Artificial Intelligence: Promising or Terrifying?

By Michael Agerbo Mørch, Ph.D.

Michael Agerbo Mørch, Ph.D., is a theologian who specializes in systematic theology and an Assistant Professor of philosophy of religion, ethics, and apologetics at the Danish Bible Institute. He is an elder at his local church, preaches in various congregations and associations, and participates in the public debate on religion, politics, and morality. He is married to Elisabeth, and together they have three girls.

The Danish Bible Institute (DBI) is a private educational institution in Copenhagen, Denmark. There are two universities in Denmark where people can study theology, but both of them are characterized by liberal theology and biblical criticism. Therefore, in the early 1970s conservative Christians decided to create two alternatives, one in Aarhus and one in Copenhagen (DBI). DBI is confessionally Lutheran, most of its professors are members of the Evangelical Theological Society, and their position on the Bible is similar to the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy. Michael has invited Adam to come to Denmark in April 2025 to give lectures at DBI and speak at various churches, schools, and conferences.

In 1997, computer company IBM made headlines when their chess computer Deep Blue defeated reigning world champion Garry Kasparov. Deep Blue could calculate up to 20 moves ahead, which is not impressive by today’s standards, but in the 90s it was a revolutionary computing power.

Twenty years later, in 2016, headlines were made again when another board game computer emerged victorious from a meeting with a human, this time not in chess but the ancient Chinese game of Go. The computer was called AlphaGo, owned by Google, and the human opponent was top player Lee Sedol.

It seems obvious to think that there is a straight line between these two events: that the same technology that could defeat a human in chess in the 90s had been developed enough over 20 years to defeat a human in the more complicated game of Go. But this is not correct, because there is a crucial difference between Deep Blue and AlphaGo.

Deep Blue was programmed to play chess. So, there were intelligent people writing long codes to give the machine the ability to play the game. And while it took some skill to understand Deep Blue‘s programming, it was possible. You knew what was going on under the hood, but at the same time, Deep Blue was also limited by the ability of humans to program.

AlphaGo, on the other hand, was an artificial intelligence and was thus not pre-programmed by humans to play Go but learned it through training. AlphaGo was an example of what is known as machine learning: a computer algorithm that can continuously improve its ability to perform a given task. Unlike Deep Blue, none of AlphaGo‘s creators basically knew how it worked. As such, AlphaGo was not limited by the ability of humans to program but rather by how much data and training it could be fed.

The artificial intelligence that powered AlphaGo is a far cry from the artificial intelligence that is currently making its way into our everyday technological lives. Many have heard names like ChatGPT, Gemini, Dall-E, Midjourney, and Sora. All of these are examples of artificial intelligence systems that are capable of creating text, images, or movie clips of impressive complexity at lightning speed based on just a few prompts. They are not programmed to do either one or the other, but through feeding them unimaginable amounts of data, they have acquired these skills. And no one really understands how they do it. They just do, often more than even their creators imagined. Artificial intelligence surprises again and again by being creative in ways that no one had anticipated (called emergent properties).

And we’ve only just seen the beginning. Since the Industrial Revolution, we have increasingly used machines to replace human manual labor. Today, we are on the verge of machines also replacing the thinking and creative work of humans. In the coming years, we will most likely see artificial intelligence transforming our everyday lives in ways we can hardly imagine today. As long as we have enough data to train them with, there is no immediate limit to how good they can become.

What Can Artificial Intelligence Do to Our View of Humanity?

From a broader societal perspective, it seems that artificial intelligence (AI) will change many things. An important question for Christians is what artificial intelligence can do to our view of humanity, to which there are both positive and negative answers.

On the negative side, there are the obvious challenges for humans as working beings. Since the dawn of creation, human life has been characterized by work, but if the most dire predictions hold true, artificial intelligence will take over a very significant part of our work. On the face of it, living without work may sound promising, but you could also argue that we are sawing off our own branch. Humans are designed to alternate between work and rest, which is different from alternating between hobbies and rest. When you’re young, the freedom of retirement may seem appealing, but it has a backdrop of a completed working life that is necessary for happiness, and that doesn’t automatically follow if artificial intelligence takes our jobs. Illness and other natural conditions can leave you outside the labor market, but you can’t make these exceptions the rule.

Another related issue is that humans not only work like unskilled animals but also become skilled. But if artificial intelligence can solve more complex problems for me, why bother learning at all? Learning the difficult art of computer programming is already pointless because AI does it very accurately and very quickly, but what about other basic functions like learning to write texts, learning foreign languages, learning to invest money, and learning to put together a menu? Humans need to be challenged on their abilities and to acquire new skills. We do this in a multitude of ways, and it is threatening to our humanity and our well-being if it is removed from the horizon.

On the positive side, AI helps us to see the uniqueness of our physicality. A human is a complex being with thoughts, emotions, and senses—all anchored in a concrete body that exists in a specific place and is in contact with other bodies in our social life. The body is our home, so we must not be led to believe that a meaningful life can be disconnected from the body. Instead, it’s the other way around: the body is essential.

Another aspect is that as online presence becomes increasingly untrustworthy because there is so much manipulation and lying, it is questionable whether the internet is still a good place for the church to make itself visible. Artificial intelligence can fabricate fake texts, images, and videos and spread them at lightning speed. Can the church be a credible actor in this climate? The answer may be that the church can rediscover the crucial importance of close relationships. People need presence and closeness, but they also need authentic relationships where there is a mutual fragility at stake. That’s why AI friends on Snapchat and other media (e.g., iFriend, Replika) can’t replace real friendships. AI can only pretend intimacy, but what humans need are real close relationships.

This is also why the church must meet physically. The church is a gathering of believers, and it has a physical element. You can’t replace that with online communities because our physicality means that we need to be physically with others.

Can Artificial Intelligence Become a Replacement for God?

In the 2009 documentary Transcendent Man, the film’s protagonist, futurist Ray Kurzweil of Google, is asked the question: Does God exist? He answers: Not yet! It’s a bold answer, but it also reveals something about the expectation of artificial intelligence in these environments. When such a god-like superintelligence is eventually developed, it will have at least two characteristics that we normally associate with God: omniscience and omnipotence.

It sounds tempting, but no matter how we spin it, it will be a flat replacement for the Christian God, the living God. And why is that? There are at least two reasons. First, the doctrine of the Christian God is more complex. The Bible tells us that God became man. He became incarnate and thereby became frail. He renounced His glory and allowed Himself to be hung on a cross. God chose the path of humility and suffering because it was necessary to save people from the darkness of sin. The god imagined to be created in AI environments is quite the opposite. It is pure power. It will know no frailty or humility.

But that doesn’t mean it is a stronger “god” than the true God, because the second point is that the God of Christianity is a transcendent God. He has created the entire universe but has not been created Himself. He is eternal. An AI god will have been created and therefore owes its origin to its programmer, but this is not so with the living God. The god the AI community will create is a “god” that is for our benefit, a controlled god we know how to handle. But the living God is different. He has created us to look like Him, and the asymmetrical relationship can never be reversed.

Artificial Intelligence and the Hope of Eternity

One of the pillars of Christian faith is the expectation of Jesus’ return and the creation of a new heaven and earth, where all suffering and death will forever be a thing of the past. With the expectation of a future artificial superintelligence that can solve all the world’s problems as easily as anything, more and more people are putting their hope in technological development instead. And it’s not hard to sympathize with them, because who among us doesn’t hope that technological development will find the cure for cancer before we ourselves are affected by the disease?

But from a biblical perspective, there are two things to be aware of. First, the Bible claims that the world’s greatest problem is of such a nature that no artificial superintelligence will be able to solve it—without destroying humanity completely. In the Book of Jeremiah, this problem is articulated: “The heart is the most deceitful of all, it is incurable, who can fathom it?” (Jer. 17:9). The world’s deepest problem is the sin in every human heart. And while artificial intelligence may solve the climate crisis, end hunger, and cure a myriad of diseases, it can never heal the sin in the heart and therefore never create the paradise on earth that so many long for. Only God can heal the heart and thus create the real paradise.

Second, as with the question of God, the technological hope can never be anything more than a cheap substitute for the real thing, because no matter how many problems technology and artificial intelligence can solve, no matter how utopian a society can be created here on earth, it will inevitably end one day. Nothing in this world lasts forever. One day, when the sun runs out of energy, it will grow and engulf our earth. And one day, the entire universe will suffer the so-called “heat death,” where everything will eventually be empty and cold, and no more events will take place, not even the most powerful artificial superintelligence can change that.

Only the return of Jesus with the re-creation of heaven and earth gives us real hope: hope for the healing of the world’s greatest problem, sin in the heart, and hope for an eternity of peace and joy that will truly never end.

Hope Is in God

Artificial intelligence is not necessarily the beast of Revelation. For the most part, it is just a technology that, like everything else, we must understand critically and pragmatically. We should neither pin too much hope on it nor demonize it but look at the technology from time to time to see if we can use it with a clear conscience. The Christian view of humanity is challenged in some areas, but artificial intelligence can also be used to clarify what is particularly human. The Christian understanding of God, on the other hand, is not in danger. God is who He is, and technological superpowers cannot change that. God’s promises are trustworthy, and we can gladly hold on to our hope in the God who is able to do what He promises.

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