What about Revoice?

June 22, 2018

Over the summer, I’ve had the opportunity to travel and speak to high school and college students about topics that bring about no small amount of cultural controversy. Whether the topic be on sexuality or gender, there’s a noticeable tension that overtakes the room and grips students as I explain the Bible’s teaching on such topics. That tension results from the Scriptures declaring the opposite of what the culture teaches on what it means to be male and female, and how sexual relations are to be governed.

The temptation is to view such occasions as merely an academic exercise—like discussing a theology of creation, how general and special revelation interact with one another, biology, and ideas like complementarity.

After a recent speaking opportunity, though, I was reminded that academic discussions are not merely academic abstractions. Pastoral implications always abound.

As I was about to leave the room after my talk, a young man in his teens came up to me to ask me advice on how to relate faithfully to his family, which is both anti-Christian and pro-LGBT. He told me that his parents have no understanding of his faith. In the course of our discussion, he also confided in me that he too struggles with same-sex attraction.

My heart went out for this teen. Barely old enough to drive, he is trying to live faithfully amid a family and a culture that says the very opposite of the hope he is clinging to in the Scriptures. I did not need to tell him that homosexuality is sinful; he knew it already. More than anything, he was wondering what faithful discipleship means for a situation like his.

I tell this story because there’s a conference that has generated a lot of online conversation—the Revoice Conference. It’s a conference that purports to be about the task of “Supporting, encouraging, and empowering gay, lesbian, same-sex-attracted, and other LGBT Christians so they can flourish while observing the historic, Christian doctrine of marriage and sexuality.”

That’s a laudable aim. Christians should support any same-sex attracted Christian or gender-confused Christian that is trying to find their identity in Christ (Gal. 2:20).

But I have pastoral concerns about how the conference is being framed and the potential confusion it might sow among impressionable audiences.

On the one hand, the Revoice Conference has not yet even occurred, so speculation about the conference could potentially be unwarranted. I would welcome being wrong were I confident that the voices behind the conference were offering a clear biblical viewpoint on such matters. But on the other hand, the conference’s programming and the casual embrace of finding one’s identity in what the Scriptures prohibit, seems to be an enormous miscalculation with real-world implications.

When looking at the programming, one finds topics such as “redeeming queer culture,” “queer visibility,” and a whole host of other topics where the determining factor in shaping one’s identity and response to the world seems to be whether one is a sexual or gender minority. To be clear, Revoice is appropriating the language of sexual and gender progressives who have zero interest in maintaining any semblance of Christian teaching. This raises important questions: Why does Revoice find it useful to appropriate secular identity theory? How does this help recalibrate a Christian’s identity toward union with Christ (Gal. 3:27; Col. 2:6; Col. 3:1-11)? Why valorize a past-tense category of sinfulness that Scripture considers a vice (1 Cor. 6:9-11)?

Here’s why I am deeply skeptical about what will happen at Revoice: The Revoice Conference is a flashpoint in a much larger and longstanding conversation. Many speakers and presenters at Revoice have made alarming arguments in the past. While attempting to esteem the Christian tradition’s teaching on sexuality and gender, the shift toward finding an identity in what should be mortified according to Scripture is unambiguously problematic.

I’m sure this conference aims for both pastoral and academic discussion. But what are the pastoral implications of this conference for the teen I met who is trying to live faithfully?

Imagine being this teenager I mentioned at the beginning. You understand and accept what the Bible teaches about your sexual desires, but then you hear about a conference that esteems being a sexual or gender minority while at the same time being Christian. “I can have a gay identity and be Christian,” the teen tells himself. “Maybe the cultural narrative is not that far from where Christians can find themselves as well,” the teen happily considers. Inch by inch, the teen finds less and less conflict between their desires and their faith until this newfound compatibility gives birth to sexual sin. For a teen such as this, it will be exponentially more difficult for he or she to offer their body as a living sacrifice when the mind is clouded with confusion sown by thinking one can identify with prohibited desires and not end up forfeiting faithfulness (Rom. 12:1-2).

Any discussion on gender and sexuality has as its proper end the pastoral care of persons who may be gripped by homosexual desire or confused distress over their gender. Any activity, academic or not, that does not have greater conformity with Christ as its ultimate purpose fails to be authentically Christian (Rom. 8:29). I cannot understand how seeing one’s self as a gender and sexual minority—a class-like status that seeks to amplify and legitimize one’s sexual experiences—helps a sinful or fallen desire or self-perception recede, and affection for Christlikeness grow.

Andrew T. Walker

Andrew T. Walker is Associate Professor of Christian Ethics at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and a Fellow with The Ethics and Public Policy Center. 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