Inspiring stories of God’s power in the lives of ordinary men

February 28, 2020

Along with making cookie dough to eat with no intention of baking it, one of my secret joys is reading children’s books. Well-written children’s books can transport you to places you’ve never been. They can teach you while delighting you. One of my favorites is Titus, A Comrade of the Cross. The book was selected as a winner for a writing contest in the 1800s. The contest was for a book that could most set a child’s heart on fire for Christ. It does just that for a reader of any age in a very compelling way.

Strong: How God Equipped 11 Ordinary Men with Extraordinary Power (and Can Do the Same for You) by Catherine Parks is one of my new favorite children’s books. In her work, Parks gives a short, accessible biography for 11 men in history. Some are known and some unknown, but they were all ordinary men strengthened by God for what they were called to do. The men on these pages recognized they needed God’s power (xiii). True strength isn’t a lack of tears when hurt, mere physical ability, or being able to do things alone. Strength comes from outside of us. It comes from our Creator. And Parks reminds the reader that the same God who strengthened these men can strengthen you too.  Here are a few highlights from stories told in the book:

Alvin York: Generosity 

Alvin York demonstrated a strength of generosity. He grew up in the late 1800s in Tennessee. He was a drunkard and a gambler who fought regularly. Through his reckless youth, he had a faithful mother who prayed for him. He came to know Christ, and his life radically changed. During World War 1, surrounded by German fire with seven of their 18 men dead, York, as the highest-ranking soldier, found himself in charge. With only eight soldiers and very little gun fire, York captured 132 German soldiers. You’ll have to read it to believe it. 

He trusted God and walked faithfully in a difficult situation. God protected him and honored his courage and conviction. After those events, he was a hero put in the spotlight. He received many offers for money, but he wasn’t interested in personal gain. He decided to use the proceeds to build a school so kids in his community could receive a good education, an opportunity he didn’t have in his youth. Despite his fame, he lived simply and helped others. “He was a normal man who knew God had given him much so that he could use it to serve those around him” (13). 

Elka of the Wai Wai: Standing alone 

Elka of the Wai Wai shows the strength of standing alone. He was the leader of an indiginous people group in South America. As a witch doctor, he was imprisoned by fear until he heard the gospel. Elka’s life is very different from those of us that live in the states, but we share the same great Savior and faithful God. As I read his story, I was challenged, and I was led to praise the God of every tongue, tribe, and nation. His story depicts progressive sanctification. Just like me, “He discovered that following Jesus didn’t mean he would become perfect overnight. He had to choose to obey each day and to confess his sin when he failed” (83).

George Liele: Compassion

George Liele demonstrated a strength of compassion. Born into slavery, Liele was taught to read and write by his slave owners. He attended church, but believed he could only be loved by God if he did good things. But he submitted his life to God. His story will challenge those who have grown up in the church or in cultural Christianity to consider the gospel again. 

Liele had a talent for teaching and was ordained as the first black pastor in the Baptist church in America. He preached to both white and black members in his church. He was freed by his master in 1776 and later moved his family to Jamaica and started preaching the gospel there. He was thrown in jail while there for preaching the gospel to slaves, but he was released and went right on preaching. He was the first known Baptist missionary, taking the gospel to Jamaica 10 years before William Carey went to India. He “left a legacy of slaves and former slaves who knew freedom and rest in Jesus Christ because of his faithful teaching” (149). 

More faithful men throughout history 

In addition to these, the reader will learn of the strength of sacrificial love in missionary and martyr Jim Elliot’s life. They will learn of the strength of endurance from Jackie Robinson, who amidst fierce discrimation, used his athletic ability to seek the good of other African-Americans. Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s courage is shown as he, a pastor in Nazi Germany, took a stand against Adolph Hitler. George Müller’s life demonstrates a strength of faith as he trusted God to provide so much so that he and a number of orphans sat down to breakfast with no food in the house. They prayed, and the doorbell rang. God provided milk and bread in surprising ways.

Brother Andrew’s strength in obedience is seen as he took the Bible to people in different countries. Eric Liddell teaches the reader how to know what matters. He served the Lord as an olympic athlete, a missionary to China, and a prisoner of war during World War 2. He lived for what mattered. John Newton showed strength in his godly ambition. As a former slave trader-turned-preacher, Newton helped abolish slavery in England. William Carey demonstrates a strength in humility through his faithful service in India. Known as the father of modern missions, William Carey told a friend, “Mr. Duff, you have been speaking of Dr. Carey; when I am gone, say nothing about Dr. Carey—speak about Dr. Carey’s Saviour” (134).

Each biography has a picture, quote, story, questions, and a verse. There are also one-page summaries at the end of the book for each of the men’s lives. The structure of the book makes it useful for reading alone, for use in a group of 8–11 year old boys, or for a family to read together. It deals with important and sometimes complex issues like persecution, racism, conviction, obedience, sin, reconciliation, confession, and more in an age-appropriate way that will lead to fruitful discussions between young men and Christian parents or leaders in their life. It also helps expose kids to other cultures and what others may experience that they don’t.

We all need heros, whether we are 8 or 80. And we need to understand true strength. This book will be a resource, delight, and encouragement to boys, girls, women, and men of all ages. In an age where there is much confusion about gender, this book gives strong examples of men while not stereotyping or overcategorizing. It was for me. So mix up a batch of cookie dough, and dig into this book. You won’t regret it.

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