AI Might Teach, But it Can’t Preach

This piece is excerpted from Russell Moore’s newsletter. Register here.

ChatGPT, a precise artificial intelligence (AI) information-gathering and texting chatbot launched last November, has a lot of people worried.

A student can create a fully formed original in minutes. Teachers wonder when a real high school or college essay can be made out of footnotes. Some wonder if this or future AI will be able to conduct job performance reviews for employees. Some are beginning to wonder if smart technology could lead our congregations to preach elsewhere.

In his newsletter, with a delightful shout of “neo-Luddite,” reporter Matt Labash noted that New York rabbi Josh Franklin had written an entire sermon for him. He did not later tell his audience that the sermon was written by someone else.

When asked to guess who wrote it, we identified the late Rabbi Jonathan Sacks—perhaps the most famous Jewish preacher of the past 20 years. Imagine the synagogue’s reaction when he preaches his much-loved sermon to an assembly without any human support.

Is it the future of Christian preaching? “Of course not,” you might respond. You cannot believe that this could happen. But imagine trying to explain Google or a smartphone Bible app to someone 30 years ago. AI that can be used everywhere is a weekly orthodoxy for pastors. anchored What if you could write effective sermons?

Garrison Keillor tells of a man who was asked by his pastor if he believed in infant baptism. The man said, “Do you believe it? … finish !” Artificial intelligence can know the Bible; If you are asking if you can research themes and backgrounds and write applications that are essential to life and action. We see it done.

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But the real question is not about technical feasibility. Nor is it about church leadership ethics. Rather, it is a question of actual preaching. is.

When I first told my pastor that maybe God was calling me to full-time ministry—at age 12—I would be preaching on Sunday nights in three weeks. “It doesn’t mean he’s calling me. now; I mean, when I grow up.” “Okay, I’m calling you. nowAnd I’ll teach you what to do.” And he did. He gave me a book of “Sermon Beginners,” Bible summaries and possible applications. He gave me some ideas for speaking and paraphrasing.

When it came to that Sunday night, I went into the small bathroom next to the baptistery of our Baptist church and threw up right before the sermon. I’m glad the sermon was stupid and wasn’t recorded.

There’s something beautiful about it, though I’d suggest dealing with the situation. The one who loved me and taught me in Sunday school and training group and vacation Bible school and Bible sword training. He knows that I must look to the congregation of those who love me. He knew that their familiar faces would bring me back, and no matter how irritated I was, No matter where you are,

No matter how bad the sermon is, He knew that this child’s presence in the pulpit would advance the gospel—remind the congregation that God had “sent the light” and was still calling.

In that moment, something happened beyond the content on the page or the way the words were spoken. in fact, I’m not even sure what that “thing” is.

Over the years, When teaching classrooms or serving on pastoral teams; I have found that the main problem for most of my students is not a lack of discernment of biblical truth or lack of ability to speak in front of people.

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I know there are some brilliant preachers out there who don’t take the Bible seriously and don’t take the preaching work seriously. (You know? I’ve seen it!) But almost everyone I’ve ever taught rarely does. Instead, For some, the tendency is to organize notes and sketch the text down to points and sub-points and sub-points.

Those students finally began to see that lecture time was greater than its parts. In the best cases, Our audience should witness the same thing. that’s right Preaching requires someone who knows the text and can deliver it to the public—but not just for the delivery of information.

The preacher gave it. Good news. This is true even when the sermon talks about God’s judgment. After listening to John the Baptist, they are vipers who must flee from the wrath to come, and Luke writes that they are embers that will soon be burned by an unquenchable fire: “John exhorted the people with many other words and preached the good news” (3:18).

When he heard the sermon, inspirational words or scriptures; The equivalent of a theological or moral lecture is hardly heard. An AI program is likely to do all of those things—ideological tradition; Maybe even with particular attention to denominational affiliation and preferred Bible translation.

Because you can replicate the writing of Ernest Hemingway or William Shakespeare at the command of ChatGPT. Charles Spurgeon There’s no reason you can’t follow instructions to write a sermon in the style of John Piper or Joel Osteen.

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To the Corinthian church, the apostle Paul wrote about him and his companions: “We are ambassadors for Christ, as God has made intercession through us.” on behalf of Christ Be reconciled to God” (2 Corinthians 5:20). When I listen to the preaching of the word, I never hear a word. About God is a word from God.

Can the ambassador provide the embassy’s contact details? I’m sure. Can a rogue diplomat rewrite the transmission? It happens all the time. Therefore, the church needs a biblical basis and the wisdom of the Spirit to weigh the message.

The gravity of preaching the word is not the same as gathering and presenting information. At best, We are at our best as the audience hears from a redeemed sinner grappling with the text. As we listen, we are no more like researchers searching for information than the parents of a missing soldier waiting for an officer waiting at the door to deliver information to our child.

In fact, The stakes are higher—the good news is even more joyful.

A message like “Your baby is found alive” or “Your baby is dead” can completely ruin a parent’s life. The wording of the message matters to some extent. But the main thing I want to say here is that this type of message should not come by text or email. Such life-changing news needs to be delivered in person.

A chatbot can do research. You can write a chatbot. Even a chatbot can orate. But a chatbot can’t preach.

Russell Moore is editor-in-chief. Christianity today Leads its Public Theology Project.


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