The relationship between Easter and ethics

How the resurrection reshapes the Christian life

April 3, 2023

What is the relationship between Easter and ethics? How does the crucifixion shape the Christian life? And how does the resurrection reorient our moral intuitions?

The answers may come from an often-overlooked part of Acts 1. Most fixate on several important features when they read the beginning of the chapter:

Yet, buried in that text are truths that shed light on the relationship between Easter and ethics, highlighting how, before his ascension, Jesus gave “commands through the Holy Spirit” while “speaking about the kingdom of God (Acts 1:2-3).

What Luke makes clear is that, after the resurrection, Jesus reframes how to live as a follower of Christ in light of the in-breaking Kingdom of God.

Ethics and the victory of Christ

Through his death and resurrection, Jesus achieves a decisive victory over his enemies: Satan, sin, and death. This conquest is precisely why Jesus has the authority to instruct his apostles with the commands Luke mentions in Acts 1:2. With victory comes authority. With conquest comes credibility.

By defeating Satan, Jesus reframes our ethics by showing that our primary moral adversary has no lasting authority or power over those who are in Christ.

By conquering sin, he reshapes our ethics by demonstrating that all this world can boast of is nothing compared to the glory of faithfully obeying the call of Christ.

By overcoming death, Jesus reorients our ethics by defeating the fear of death that overwhelms the anxieties of every person.

If Jesus died and rose on the third day in victorious triumph, it changes our cultural engagement. We do not enter the public arena seeking to crush enemies but persuade captives. And we are not held captive by the allure of Satan’s deceits but set free to follow the way of Christ with joy.

Ethics and the new creation

Through his death and resurrection, Jesus also ushers in a new creation.

He is the forerunner who launches a cosmic reconstruction project by which the broken world is being recreated. All things are being made new. And the down payment that functions as the sign and seal of this new creation is the Holy Spirit, who Luke highlights in Acts 1:2.

By ushering in a new creation through his death and resurrection, Jesus reframes our ethics by transforming our mission. For those now part of this new creation order, the call of Christ is to restore the shalom shattered by sin through declaring the Word of God in proclamation and demonstrating the power of God in ministry.

Our cultural engagement is no longer about self-preservation or power, but about applying the transformed order of the new creation to our broken world.

By ushering in a new creation through his death and resurrection, Jesus also reframes our ethics by transforming our context. Followers of Christ are now citizens of a new creation. This transforms our allegiances and our authority. We perceive the daily events of life that demand ethical clarity through the lens of an unfolding new creation Kingdom that will not fail.

Ethics and the Kingdom of God

Through his death and resurrection, Jesus inaugurates the Kingdom of God.

By overthrowing the power of sin and death, Jesus squelches the parasitic insurrection of Satan. He demonstrates his authority to rule and reign over the entire universe. This is precisely why, during the 40 days after his resurrection, Jesus was “speaking about the kingdom of God” (Acts 1:3).

By inaugurating the Kingdom of God through his death and resurrection, Jesus reframes our ethics through a call to Kingdom flourishing. The curse of sin has been shattered. The fear of death has been subdued. In Christ, Easter has set us free to live the abundant life that promotes human flourishing for the common good and the upbuilding of the Church.

By inaugurating the Kingdom of God through his death and resurrection, Jesus reframes our ethics through a call to embody the ethics of the king. Jesus models what life in the Kingdom should look like. He indwells us with the Holy Spirit to empower us to walk in the way of wisdom. He surrounds us with the Church, the outpost of this new Kingdom, to fortify us to withstand in the evil day.

Ethics and Easter

The death of Jesus seemed insignificant to the average Jew passing by on that ominous day. They had seen thieves, murderers, and insurrectionists slung upon these Roman instruments of torture far too many times. Their familiarity bred apathy. They did not recognize the eternal significance of what happened.

Is it possible that the same is true of us? That our familiarity with the Easter story causes us to pass by seemingly insignificant Scripture passages like Acts 1:1-3 because we are so familiar with the overarching narrative of the resurrection? That our familiarity breeds apathy?

The death and resurrection of Jesus transforms the Christian life because the victory of Christ ushers in a new creation and launches a new Kingdom. Easter changes everything, including our ethics.

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