Tennessee Baptist Mission Board president addresses Senate Study Committee about pro-life legislation

August 21, 2019

It was a shocking scene. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo stood at the podium defiantly poking his finger toward his audience; the audience responding with enthusiastic cheers. He had just signed into law one of the most comprehensive pro-abortion bills in our nation’s history. I thought, “God help us. That man has just signed the death sentence of thousands upon thousands of children.” I’ll never forget the disbelief, devastation, and disgust I felt in that moment.

How have we sunken so low, and devalued life so much, that we rise to our feet and enthusiastically celebrate the murder of unborn children, many of whom under normal circumstances would be minutes away from the final journey into the waiting arms of their mothers?

I am Randy Davis, president and executive director of the Tennessee Baptist Mission Board, and I never want to see that moment from New York repeated. I certainly never want to see it repeated in Tennessee.

Esteemed Senators, I believe what happened in New York awoke a sleeping giant. Life-loving Tennesseans, including nearly a million Tennessee Baptists, have just begun to rally for life. I stand before you today representing those Tennessee Baptists. We want you to know that we stand for life.

Just three weeks ago the Tennessee Baptist Mission Board launched a petition initiative called,“I Stand for Life.” Through that, thousands of Tennessee Baptists—and almost a thousand pastors to date—have indicated their support for legislation protecting Tennessee’s most vulnerable citizens. I believe the bill before you today does just that, and on behalf of those million Tennessee Baptists living in your voting districts and scattered from Memphis to Mountain City, and from Dyersburg to Ducktown, I encourage you to move this bill forward to the next legislative session for approval and then to Gov. Lee for signing into law.

As the chosen stewards of the great state of Tennessee, I encourage you to send a clear and convictional message to the people you represent, that you, too, stand for life in Tennessee.

The Bible testifies in its entirety that God is life’s ultimate and defining authority.

Bills like this are gravely significant because they come down to two fundamental issues: Life, and our collective responsibility to protect it. The degree to which we as a people value life—all life—determines the strength of the society in which we live.

Unfortunately, Roe v. Wade was the fulcrum upon which our society tipped toward becoming a culture of death. Let’s be honest, abortion is largely a violent form of birth control. Tennessee Baptists support the passage of the proposed legislation because it rightly acknowledges and protects life from conception. This fact is self-evident and finds its origins exclusively in the hands of God the Creator.

The Bible testifies in its entirety that God is life’s ultimate and defining authority. Abortionists argue laws protecting unborn babies encroach on a woman’s right to choose. However, that argument exposes a strident desire to take the giving of life from God’s hand. For mankind to claim authority in determining when life begins and when it ends is the pinnacle of arrogance. The trend to redefine an unborn child in ambiguous and impersonal language only exposes the absurdity of our arrogance.

Arguments for abortion are shallow and require a denial of the facts. Evolutionists through the years have referenced science to support the idea that humanity was created some way—any way—other than by God. They’ve manipulated science to deny God and devalue life. The argument is that if we don’t acknowledge the unborn as a child, it is, therefore, not a child. To pervert Descartes, the argument is, “I think, therefore it is not.” Isn’t it ironic, then, that the more refined science and technology become, the more the two expose such contradictions and affirm the Bible’s declaration: Life begins at conception and conception results in a child.

Honorable Senators, for too long lawmakers have been more determined to pass laws that protect unborn animals rather than in passing laws that protect unborn children. In our misguided passion for self-autonomy, we have lost the perspective of common sense. We are culturally adrift in a sea of relativism and are in desperate need of an anchor. Cultural stability begins when we recapture the value of life.

However, if we continue to devalue life, where does it end? At what point are children with birth defects judged of no value and are terminated? At what point are the elderly judged of no value and are terminated? Or what about ethnic groups? History reveals that genocide has been the fate for groups deemed to be of no value. What you decide here and in the future about this bill does not just affect unborn children. It has far-reaching consequences that define what Tennesseans collectively say about the value of all life, now and in the future.

Senators, I appeal to you. Do not be bullied by the threats of economic boycott. As our leaders, you have a great moral responsibility before God and the people of Tennessee. You stand at the threshold of a most historic moment. A question facing you today is, “What will you do with what you  know?” History beckons you forward and your legacy as a public servant is waiting to be written. How will posterity remember you: As stateswomen and statesmen who stood for life and turned back the murderous tide of abortion, or as someone who traded lives for economic development?

Ladies and gentleman, I stand with Tennessee Baptists and together we proudly stand for life. With all sincerity, I pray that you, too, will stand for life, which is why I strongly encourage you to move this bill forward to become law.

Send a clear message to all people everywhere that together, Tennesseans stand for life.

And on behalf of Tennessee Baptists, thank you for allowing me to address you this afternoon, and more importantly, I want to express my sincere appreciation for your service to Tennessee.

Editor’s note: This article originally appeared here. It is the full text of Tennessee Baptist Mission Board President and Executive Director Randy C. Davis’ statement to the Senate Study Committee delivered in support of pro-life legislation proposed in SB 1236. Full news coverage of Davis’ appearance before the committee can be found here, and the audio podcast of his testimony can be found here.

Randy C. Davis

Dr. Randy C. Davis became the executive director of the Tennessee Baptist Mission Board in 2010 (formerly Executive Board of the Tennessee Baptist Convention) after 34 years of pastoral ministry, serving churches in Mississippi and Tennessee. Davis and wife, Jeanne, have two adult daughters, Wendy and Beth, and four grandchildren. 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