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How an AI Chatbot May Affect Gospel-Centered Ministry

(This blog was posted by the Gospel Coalition on December 9,2022.)


What just happened?

The best artificial intelligence chatbot in history was released earlier this week. But unless you were on Twitter, you probably haven’t heard about it. ChatGPT (the GPT stands for “generative pre-trained transformer”) acquired 1 million users within the first five days of launch, making it one of the fastest-adopted technology services in the modern age. (In comparison, Facebook took 10 months, Spotify took 5 months, and Instagram took 2.5 months to reach that level of engagement.) Over the next few months, ChatGPT could be a ubiquitous presence in your online life.


What is ChatGPT and why does it matter?

ChatGPT is a conversational language model developed by OpenAI. It is a variant of the GPT-3 language model that is specifically designed to handle a wide range of conversational tasks, such as generating responses to user input in a chat-like environment.


ChatGPT is an important development in the field of natural language processing because it represents a significant advance in the ability of language models to understand and respond to human conversational inputs. This has the potential to enable a wide range of applications, such as chatbots and virtual assistants, that can help people to communicate more effectively and efficiently.

Overall, ChatGPT is an exciting development in the field of artificial intelligence and natural language processing, and it has the potential to greatly improve our ability to interact with machines and each other.


Why do ChatGPT and other AI matter for pastors, churches, and gospel-centered ministry?

AI will affect gospel-centered ministry by providing new tools and methods for sharing the gospel and reaching people with the message of Jesus. For example, AI algorithms can be used to personalize and target digital evangelism efforts, reaching people with tailored messages and resources based on their specific interests and needs. AI can also help analyze and interpret data from evangelism efforts, providing insights and feedback to help improve the effectiveness of gospel-centered ministry. Additionally, AI can assist with tasks such as managing volunteers, organizing events, and facilitating communication within a ministry organization. Overall, AI has the potential to enhance the efficiency and effectiveness of gospel-centered ministry efforts.


This new technology may also have important ramifications for churches and pastors. In the near future AI will provide greater access to religious content and resources, as well as aiding in pastoral activities. AI can parse religious texts and identify trends, allowing pastors to target their sermons for maximum impact. AI may also be useful in gathering insights from sermons or helping prepare homilies, as well as providing personalized advice and counseling to churchgoers. As AI becomes more sophisticated, churches will be able to take advantage of new technologies and resources in order to better engage members and create a more effective spiritual experience. Churches will be able to use AI by automating day-to-day tasks, streamlining communication, and helping churches save time and money.

Overall, the use of AI in gospel-centered ministry will likely depend on the specific needs and goals of each individual church. While AI may be able to assist with certain tasks and activities, it’s important to remember that it can never replace the human element of ministry. Only people can truly provide the personal connection and spiritual guidance that is at the heart of gospel-centered ministry.


How much of this article was written by an AI?

Of the 541 words in this article so far, 455 were written by ChatGPT. (All but the “What just happened?” section.) You may not have noticed since my colleagues often say I write and act like a robot (I prefer the term “Android American”). The text generated by the AI isn’t stylish (though neither is my own), but it’s functional and relatively informative. The ideas for how it will be used in gospel-centered ministry are also rather sophomoric in the literal sense of being something the average college sophomore might include in an essay. But to borrow from Samuel Johnson, an AI writing an article is like a dog walking on his hind legs. It’s not done well, but you’re surprised to find it done at all.


We soon may be in an era where it’ll be difficult—if not impossible—to know whether our online interactions are with a human or an AI-enhanced bot.


What else can ChatGPT do?

While ChatGPT may not be able to replace the work of Christian journalists for a few more years, it can already do the work of such services as Google and Wikipedia in providing relatively helpful answers to questions.


For instance, I asked ChatGP to explain the apostle Paul’s letter to the Ephesians. It responded,


"The letter to the Ephesians, also known as Epistle to the Ephesians, is a book of the New Testament of the Bible. It is attributed to the apostle Paul and addressed to the Christian community in Ephesus, a city in modern-day Turkey. In the letter, Paul writes about the importance of unity and humility within the Christian community, and he encourages the believers to lead lives characterized by love, forgiveness, and obedience to God. He also emphasizes the significance of Christ’s death and resurrection, and the role of the Holy Spirit in the lives of believers. Overall, the letter to the Ephesians is a powerful reminder of the transformative power of the Christian faith and the importance of living according to God’s will."


Next, I asked the AI to explain the difference between Arminianism and Calvinism:


"Arminianism and Calvinism are two competing systems of theology that attempt to explain the relationship between God’s sovereignty and human free will. Arminianism emphasizes the idea that humans have free will and are able to choose whether to follow God or not, while Calvinism emphasizes the sovereignty of God and the idea that God has already chosen who will be saved and who will not. Arminianism is named after the Dutch theologian Jacobus Arminius, who rejected the teachings of John Calvin, the French theologian who is the namesake of Calvinism. The main difference between the two systems is their understanding of how human free will and God’s sovereignty work together."


Finally, I asked ChatGPT to “explain the gospel”:


"The Gospel is the good news of salvation through Jesus Christ. God loves us so much that He sent His only Son, Jesus, to come down to earth and die on a cross for our sins. Through faith in Jesus’ death and resurrection, we can be forgiven of our sins and receive eternal life. This is the hope that we have when we accept Him as Lord and Savior—an eternity with Him in Heaven!"


ChatGPT’s answer is clear, succinct, biblical, and enthusiastic. As the chatbot itself noted, it’s too soon to know exactly how transformative this technology will be on our culture. But if these are the type of answers it can provide, the AI may soon become an effective tool for gospel-centered ministry.


Joe Carter


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