Then the Lord God said, “See, the humans have become like one of us, knowing good and evil, and now they might reach out their hands and take also from the tree of life and eat and live forever”— therefore the Lord God sent them forth from the garden of Eden, to till the ground from which they were taken. He drove out the humans, and at the east of the garden of Eden he placed the cherubim and a sword flaming and turning to guard the way to the tree of life. Genesis 3:22-24
Dear People of St. David’s,
I hope that you are well, and that in this stunning spring season grace is abounding in your lives just as new life is springing forth around us.
Last Friday morning I was getting ready for the day with NPR playing in the background. David Brancaccio’s Marketplace spot was on, and I listened as I got ready, admittedly, not very carefully. However, a piece on Artificial Intelligence caused me to concentrate more fully. My cousin, a college professor, had recently sent family members an AI sample that was making the rounds in her circles, showing how college papers could not only be graded, but suggestions made for student rewrites. Brancaccio went on to cite Dr. Geoffrey Hinton, apparently considered “The Godfather of AI,” who had recently left Google over his concerns that AI might be getting out of control. It was Dr. Hinton’s lament during a speech given at MIT that made me stop in my tracks, absolutely at full attention: “I think it is quite conceivable that humanity is just a passing phase in the evolution of intelligence.”
Oh my! Whose intelligence? Can intelligence separate from humankind and become independent? Is there any awareness of God’s glorious creation of intelligent humankind, not to mention relationship: God’s lovingkindness, God’s providential concern for each one of us, God’s steadfast nudging to new, forgiven, and amended life?
A hard-earned understanding of my early theological education concerned the nature of myth. We often refer to the creation stories in the first few chapters of Genesis as myths, although we have brothers and sisters who take these stories quite literally. The learning for me was that somehow, truth is embedded in myths. This accounts for why myths endure: they are vaults of important truths for our ongoing existence. None of us know whether there is indeed a cherubim with a flaming sword guarding the Tree of Life in the Garden of Eden. I think we might agree that we cannot know everything, and that no invention can know everything; that is the province of God. There is still room for the good things AI can do for us, like medical devices that have been vastly improved by their assistance.
A bedrock truth for us is that we are God’s creation. When we failed to hear the prophets God sent, God sent Jesus, a part of Godself, to live among us, so we might know God among us, as one of us. That truth has more developments: Jesus was crucified because blinded, sinful, and stubborn human beings demanded it. Triumphantly, God raised Jesus, and Jesus appeared many times to his friends before his ascension to the right hand of God. As Jesus promised, the Holy Spirit was gifted to humankind, as a continual guide and advocate, and is continually active among us.
Our world is fast changing, but some things never change because they don’t need further research and development. We are God’s, and ever more shall be. By God’s grace alone, we are on a mission to know God in Jesus Christ, and to make Christ known to others.