What Christians must remember 18 years after 9/11

September 11, 2019

It’s been 18 years since the twin towers fell on that unsuspecting September morning. Before that day, 9/11 was simply a date on the calendar. It came and went each year with little fanfare or deep reflection. But once the towers were destroyed, the Pentagon was hit, and the heroes of Flight 93 made their stand to prevent further loss of life, our nation made a solemn vow that we would never forget. 

Within the span of just a few hours, the tragic events of Sept. 11, 2001, brought Americans face to face with evil. Using four planes, the terrorist group al-Qaeda took from us the lives of thousands and struck fear into our hearts. Among the fallen were mothers, fathers, daughters, and sons. Left behind to grieve were children, parents, loved-ones, and friends. And in the wake of the attacks, people across the United States were fearful, feeling vulnerable and exposed.

I was only in the ninth grade then, but my memories of that day are some of the strongest of my youth. I watched in real time as the towers burned. I remember sitting in civics class, looking down at my textbook, and wondering what that day would mean to future generations. Probably my most vivid memory is the fear and uncertainty that seemed to grip us all, not just my classmates and me, but those we looked to for guidance: Teachers. Parents. Pastors. No one seemed to be at peace or certain about the future.  

Initially, no one knew what to make of things. It wasn’t clear at first that America was under attack. And once it was, all of us were bracing for further violence and destruction, not only in the days that followed, but for months and years to come. The tragic events of 9/11 robbed us of our collective sense of security. All around us, there was pain and fear and grief. And in the face of terror and trauma, Americans wondered how we would ever begin to heal. Would we would ever be okay? Could life ever feel normal again?

Civility in the midst of tragedy

But in the aftermath of this tragedy, something truly extraordinary happened. On the very day of the attacks, leaders in Washington did something rarely seen. Together, in a stunning display of unity, roughy 150 Members of Congress gathered on the steps of the U.S. Capitol to help a grieving nation heal. After observing a moment of silence, the assembly began to sing the lyrics of “God Bless America.” And for that brief moment in time, there were no Democrats or Republicans, congressmen or senators. There were only Americans. 

Among those memories of fear and loss and pain, is also a reminder of hope. And Christians bear the burden of reminding the world that hope has a name: Jesus.

It was a powerful display, and one the country needed. No, civil religion can’t save anyone. Christians know that it is only repentance and faith in the finished work of Jesus that brings forth salvation. But even so, there is something significant about the song that the men and women elected to lead our nation spontaneously chose to sing that day. In the midst of tragedy, in the midst of suffering, in the face of evil, there is no comfort apart from faith. And from that awful position of weakness, those elected officials put aside their differences and asked for God’s divine blessing on the United States.

What Christians must remember

Each year the memory of 9/11 grows a little more faint. With each year that passes without the threat of foreign terrorists attacking Americans on U.S. soil, our sense of peace and security grows a little stronger. Still, Americans must always remember the lives that were lost on 9/11. We must always remember the grief we suffered. We must always remember the acts of heroism. And we must always maintain our posture of vigilance. 

But as Christians, there is something else we must remember. For followers of Jesus, 9/11 will always serve as a stark reminder of the fact that there is, even now, a real war ever-raging. As we witnessed the day the twin towers fell, there really are forces of darkness seeking our destruction, and the prince of this world will continue to fight on until the Prince of peace returns to crush his head. Sep. 11 showed us the fierceness of the darkness; we must carry forth that memory and continue pointing toward the light.

I doubt that the Members of Congress singing “God Bless America” resulted in many people repenting of their sins and trusting in Jesus. But there is a reason so many found comfort in a song about God’s favor and protection. And that reason is hope—the kind of hope that is found only in God. In his famous hymn, “A Mighty Fortress is Our God,” the monk-turned-reformer, Martin Luther, spoke of the hope that stands against the forces of darkness in this world: “And though this world with devils filled, shall threaten to undo us. We will not fear for God hath willed, his truth to triumph through us.” 

Sept. 11 was an awful day in the history of the United States. With unparalleled devastation, it revealed the ugliness of sin and the very worst of its effects. And despite whatever good may come from it, Americans today are still haunted by its memory. Yet, among those memories of fear and loss and pain, is also a reminder of hope. And Christians bear the burden of reminding the world that hope has a name: Jesus.

Josh Wester

Joshua B. Wester is the lead pastor of Cornerstone Baptist Church in Greensboro, North Carolina. 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