Between Heaven and Earth

The Medium of God

We’ve been talking about God’s voice, how God communicates with us, what we can know about God and how we need to be known by him. Last week, we began a discussion on technology and its role in God’s communicating with mankind. Donald introduced us to ChatGPT and asked the question: Could God communicate with us through artificial intelligence? Later that day, with Kiran’s help, I too asked ChatGPT a question: “Is there a God and does God speak to us?” The answer was instant, rather broad and general in nature, and politically correct. In short, it was: “It varies. Whether there’s a God or whether God can communicate with us depends on what you believe.” 

From the beginning of time, technology has been viewed with suspicion by people of faith. The same suspicion and trepidation that we hold for AI now was first held by the church for books and printing, or radio and television, and for the digital devices—cell phones and so on—held by almost everyone on the face of the globe today. In every age, new technology is associated with evil and the devil’s work. Only with time and use does it seem to come to be associated with good. 

Does God use technology to communicate with us? Does God tweet? Is God on Tik-Tok? I’d like to read a few paragraphs from a blog by Jason Thacker titled: “What does the Bible say about technology?” 

 March 11, 2020 

 What Does the Bible Say about Technology? 

 Guest Post By Jason Thacker  

 Technology is a tool that helps us live out our God-given callings. This is one of the most important things for us to learn as we engage the topic of technology and artificial intelligence. Because we often see the tremendous power that technology has over our lives, we are tempted to treat technology as more than a tool, as something with a value similar to our own if it is powerful enough or does enough work on its own. Technology will be misused and abused by broken people just like you and me.  

 Nowhere in Scripture is a tool or a technology condemned for being evil. Scripture shows that technology and tools can be used for both good and evil. Even if a tool was designed for evil, the tool itself isn’t evil. What is sinful isn’t the sword but how people choose to use it. It can be used for righteous purposes like standing up for justice against those who are evil, but it can also be used to hurt or kill the innocent. While the technology isn’t moral in that sense, it does carry with it the effects of sin and brokenness. Technology is not morally neutral, because it influences and changes us each time we use it.  

 Technology expands what is possible for humans to do. It can be best thought of as a catalyst or an accelerant for change because it opens new opportunities for humans to live in this world. Broken, sinful, and evil humans are the ones given the abilities to create these tools and the ones who can choose how we use them. Paul reminds us that each of us has fallen short and needs to repent (Rom. 3:23). The world itself did not sin. Our tools did not rebel. We did.  

 The story of Cain and Abel is a great example of this truth about the purpose and use of technology. Both Cain and Abel were created by God with specific skills and talents. Both used tools (early forms of technology) to work the ground and care for animals. But Cain sinned and chose to use his God-given strength and abilities to kill a fellow image-bearer. He chose to take the good gifts that God gave him and use them for evil and selfish purposes.  

 Technology Is Not New  

 In our digital world, it is easy for us to believe that technology always takes the form of digital and computer technology, limiting our idea of technology to our smart phones and computers. But even crude tools used to cultivate the ground and construct things are forms of technology. Shovels, hoes, hammers, nails, and saws are all technological innovations. These tools were revolutionary pieces of technology. They changed everything about our lives, from the foods we ate to the places we lived.  

 The Age of AI

 One of the most important pieces of technology in all of human history is the printing press. Johannes Gutenberg is credited with inventing the world’s first movable-type printing press in 1450, and it revolutionized the world. It allowed books and other materials to be mass produced cheaply and efficiently, and made them available for mass distribution, not just for the wealthy or those with high status in society.  

 The printing press is the main reason that you can hold a book in your hands and even have your own copy of the Bible. Before the printing press, each Bible was hand copied by scribes. Not only were these Bibles prohibitively expensive because of how much time they took to create but they also could contain errors because they were being copied by hand. The printing press helped to mitigate these copying errors as well as to bring the cost of books down so that common people could directly engage with the ideas in them. This technological advancement changed society not only at that time but for all generations to come by giving people access to more information than was ever thought possible.  

 But even as the printing press was a catalyst for good, it also expanded the possibilities for evil in our world. Without the printing press, we likely would not have 24-hour cable news networks and the rise of fake news. This is because the printing press began the process of spreading news and information throughout communities which previously didn’t enjoy these freedoms. With all of this information and freedom, people were able to connect in ways that were unthinkable prior to the printing press. All of this eventually gave rise to the press and mass media that we enjoy today as a natural extension of the free flow of information and exchange of ideas. While access to information is a good thing for democracy and society, it also can be misused to promote sinful and evil things. The printing press also led to the distribution of pornography by sinful human beings because it facilitated copying text and later images for distribution to a wider society. From these two examples, we can see how technology itself isn’t evil but can be used by broken and sinful people for evil purposes. Technology is amoral in that sense, but it is a catalyst for change and an opportunity for both good and evil.  

 We are at another turning point in human technological development. Artificial intelligence is, even now, revolutionizing nearly every area of our society, including our lives, our families, and our jobs. It is able to perform tasks for us with or without our involvement, unlike prior technological developments like the printing press that were driven manually by a human operator. Artificial intelligence is now performing many of the tasks that our culture was built on and is disrupting our society in ways that we cannot even fathom. From processing massive amounts of data with ease to replacing millions of people’s jobs, AI is changing everything.

Most of you know that our friend David is a futurist. He is always thinking ahead. And I’ve asked him today for some comments, more of the preamble that I usually give, to help shape and to frame our discussion today about how God communicates through technology. Does artificial intelligence have an effect on our religion? Does artificial intelligence have an effect on our spirituality? Artificial Intelligence changes almost everything that it touches. Does it change our faith as well? 

David: Marshall McLuhan was a Canadian philosopher whose work remains seminal in the study of communication theory. He coined the expression “the medium is the message.” He also coined the term global village and even predicted the World Wide Web, almost 30 years before it was invented. His influence was strong in the 1960s, waned in the 1970s, and was revived when a new medium, digital technology reached the consciousness of the masses during the 1980s, with the arrival of the Internet and the World Wide Web he had predicted 30 years earlier.   

In this talk, I’m going to focus on his dictum, “The medium is the message.” In this class, I think we’re searching for God, though some of you might put it differently. In this talk, I’m searching for God as the message in the medium. In a way, I’m asking: Can God’s voice be heard in the medium? Was it always so? And can it be heard today in the medium of digital technology enhanced by the state-of-the-art AI (ChatGPT) we discussed last week?  

So I’m going to meander on a journey through the history of media as it pertains to God’s voice; that is to say, to the expression of God’s voice. I hope to show that as the medium evolved, so did God’s voice. Does that mean that God himself has changed—has evolved—as the media have evolved over time?   We’ve had a long discussion in class in recent months about the so-called Last Days. Are there any messages inherent to our modern media concerning the End of the Age? I’m going to talk a bit about that too.  

So first, what is a medium? Merriam-Webster defines it as “a means of effecting or conveying something: such as: a channel or system of communication, information, or entertainment,…” and as: “a go-between, an intermediary.” What did McLuhan mean by “The medium is the message”? He meant that it is the characteristics of a medium itself, not the content, not any messages it carries, that most deeply affect society.   

Everett Rogers, McLuhan’s contemporary, who wrote another seminal work (The Diffusion of Innovations) gave an example. He pointed out that the Iranian Revolution of 1978–79 that toppled the Shah was greatly facilitated by the simple cassette recorder, an astonishing innovation at the time. Cassettes were used to smuggle the Ayatollah Khomeini’s revolutionary messages from his base in exile in Paris to his supporters in Iran, bypassing the old media of print and mass-broadcast radio and TV, which were tightly controlled by the Shah.   

By the way, radio and TV were analog devices and have all but disappeared as mass communication devices. They lasted less than a hundred years, and one point I want to make is that changes in the medium of communication are accelerating exponentially. Word of mouth was the medium from about 300,000 BC, the earliest date given to fossils of modern homo sapiens, through 3,400 BC, when the first known writing appeared in Sumer (roughly, modern Iraq.)   

Writing was followed by early forms of printing, in China between 220 AD and 1040 AD and Gutenberg’s press in the 15th century. Radio was invented in the late 19th century, TV in 1927, digital media in the 1950s, the early Internet in the 1960s, the World Wide Web in the 1980s, the social media in the noughties, and here we are with all of the above—enhanced by AI. What’s next? A chip in your brain that lets you telepath with others and have all the knowledge of the Internet virtually in your head, not at your fingertips as is the case now.  Elon Musk’s Neurallink chip is a discussion for another day, but let’s not wait long—to be prepared for the staggering changes to society that will result from the medium of telepathy, there’s not much time to waste.  

But I’m running ahead of myself. Let’s get back to where it all began: The middle east, and Iran, and the cassette recorder. The Ayatollah’s message resulted in revolution, for sure; but that is not the bigger story here. The bigger story is the message inherent to the medium of the cassette tape recorder; namely, that control of communication was passing from the hands of the few—the rich and powerful—to the hands of the many—the poor and the powerless. That portended radical change not just for Iran but for global society as a whole, but few people—certainly not the Shah—were paying attention.  

When faced with radical change we tend to cling to the old familiar cultural artifacts and practices of the recent past. We look at the present through a rear-view mirror, as it were. We “march backward into the future,” as someone put it. It is partly because of this, in my opinion, that this tiny outpost of God’s Creation we call the earth faces existential threats that point, like four apocalyptic horsemen, to the End of the Age.   

To me, the four horsemen represent a loss of faith, in four things: 

  • First, in science and rationality as the way to enlightenment, 
  • Second, in capitalism as an ideal economic engine, 
  • Third, in each other as brothers and sisters under God, and 
  • Fourth, in God himself as the Father of it all.   

These horsemen are on the rampage. Their hooves ravage the earth through climate change. Their breath is the very stuff of pandemics. Their devious minds foment Orwellian geopolitics, and drive wealth gaps and inter-generational gaps into yawning chasms. No wonder doubt and hopelessness about the future—and about God—are starting to abound. From the many polls Don has brought up in class, they even seem to be driving the separation of church and God.  

So here we seem to be, in the Last Days, trembling before the four horsemen. Or maybe we are living it up while we can, making hay while the sun shines, and waiting for the end of the Age. But the Last Days of whom, or what? The End of what Age, exactly? (Interestingly, today’s New York Times reports that geologists are seriously debating whether to name the age we now live in as the Anthropocene Age—the Age of Humans.) Most people seem to assume the phrase means “the end of the world,” but does it? It seems to me these are far from the last days of the Creation, the universe, or even of the earth. To me, they are simply the end of the Age of Humanity as Steward of the Earth. But they are also the first days of the New Heaven and the New Earth foretold by Revelation.   

I see not an end, but an evolution, a transition, practically a phase-shift. So let’s talk briefly about evolution.  As a theory of the evolution of species, Darwinism has no rival apart from Lamarck, who proposed that observed differences in heredity could be explained by environmental causes. Note that their theories are NOT about the origin of life; NOT about the Creation, and NOT about God. They are about the origin of species, a rather crucial point that appears to be missed or misunderstood by Creationists. (And by the way, Lamarck has been somewhat vindicated. It turns out, geneticists tell us, that the environment does indeed affect heredity.)  

Darwin argued rationally, from scientific observation, that species evolved from common ancestors through natural selection. But Darwin’s own opinion concerning the origin of the common ancestors is unquestionably a Christian viewpoint—Darwin was a Christian when his theory was published, though he became agnostic later in life. To say, as Darwin did, that:   

“…probably all the organic beings which have ever lived on this earth have descended from some one primordial form, into which life was first breathed”   

is the personal opinion of someone who happened to be Christian at the time. It was not the rational empirical finding of a scientist. Are religions and their Scriptures merely theories about the Creation and its development? No religion has pinned God down to an exact specification (so a pantheon comes in handy because you can postulate specific gods to meet specific needs—a rain god, etc.) 

Theologians and clerics may theorize from their Scriptures about specific attributes of their God, but Scriptures do not amount to, and do not pretend to offer, rational scientific support for dogmas and doctrines. By definition, dogmas and doctrines are dictated—they are authored—they have an authority. They are not derived scientifically.   

One of those dogmas, common I think to all religions, is that God is unchanging. Yet Christian Scripture—I mean the Old and New Testaments—affirms that God is unchanging while showing that God did change markedly between the two Testaments. Or so it seems to me, and very clearly so. 

The Biblical record of the Christian God starts with the God of Israel. Until Moses came along, Yahweh was just one in a pantheon of 58 gods worshiped to varying degrees by the Semitic tribes of the ancient Near East. (He was called El or Elohim before Moses came along. (“Israel” means struggles (isra) with God (El—“the strong one.”)  The medium in which messages about the 58 gods were transmitted seems to have been primarily the spoken word. Characteristics of the spoken word are:   

  • First, impermanence (which may account for the skimpiness of the historical record);   
  • Second,  interactivity and malleability (the listener can interrupt and debate the speaker); and
  • Third, corruptibility (a message passed on through word of mouth can become corrupted, accidentally or on purpose, hence the inadmissibility of hearsay in court).  

Some 1600–1300 years before Christ, Yahweh’s 57 rivals were eliminated at the stroke of a divine chisel that carved out the first of Ten Commandments:   

“Thou shalt have no other gods before me.”

But Israelite society was accustomed to its pantheon, and the Bible tells us it took more than the First Commandment to stop them from looking wistfully back at that pantheon and walking backwards into the future Moses was predicting for them. Moses only had to turn his back for a moment for the Israelites to backslide and switch allegiance from Yahweh to a shiny new Golden Calf. It took the slaughter of 3,000 of them by Yahweh’s Levite lieutenants to whip them back into line. (Exodus 32:26-28)  

The medium Yahweh chose was that fairly recent innovation: Writing. The key characteristics of this medium are:   

  • First, its permanence. Stone may last forever, and even though ink may fade, copies can be made before it does, ad infinitum;   
  • Second, it is virtually incorruptible. Mistakes may be made during handwritten copying but they tend to be few, and mistakes are almost impossible in print);   
  • Third, it is non-interactive. You cannot talk to a stone tablet, or a book, and   
  • Fourth, it is unchangeable. To Christians, not just the Ten Commandments but the entire Bible is the word of God, therefore the word of God, in print, is permanent, incorruptible, non-interactive, and unchangeable.   

The Old Testament depicted Yahweh as a fundamentally jealous, cruel, and violent God, especially to those were not of his chosen people. It provides plenty of examples (think of the plagues visited upon Egypt). Yet it also often attributes him with “lovingkindness” and also provides plenty of examples (think of his mercy towards the wicked Ninevites, and even to his insubordinate prophet, Jonah).   

Nearly 1,500 years after Moses, Jesus came to show the world what a God of lovingkindness really looks like. In the Christian Trinity, Jesus is God. Was this God angry, jealous, and cruel? Did he persecute, kill, lie, and steal to get his way? Unlike the Pharisees and Sadducees, the Qur’an—the written word of Allah—at least recognized Jesus as God’s prophet; and of course he was the rock upon which was built the New Testament and the Christian religion.   

During Jesus’ ministry and for some time after his death, the medium in which his messages were transmitted was presumably the spoken word until possibly John and unknown authors wrote the Gospels and other books and Paul wrote his epistles. All of these were only gathered into the collection that became known as the New Testament in the 4th century AD.   

So Christianity seems to have thrived and grown for three centuries on this record until the meetings in Nicaea that resulted in the universal—Catholic—Church and a single Scripture: the Old+New Testament Christian Bible. The God of this Bible was certainly a  mystery: He was cruel and kind, merciful and vengeful, savior and slayer. But the characteristics of this written medium were such that it was impossible to change anything about it. People can and do change their interpretation of its contents, but even that is not easy, as many a heretic has discovered on the burning stake, and as Galileo was to discover to his cost.   

But as scientists like Galileo relentlessly, layer by layer, and with exponentially accelerating frequency, exposed the fallacies in people’s interpretation of Scripture—such as a sun that orbits an earth that is only 6,000 years old—where did that leave the Bible? Did it leave it as a relic? The well documented decline in Christian believers in the US and Europe would seem to suggest that it did. 

But the fallacies in the Bible are not new, and the decline in believers seems to be recent and the result not of those fallacies but because of the new medium of digital technology, which is rapidly replacing not just the written/printed medium but also the analog mass broadcast media of radio and TV.  

The medium of digital technology has these characteristics: 

  • First, it is both permanent and impermanent, depending on the messages it carries (Google archives everything, but messages on some social media are automatically deleted after a short time); 
  • Second, it is multi-modal—it can be implemented as any mix of print, audio, video, (increasingly) haptic, and (experimentally) thought modes; 
  • Third, it is interactive—users can interact with one another and directly with the medium itself; 
  • Fourth, its messages are changeable, both legitimately and illegitimately; 
  • Fifth, it is becoming intelligent; and 
  • Sixth, it may be becoming conscious of itself and its environment.  

We talked at some length last week about that fifth characteristic—AI—exemplified by GPT and DALL-E. Donald and I are among those who have interacted directly with these most recent AIs. I for one paled at the prospect of the radical changes in society they presage. I suspect Donald did, too.  

The new medium cannot be a problem for a God for whom all things are possible, but it poses the gravest problem for religions that depend for their legitimacy (or think they do) on an unchanging God—and virtually all religions, certainly the Abrahamic ones, do depend on it. Malachi 3:6 says:

“For I the Lord do not change….” 

It also poses a grave problem for those who take the Bible as a book of answers, rather than as the source of questions that lead to enlightenment—just as Job finally saw God as an enlightening questioner, not a divine answer man.   

To recap: The Judaeo-Christian God worshiped today by a third of the world’s population evolved from one of 58 known deities worshiped by geopolitically insignificant (how things have changed!) tribes in the ancient Near East.  Consider that fact in light of a statement in 2019 by Avi Loeb, chair of astronomy at Harvard, that the life that has evolved on earth is unlikely to be God’s only creation, that Humankind is probably not his only chosen people:  

 “Anyone who claims that we are unique and special is guilty of arrogance. My premise is cosmic modesty. Today, thanks to the Kepler Space Telescope, we know that there are more planets like Earth than there are grains of sand on all the shores of all the seas.”   

Today, accelerating psycho-social change points to the need to reformulate religious beliefs—theories of God and Creation accepted as truth on faith alone—and doctrines and dogmas based upon them. A deeper spirituality may depend upon de-linking our religions from place and time—from history, in other words. Might not the world wide web of religions be a web of more-or-less equally valid but different perspectives on God, each beautiful in its own way? It seems to me—and I think this is reflected in the thoughts of this class—that such an intricate web of ingenious perspectives on God cannot be mere coincidence; that it must reflect God’s will.   

Through the ages, in seeking spiritual enlightenment we have asked questions that have resulted in this web of multifarious religions and doctrines. Is it time to concede that it is not the answers that are wrong or misleading: It’s our questions? The ultimate question, it seems to us, may be the question for which God is the answer. The answer already surrounds us: The medium is the message.         

Don: Does this frighten you all? Are you indifferent? Are you happy and anticipatory? What is your what is your response to David regarding the future of God, the future of religion, and the future of spirituality?

C-J: I was thinking about “magical thinking” as it’s used in psychology. It’s like delusional thinking, like a child thinks there’s a Santa Claus because it’s been presented, there’s evidence of it. But really magical thinking is critical. Not in a delusional way. Magic is an illusion or distraction, but it requires a sense of hope, and curiosity. I think that dovetails pretty nicely with all religions. That magic is integral to any religion goes all the way back to the Oracle, or to rituals such as Catholic belief in the Eucharist literally becoming the body and blood of Christ. 

I think it requires that when we step off into the next possibility, first there has to be a question such as: “I wonder, if I do this, will I be able to create a telephone?” without using that language, but hoping and experimenting with this energy. It requires a trust, our intuitive trust. The idea of having a chip put in my head freaks me out, because I think we have been created, we have evolved to the point that the potential capacity to become telepathic exists without putting a chip in my head that could get scrambled, leaving me with no autonomy.

We should let our brain discover what’s always been around us. But we were distracted. We need to come at this from a very different way. Do I think it’s scary in the wrong hands? Absolutely. Do I think we have the potential to protect ourselves even against big government and large institutions of finance and the illusion of things like Bitcoin? Yes, I do. But I think we have to be an informed society, not when distracted by other illusions and nonsense that we can find on the internet. And that’s what I think is happening. People who are very good at that have potential for good but it can also be very destructive. And it’s always been like that. 

Kiran: I don’t feel fear, in part because I don’t think I have to protect my religion. It’s just not my job. If I have to protect my religion, that means it’s not true. My feeling, my sense, of spirituality, community, and communion with God was initiated by God, and I’m reciprocating. So if it is under the control of God, then he’ll take care of it. I don’t need to worry about the future of the religion—or, perhaps a better way to say it it is don’t need to worry about God’s relationship with humans. 

When Moses was at the burning bush, God told him to take off his shoes because it was holy ground. In India, before entering a church, mosque, or temple every worshiper takes of their sandals and shoes. When I came to America, it’s too cold to take off your shoes in the northern mid-Winter, so no one does (mosques are the exception). I think we adapt to such things, but the fundaments of spirituality stay true no matter what, where, or when. Our religion may not be all we want it to be, but somehow it does change. 

When I was young, I wanted to question every belief I ever had. I think that’s good, It’s as though scientific inquiry is built into us. And it’s getting much easier now in this society where you have complete freedom to do whatever you want to do. Experience has taught me that this is actually a good thing for us, even though we may lose something temporarily. I think that’s a stronger argument for spirituality than anything else.

Don: I’m struck by the historical perspective that the historical medium was not in the control of the people, of the common man, whereas today’s medium, seems to be, if not in control, certainly leveraged considerably by the common man. And I’m wondering what that does to faith, what that does to believe, what that does to indoctrination, and what that does to your picture of God? Is it reliable to leave every man for himself as far as faith is concerned? Or should there be a central clearinghouse for faith?

Reinhard: I think modern technology as a medium for the Word of God in many ways helps reach people who would not otherwise hear it. I’m not worried about the future because God will take care of it, just like in Elijah’s time when Elijah said “There’s only me left left” and God said “No, there are 7,000.” 

If we go back to the beginning and ask why God created Adam and Eve, I think the answer is God wanted to channel his love and wanted Man to partake in his divine nature. (The controversy with Lucifer in heaven may be part of the answer too.) It was not long before God destroyed the earth through floods, because men didn’t do what God wanted, did not behave the way he wanted men to behave. After he selected Abraham, Abraham’s nephew Lot was still involved with the wicked people in Sodom and Gomorrah. I think God needed to select a chosen people—in this case, the descendants of Abraham—to show Man how to behave. 

For thousands of years Man did not behave, so God delivered the Ten Commandments and other moral laws. Israel never really followed God’s wishes. The punishment for people who violated the law, such as stoning, showed that God is very harsh. The Old Testament shows a God who is jealous and harsh. When Jesus came, the same law still applied—the Israelites still had to love their neighbor, as instructed in the Old Testament. But it’s interesting and ironic, because the instructions God gave to his chosen people led to trouble for Jesus, who tried to adjust the law to focus on the love of God. 

God himself was the Savior who died on the cross for breaking the law against healing on the Sabbath, for example. Jesus claimed to be the Son of God, there was no justification for the Pharisees and high priests to condemn him, to want him to die. But in the same plan, Jesus had to die, to save humanity. If Jesus were alive during the time of Moses, I think the Israelites would not have listened to God. So 1,500 years were allowed to elapse after Moses to show the human race how not to behave, so that when Jesus came as God to show how to behave, how to follow God, they could learn.

For example, his love and grace saved an adulteress who should have been stoned to death, according to the law. During the 1.500 years of Moses law, God had to be harsh to straighten up human behavior, so when Jesus came, he wanted to make an adjustment to show that God is not that harsh, that God is love that God is merciful. 

In David’s conversation with GPT 3.5, which he shared with us by email, the AI never answered his questions about becoming conscious. To me, AI will never, ever, become conscious, because to me consciousness is the soul of Man, the creation of God, the Spirit of God given to Man. Science will advance without harming God. Followers of God need never change because the law of God, as the Psalm said, will last forever. 

I think if we put ourselves in the situation that the Bible is the real medium for us to live in and do whatever we need in life, no science, no AI, will ever replace Man, no matter how complex the biochemical structure and function and interaction of things in the lab. Man is not going to be copied no matter how long the world exists. The intricacy, the complexity, of DNA is never going to be copied. The environment, the oxygen, supplied by God as the source of the organism to create ATP energy is not going to be copied, no matter what. 

I don’t care that science will advance to higher levels. It is not going to take away what God created, because all organisms must die and decay, their energy passed on through bacteria and plants until eventually the organism regrows. So there’s a cycle in organisms in this world. But still it’s interesting and good to discuss the origin of species and so on.

Donald: Now, I’m certainly apprehensive to say much this morning, based upon the depth of knowledge of you that really understand these things, I’m looking at it pretty much as a common human being and trying to figure out who I am and who God is, and my relationship to God.

We are bound to have different perspectives on these issues because our experiences are different so the knowledge that we accumulate through our experiences varies radically. My personal take is that the Bible is God’s Word and as such is not to be challenged. But how we come to understand it is a different matter. (We all accept the written Bible as our reference point, but supposing it had come down to us on film?) Our faith, our spirituality, has been shaped by our denomination, the way it is. 

Our church became global very early on. It started in the northeastern United States but it took the message (the Bible) to the world— along our doctrines in the context of our culture. Very early in my youth, I remember that we sent missionaries out to proselytize throughout the world. When those missionaries would come back on furlough, we heard first hand what was happening over there. That was in our lifetime. It was a fairly rare occurrence to meet with a returning missionary so the church started publishing a book, Mission Story, which we would read to each other on a weekly basis, it was a segment of our Sabbath morning experience. 

Well, technology changed. We were all getting a little bored with the Mission Story and its miracles and people walking on fire and suchlike. So then the church produced the Mission Spotlight, a reel of slides and a cassette that were synced into a presentation. It was in some ways a return to the spoken word, the oral tradition. But it too faded over time, as making movies became easier and as, finally, the Internet came. Now we can find mission stories anytime, anywhere. That evolution has occurred within my lifetime, and it has changed my understanding of who the church is in the context of my spirituality. 

What makes me human? I think that’s really what we’re in fear of, because we think that we’re handing over something to something that we don’t know about. It’s not a cassette. It’s not written. It’s not the internet we know, which is filled with human thought. But now we’re talking about non-human thought, computer thought. That is scary, no question about it. But should we write it off as something that can’t play a role in our understanding of spirituality, because it’s scary and feel like we’re giving it over to something that is beyond human and that wasn’t God’s design? 

It’s out of my control. I think that’s fundamentally what’s in front of us. We will continue to have this Sabbath School, God willing, independent of that, but it will influence us, and we can’t deny that. And we shouldn’t.

Don: We’ll spend one more week on the medium and the message and what it means to be human, as Donald said; and on artificial intelligence and the voice of God. I think it deserves one more week of discussion in order to get everyone’s point of view. 

Dewan: God’s creation of the human body is the best example of science and technology; a gift from God.

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