ERLC National Conference 2016: Day 2

August 27, 2016

Russell Moore’s words that concluded the second day at the third annual ERLC National Conference were heavy, but also hopeful, a theme consistent across all speakers that day.

“The shaking of American culture is no sign that God has given up on his church,” he said. “The shaking of American culture could very well be a sign that God is rescuing his church from a captivity that we didn’t even know we were in.”

Control and Christian culture

During his keynote session, Christianity Today executive editor Andy Crouch challenged attendees to ask whether they – and the American church as a whole – are “on a quest for control,” specifically of culture.

According to Crouch, a perfect balance of order and abundance are the key ingredients that lead to human flourishing. “The work of culture is to add new dimensions of order that uncover new possibilities of abundance,” he said.

As humans, Crouch added, we are uniquely given authority – the capacity for meaningful action – and vulnerability – exposure to meaningful risk. But control itself is a testament to true motivations.

“You know someone is addicted to control when their control begins to slip they become violent,” Crouch said. “What our culture has perceived of us Christians, is they see us losing control of culture and they see the rage with which we react to that loss of control.”

Dialogue: a way forward

Crouch offered another way forward: true leadership and leaders who “just show up and are honest about their limits, honest about our limits and call us to live a life of risk.”

He added that “true leadership is the stewardship of vulnerability.”

An afternoon breakout session panel between five women also offered practical ways to engage with people who think differently than us.

While author Trillia Newbell suggested that women can be faithful in building them relationships around them and engaging the culture thoughtfully, writer and hip hop artist Jackie Hill Perry shared her story of working with inner city youth and the often affluent, Caucasian women who mentored them.

“A lot of times the mentors had this ‘savior mentality’ that I had to kill,” she said. For the mentoring women, “saving these kids was a means of assimilating them to their culture. When what needed to happen was, no, we want to assimilate them to Christ.”

Millennials and the church

Dialoguing between millennials, that generation born between 1980 and 2000, is also important for the church, as they offer the church their own unique benefits and challenges. How can pastors engage with the next generation to cultivate culture?

Village Church pastor Matt Chandler said that he fears that some churches in the Bible belt are “filled with ungenerate Christians” – individuals raised in the church and immersed in Christian culture. They know to live a good life, but actually may never have heard the Gospel preached.

Reading from Luke 15 and the parable of the prodigal son, Chandler shared his own former frustration with nominal Christians, and his following conviction from being challenged by the father’s acceptance of not only the younger son, but the older son.

“The mission of God is to seek and save the lost, not moral betterment,” Chandler preached. “The basic Gospel message of why Christ has come has been completely lost on an entire generation.”

And some, unable to live up to what they have been taught is “the good life,” have trouble sharing their failings.

“We will often have to help, here in the Bible Belt, really moral church folk understand that they are not Christians. There are few things more offensive to people who grew up in church and have no relationship with Jesus Christ have no interest in following him. … You’re going to have to give the older brother an opportunity to repent.”

During a breakout session, a panel of pastors talked about other challenges presented by and to the younger generation. The pastors were encouraged, they said, about the determination and strength of millennials who choose to walk in the Christian faith in an increasingly antagonistic culture.

Jackie Hill Perry, the millennial represented on the panel, said that while millennials will find Scriptural truth on social issues offensive, “the gospel is offensive.”

“Millennials need to learn the authority of Scripture,” she added. Part of being a Christian, is being an exile.

Ben Stuart added that he reframes church to his younger attendees as a place of inter-age and inter-socio-economic interaction, and not as, “what can this church do for me.”

Conserving a “gospel authority”

Toward the end of the conference, Russell Moore’s keynote charged listeners to conserve truth with discernment. He shared his story of being a teenager attempting to decipher Christ from the cultural Christianity that surrounded him.

“Darkness is terrible. But darkness is even more terrible still when one is told that it is Jesus,” he said.

What, though, is worth conserving? According to Moore, it is a gospel authority.

“If what we are conserving is not defined by the gospel, defined by a righteousness found in the lived life and the shed blood of the resurrected Jesus Christ … than we have nothing worth conserving at all,” he said.

Kara Bettis

Kara Bettis is a Boston-based reporter on topics of faith, politics and culture 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