Raising your children in an age of increasing persecution

September 26, 2014

Last Christmas, my husband and I bought a copy of The Action Bible, a collection of Bible stories presented comic book style, for our nine-year-old son. Unsurprisingly, he loved it and carried it with him everywhere. He would load up his school backpack and put The Action Bible in with his school supplies every day.

Religious intolerance hits home

Until one day when, after school, he told me that he'd gotten in trouble.

When I asked him what happened, he said that during free reading time he pulled out his Bible. His teacher approached him and quietly asked him not to bring that book to school again. I was surprised. Really? Here in the suburbs of the Bible Belt? Knowing his teacher, I didn't raise a fuss. I told Eli to be a little more careful about bringing it out during class to which he responded, “I don't care what they do to me! They can't keep me from worshiping Jesus!” His response elicited from me a sense of pride and alarm.

My husband and I have always known that we were going to need to prepare our children for resistance to the Christian faith, but we had wrongly assumed that it would be with regards to bold evangelizing when they were older. It never occurred to us that we'd need to talk to them about it where we are now. Such is the thinking of much of the church in America.

Many of us, myself included, have become so accustomed to freely worshiping Christ in public that to be opposed is taking us by surprise more than it should. The faithful apostle tells us pointedly in 1 Peter 4:12, “Do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you.” Granted, The Action Bible incident was no fiery ordeal, but we were surprised. I'm thankful that the Lord used this episode to gently awaken us from our comfortable slumber.

As I wrote last time, religious liberty in America is increasingly being limited as those practicing their faith openly, particularly Christians, are being told keep faith out of the public sphere. And as the hostility is ramping up, we are forced to remember that this is not just a grown-up situation—our children will be involved as well. So how are we to think about raising our children in this growing hostility?

Raising eternal creatures

We are prone to forget in the chaos of team sports, report cards and doctors appointments that our children's lives are much more than the here and now. As Gloria Furman tells us in Treasuring Christ When Your Hands are Full, “Our children are so much more than just potential adults.” It is imperative that we bear this in mind. Our kids are eternal souls over whom we have been made stewards. We cannot simply fixate on making sure they know how to function politely in a world that is passing away.

As parents who love and follow Jesus, we have been given the responsibility of teaching our children who Christ is and what he's done. They are going to be asked to give an account for their lives, so we need to teach them the things of God. We must dedicate ourselves to making sure that our little and not-so-little ones know the glorious gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. Perhaps this seems like Christian Parenting 101, but as a fallen, sinful parent I know that life gets busy and we end up taking for granted the overwhelming necessity of teaching eternal things to our eternal creatures.

Showing our children Christ’s glory

When my son's faith in Christ was opposed, his reaction was one of determined obedience. “I don't care what they do to me! They can't keep me from worshiping Jesus!” are the words that came from his little mouth as an overflow of his heart. This is not because my husband and I are perfect parents or because our son is an angelic little Christian, but rather because Eli has seen that Jesus Christ is valuable.

If we are to raise our children in a world that will only increase in its hatred for Christians, and we desire for our children to endure this hatred, then we must show them the glory of Christ and his worthiness. Jesus Christ is the fundamental truth who precedes all other reality, matchless in glory and worthy of all worship.

Do our children see this truth emanating from us? Do they learn from our words and deeds that Christ is our beloved King? Do they see us loving him and making hard choices for him? Are they witness to our praise of him and our singing songs and hymns that glorify him? Are we teaching them who he really is or are we teaching them that he's simply the “reason for the season” or the reason we have to wake up early on Sunday mornings? Are we begrudgingly worshiping him or are we joyfully heralding his majesty?

Much of what our children come to know about the value of Christ Jesus will undoubtedly come from us. Let us dedicate ourselves wholeheartedly to the passionate praise of our King, not simply because we want our children to see us, but because we are enthralled with the glory of the gospel and what Christ has done to ransom our souls! Let’s be a generation who models the obedience of laying down our lives for the Lord to the next generation.

Felicitatis and her seven sons

When I think of raising children who would gladly lay down their lives for Christ, I am reminded of the story of Felicitatis and her seven sons in Foxe's Book of Martyrs:

Felicitatis, an illustrious Roman lady, of considerable family, and the most shining virtues, was a devout Christian. She had seven sons, whom she had educated with the most exemplary piety. Januarius, the eldest, was scourged, and pressed to death with weights; Felix and Philip, the two next had their brains dashed out with clubs; Silvanus, the fourth, was murdered by being thrown from a precipice; and the three younger sons, Alexander, Vitalis and Martial, were beheaded. The mother was beheaded with the same sword as the three latter.

I am not calling anyone to seek a violent death or elevate these saints above their station, but there is an important point here. Felicitatis endured the crushing heartache of witnessing the death of a beloved child whom she had raised and brought up in the admonition of the Lord seven times. What devastating heartache. I cannot begin to imagine what that must have felt like.

And yet as I ponder it, I cannot help but imagine that as Felicitatis and her seven sons passed from this world and into the presence of their Savior Christ, they knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that enduring such hatred had been even more worth it than they had the capacity to imagine. Let us keep this in mind as we raise our own children to see and know and endure for the glory of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

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