How can we find truth in a world of confusion?

Resting in our reliable Savior

August 5, 2020

This week a hurricane came through the eastern part of North Carolina where my family was staying. As the storm raged around us, the house we were in lost power. Though the damage in our area was minimal, the power outage was deeply disturbing to my 6-year-old son. He didn’t understand that the power could soon come back on. Nor did he understand why some things continued to work (like our cars and cell phones), while other things did not (like our lights and plumbing). The wild guesses he took as he attempted to understand the situation were almost comical, but they reminded me a lot about our current situation in this time of plague.

Related to this, I’ve been thinking about the idea of truth a lot over the past several weeks. For different reasons, the pandemic has fueled the spread of conspiracy theories and misinformation especially through social media. Particularly alarming to me was a recent article in The Atlantic about the QAnon conspiracy gaining significant traction among many evangelicals (about which, thankfully, Joe Carter has written a very helpful explainer for The Gospel Coalition).

Truth and plague

In a sense, it is understandable that the pandemic exacerbated this problem. Pandemics, by their nature, are frightening things. They not only threaten our well-being and the well-being of those we love, but they also upend our normal rhythms of life. None of us have been through an epidemic on this scale before. And unlike major events that have occurred in recent decades, the COVID-19 outbreak has affected each of us personally, from coast to coast. No one knows when it will end. And we can only guess about its long-term impact. 

What we do know, however, is that the fear and uncertainty created by this moment has generated a lot of anxiety and confusion. And it doesn’t help at all that our collective response to the pandemic has become so politicized, as though the virus were somehow partisan or ideological. But partly because of the politicization, many people are reluctant to embrace information coming through government channels or major media outlets. This has opened up a considerable trust gap. And with the seeming absence of reliable information, it is no wonder that some have turned toward conspiracy theories or embraced false information that aligns with their thinking or suspicions.

Truth is a person

The subject of truth is something Christians should be deeply concerned about. If you open your Bible and turn to the New Testament, the first four books you encounter are the Gospels. They capture something of a theological biography of the life of Jesus. And meeting Jesus of Nazareth in those pages holds the kinds of discoveries that can change your life forever. There is more to absorb in the Bible’s witness of Christ than we could hope to take in across the course of multiple lifetimes. 

But one of the most surprising things we learn about Jesus is that in addition to being the Son of God and promised Messiah who took on flesh to redeem humanity and turn back the curse of sin, he is also truth itself. In a famous passage from the Gospel of John, Jesus tells us that he is “the way, and the truth, and the life” (John 14:6). This means that Jesus not only tells us what is true, but he is truth. Professor John Lennox of Oxford explained this idea with these words:

When it comes to truth, my Christian worldview raises perhaps the most startling claim of all that Jesus made. He said, “I am the truth.” He didn’t just say “I speak true things.” Although I believe that was true. He said, “I am the truth.” So ultimately ladies and gentlemen, for me there is of course truth beyond science because ultimately truth is a person who created the world in which science is done.

When we think we’ve lost sight of what is true, the first thing we must do is look to Jesus.

As Lennox suggests, all other truth is predicated upon Jesus. He is the truth because he makes visible what is ultimate and invisible. He is the fullest revelation of the living God who created, ordered, and rules the world. And in his words, his teaching, his life, his miracles, Jesus reveals to us what God is like and is the living embodiment of truth . This means that when we think we’ve lost sight of what is true, the first thing we must do is look to Jesus.

Looking for Truth

I know that in the confusing and difficult days we are living in there are rarely easy answers. But I am likewise convinced that too often Christians find themselves looking in a thousand different places for direction before they turn their eyes toward Jesus. This doesn’t mean that reading your Bible will reveal some kind of hidden code or answer key for the serious questions surrounding the pandemic or other important issues. But it does mean that if we look to Jesus, we will be the kind of people who see truth first and foremost in our Savior instead of in conspiracy theories floating around on social media.

In another famous passage from the Gospel of John, Jesus is speaking to Pilate hours ahead of his crucifixion and says, “For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world—to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice” (John 18:37). A.W. Tozer said that truth “is not hard to find” because the truth is “seeking us.” And he was exactly right. 

Jesus is the truth. He is the only source of knowledge that is absolutely reliable. And he is not only available, but he is seeking us out (Luke 19:10). Christians should remember that as we make our way through these uncertain times. Just like my 6-year-old, we don’t have all of the answers. But Jesus does. And we may not know when this will end or how long it may last, but we can look to Jesus and listen for his voice. 

Josh Wester

Joshua B. Wester is the lead pastor of Cornerstone Baptist Church in Greensboro, North Carolina. 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