To Christians Who Celebrated the Supreme Court Decision But Remain Mum on Planned Parenthood Videos

August 3, 2015

So you have had a few weeks since the first video came out (three more have followed, here, and here, and here). Given your near-immediate response to most big news stories, never missing a chance to offer a hot take on the most pressing issue of the day, I would not have thought you needed a few weeks to post something about what the medical director of Planned Parenthood said on that video. Still, maybe you were busy or on vacation, I thought.

But, like I said, it has been weeks.

I know you to be a sensitive person, open to hear the other side of the debate, but I am starting to wonder.

Throughout the spring and early summer leading up to the Supreme Court’s Obergefell decision, your social media handles lit up with posts celebrating the American shift toward a redefinition of marriage: you cheered in favor of Tony Campolo's newly-found support of same sex marriage; you stifled a smile when you heard about the evangelical church's brave decision to accommodate monogamous same sex couples as members, and you seemed to retweet any story that indicated a break among evangelicals on the issue. One of you even posted, “Hallelujah,” next to a link to the Campolo story as if it was a moment worthy of invoking the divine name.

But then the Planned Parenthood videos came out, and together we all learned the result of abortion's dark logic: in America dismembered babies are available for sale.

Not to put too fine a point on it, but I know from private conversation that many of you still support the notion that the unborn child bears the image of God and is therefore deserving of honor and care. In theory, you get what is so deeply wrong about what we are doing to ourselves as a people, as a nation, when we allow and fund such an atrocity. In theory, you believe it is an atrocity.

So why the silence?

Is it because you believe that abortion is too ethically nuanced, a complex of legal debates, medical procedure, and political posturing? I do not deny that this issue like much of life can be confusing, particularly when so many people in positions of power in society do not seem to think abortion is a big deal. But surely it is not as nuanced as the discussion about gender and sexuality that we have seen in the United States over the past few years. If I remember correctly, the narrow 5-4 decision in the Obergefell case did not dissuade you from triumphantly rainbowing your profile picture on facebook.

Is it because you think American culture is moving in another direction, one that supports gay marriage and abortion rights, and as an evangelical you do not want to burn any bridges with those to whom you are ministering? Perhaps you see your selective advocacy as another way in which you are seeking the shalom of the city into which you have been sent by God (Jer 29:7). To be honest, I hope this is the case, because it leaves open the possibility that you still feel an inner conflict about these issues.

If this is your position, then I would like to suggest that rarely do we see such acquiescence in the Scripture, particularly among those in exile (the community to whom Jer 29:7 is written). The general model of faithfulness in exile found in the Bible encourages a peaceable strength that speaks inconvenient truths to power even if it means negative consequences. In their best moments, Daniel, the three Judahite youths, Ezra, Nehemiah, and Esther operate within their various and sundry contexts to the glory of God and in faithfulness to the covenant even when it meant public ridicule and derision, and it often meant just that. Likewise Christian exiles (1 Pet 1:1) in the New Testament were no strangers to contextualization of the gospel (1 Cor 9:20), but that never means subverting the teaching of Scripture on the basic aspects of human identity for the sake of public acceptance.

Does it bother you that your selective public posturing puts you in perfect alignment with the most substantial power structures of our day and in opposition to the community of the gospel of Jesus Christ?

That is an honest question. I have often wondered about you, about what you really think of us. If you are confident that you are in the right, then the vast majority of those whom you call brother and sister are not only in the wrong but deeply deluded by false beliefs pertaining to the nature of humanity and its relationship to one another and God. If this is your opinion, please make your case. Play the role of the prophet, and show us from Scripture how we have gotten this so wrong. If you do not have the capacity for that kind of argumentation, point us to the ones who do, the ones who convinced you.

I do not expect a thorough biblical defense of Planned Parenthood's activities, and I think we both know why.

The modern predicament presents many challenges to the believing community, and our response will require a certain amount of trial and error. We will need to try out new approaches, new modes of communication, some of which will work in exciting ways and some of which will fail miserably. Throughout that process, we will need to examine our motivations and our priorities in light of the strains of contextualization, to ensure that we do not lose the main thing for secondary things or even marginal things.

Because of our shared human finitude and fallenness, we will no doubt have blind-spots, but if we ever find ourselves aligned with the power structures of this world against the community of faith, that should give us pause.

Scott Redd

Dr. Scott Redd is the president and an associate professor of Old Testament at the Washington, D.C., campus of Reformed Theological Seminary. He cares deeply about the teaching of Scripture and its application to all situations in life, particularly in the context of a learning and worshiping community. Scott is married to … Read More

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