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Another religious divide: Christians are more skeptical of artificial intelligence
See how well AI can write a sermon based on a Bible verse
Artificial intelligence is perfectly capable of writing a passable sermon (read an example below). But that doesn’t mean you’ll knowingly hear one at church anytime soon, at least if the general Christian population has its way.
A survey released this month by the Barna Group shows that American Christians are far more distrusting of AI than are their non-Christian counterparts. And a majority say they would be disappointed to find out that their church was using AI — even though AI could be a time- and money-saver for certain routine tasks, such as writing a church Facebook post based on a church’s events calendar or designing posters to promote church activities.
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In a survey of 1,500 U.S. adults in late July and early August, only about a fourth of Christians (28 percent) said they were hopeful AI can do positive things in the world, compared with 39 percent of non-Christians. Only 17 percent of Christians said they believe it will make life easier, compared with 23 percent of non-Christians.
And when it comes to church, a slight majority of Christians, 51 percent, said they disagree that “AI is good for the Christian church.” Only 22 percent agreed; the rest said they didn’t know.
Those numbers paralleled those who said they would be disappointed if their own church was using AI: a slight majority, 52 percent, agreed they would be disappointed, while 32 disagreed that they would. (Another 17 percent said they wouldn’t know. how they’d react.)
Church uses for AI
The idea that AI might be used to prepare sermons isn’t far-fetched; it is probably already being done somewhere without parishioners noticing. AI for Church Leaders, a company the holds workshops and provides training materials for churches, points to a wide variety of tasks that could benefit from AI. Among its sermon-related workshops are ones called “Custom ChatGPT for Your Church's Sermons” and “How to Use AI Tools to Create and Brand a Worship Series.”
But most of the workshops are related to other aspects of church programs and communications, such as using AI for social-media content, drafting operating procedures for church volunteers, creating church graphics and using e-mail effectively.
AI for Church Leaders also has a Facebook group with over 4,000 members.
‘Seeking Wisdom,’ an AI sermon
To get an idea of the current state of the technology, see what ChatGPT came up with from the prompt “Write a brief sermon based on James 1:15”:
Title: “Seeking Wisdom: A Prayerful Journey”
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
Today, we gather in the warmth of God’s grace, guided by the words of James 1:5, which reminds us: “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.”1
In a world filled with uncertainty and challenges, the pursuit of wisdom becomes a paramount endeavor for the followers of Christ. The wisdom that James speaks of is not merely intellectual knowledge or cleverness but a divine insight that flows from a heart aligned with God’s purpose.
The verse begins with a profound acknowledgment of our human limitations: "If any of you lacks wisdom." It humbly recognizes that on our own, we are insufficient. We are prone to make decisions based on our limited understanding and flawed perspectives. However, James offers us a remedy — a powerful antidote to our inadequacies: prayerful dependence on God.
Notice the assurance in James’ words: “let him ask God.” In our quest for wisdom, we are not left to navigate the complexities of life alone. Instead, we are invited to engage in a dynamic relationship with the Creator of all wisdom. Prayer is the key that unlocks the treasures of divine insight. It is our direct line to the One who knows the end from the beginning.
The promise that follows is one of unparalleled generosity: “who gives generously to all without reproach.” Our heavenly Father is not stingy with His wisdom. He doesn’t withhold it or castigate us for seeking it. Instead, God opens His hands wide, pouring out wisdom upon us abundantly. His desire is for us to walk in the light of His understanding.
As we embark on this prayerful journey for wisdom, let us approach God with expectant hearts. Let us shed the doubts that hinder our faith and boldly trust in His promise. For when we seek wisdom with sincerity and humility, God, in His infinite love, grants us the discernment we need for the decisions we face.
In conclusion, let us be a people characterized by a continual posture of prayer, recognizing our need for wisdom and acknowledging the boundless generosity of our Heavenly Father. As we seek God’s wisdom, may our lives reflect the transformative power of divine insight, bringing glory to His name in all we say and do.
May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God the Father, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with us all. Amen.
Unsurprisingly to anyone who has been paying attention to AI, that doesn’t sound much different from something a real person might preach. If there is anything noteworthy about this sermon it’s that it isn’t particularly noteworthy; it is bland, not particularly challenging and lacks original insight. Due to the nature of how this type of AI works, having access to countless sermons and articles that discuss the Epistle of James, perhaps that’s to be expected. Also, the prompt for this particular sermon was rather general; in real life, someone “writing” a sermon with this tool might ask ChatGPT to expand a particular point, make references to other parts of the Scriptures or include an anecdote.
Since implementations of AI are capable of learning from their users, it is likely that a future version of AI made specifically for pastors might convey “insights” that have the appearance of originality — and that time doesn’t seem far away.
ChatGPT used the English Standard Version 2016 for its Biblical text.