There Are No Mere Mortals

Embracing the dignity of all people, in word and deed

Herbie Newell

When God created the world, man had incredible freedom, important responsibility, and inordinate adventure. 

However,  it wasn’t enough. Satan, as he so often does, tricked humanity into trading an infinitely good thing for temporary satisfaction that ultimately led to shackles (Genesis 3). That first bite of the forbidden fruit changed everything in a moment—our relationship with God, the world, and each other.

We feel the effects of that original sin every day in the big and small things of life as we cry out, along with the Apostle Paul, “For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me” (Rom. 7:19-20).

Because of sin and the resulting brokenness, we are in a predicament. We long to do good, but we wrestle with our sin and humanity while consistently failing to live up to God’s ideal. This affects our vertical relationship with the Lord which then trickles down into our horizontal relationships as we fail to care for and show compassion to those around us, much less others around the world.

Turning from an inward focus

Jesus himself knows that our sinful tendency is to focus on ourselves and resist caring for the vulnerable around us. In Matthew 25, Jesus pointed to those who fed, clothed, visited, and cared for the marginalized, especially among fellow believers, as his true followers. Our Lord pointed to these good works, not because they are able to rescue us from our sin, but because good works like these are characteristic of someone who has been redeemed by Jesus and is being transformed into his image day by day. 

It is our natural bent to remain inwardly focused and comfortable in our own safe geographic, economic, cultural, and certainly linguistic paradigms. Without even knowing it, we let self-interest and protection rule, while our world becomes smaller, and we grow blind to the suffering of others. But God is continually calling us to something better, and it’s to lay down our lives, our interests, and our rights on behalf of others—our brothers and sisters in Christ, our neighbors, the poor, the marginalized, the oppressed, and the orphan (Luke 9:23-24; James 1:27). He calls us to model his grace through the hard work of physical reconciliation and redemption (2 Cor. 5:18). 

Every person, from every tribe, tongue, and nation, is created by God, made in his image, and purposed for his works. No one is outside of God’s purview. Bearing an indelible mark of their creator, all are made unique and special, and are infinitely loved. No one needs to understand this truth more than those who are on the margins of our world—the vulnerable children living on the street, the single mother with two jobs, children living with special needs, and the child yet to be born.

Seeing all men as immortal

When God declared in Genesis 1:27 that we are made in his image, it was an all-encompassing statement: “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” Man. Humanity. All.

C.S. Lewis brings this point home in The Weight of Glory: “There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilizations—these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub, and exploit.”1C.S. Lewis. The Weight of Glory, HarperSanFrancisco, ©1949 C.S. Lewis Pte. Ltd., Copyright renewed © 1976, revised 1980 C.S. Lewis Pte. Ltd., pp. 45-46. 

This immortality is an enduring truth and one that points to God’s utter goodness and grace that none of us has earned (1 Cor. 15:50-54). Before Adam and Eve had done a thing, they had God’s image. Scripture is clear about the truth of human dignity from beginning to end. Even when we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Even when we were far off, God heard us. Even when we are faithless, he is faithful (Rom. 5:8; Col. 1:21). 

We humans aren’t always willing or even able to see this dignity and the sheer goodness of God that it represents in our own lives, much less the lives of others. We come from a long line of God’s people who fail to see what God sees in the people made in his image. Cain murdered his brother, Abel. Joseph’s brothers sold him into slavery. David dishonored Uriah the Hittite and defiled Bathsheba. All of these acts show our self-centeredness, our sin, our failure to see immortality, and our blindness to the image of God placed in others.

We continually fall short when it comes to acknowledging God’s image in others. 

Developing this comprehensive understanding of others’ dignity is difficult because of the sin which took residence in this world in the Fall. However, our God is more powerful than sin living in us (1 Cor. 2:12; 1 John 4:4). Because of the sweet, restorative grace of Jesus, Christ followers have the ability to confess our sin, get back up when we fall, and then try again. And he gives us the Holy Spirit, who transforms our hearts and enables us to see the dignity and worth in every person we meet. 

Working with children who are vulnerable, wounded, forgotten, and orphaned has given me a front-row seat to what happens when the Body of Christ begins to see others the way God sees them. We start to see the beauty in those who are ignored and locked away in orphanages. We see the potential of the fatherless as we help them dream about the future. And we experience the Body of Christ filled with joy as we see families reunited and children given opportunities through adoption. This is just a taste of what gospel-driven justice looks like.

Living as Christ’s ambassadors

All of creation points back to God and brings glory to his name. However, only humanity bears his image and demonstrates the profoundly life-changing attributes of his love, grace, kindness, goodness, humility, and more. As Paul said in 2 Corinthians 5, we are Christ’s ambassadors. As we pursue acts of gospel-driven justice, seeking to uphold the immeasurable worth of every individual, we reflect the image of God in us and display his marvelous glory.

I love how Matt Chandler, pastor of The Village Church in Dallas, Texas, explains why we step into this gospel-driven justice. He says, “We live open-handed lives and seek to spot injustice and despair around us, and we enter into sorrow and pain so that the love, mercy, and beauty of God’s reconciling work in Christ can be seen in our lives in the hopes that a broken world will see and give praise to God.”2Matt Chandler, The Explicit Gospel (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2014), 150. 

Beloved, the Word of God is full of imperatives toward gospel-driven justice for the orphan and vulnerable. This kind of justice is utterly pro-life and entirely biblical. When we show the gospel to vulnerable children and their families, we are demonstrating to them that we truly believe that every individual life bears the image of the Creator. And we open the door to tell others about the One who is life himself. 

The greatest evidence of the sanctity of life found in the Bible is that God sent forth his Son, born of a woman and made in the image of God, to live, suffer, and die so that through his resurrection, he might redeem broken image-bearers back to God. Life itself is sacred because we have a God who created it, took on human flesh, and paid the ultimate price to sanctify it.

On this side of the cross and resurrection, the same enemy of Genesis 3, Satan, is alive and well, deceiving men as he awaits his final destruction, twisting God’s truth, and tempting men’s hearts to cast aside their fellow man. We must resist him with every fiber of our being and every resource from the Spirit so that he will flee from us (James 4:7). In our culture, part of that resistance means proclaiming the truth of God’s Word and advocating for every individual, from womb to tomb, to be protected and respected. 

As the church of the Lord Jesus Christ, we have been given the mission to reclaim the broken in the name of our Savior. This mission we have received is costly and dangerous. We will raise questions and proclaim truths that sinful men do not want to hear. Nevertheless, we must persevere. Let’s pray for eyes to see and ears to hear the call and prompting of the Spirit to show and proclaim the gospel through our care for the vulnerable ones, the widows, and the orphans throughout the world.

Herbie Newell is president & executive director of Lifeline Children’s Services and its ministry arms. He holds a Master’s of Business Administration in Accounting from Samford University. Under Herbie’s leadership, Lifeline has increased international outreach to 25 countries through adoption and strategic orphan care, obtained licensure in 17 states, and established the foster care arm at Lifeline.

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