When COVID came to our family

Loving and protecting the vulnerable in our lives

December 17, 2020

COVID came home to our family 71 days ago. That’s the day we learned my step-father-in-law had COVID, and it’s also the day he passed away. It’s the day we pulled our kids abruptly out of school and extracurricular activities and began our own 14-day quarantine. It’s the day that the coronavirus went from seeming very global and out there, to very personal, right in here, right at home. 

“Step-father-in-law” might seem like a distant relative, but Steve was a part of our everyday lives, even after the death of his wife, my husband’s mom, almost eight years ago. He hung on to us, and we hung on to him. He was at every birthday, every Christmas, every school play, every just-because family gathering. And it wasn’t unusual for him to show up on our doorstep with a 12-pack of tacos.

When my husband took him to the doctor just six days before he passed away, we expected a fairly routine report, probably an update on his dementia. He was still living at home alone and getting along pretty well. He seemed under the weather, but we never anticipated the appointment would become a hospital stay.  

Over the next six days, we watched in horror as he quickly lost his grasp on life. There were far more questions than answers.

The blessing and the curse was that we didn’t know he had COVID the whole six days we visited him. The coronavirus had not yet resurged, and somehow the hospital never tested him, even with his fever and labored breathing. That whole week we sat in his room, masked of course, using ample hand sanitizer of course, and—even though he was unconscious—we chatted to him, played music, prayed, and even behaved a bit silly at times, as we are wont to do. He was never alone, but surrounded by many, as he drew near to the end. 

The thing about COVID coming home is that you wonder where your loved one got it. You wonder if they could have avoided it, gotten better treatment, and beaten it. Steve loved long drives to his favorite old cowboy spots in the mountains, and he went to the same Mexican restaurant all the time. So we wonder, could he—could all of us—have done something differently? 

His doctors never decreed that Steve succumbed specifically to the coronavirus, but it was present. A so-called comorbidity. He declined so quickly. When we got the call that he was gone we all just stared at each other, mouths agape.

Where theology and anthropology meet

It’s moments like these when theology (what we believe about God) and anthropology (what we believe about ourselves) really matter. When our world crashes down, we find the foundation that remains. My husband, daughters, and I rehearsed our foundation to each other across the kitchen table. God is in heaven and he does whatever he pleases (Psa. 115:3). God created all things through himself and for himself (Col. 1:16). God numbers our days before we are even born (Psa. 139:16; Job 14:5). God alone is the giver of life and breath and everything (Acts 17:25). 

We reminded each other that man is finite and fallible. We come from dust, and it’s God’s breath in our lungs (Gen. 2:7). Our lives are brief, like grass that withers (Psa. 103:15). Our thoughts are not like God’s thoughts, his ways are higher (Isa. 55:8-9). This life makes us weary and heavy-laden, and we need a Savior to help us, to rescue us (Matt. 11:28-30). 

Here at the end of 2020 none of us really know or understand what God is doing. This is hard. COVID is hard. But because of the great unshakable truth of who God is, we know we are seen, held, and dearly loved.

I thank God that before that day we already knew he is good and trustworthy. The cross of Jesus Christ tells us so. While we were yet sinners—enemies of our Maker and Savior, following the world, giving in to our own selfish desires—because of God’s great love and rich mercy, Jesus died for us. He took our sin and in return gave us his righteousness. It’s by grace we are saved (Eph. 2:1-10). There’s no question, God is good. He lived, died, and rose again for you and me who believe. 

Here at the end of 2020 none of us really know or understand what God is doing. This is hard. COVID is hard. Losing Steve was so hard. His absence is loud and unavoidable. 

But because of the great unshakable truth of who God is, we know we are seen, held, and dearly loved. One day, everything is going to be alright. Heaven awaits, and death will be no more. 

Protecting the vulnerable 

Until then, though, in the midst of a global sickness that has come right in and brought death and pain—not just to our family but, at present count, to 300,000 American families—we look at the world with a renewed dose of reality. We are sobered that this virus is real and lethal to the most vulnerable. How then should we try to ensure that we do not cause anyone else to endure a COVID-related sickness or death? 

God forbid—truly Lord, please forbid it—that we unknowingly and accidentally carry this to someone else’s Steve. 

We need the vulnerable in our lives. We need grandmas and grandpas with dementia. We need boys and girls with disabilities. We need men and women who cannot hear or cannot speak or cannot walk or cannot live at the pace we deem normal and somehow more valuable. We need their wisdom, their perspective, their experience. We need their beauty, their strength, their hard-fought joy. We need their faith, their view of God, their understanding of creation. We need all 1,540,000 souls who have perished a COVID-related death around the world. 

With each one, we have lost something, someone, irreplaceable. 

The vulnerable lives in our midst bear the invaluable image of the God who made them. Their lives are not their own, nor are their lives ours. Their lives belong to God in heaven. Let’s live and love like it, with their good in mind. 

Jen Oshman

Jen Oshman is a wife and mom to four daughters and has served as a missionary for almost two decades on three continents. She currently resides in Colorado, where she and her husband serve with Pioneers International, and she encourages her church-planting husband at Redemption Parker. Her passion is leading women into a deeper faith … 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