Motherhood: This is war

May 29, 2015

“I would rather learn that you perished at sea than that you dishonored the missionary society you are going to serve.”

William Knibb’s mother shouted these words from the window as the twenty-one-year-old left his home in Kettering, England, and headed toward the port to board a ship for Jamaica. The words of his mother instilled in him a courage to fiercely preach the gospel and fight the slave trade during his tenure in Jamaica as a missionary.

Knibb said of the slave trade, “The cursed blast of slavery has like a pestilence, withered almost every moral bloom. I do not know how any person can feel a union with such a monster, such a child of hell.” 

Of the struggle for the emancipation of slaves Knibb said, “I was forced from the den of infamy and from a gloomy prison, with my congregation scattered, many of the members of my church murdered, and multitudes of the faithful lashed.” 

After emancipation, Knibb was back in Kettering to preach and asked his friend Stovall to go with him to visit his mother’s grave during the short time he was there. Knibb pointed, “See that window?” and explained that that was where his mother had yelled out to him. “I never forgot those words—they were written on my heart,” he said. Stovall would later write, “[In his] great and daring actions the main spring lies in the sensibility of his heart, kindled by domestic piety.”

In other words, his faithful Christian mother had kindled the flame of Knibb’s fierce bravery and gospel courage.

Self-sacrificial courage, not self-focused safety

Some today will cringe at Knibb’s mother’s parting words. But it was not uncommon to hear maternal calls for a child’s courage in Knibb’s day nor has it been in Christian history. Faithfulness to Christ and service to those in need were characteristics of Christian character valued more than self-referential safety and comfort. But we live in a different day. In our context, we hear more talk of self-focused safety than of courage.

In fact, Christian courage is often portrayed as foolish in our context. Who can forget Ann Coulter’s vitriolic description of Dr. Kent Brantly’s mission trip to Liberia as idiotic. She pointed out that the first risk factor for Ebola listed by the Mayo Clinic is a trip to Africa. Then Coulter mockingly asks, “Can't anyone serve Christ in America anymore?” Sadly, many American Christians resonate with Coulter’s logic. After all, would not anyone with good sense stay where it is safe and urge their children to do the same? Is that not what a good mom would do? I have had leaders of Christian mission organizations tell me that Christian parents and grandparents are often the primary obstacles in getting young missionaries to the field in dangerous and difficult places.

Gospel moms, not good moms

In 2 Timothy, Paul addresses the problem of fearfulness and apprehension in young Timothy’s life. He urges Timothy, whom he calls “my beloved child” (2 Tim. 1:2), toward courage: “For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control” (2 Tim. 1:7). One of the primary ways Paul addresses this struggle in Timothy’s life is by urging Timothy to remember the faith of his mother Eunice and his grandmother Lois (2 Tim. 1:5).

Let that sink in. Paul believes that reminding Timothy of his mother and grandmother will cause him to recall the gospel courage they longed for him to possess as a faithful servant of Christ—no matter the cost. Paul did not believe that Timothy’s Christian mother and grandmother had taught him that nothing was more important than his comfort and safety.

“I just want to be a good mom,” is a common refrain in our culture today. But what exactly is a good mom in our culture? Typically, a good mother is one who raises well-mannered children and whose children who attend good schools, get good grades, and have all their needs and desires met. And most importantly, a good mom tells her children that nothing is more important than their safety, comfort, and happiness.

What is the problem with this approach? Simply put, if the gospel is true, it is a lie. Paul tells Timothy, “Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord, nor of me his prisoner, but share in suffering for the gospel by the power of God” (2 Tim. 1:8) and, “All who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2 Tim. 3:12).

A world where nothing is worth suffering and dying for is a world in which it is difficult to discern what is worth living for. We do not need more good moms; we need an army of gospel moms. Understanding the difference is key. Gospel moms know that the values of the kingdom of Christ will always be out of sorts with the values of this world. A gospel mom will provide her children a framework for understanding the world, which helps make the gospel intelligible. Such an approach will inevitably include teaching her children self-sacrificial courage.

Raising soldiers, not civilians

Life is hard. It’s a battle. A gospel mother knows she is raising soldiers and not civilians. Spiritual warfare is not a specialized ministry of a select few. Rather, simply living in the world as a Christian is spiritual warfare. As Martin Luther observed, the truth that “God is for us” implies “the devil is against us.” After calling Timothy to remember his mother and grandmother, Paul urged him to face the battle ahead as a faithful soldier: “Share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No soldier gets entangled in civilian pursuits, since his aim is to please the one who enlisted him” (2 Tim. 2:3-4).

What would you think of a military officer tasked with training soldiers for war who coddled them and permissively let them do as they pleased? What if the officer simply wanted his troops to think he was a nice guy, so he instilled little discipline, required nothing difficult of his troops, and just appeased in the moment. Is he a faithful officer? When the war comes and the soldiers are dropped into the heat of the battle, will they praise their commanding officer or curse him? In preparing for battle, permissiveness is not love; it is its opposite, and its concern is not the troops but the emotional neediness of the officer. It is selfish, shortsighted, and dangerous in a non-noble way.

The root of many of our problems can be traced back to this reality. We live with a comfortable peacetime ethic and parent that way in spite of what the Bible says. Too often, we train our children as if they will be civilians, not soldiers. But the biblical reality is that moms have a vital and unique role in training good soldiers—not good civilians. Life is a battle, and no one is exempt from the fight. Moms are on the front lines of training spiritual soldiers for the kingdom of Christ.


Missionary Triumph Over Slavery: William Knibb and Jamaican Emancipation

Mothers of the Wise and Good

Luther: Man Between God and the Devil

David E. Prince

David E. Prince is pastor of preaching and vision at Ashland Avenue Baptist Church in Lexington, Kentucky. 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