Upholding the Dignity of All People

Theological grounds for combatting racism and embracing diversity

Jarvis J. Williams

The Bible clearly teaches that God created all humans in his image (Gen. 1:26–27). The concept of human dignity, for example, is a biblical truth because God created humans in his image. 

In my view, Christians should not show loyalty to any organization, on the left, in the middle, or on the right, that seeks to undermine what God clearly sets forth in Scripture as his biblical and theological vision for redemptive kingdom diversity and human flourishing. We ought to work with our fellow image-bearers in society and in ways consistent with our biblical and theological convictions and with our Christian conscience to promote human flourishing for all people whenever possible. 

What is needed is a sustainable biblical and theological guide for the people of God in our pursuit of redemptive kingdom diversity because God’s vision is grounded in his redemptive purposes for his people and the entire creation through his Son, Jesus Christ, and because this vision is empowered by the Spirit.

When Jesus’s substitutionary death absorbed God’s wrath for sinners (Rom. 3:25; 5:8–10; 2 Cor. 5:21; Gal. 2:14–15; 3:13–14; Eph. 1:2–22), it also disarmed all earthly and demonic powers of evil (Col. 1:15–20; 2:14–15). Racism is one of those sins for which Jesus absorbed God’s wrath and one of those earthly and demonic powers that his death disarms. Racism is opposed to the gospel of Jesus Christ and against God’s vision of a redeemed and unified creation through Christ (Rom. 3:24, 29; Gal. 1:4; 2:16; 3:1–5:26; Eph. 1:7, 14; 2:11–3:9).

God recreates through Christ, out of different tongues, tribes, peoples, and nations, one new (but diverse) people commanded to live in pursuit of reconciled community with one another and with their neighbors now in anticipation of the age to come (Isa. 52:12–53:10; 65:17–25; Rom. 8:19–22; Gal. 5:13–6:15; Eph. 2:11–5:20; Rev. 5:6–9; 21–22). Christians should intentionally pursue love of neighbor because God through Christ gives us the indwelling presence and power of the Spirit and because God’s Word commands us to walk in love in the power of the Spirit and by no means to fulfill the lust of the flesh (Isa. 65:17–25; John 17:1–26; Acts 2; 1 Cor. 13; 2 Cor. 5:17–21; Gal. 1:4; 3:13–14; 4:4–6; 5:13–14; 6:10; Eph. 2:11–3:12).

One way Christians walk in the Spirit is to love our neighbors as ourselves (Gal. 5:13–14, 22; 6:2; cf. Lev. 19:18). We should not use our freedom in Christ to pursue our sinful passions in accordance with the flesh (Gal. 5:13, 17–21). Those who live to gratify their flesh will not inherit eternal life (5:16–6:10). Being complicit in racism is proof that one is perhaps enslaved to the flesh and to its seductive powers of evil (5:17, 19–21), rather than enslaved to love by the power of the Spirit as a citizen of the kingdom (Matt. 5–7; Gal. 5:13–6:10).

God’s kingdom is an “already but not yet” kingdom, whose king is a Jewish Messiah. The kingdom is filled with diverse ethnicities, diverse dialects, and diverse nationalities of beautiful image-bearers from all over the globe who have tasted the salvation of the one God, the one Lord, and the one Spirit by faith in Christ, and who have participated in the one baptism (Eph. 4:4–6). The diverse people of God are redeemed by God to live in obedience to him and to the gospel of Jesus Christ until Jesus returns.

The New Testament gives clear imperatives for citizens of the kingdom to obey the teachings of Jesus and the gospel (Matt. 5–7; Gal. 2:14; Phil. 1:27; 1 Pet. 4:17) as we walk in love in the power of the Spirit with fellow image-bearers inside and outside of the church (Gal. 5:13–26; 6:10). Practically, members of God’s kingdom must lovingly oppose racism in step with the Spirit, whenever and wherever it appears, because we are new creatures in Christ with the full force of the gospel and with common grace resources and common sense (Rom. 13; 2 Cor. 5:17–21; Gal. 5:21; 6:15; Eph. 2:11–22). When fellow image-bearers from any group dehumanize those within or outside of their group because of racism, Christians’ love for one another and for our neighbors should compel us to state both with scriptural authority and with absolute clarity that such behavior is a sin against God and neighbor (Gen. 1:26–27; Gal. 5:13–6:10). God’s image-bearers should never disrespect, dishonor, or dehumanize one another.

Christians must be vigilant in our commitment to Scripture and the gospel of Jesus Christ. We must be careful about the words we use to express any biblical truth, for the devil is like a roaring lion going throughout the earth seeking someone to devour (1 Pet. 5:8). Still, as a Black (with a multiethnic heritage) Christian pastor of Asian, Black, Brown, and White brothers and sisters, I thank God that Genesis 1:26–27 clearly states that God created all humans in his image and bestows upon us God-given dignity, that he promises to redeem us, to reconcile us to himself and to one another through Christ, and to restore the entire creation through Christ. When racism seeks to dehumanize fellow image-bearers at either a personal or systemic level, Christians everywhere should be able to stand up and assert without hesitation, with absolute clarity, and with their Bibles open, that racism is evil because God created humans in his image (Gen. 1:26–27) and because God in Christ redeems some from every tongue, tribe, people, and nation (Rev. 5:9). Therefore, all Christians should read, listen to, preach, obey, and faithfully apply in their normal rhythms of life and in their own social locations what the Bible clearly says about human dignity and redemptive kingdom diversity, from the womb to the tomb, with their Bibles open and with common grace and a common sense in the power of the Spirit!

This piece was adapted and used by permission from Jarvis J. Williams’ Redemptive Kingdom Diversity: A Biblical Theology of the People of God (Baker Academic a division of Baker Publishing Group, 2021). You can order a copy here: http://www.bakerpublishinggroup.com. 

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