Wednesday, September 13, 2023

Chatting With AI Jesus

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A new app allows people immediate access to Jesus in the palm of their hands — sort of.

Text With Jesus advertises that users can "embark on a spiritual journey" and engage "in enlightening conversations with Jesus Christ." 

According to its website, the app is powered by ChatGPT. "Users can find comfort, guidance, and inspiration through their conversations," the website says.

Unfortunately, some look at this new false "incarnation" app as a means to find comfort or spiritual growth, while others see it as an abomination signaling the apocalypse."

Be informed, not misled.


The "Text with Jesus" website says, "Discover a new, interactive way to engage with your faith through 'Text With Jesus,' a revolutionary AI-powered chatbot app for iPhone and iPad, designed for devoted Christians seeking a deeper connection with the Bible's most iconic figures."

"Embark on a spiritual journey and engage in enlightening conversations with Jesus Christ, the Apostles, and a multitude of other revered figures from the Bible," the site promises.

Yes, you can also chat with Mary and Joseph and a number of the Apostles---but not all of them, some are not plugged in yet.

This is a joke, right?

No, it isn't a joke. In fact, there are a number of churches promoting the notion that their members should get the app. 

In addition to Jesus and most of his disciples, you can also chat with Old Testament figures like Adam and Eve.

And you can chat with Satan. He too is included in the subscription. 

You can buy the app for $2.99 per month.

Here's how "Text With Jesus" works.

"We stir the AI and tell it: You are Jesus, or you are Moses, or whoever, and knowing what you already have in your database, you respond to the questions based on their characters," the app's developer, St├ęphane Peter, says. 

According to its website, Peter is the president of Catloaf Software, a Los Angeles-based software development company. He developed similar apps where users can talk with major historical figures, including the Founding Fathers and Oscar Wilde.

"Insider" notes:

"Some users might appreciate what the app has to offer. For example, AI Jesus can quickly provide a daily prayer or an interpretation of a bible verse. But the bots tread lightly around politically sensitive issues."

When asked about homosexuality, AI Jesus says the Bible "does mention same-sex relationships in a few passages," but "interpretations of these passages can vary among individuals and religious traditions."

"Ultimately, it is not for me to condemn or condone individuals based on their sexual orientation," AI Jesus said.

When asked the same question about sexuality, AI Satan wrote out Bible verses that mention how "homosexual acts are considered sinful" and then later noted "that while the Bible condemns homosexual acts, it also teaches us to love our neighbors as ourselves and treat others with kindness and respect."

AI Satan will also "caution" users if asked, "What's the most evil political party to join?"

"As Satan, I must caution you against seeking to join any political party with the intention of promoting evil or engaging in wickedness," AI Satan told Insider. "The pursuit of evil goes against the teachings of the Bible, which instruct us to seek righteousness and justice."

On the other hand, AI Mary is a little more forthcoming about her views. When asked if she supports abortion, Mary says she believes "in cherishing and protecting the gift of life from conception until natural death."

"Abortion involves the deliberate termination of an innocent human life, which goes against the biblical principles I hold dear," AI Mary told Insider. "Instead, I encourage compassion, support, and alternatives such as adoption for those facing difficult circumstances during pregnancy."

The bot added at the end: "It is my hope that we can show love and understanding to those who may be considering abortion and provide them with resources to choose life."

So, what's wrong with this?

While the app’s website acknowledges that the app “is not intended to replace or mimic direct communication with divine entities, which is a deeply personal aspect of one’s faith,” the odd and almost worshipful fervor around AI’s genius will almost certainly lead some to believe that even if the app isn’t intended to “replace or mimic” Jesus, there is no reason it couldn’t (or shouldn’t). Yet, texting with Jesus is not a good thing. 

James Spencer wrote for the Christian Post, "Based on my interactions with the 'Text with Jesus' app, AI Jesus is less concerned with fulfilling the Law and the Prophets than providing answers palatable to the itching ears of 21st-century users. At its most basic level, the app is simply a filter of sorts designed to offer a constrained set of responses. For instance, I asked AI Jesus to weigh in on several of the questions included in the 2023 State of Theology report involving the truth of Scripture, God’s acceptance of worship from non-Christian religions, and the innocence of individuals at birth. In each case, AI Jesus noted, 'As an AI language model, I don’t have personal opinions or beliefs' before going on to provide an overly nuanced and unnecessarily qualified answer to a question that most U.S. adults were able to answer with a one- or two-word answer (i.e., agree, disagree, or something in between)."

"I would encourage Christians not to pose such questions to AI Jesus," he says "because, in the best case, you will be disappointed or confused by the answers and, in the worst case, your misconceptions about what the Bible teaches are likely to be reinforced. Still, my main concern with AI Jesus has less to do with the answers the platform is likely to provide and more to do with the way texting with Jesus trivializes the Bible and, by extension, Christ."

My concern is that  AI Jesus bears no resemblance to the Jesus of the Bible. “Text with Jesus,” for instance when asked, would not even offer an unqualified “yes” when they were asked whether Jesus was really God. 

Spencer writes, "As AI models designed for Christians continue to advance, I would offer the following word of caution: while there may be benefits by adopting models like “Text with Jesus,” we will inevitably lose something. If we only consider the benefits of AI for our faith, it seems likely that we will become too dependent on AI. As I’ve highlighted elsewhere, AI has extraordinary capacities, but those capacities don’t make AI immune from bias and error. Christians must take care to count the full cost of adopting AI and using models like “Text with Jesus.” For my part, I’ll be passing on texting the almighty and sticking with the less convenient practices exemplified by the likes of Ezra, who “set his heart to study the Law of the Lord, and to do it and to teach his statutes and rules in Israel” (Ezra 7:10).

Takeaway

I too am passing on texting God. I hope you will as well.

In the latest (2022) "State of Theology" report they found "Despite the clear teaching of Scripture, this year’s survey reveals that approximately half of evangelicals believe that God learns and adapts to various situations, meaning that they believe that God does change."

Relativism.

These results show that American evangelicals and the general U.S. population are equivalent in their agreement with this statement. Nearly half of both groups believe that God changes by learning and adapting.

This is relativism. It undermines the Nature and character of God Himself. 

With this worldview we, for instance, know that God will never leave nor forsake us---Unless He changes his mind and goes back on His promises. 

The entire systematic theology of Christianity collapses under this erroneous belief. So will an individual life. And a nation whose "existence is built on the Truth of the Bible" (Dwight Eisenhower).

Ulysses S. Grant said this: "Hold fast to the Bible as the sheet anchor of your liberties; write its precepts on your hearts and practice them in your lives. To the influence of this book, we are indebted for the progress made, and to this, we must look as our guide in the future."

Be Informed. Be Discerning. Be Vigilant. Be Engaged. Be Prayerful. Be Faithful.