Mirroring the Kingdom in our everyday lives

January 11, 2016

In 1987, R.E.M. released its hit song, “It's the End of the World as We Know It (And I Feel Fine).” You’ve probably heard it once or twice. It’s a fast-paced, catchy tune that seems oddly jubilant for a song about the end of the world.

In a world where seemingly every news story is saturated with the stench of bad news, it’s easy to plug our noses, close our eyes, and beg for Jesus to come back. R.E.M. can “feel fine” all they want; in reality, it feels like the end of the world is at our doorstep and we’re scared to death to answer the door. Deep down, we all want God to pull the plug and get this over with.

To be fair, it’s understandable to long for Jesus’s return in the midst of a sinful world. We groan with creation for his return, relying on the Spirit to remind us that “all things work together for the good of those who love God” (Rom. 8:18-30). The world isn't the way it’s supposed to be, and it’s not the way it always will be. It might be the end of the world as we know it, but we should feel fine.

On earth as it is in heaven

Genesis 1-3 tells us a lot about the future. After a snapshot of God speaking all things into existence, humanity takes center stage. Adam and Eve, though created, didn’t simply exist alongside the rest of creation like roommates sharing an apartment. They were, instead, given the keys to creation. They were landlords of the whole thing, under God’s rule. They were also ordered to “be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it” (Gen. 1:28).

The idea was not only to have children and propagate the species—they were ordered to multiply humans who could then multiply more humans, resulting in the spreading of God’s image across the whole earth. Like ancient kings who identified their kingdoms and marked their territory by placing their replica on key items (e.g., temples, coins, statues), God wanted to mark the earth with his created image-bearers.

But Adam and Eve didn’t make it very long before they were Trojan-horsed by Satan and evicted from the perfection of Eden (Gen. 3). They traded imperishable eternity with their Maker for rotting fruit. They handed over the keys to creation.

Matthew 4, in an eerily similar scene to that of Genesis 3, tells of Jesus’s encounter with Satan. Satan pulls out his top hat and begins to pull rabbits from within. “Turn these stones to bread, Son of God. Throw yourself from this temple and let God’s angels catch you, Son of God. I will give you all the kingdoms of the world, Son of God.” In response to these tactics, Jesus answers the way Eve should have. He says, more or less, “God said to trust what he says. He has given me authority over creation. I have all I need in him. Now go away.” And Satan, the serpent that he still is, slithers away. Instead of being deceived by Satan, Jesus withstood and defeated him. The God-man took the keys back.

Jesus prays in Matthew 6:9-10 for God’s will to be done “on earth as it is in heaven.” In Eden, this was a reality. God walked among his people. There was no barrier between them. Though sin broke that bond, Jesus stepped into human history to fix it. So when he prays for heaven and earth to meet, he’s not being trite—he’s proclaiming something universe-altering. He’s praying for the inauguration of Revelation 21-22, where Satan and sin have been defeated and where God’s people dwell with him again. Edenic perfection is restored, but better—the world looks like it was eventually supposed to, covered in image-bearers who bask in the rays of his glory for eternity. This is not something to fear; it’s something to rejoice in.

When the bad news is gone

Jesus’ prayer mentioned above, his words in the Sermon on the Mount, his Transfiguration, his call for multiplying disciples of all nations, etc. are all signposts for the new heaven and new earth. He didn’t come live a perfect life and conquer the grave so we could sit on our hands. He made us new creations here and now, to be ministers of reconciliation here and now, and to be his mouthpiece here and now (2 Cor. 5:17-21). He sends us out to mirror what the end of Revelation promises. Our lives should shout eternity to the world around us.

The disciples in Acts 2 weren’t preaching and living out merely good morals; rather, they were painting a picture with their lives that this broken world doesn’t have the final word. They were pointing to something bigger. Peter preached about God’s judgment and the disciples shared all their belongings because, in eternity, everything broken will become unbroken. There will be no more evil or selfishness or famine. People will live together in one accord under the reign of a perfect King.

This is still our call today. We are still ministers of reconciliation. God still uses his people to show the world what redemption looks like. We give because one day, no one will be in need. We tell the truth because one day, there will never be another lie. We gather together to worship God and to press one another toward him because one day, worship will be the air we breathe. We share the good news because one day, there will be no more bad news.

Brandon D. Smith

Brandon D. Smith works with the Holman Christian Standard Bible and teaches theology at California Baptist University. He’s also co-author of Rooted: Theology for Growing Christians and co-hosts the Word Matters podcast. You can follow him on Twitter. Read More

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