Why a Christian’s identity brings confidence

May 20, 2019

A few days before I left for college, I drove across town to my grandmother’s house, as I regularly did on Saturday mornings.

I found her sitting at her kitchen table covered with its vinyl tablecloth and newspapers, as she always seemed to be. In all of my memories, my grandmother carried herself with a sense of confidence. Even when her body was failing because of Parkinson’s Disease, as it was this day, she was self-assured in the words she carefully chose. We talked together about all that was ahead for me. She held my hand, looked me in the eye and said, “Remember, you are a Walker.”

It is worth noting that my name has never been Walker. Walker was her maiden name, and she spoke of her family often.

A legacy to uphold

My grandmother was particularly proud of her father and my great-grandfather, Judge Edward Glenn Walker. Born in 1886, our family has always referred to him as “The Judge,” as I believe he was called by many who knew him.

In a resolution adopted upon his death in 1941, his friends and colleagues wrote about his life, service and personality. Among other things, it states:

“As County Judge, he was the Juvenile Judge of Wilson County, [Tenn.] a work for which, by temperament, he was peculiarly adapted. It is doubtful if any Juvenile Judge of the State ever exercised a sounder discretion in the handling·of helpless and dependent children that did Judge Walker. This he did by the exercise of his profound knowledge of human nature, his accurate sense of justice, tempered by his natural love for children and interest in their Welfare.

Verily, ‘Those friends he had, he grappled to himself with hoops of steel.’ This he did by being loyal, aided by the sheer force of his unusual personality. At no time was Judge Walker a negative character, or, a negative personality. You might agree with him, or, you might disagree with him; you might support him, or, you might oppose him; you might like him, or, you might dislike him, but he compelled admiration.”

I grew up in the same town where he served and the same town where my grandmother lived. The knowledge of The Judge—his life of service, his noble character, and his care for the others —has always been a part of my life.

That day in her kitchen may have been the last time we sat together alone. I know that I saw her a few more times, including in the hospital. She would pass away a few months after our visit. The importance of her words that day have only grown as the years have passed without her.

I believe my grandmother was seeking to solidify my identity before I fully stepped out into the world as an adult. She wanted me to know that there was a legacy that traveled with me wherever I went. That I was known. That I should treat others with respect and expect it in return. That I should carry myself with a sense of value, no matter the place or the people around me. I have spent the majority of the last 17 years in a place other than my hometown, and her words have never left me. They brought me confidence and comfort in times of difficulty or change.

A more important identity

Over the years, the lessons from my grandmother have become the jumping-off point for another, more powerful, anchor in my soul. My strongest comfort has been found in knowing that my identity is irrevocably rooted in the family of God. And no matter the details of your family of origin, or if you even know them at all, all who are in Christ have an identity far greater than the one found in my family tree.

Our culture is constantly asking us questions of identity: What do you do? Where are you from? What are your dreams? Education? Political party? The fear of insignificance or isolation will lead many to plant their flag at the top of their achievements, followers, or tribe, with a banner waving, “This is me!” Yet all who are in Christ have been freed from the toil of seeking to prove our own significance. (Rom. 8:15; Gal. 5:1) Finding our identity in Christ allows us to walk through life with both a confidence that frees us from needing to please others and a humility that frees us to serve others.

Christ demonstrated this as he found his identity in the words the Father spoke over him: “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased” (Mark 1:11). Because of this identity as beloved Son, he had nothing to prove and everything to give in humble service. And this is the life we are empowered to live as the Spirit bears witness that we are “children of God . . . heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ” (Rom. 8:16-17). This frees us to turn our attention away from our own pursuits and toward those who are in need, who cannot repay or even offer thanks.

I am thankful to be a Walker and all that my heritage has meant, but even more so, I am thankful to be a heir of God. And that is what we are (1 John 3:1)! As I carry the name of Christ, I want to be a demonstration of his love and my family to be an embassy of his kingdom. We will lift up our banner in the name of our God (Psa. 20:5) proudly and invite all to join us—today and into eternity.

Jill Waggoner

Jill Waggoner serves as a communications and PR strategist, writing and developing content for the organization’s online and print resources. She has served the ERLC since 2005, including as brand manager for Global Hunger Relief from 2014-2018. A graduate of Union University, she and her family reside in Lebanon, Tennessee. 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