Top moments at the ERLC in 2018

December 19, 2018

Every year, we have the privilege of working at the ERLC to advance the gospel in the outworkings of our society. Whether we look at ethical, cultural, or moral issues, we know that the Bible has something good to say and a better way than our world often chooses to take. 2018 proved to be full of milestone moments and events that we pray will be used by the Lord to advance his kingdom. Here are a few of the incredible instances we had the privilege of leading or partaking in:  

Five ultrasound placements: “Perhaps none of our neighbors are as threatened as those who have yet to be born. Every year in the United States, hundreds of thousands of babies are killed. . . . The Psalm 139 Project helps mothers see what God is knitting, to hear the heartbeat, to see the fingers and toes develop, to see their child at the earliest stages. Ultrasound technology helps us see what God already sees: the humanity of an unborn baby. And this may be the most effective, tangible way to live out our pro-life convictions. . . . This year alone, we placed five machines in Baltimore, New Orleans, Dallas, and Kansas City.”  

Stand for Life initiative: “The ERLC was thrilled and humbled when Stand for Life approached us about taking the reins of this [popular] pro-life group in order to use our resources for a greater reach. This is a unique opportunity to share [online] the stories of families who have chosen life when pushed by doctors to consider abortion; of women who opted to carry their babies to term and put them up for adoption rather than rid their bodies of a fellow human being; and of people who are laying aside their comforts in order to take care of a child in need of temporary care apart from their biological families.”  

2018 National Conference: Our annual conferences are a highlight of the ERLC’s year. They present a unique opportunity to gather believers in person and through live stream for the purpose of equipping and educating the church to be a witness in a broken world. This year’s theme was “The Cross-Shaped Family” and was designed to show how family life should point to the gospel of Christ. Whether single, married or in the trenches of parenthood, attendees will were challenged by speakers to see how the gospel is the central focus of the family. You can view the content here.  

MLK50: Gospel Reflections from the Mountaintop: Nearly 4,000 people gathered together in Memphis to commemorate Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy of racial unity, 50 years after he was assassinated. We heard from people who had marched with King, talked about various race issues within our culture today, and looked ahead to how the gospel can propel us forward in this necessary work. It was truly an amazing, one-of-a-kind event.

NIFLA: The Supreme Court protected the free speech of pro-life pregnancy centers in California in June in National Institute of Family and Life Advocates v. Becerra. The ruling in favor of NIFLA is an incredible pro-life victory that also upholds the fundamental ideal that Americans should not be forced by the state to promote messages that conflict with their beliefs.. The ERLC team in D.C. submitted an amicus brief as part of the effort to ensure that a positive ruling would come down.

The Child Welfare Provider Inclusion Act: A victory for religious liberty was seen as H.R. 188 was added as an Amendment to FY 2019 Labor Health & Human Services subcommittee appropriations bill. “The act [was] needed to provide further protections for child welfare service providers who are being subjected to discrimination because of their sincerely held religious and moral convictions. Faith-based adoption and foster care agencies ought not have to choose between providing children with loving families and following their religious convictions about marriage and family.” While the Inclusion Act is not yet law and will remain an ERLC legislative priority moving forward, the coalition made tremendous progress on this issue marking the policy’s importance in the effort to provide a forever home for children in need.

The Iraq and Syria Genocide Accountability Act: The House and Senate unanimously passed H.R. 390. “The bill seeks to provide humanitarian aid to the victims of the genocide in Iraq and Syria and hold perpetrators accountable. This legislation would provide desperately needed relief and stabilization through USAID and other aid organizations, including faith-based groups, to persecuted ethnic and religious minorities in the region. Additionally, the bill would support entities working to collect evidence of genocide to establish a prosecution mechanism to hold accountable the perpetrators of these heinous crimes.” H.R. 390 is now waiting on the president's signature.

The Adoption Tax Credit: A major win for marriage and family was the preservation of the Adoption Tax Credit. Initially passed in 1997, the adoption tax credit has had broad, bipartisan support for its entire existence. It eases the financial burden families face when growing their families through adoption. The threat it faced would have set families back if realized. You can listen to the D.C. team discuss the victory here.

Religious freedom initiative for Malaysia: “While religious freedom is a fundamental right guaranteed by the Malaysian Constitution, it is in jeopardy as the country considers further expansion of the powers of Syariah courts. Consequently, such expansion threatens Christians and other minority groups from freely expressing their religion of choice.” The ERLC has been advocating for Malaysia and was encouraged by a successful religious freedom initiative for Malaysia as evidenced by a number of religious freedom recommendations made by member states in Malaysia’s Universal Periodic Review at the UN in Geneva.

Lindsay Nicolet

Lindsay Nicolet serves as the editorial director for the ERLC. She oversees the day-to-day management of all content and resources from the Nashville office. Lindsay completed her Master of Divinity at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. She is married to Justin and they have a daughter and a son. 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