Evangelicals for Life: Day 1

January 27, 2017

“Your presence makes a great statement to the culture that we are willing to defend life,” said Focus on the Family’s Jim Daly as he—along with ERLC president Russell Moore—welcomed hundreds to Evangelicals for Life.

Before the speakers and panelists ascended the platform for the afternoon and evening sessions, he reminded the attendees, “We’re on the winning side… remember we should have a heavy heart for those in the abortion industry…. No one is beyond the reach of God. We, ourselves, are sinners are saved by grace. Pray that the light and truth of God’s word will reign in their hearts.”

Human Dignity and the Gospel: The Framework for a Lasting Mission (Russell Moore)

“We have a different view from the rest of the world about what it takes to matter,” Moore said in the first address, imploring the hundreds in attendance to examine, biblically, what it means to matter and to understand the role of “power” in the Kingdom of Christ.

Debunking the widely-believed myth that children are a burden, Moore described them as an integral part of Jesus’ mission—a mission for which he will equip those he calls.

“We are a church of crucified sinners who know the way of the cross is a hard and different way,” he said. “Loving someone and looking outside of oneself will bring risk, pain, hurt and worry—and it is worth it.”

Pro-Life Apologetics: Arguments from Reason that Align with Scripture (Scott Klusendorf)

“All of us need to be prepared to make a case for life, said Scott Klusendorf, president of Life Training Institute, who presented the basic pro-life argument and addressed three key questions Christians should consider when defending the sanctity of life.

This basic pro-life argument included the following points:

Here are the three key questions the pro-life community should be able to address when explaining their position:

A Voice for Human Dignity: The Church’s Pro-Life Mission (Todd Wagner)

“We have church leaders who have not carried out their charge from God to be a truth telling voice … If there is a problem in our country, there is a pulpit problem,” said Todd Wagner, founding pastor of Watermark Church, explaining that society is often reflective of church leadership.

While Wagner addressed the state of our nation in terms of valuing life, he cautioned against leaving human dignity to legislation: “Our country will not be changed by politics; it will be changed when people (hearts) change.”

In order this to happen he said the church must “be full of loving kindness as it seeks justice.”

Panel: Leading Congregations Who Advocate for the Weak, Vulnerable and Voiceless (Trillia Newbell—moderator, Kevin Smith, Todd Wagner, Tony Merida, Glenn Packiam)

This panel, comprised of pastors, explained why it is important for church leaders to facilitate a culture of advocacy within their churches. Here are a few of their thoughts:

Unwed Pregnancy and the Grace of God (Amy Ford)

“I felt so alone,” said Amy Ford of her unplanned pregnancy at 19 years old. “I was afraid to talk to my parents; I thought they would disown me.”

She recalled the day she showed up at an abortion clinic. Out of panic, she hyperventilated and ended up leaving the abortion clinic still pregnant. She ended up keeping the baby—a son, who is now 18.

Out of this and subsequent experiences, she formed Embrace Grace, an organization that ministers to women with unplanned pregnancies through giving, serving and discipleship.

Citing the story of the prodigal son, Ford explained that the church should welcome unwed mothers into their lives and communities, serving them out of love: “We have an opportunity to be the church.”

Bearing Burdens: Serving Special Needs Families in Our Churches (Daniel Darling—moderator, Scott Sauls, Sharen Ford, Paul Martin)

“People with special needs offer a mirror to us,” said Scott Sauls, senior minister of Christ Presbyterian Church, explaining why people with special needs a vital members of the local church. “We are a people with deep needs, who, if they aren’t met, will struggle a great deal.”

Sauls—along with Sharen Ford, Focus on the Family’s program director for adoption and orphan care efforts—said the church should be composed of listeners and observers of the needs of not just the children, but of their parents.

“When you touch the life of a (special needs) child, you touch the life of a parent,” Ford said. “To be the church is to go outside the ‘walls’ of the church—to be an advocate for the child and the parent.”

Paul Martin, senior pastor of Grace Fellowship Church—and parent of a special needs child—said that pastors should set the tone in building a culture of dignity around the special needs community.

“As church community, we understand they have limitation they are not their fault …  they have limitations that require us to adapt,” he said. “God said in Scripture that it is not good to be alone, so cultivating belonging is essential.”

Race and Human Flourishing: Embracing Diversity for the Good of All People (Glenn Packiam)

Glenn Packiam, lead pastor of New Life Downton, explained how the book of Revelation offers four ways to speak of diversity: nation, tribe, people and language.

“The gospel takes our differences, different ways of belonging and gives us a truer identity,” he said. “It fits together people who remain distinct and diverse.”

Christians, who believe in the hope of resurrection, he said, should also recognize that our bodies, which will also be resurrected, reflect nations, tribes, peoples and languages—thus reflect the workmanship of our Maker.

“It isn’t just that souls matter. Bodies matter. If bodies matter, our sense of identity and belonging matter,” Packiam said. “As long as we keep being fixated on souls, we will miss the beautiful design of creation and the glorious hope of resurrection.”

So what role does diversity play in affirming the value of human life?

“We’re pro-life because we’re pro-the glory of God,” he said. “After all, that’s why diversity was built into creation… to reflect the glory of the Lord. And every life has the capacity to bring glory to God.”

Church as a Community of Life (Matt Chandler)

Matt Chandler, lead teaching pastor at The Village Church, spoke of the need for local churches to be communities of life, serious and active about the things God cares about.

He highlighted three criteria for a church to thrive as a community of life:

  1. A community of life believes and declares that God is the author and sustainer of all life, from womb to tomb. Because we believe this, we must be unapologetic in testifying God values all life, from the unborn to the disabled to the dying. And if he values it, we value it.
  2. A community of life displays compassion for their city. For the individual believer, this means getting to know our neighbors—ask to help them with a project, share a meal or host a block party. Local churches should engage the community: adopt first-year teachers, visit senior citizen homes and engage with ministries to the poor.
  3. A community of life actively fights for the oppressed, vulnerable and weak. This means the unborn, the disabled, the poor, the immigrant and any other marginalized group in the community. It is also vital that the church not buy into the fearful rhetoric around refugees.

Panel: What Can I Do? Confronting the Evil of Human Trafficking Around the World (Matthew Hawkins—moderator, Ashleigh Chapman, Kimberly Merida, Natasha Sistrunk Robinson and Travis Wussow)

A panel of several experts in the trenches of anti-trafficking work discussed international and domestic issues facing the church, and what individuals and groups can do to get involved and caring for this vulnerable—and large—group of people.

Key challenges identified:  

Ways the church can engage:

Joy Allmond

Joy Allmond is the managing editor of Facts & Trends, and has also written for Crosswalk.com, LifeWay, WORLD magazine, and the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission. She lives in Nashville with her husband, Greg. 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