AI has been in use behind the scenes for years and has become so common that it is involved in everything from the online shopping recommendations we receive to whether we are approved for a loan. But where is AI headed? Could AI even take over religion? With the advent of widely accessible AI services, such as ChatGPT, whole new realms of possibility have been opened, potentially replacing tremendous amounts of human work. Now, some are routinely using AI to generate original images, write original essays, and even imitate the voices of others.
In an interview, popular and influential author Yuval Noah Harari has even suggested that an advanced, future AI could one day be used to author a new religious book to replace the Bible—allowing some to claim the book truly was generated by a superhuman intelligence: “Think about a religion whose holy book is written by an AI. That could be a reality in a few years” (YouTube, “Humanity Is Not That Simple,” June 6, 2023).
In a recent German Lutheran worship service in Bavaria, around 300 congregants listened to a sermon, prayers, and music generated almost entirely by AI—with words written by ChatGPT and images and voices generated by other AI software (Associated Press, June 10, 2023). A 29-year-old University of Vienna theologian and philosopher, Jonas Simmerlein, who used AI to create the church service, claimed, “I conceived this service—but actually I rather accompanied it, because I would say about 98% comes from the machine.” Later, members of the congregation commented that the sermon was presented in a monotone manner and without emotion—but the technology is always improving.
How will true believers navigate the increasingly complex world of AI-informed religion that some believe is coming? People will need to know their Bibles to verify—or contradict—what the AI source is saying (1 Thessalonians 5:21; Isaiah 8:20). They will also need to be guided by God’s Holy Spirit. As the Apostle Paul noted, “For what man knows the things of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so no one knows the things of God except the Spirit of God” (1 Corinthians 2:11). AI searches vast databases and compiles its results from those databases. However, the Truth of the Bible cannot be easily compiled from databases, but rather requires godly discernment guided by God’s Spirit. As time moves forward, truth will become rare (Isaiah 59:14). People will need to draw nearer to God, dive deeper into their Bibles, and be led more fully by His Spirit in order to avoid being deceived. To learn more, read or listen to our insightful commentary “The Spirit of Pentecost.”