Easter: The dawn of a new type of politics

March 24, 2016

One of my favorite quotes belongs to the famed, and now deceased historical theologian, Jaroslav Pelikan. It is believed that on his deathbed, he concluded his life by uttering these words:

“If Christ is risen, nothing else matters. And if Christ is not risen—nothing else matters.”

Pelikan’s last words viscerally capture what is at stake when wagering Christ’s bodily resurrection: Everything. Everything hinges on whether this central claim of Christianity is indeed true. If the resurrection isn’t true, it won’t require Christianity’s cultured despisers to point out our foolishness and pitifulness, for the Apostle Paul admits as much himself (1 Cor. 15:14). For Paul, the resurrection is both the culminating foundation and capstone for the entirety of what God is doing in Christ (Rom. 1:4).

The resurrection is the decisive turning point of history. This means that everything and everyone must reckon with—whether for or against—the resurrection. All empires and global powers have to react to the claim that Jesus rose from the dead; for Jesus’ resurrection and ascension signals that political powers aren’t actually all powerful. According to Anglican ethicist Oliver O’Donovan: “Secular authorities have been in serious trouble since Jesus rose from the dead; his rising marks their end both in the sense of their termination and in the sense of the revealing of the authentic goal and mediated authority; the most pressing danger for the church is not that of illegitimately appropriating to itself such secular power but rather of affording to such secular power a legitimacy and significance that it no longer possesses.”

For those in Christ, the resurrection re-orders everything about or existence. It means that we give Christ the highest standing possible, not a legislature, king or court. By re-ordering, I mean that Easter and its promises of participating in Christ’s resurrection reframe how we see the world and the world’s narrative—that’s what politics is all about. Politics isn’t just about voting (though that matters!). Politics concerns the task of ordering our lives according to central truths. Seen in this light, everyone has a politics.

As a Christian, the resurrection bestows upon us a new identity packed with new priorities. That means it gives us a new politics. If you’re a Christian, the most important thing about you isn’t whether an elephant or a donkey symbolizes your politics; but whether the reality of a bloody cross and the promise of a crown is what shape your approach to politics; about whether the central truth of Christianity is the central truth through which you see the world. The reality of Easter is about the dawning of a new type of politics—not the politics of this world that is caught up in endless cable news disputes, but a politics of the kingdom of God.

The resurrection is the ground for a new political hope

First Peter 1:13 declares, “Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” According to Peter, the resurrection is the confirmation that our hope is not in vain. Hope is how the Christian measures time. In an age where endless philosophies, religions and self-help gurus treat hope as a coping mechanism, Christianity treats hope as a central feature. A Christian hope grounded in the resurrection means that political escalations, cancer wards and divorced marriages don’t get the final say. Christian hope is global, because it is the hope that all nations are truly longing for (Matt. 12:21). No political economy will absolve the world of its misfortunes; only Christ can bring peace with his perfect justice (Heb. 10:13).

The resurrection is the ground for a new political mission

As Christians, the resurrection brings together a transnational body of believers. Our message has no borders. Our message is one of coming judgment, but also of the availability of reconciliation (2 Cor. 5:20). This means that the Great Commission is an act of subversion, for it calls people to subject their fallen political identities to a higher identity and to transfer one’s identity to the kingdom of God’s beloved Son (Matt. 28:16-20; Col. 1:13)

The resurrection is the ground for a new political means

Christians are called to be active citizens and patriots. Nowhere does the Bible tell us to do away with or dispense of our love for our homeland. At the same time, Christians don’t conduct themselves in line with the patterns of this world (Rom. 12:1-2). Rather, being transformed, we conduct ourselves as Christ’s ambassadors through love and persuasion, not by coercion or the sword, which God has bestowed to the state (Rom. 13:1-7). We are citizens of a heavenly kingdom whose currency is the fruit of the spirit (Gal. 5:22-23).

The resurrection is the ground for a new political declaration

While an adorned cliché and usually an exercise in over-zealous piety, the buttons, stickers or social media memes that say “Jesus for President” actually testify to the central political claim of Christianity: Jesus is King (1 Tim. 6:15). The announcement that Jesus is the true, sovereign King is seen as a threat in Holy Scripture (Acts 2:36; 4:12; 17:6). To say that Jesus is the true king is to make all other earthly claims to power subject to Christ.

There are countless other reasons for which the resurrection brings about a new type of politics, but this Easter Sunday, dwell on the central truth that God raised Jesus from the dead, and that no matter what, regardless of political tumult, the call of Christ is the call to be centered and fixated on his lordship over every area of our lives.

Andrew T. Walker

Andrew T. Walker is Associate Professor of Christian Ethics at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and a Fellow with The Ethics and Public Policy Center. 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