National Adoption Month and you

November 24, 2014

National Adoption Month. It’s a time for celebration.

The word “adoption” evokes so many beautiful images:

Adoption is beauty from ashes. It’s redemption. It’s hope. It’s grace. It’s unconditional love. And sometimes, like all good things, it’s really, really hard.

Getting honest about adoption

This year marks our family’s 15th anniversary of celebrating National Adoption Month in a deeply personal way. God made us a family through the blessing of adoption, and each of our four kids has enriched our lives in ways too numerous for us to ever recount.

But the journey has also been much more difficult than we could have ever imagined.

I’ve noticed that this admission sometimes makes people uncomfortable. As a people-pleaser, that used to unsettle me. Sometimes it still does. But it’s important that we look at this issue with eyes wide open.

This Adoption Month, as the Church, we need to be committed to telling the truth—the truth that encapsulates both the difficulty that can accompany adoption and the “completely worth it!” reality that permeates even the hard stuff. And flowing out of that, we also have a chance this November to embrace the idea that everyone has a role to play in adoption—even if they aren’t actually called to adopt.

God loves the orphan

But first things first: God’s view. As believers, we know that “In love, he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ” (Eph. 1:5). Each one of us belongs to the family of God through the gift of adoption. This is a good thing—a very good thing! Adoption on earth represents the most powerful spiritual reality there is—a reality seen throughout the whole arc of the Scripture—that God welcomes us into his family through Christ.

It only takes a casual familiarity with Scripture to understand God’s deep love for orphans. He constantly pleads their cause in his Holy Word, and he tells us to do the same. The verses are probably familiar. God is “A Father to the fatherless…and he sets the lonely in families” (Ps. 68:5). “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after widows and orphans in their distress…” (James 1:27a—probably the favorite verse of orphan advocates worldwide). Another one that resonates strongly with me is the admonishment “not to encroach on the fields of the fatherless because their defender is strong and he will take up their cause” (Prov. 23:11). In other words, don’t mess with God’s children!

God is with us in adoption

But Scripture is also chock-full of warnings to count the cost, to expect suffering, and to be joyful in the trials that will inevitably come. Why should we be joyful? Because God is with us. And he’s not just “with us” in a general, esoteric sense. He’s actually near to the broken-hearted. What does that mean? And how does it apply to adoptive parents (and indeed, all parents)?

Families who welcome children through adoption realize that, in many cases, those children come from very traumatic backgrounds—whether it’s from an orphanage in a developing nation where kids are left in dirty cribs and rarely experience the touch of another human being, or from foster care where they are sometimes abused, neglected or abandoned. Many are exposed to drugs or alcohol in utero. And all have been separated from God’s original plan: to experience comfort, protection, love and a sense of belonging from their birth mothers. Early trauma like this changes a child’s brain and may bring significant challenges later in life. These challenges accompany the child into their new family. And sometimes, those challenges stretch parents to their limits and beyond.

You can help without adopting

But here’s the great news. If you can pray, cook, clean, drive, shop, or babysit, you could be used by God to help these families! You can be a part of God’s plan to be near to the broken-hearted. If you’re one of those wonderful folks who has always loved the redemptive, life-affirming aspects of adoption but never known where you fit in, you have a wonderful opportunity to reach out to the adoptive parents in your circle of influence and offer them some much-needed margin.

All of us in the adoption world want to encourage, catalyze and galvanize those in the Church who are not called to adopt to get involved by supporting an adoptive family in their congregation.

While many parents are busy with sports, music, and enrichment activities for their kids, adoptive families are consumed with medical appointments, therapist visits, and IEP (Individualized Education Program) meetings at school. They wouldn’t change that for the world, because again, it’s so worth it. But knowing there are other families to support them through prayer, encouraging words, and practical help can feel like a gift from heaven.   

When Christ-centered community happens, everyone thrives—kids, families, and those offering support.  It may seem like a small thing, but it’s not. The more the Church steps up to fill in the gaps, the more adoptive families will thrive, rather than just survive. More thriving adoptive families mean more people willing to consider adoption themselves, resulting in fewer lonely kids waiting for families to call their own. That’s what it’s all about! Each one of us has a role to play in God’s wonderful plan to set the lonely in families.

For more information about how to support adoptive families in your church or community, visit Focus on the Family’s website.

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