A pastor’s thoughts on the recent tragedies

July 8, 2016

Below are lightly edited remarks from Jimmy Scroggins, which he plans to share with his congregation in video form on how we should think about the violence in our country and what the Church must do. They are offered here as a help and an example to pastors who may also be considering how they might address the situation themselves.

Like many of you I have spent the last several days watching the news, following events on social media, and having family conversations about what it all means. Like you I'm frustrated, conflicted, confused, sad, and angry. If I'm not careful, I could get overwhelmed. I want to do something, but I don't know what to do. I want to say something, but I don't know what to say. But this Sunday I will say something because I pastor a multicultural church in a multicultural city and silence isn’t an option. I will expand on the following points:

1. We have a problem.

If this isn't obvious to you by now, you either aren’t thinking clearly or you don’t watch the news. We can pick apart each incident and try explain how it is more complex than it appears on the viral videos, but the sheer volume of these incidents tell us that we have a problem in this country regarding the safety of African-Americans when it comes to dealing with law enforcement. When the black moms and dads in our church are afraid to send their teenagers out in a vehicle, we have a problem. When our brown-skinned brothers and sisters are uncomfortable and even resentful coming to church because they’re afraid that they will be regarded with suspicion, pity, or apathy, then we have a problem. They don't want pity or sympathy; they want solidarity and justice. We will stand with them.

2. We have to care.

It's not enough to exonerate ourselves by personally declaring "I’m not a racist." I have called several black leaders in our church to check on them, listen to them, grieve with them, and learn from them. I can tell you that our black brothers and sisters in Christ are in crisis. They are feeling emotionally, psychologically, and spiritually torn apart. As believers, we’re personally responsible to treat every human being with dignity and respect because each is created in God’s image. But we are also corporately responsible to address structures that perpetrate, facilitate, or ignore injustice. Protests matter, conversations matter, votes matter, jobs matter, schools matter, families matter, and money matters. God was especially harsh in His description of religious people who continued to participate in religious rituals, festivals, and worship services without a serious concern for societal injustice. In the book of Amos God excoriates apathetic believers saying: “I hate, I despise your feasts, and I take no delight in your solemn assemblies…take away from me the noise of your songs; to the melody of your harps I will not listen. But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream” (Amos 5:21-24). The Bible tells us to "weep with those who weep." Well, black and biracial families in our church are weeping right now. The families of police officers are weeping right now. We cannot allow ourselves to grow numb and we cannot allow ourselves be silent. We have to weep and we have to care because God is calling for justice to roll down.

3. We need the police.

The social order that holds our nation together is fraying and disintegrating. The violence and terror against police officers in Dallas shows us another dimension to this problem. Police officers and law enforcement personnel are here to serve and protect. The vast majority of them are faithful and ethical and brave. Police officers need to hear that we need them and we’re all grateful for their service. Black moms and dads need them too. So while we call for justice in cases of police brutality, racism, and, murder, we have to remember that these cases are perpetrated by a small percentage of those in law enforcement. We still have to stand with and honor our men and women in blue. If we don't, our society will descend further into chaos.

4. Love, peace, justice.

God knows that the authentic peace flows from genuine love, but is always accompanied by righteousness and justice. We long to experience the peace of Eden and truly love our brothers and sisters, but the sin in ourselves and in our society cries out for justice and justice has to be served. Of course believers in Jesus know that justice will ultimately be served when each person stands before God to give account for the deeds we have done. It is there that God, who alone holds the only set of honest scales, will weigh out our actions and inactions, our opportunities seized and opportunities lost, our careless words, and even our secret thoughts. We know that this justice will come and that it will be swift and complete, but what about right here and right now?

5. Jesus is the only real solution.

Thousands of years ago, the prophet Isaiah wrote about Jesus when he said, “The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the poor; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound…to comfort all who mourn…that he may be glorified. They shall build up the ancient ruins; they shall raise up the former devastations; they shall repair the ruined cities, the devastations of many generations” (Isaiah 61:1-4). Christ is the only hope for rebuilding the ruins of our cities and our society. Jesus offers hope for new generations to live in an environment of love, peace, and justice. The peace of God was on Him; the love of God flowed from Him; and the justice of God rolled down on Him when He died on the cross for our sins and all the havoc they bring. Jesus was then raised from the dead giving us convincing evidence that only He has the power to transform a human heart. And only a collection of transformed hearts can transform a community from a war-zone to a peace-zone.  

As events continue to unfold we need to remember that this gospel addresses these very real life issues. Racial injustice is a gospel issue for us. Respect for civil government authority is a gospel issue for us. Our gospel compels us to be compassionate and active, but our gospel compels us to be confident because we actually do believe that Jesus triumphs in the end. Until then we will think gospel thoughts, speak gospel words, and take gospel action. Because the love of God must prevail in us. The peace of God must dwell in us. And the justice of God must roll down through us.

Jimmy Scroggins

Jimmy Scroggins is a husband, father, pastor, teacher and coach. Jimmy and his wife, Kristin, have 8 children—James, Daniel, Jeremiah, Isaac, Stephen, Anna Kate, Mary Claire, and Caleb. Since July 2008, he has served as the Lead Pastor of Family Church—a network of neighborhood churches in South Florida. Jimmy is … Read More

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