TRANSCRIPT: World Vision’s change of course

April 29, 2014

Hello, this is Russell Moore, and this is Questions and Ethics, the program where we take your questions about issues that you are facing in your life or in your home or in your neighborhood or in your workplace and answer them through the grid of the gospel of Jesus Christ. And the question today comes from Michael, and he is referencing the controversy that happened in recent days over World Vision. And before I ask Michael’s question, I will give you a little bit of the context for those of you who don’t know:

World Vision is a Christian ministry that has done very good work when it comes to helping starving and at-risk children around the world. And World Vision prompted a huge controversy in recent days when they announced that they were going to start hiring people who were same-sex married and that they were going to change their policy when it came to homosexuality, when it came to people who were married legally in states. The outcry meant that within, I think, forty-eight hours World Vision said we are reversing that policy. And so Michael says, “Dr. Moore, do you think World Vision changed its mind for the right reasons or simply because they lost so much support within the first twenty-four hours of making the announcement?”

That’s a good question, Michael. My response to that is to say I think that evangelicals made our views clear to World Vision, and I think that World Vision did the right thing in saying we are reconsidering this and we are turning around. Now, I think we need to be the sort of people who are willing to speak the truth, including to speak the truth to and about World Vision when they do something that we believe is unbiblical. But I think we also need to be the sort of people who can take yes for an answer.

World Vision put out a statement and said we apologize. The thing that struck me about this statement from Rich Stearns is that it was unlike many public apologies that we tend to see these days. It didn’t self-justify. It didn’t say, “I am sorry if I offended you. We’re sorry for those that we offended.” It said we did the wrong thing. We lost our way when it came to the authority of the Bible, and we are turning around. We are going to seek to make it right.

Now, I think that we take them at their word. I Corinthians 13, tells us to believe the best, and so I don’t think we can read motives, and I don’t think we ought to read motives. I think instead we ought to rejoice and say unless they prove otherwise, I think we need to take them at their word.

Now, does that mean that we ought to take into account—some people have said well, yeah, but you know, they made a really bad decision in the first place, so how can you trust a board that would make this sort of a decision that is just a clear break from biblical teaching and from two thousand years of Christian witness? Fair enough. Should we seek to watch and to hold World Vision accountable? Yes. We need to watch and to hold every Christian organization and ministry accountable. That’s what the Bereans did when they judged everything that the apostles were saying according to the word of God. They searched the scriptures to see if these things were so. We need to do that all of the time because every human authority is fallible, and every human authority can make mistakes. And so we need to be constantly watching that.

And I don’t mean that we need to have a watchful spirit or a skeptical spirit the way some people do, wanting to pounce on everything. But we need to hold everybody, all of us in Christian ministry, up to the standards of the word of God. True enough.

But we also need to be the sort of people who when somebody starts going in a wrong direction, they are rebuked, then they turn around—I mean the worst thing we can do is to say, oh, well, you obviously just turned around because we rebuked you; that means your motives are wrong. I mean the Apostle Paul confronted the Apostle Peter and said your refusal to have table fellowship with the gentiles—I am withstanding you to your face because you are not living up to what has been delivered to you by the Lord Jesus. Paul did that. Now, what if when Peter turned around and repented the response from the rest of the church is oh, well, he just repented because Paul confronted him; he is just worried about losing the influence that he has among the apostles? Well, you could read all those motives into that if you wanted to. But I think the better way to go is to take them at their word and to say we are glad you did the right thing. And like any other ministry, we are going to be holding you accountable. And if you walk away from the Bible and from the gospel, which is what happened here—I want to be very clear; that is what happened here—we are going to be the people who will remind you there is still an evangelical movement in this world, and the evangelical movement still believes the evangel.

Yeah, we need to do that. But we need to do it as people who take people at their word and believe the best.

What is your question that you have? Send it to me at [email protected]. Maybe it is something that you were reading in your quiet time in the Bible and you say I’m not even sure how to necessarily understand this; or maybe it’s something that you saw on television on the news or read about on the internet and you are saying I am not sure how to think about that as a Christian; or maybe it is a situation that you are facing in your family or in your home or your neighborhood or in your workplace. Send it to me at [email protected], and we will address it here on Questions and Ethics. Until next time, this is Russell Moore.

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