He Rules the World with Truth and Grace

August 5, 2016

A meditation on the Great Commission and a declaration of Christian political conviction

As worshipers of the Triune God, we proclaim his love for humanity and all creation through the redemptive death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ for our sins. We believe this good news with our brothers and sisters throughout the world, as followers of Christ have for two millennia. In him, our heavenly citizenship is secure as we await his return and the fulfillment of his kingdom. We submit all things to his Lordship, and as citizens of the United States this includes our public participation in our local, state, and national life. In response to his Lordship, we confess and lament not only our personal sins but also the many dimensions of public and social injustice present in our society. Among these, we are particularly grieved by the failure of both major political parties to nominate credible presidential candidates. In light of these failures, let us consider the following convictions, which flow out of our Lord’s pronouncement of the Great Commission at the close of the Gospel of Matthew:

1. Worship

“Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted…”

As disciples of Jesus, we overcome doubt and temptation in order to worship him and believe all the promises of Scripture. Political order is a component of God’s good creation, and we must resist temptations toward idolatry as we participate in political life. Idolatry is the natural response of fallen human nature to worship anyone or anything other than the one true God. All people are naturally inclined to worship leaders, institutions, and political systems or philosophies that promise to rescue us from danger. Christ alone is able to deliver us from sin and death. We must repent of idolizing our earthly citizenship, our partisan affiliations, and the wisdom of our philosophical and policy formulations.

2. Authority

“And Jesus said, ‘All authority in heaven and earth has been given to me.'”

Governments are subject to the authority of Jesus, regardless of whether or not they recognize his authority. Crucified under Pontius Pilate, raised from the dead, ascended to heaven, and seated at the right hand of God the Father almighty, Jesus Christ is the only true Sovereign, the King of kings, the Lord of lords, who will return to judge the living and the dead. We submit to his authority over all things visible and invisible, in heaven and on earth. We pledge to honor our new president and to pray for him or her. God institutes governments and grants them legitimate authority to preserve order, reward good, and punish evil. May those who hold earthly authority over us do justice, love mercy, walk humbly, and rule for the good of all people and for the freedom of our churches, so that we may lead peaceful and quiet lives. And let us repent of our own attempts to live as if we and our governments are unaccountable to God’s judgment.

3. Nations

“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations…”

God has created and directed the nations of the world according to his wisdom, so that he would be glorified in building a church that will be a great multitude from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before his throne and crying out to him in worship. May the Holy Spirit prosper our witness and sustain our mission until the earth is filled with the knowledge of God’s glory. Patriotism should be an expression of love for our neighbors rather than an expression of pride, chauvinism, or love of self. We must repent of idolatrous nationalism that misconstrues our earthly citizenship as manifestation of God’s electing love.

4. Baptism 

“…baptizing them…”

Jesus authorized baptism, which signifies the boundary between his church and the world. When churches faithfully obey this command, we demonstrate how to justly include and exclude. We do not separate from our brothers and sisters in Christ according to their partisan preferences or according to our perception of the accuracy or thoroughness of their political reflection. We must repent of the sinful boundaries we so frequently draw which both consciously and unconsciously exclude brothers and sisters in Christ from fellowship; these boundaries wrongly regard ethnicity, social class, party membership, or national citizenship as more significant than our common inheritance in Christ.

5. Personhood

“…in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit…”

Human persons, male and female, are created in the image of the only true God, who exists in three equally divine persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Human persons do not exist merely to serve the interest of a collective society; they possess a divinely given nature as image-bearing creatures. Let us pray for grace and courage to bear witness to this truth. Let us repent of our coldness of heart. May we recognize the dignity of all persons, both born and unborn, as image-bearers of the Triune God.

6. Instruction

“…teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.”

Our obedience to Christ includes our responsibility to speak truthfully about the order God has established in the world. The preaching of the gospel is the means by which God redeems sinners and revives nations. Human governments bear false witness when they establish laws, enact policies, or render judgments that deny divinely revealed truth. We must repent of our fear—whether of loss of life, property, prestige, and earthly power. We must act in obedience and trust our Savior with the results.

7. Presence

“And behold, I am with you always…”

Churches gather now in the presence of Jesus, who promised his disciples his abiding presence wherever his people gather in his name. As Christians participate in the processes of electoral politics and legislative advocacy, they should do so with boldness. The Holy Spirit guides believers as they act in obedience to Christ and as they seek to bring his Lordship to bear upon our nation’s political life. As we participate in political discourse, we endeavor to see justice done in ways that honor Christ. We trust our Savior, who abides with us.

8. Hope

“…until the end of the age.”

We await the return of Jesus at the end of this age; he alone is our hope, and neither our country nor its leaders are meant to provide ultimate satisfaction. We pray God’s blessings upon our country and that our nation would act according to his will, but if necessary, we will suffer and bear reproach as Jesus did. We seek the city that is to come. We look forward to a better country than we have ever known. We must repent of our unbelief. We must lament our sin and the sins of our neighbors, but we will not dwell in despair and cynicism. We trust our Savior, our anointed King, and we await the day when the kingdom of this world shall become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he shall reign forever and ever. Amen.

Dan Szy

Daniel Szy is a researcher and writer at the University of Missouri and holds an MA in church ministries from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. 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