SBC’s Paige Patterson calls for immigration reform, care for the immigrants among us

February 17, 2014

DALLAS—“Santo, santo, santo . . . yo quiero verte,” Spanish lyrics to Michael W. Smith’s “Open the Eyes of My Heart, Lord,” resounded throughout the sanctuary of Nueva Vida (New Life) Baptist Church in Dallas on Feb. 9 as about 400 people participated in the Pray4Reform service sponsored by New Life and the Evangelical Immigration Table (EIT).

Paige Patterson, president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, delivered a sermon reproving politicians in both parties whose positions are politically calculated and challenging his hearers to act biblically toward the immigrant.

New Life Pastor David Galvan introduced Patterson, whom he sat under in classes when Patterson was president of Criswell College in the 1970s.

After expressing his “consummate joy” at being in the church of his former student, Patterson related the account of his ancestors’ move to Texas, noting that such migration points “to the inevitability of the movements of people from generation to generation.”

“What we are experiencing here [in modern immigration] is absolutely nothing new,” Patterson said.

Noting the scourges of human trafficking and the illicit drug trade, Patterson offered a biblical admonition, reminding the congregation that the Lord frequently commanded ancient Israel to “love the stranger.”

Regarding immigration reform, Patterson called upon Republican politicians to “stop playing for political favor,” and for Democratic politicians to “stop trying to take advantage of [the issue] for your political party.”

“We do not need Congress to act in order to support any party, but in order to take care of those whom God has put in our care,” Patterson said, calling legislators to enact “genuinely bipartisan” immigration reform.

Patterson commended the “genius of the prayer meeting” as the key to reform, using as his text for the evening Acts 5, where the early church gathered to pray for Peter’s release from prison and saw their prayers answered miraculously.

“In all the history of the church, when the church has become militant and taken up weapons, they have left a sad mark on the church of the living God. But the church in this case realized it had a weapon that is stronger than the sword. They had the ability to go to God in earnest prayer,” Patterson said.

Applying the text to immigration, Patterson commented on the improbability of congressmen “getting together.” The issue is not merely “Hispanic, not just a circumstance of people coming across the border,” Patterson said.

True reform must include “the intervention of God,” Patterson said. “God is going to have to change some hearts.”

“A great movement of God is needed, and he could do it now,” said Patterson, who called upon the congregation to pray.

“If we are praying as we should, maybe we wake up in the morning and we are as surprised as the early church was. It is not Peter standing on the front step, but it is our congressmen standing there with a law, saying, ‘We have worked it out.’”

But immigration reform will not be easy, Patterson said.

“What guarantees justice for one person often tends to take it away from another.” The key will not be “social legislation,” but rather the “intervention of God.”

Patterson noted the truth that “God guides the hands of the ruler,” evident in the Old Testament examples of Nebuchadnezzar and Cyrus.

“God is not limited by human motives,” he added, recalling his own upbringing with an older sister and three step-siblings of Arab, Hispanic, and Japanese heritage, all of whom became Christ followers.

“I don’t know what the church can do about immigration . . . [or] the lawless society. But I know what we can do. We can see every single person we come in contact with as a person that God put in our path. They are not accidentally there. They are there to be the objects of our love. They are there to be the objects of our witness. And every single one of us is obligated to do everything within our power to see them through, that each of those individuals has a wonderfully happy life here and eternal life with God in heaven. May God help us to do our part and then may Congress follow our lead.”

While Patterson’s sermon capped the evening, the service began with remarks from Galvan and Tim C. Moore, Texas mobilizer for EIT and pastor of Walk Worthy Baptist Church in Austin.

Recounting the movement of Joseph, Mary and the infant Jesus from Bethlehem to Egypt, Moore noted, “I don’t find where Joseph and Mary stopped to get a visa.”

“The Bible says that Jesus himself never sinned, the sinless one, and this I know, whatever we do on immigration reform, the children of those who came here illegally . . . have done nothing wrong, and they ought to have citizenship,” Moore said.

Moore enumerated some of the evangelical organizations, including Southern Baptists, World Vision and Bread of Life—groups representing 68 million Christians—whose leadership is aligned with EIT principles.

EIT publications list the organization’s principles as follows: respect for the God-given dignity of every person, promotion of family unity, respect for the rule of law, advocacy of a path towards legal status or citizenship for those who qualify, border security and fairness to taxpayers.

“Dr. Patterson has agreed to have his name added to the signatories supporting EIT principles,” Moore said after Sunday’s service.

Moore directed the audience to communicate with Congress using the materials provided by the EIT. He expressed optimism about immigration reform, noting the recent bipartisan committee passage of five immigration bills.

“The divide is not over policy but over time,” said Moore, who claimed lawmakers are not debating issues of citizenship, legalization or border security, but rather when policy changes will occur.

“If churches do not begin to weigh in, if your voices are not heard, immigration reform will be kicked down the road,” said Moore, who admitted that until a year ago, he had not been an advocate of immigration reform.

In contrast to Moore’s more recent involvement in the cause, Galvan has long been a voice for immigration reform.

“I am simply a pastor of a local church who realized that as an evangelical Hispanic congregation, we needed to get involved collectively in this effort. Immigration reform is something that we have been praying about for many years,” Galvan said in an interview after Sunday’s event.

Galvan said he became a signer of the EIT principles when the SBC’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission first commended them.

The Pray4Reform service at New Life was accompanied by a churchwide 40 days of fasting and prayer, Galvan said.

“I think Dr. Patterson’s message was on target, because whatever happens in Washington D.C. has to be a movement of God.”

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