What does the Bible teach us about technology?

July 29, 2019

Not a day goes by that we don’t use some form of technology. Technology’s influence on our lives stretches back thousands of years to the use of shovels and spears. Whether it’s as simple as a chair or as complex as the systems proposed with brain-computer interfaces, technology is all around. In the last decade or two, we have seen exponential growth in technological innovation. This has led to many asking fundamental questions about how we use technology and what kind of influence it has on our lives. Does the Bible really address these questions?  

While a quick search in a concordance doesn’t yield words like ‘technology,’ ‘artificial intelligence,’ or ‘smartphones,’ Scripture does speak to how we are to live in this world in light of the message of salvation found in Christ Jesus. Technology has always posed difficult ethical and moral issues that are not directly addressed by Scripture. And as much as we want it to, the Bible does not explicitly address how to use or when to avoid certain pieces of technology. However, it does address the moral behavior of Christians in everyday life. The biblical approach to technology is not one of complete withdrawal nor unquestionable embrace.

Technology as a tool

In the opening chapters of Genesis, we read about how God created the entire world and called it good. On the sixth day, he created man and then pronounced creation “very good.” When God created humanity in his image, he established that work is good. In Genesis 2:15, he placed Adam in the garden “to work and keep it.” He gave Adam and Eve the ability to create and cultivate, differentiating them from the rest of creation. 

While the fall altered the entire world and man’s relationship to God, it did not change the necessity for us to create in order to fulfill our responsibilities. Early technology was used to assist in this and was most likely in the form of tools used to cultivate the ground. Before the fall, these tools were used solely for our good and the glory of the Creator. Now, however, we often use the skills God has given us to do things that he despises.

Understanding technology as a tool helps us see the good and bad that can come from technology, as well as shows us the influence these tools have over our lives. In Exodus 31:1-11, for example, God described the wisdom and understanding he had given to skilled Israelite workers in order to construct the tent of meeting so that his people could come into his presence. Unfortunately, just a chapter later, we see what happens when these skills were applied for evil. The golden calf was built for the Israelites’ worship, revealing their hidden idolatries and lack of faith in God. The skills were the same, but the product was different.

Is technology morally neutral?

As technology grows increasingly more complex and powerful each day, it is natural to ask about the moral nature of it. We see technology used in horrific dehumanizing ways like the facial recognition AI systems being used to track and detain the Uyghur Muslims in China. We also see the power and influence that our smartphones have on our speech and how they have changed how we interact with one another each day. Are certain pieces of technology evil?

While technology does influence and change us over time, technology is a tool that God has given us to be used in ways that honor him and help us love our neighbor (Matt. 22:37-39). It’s true that certain pieces of technology are created for evil and can have an outsized influence on our lives. So is technology morally neutral? Yes and no. Technology is morally neutral in the sense that it will never have moral agency like that of a human being created in God’s image. We are moral agents and are accountable for our sins (Rom. 3:23), unlike our tools. 

But that doesn’t mean that all technology should be adopted and used. Some forms of technology are indeed evil, because they can only be used for morally reprehensible purposes. Sex robots are one example. While these tools are morally neutral in the sense that they do not possess moral agency, they do have moral value, and we will be judged on how we wield them.

Technology does not dismiss God’s sovereign rule

In Proverbs 16:4, the message is simple: God is sovereign; we are not. Everything is prepared for his purposes. He in works providentially in a world that will eventually be glorified in the new earth. Even the wicked acts of men and women are under the sovereign rule of God, who does not fear or do evil, but defeated it by sending his own Son, Jesus Christ, to die on a cross and rise again. Because of this resurrection, we should not fear what is to come (2 Tim. 1:7). We know that God holds all things together.

Every one of us has benefitted from some sort of technology, and that should be no surprise. God has intended for technology to be in our world and gave us the ability to create tools that enable us to live out the greatest commandments (Matt. 22:34–40). The Bible never makes blanket statements on whether specific technologies are inherently good or bad, but it does hold Christians to a biblically-grounded morality and engagement with the world around us. We must think wisely about how we use these innovative tools. Ultimately, we will be accountable for how we all of what God has given us. Technology is a gift from him, brought about by his skilled image-bearers, and should be used to know him better, build up our neighbor, and glorify him above all.

Cameron Hayner

Cameron Hayner was an intern in the Nashville office of the ERLC. He is a senior at Liberty University where he is majoring in Theology and Apologetics and a student fellow in the center for apologetics and cultural engagement. As a writer, Cameron seeks to bridge the gap between Christianity and … Read More

Jason Thacker

Jason Thacker serves as senior fellow focusing on Christian ethics, human dignity, public theology, and technology. He also leads the ERLC Research Institute. In addition to his work at the ERLC, he serves as assistant professor of philosophy and ethics at Boyce College in Louisville Kentucky. He is the author … 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