creative nature, human beings should develop and harness technology in ways that lead to greater flourishing and the alleviation of human suffering.

We deny that the use of AI is morally neutral. It is not worthy of man’s hope, worship, or love. Since the Lord Jesus alone can atone for sin and reconcile humanity to its Creator, technology such as AI cannot fulfill humanity’s ultimate needs. We further deny the goodness and benefit of any application of AI that devalues or degrades the dignity and worth of another human being. 

Genesis 2:25; Exodus 20:3; 31:1-11; Proverbs 16:4; Matthew 22:37-40; Romans 3:23

Article 1: Image of God

We affirm that God created each human being in His image with intrinsic and equal worth, dignity, and moral agency, distinct from all creation, and that humanity’s creativity is intended to reflect God’s creative pattern.

We deny that any part of creation, including any form of technology, should ever be used to usurp or subvert the dominion and stewardship which has been entrusted solely to humanity by God; nor should technology be assigned a level of human identity, worth, dignity, or moral agency.

Genesis 1:26-28; 5:1-2; Isaiah 43:6-7; Jeremiah 1:5; John 13:34; Colossians 1:16; 3:10; Ephesians 4:24