AI Preachers and Teachers? No Thanks, Say Most Americans.

American Bible Society study finds majority don’t trust technology with spiritual matters.

Ask ChatGPT how to improve your spiritual life, and the natural-language processing artificial intelligence chatbot has plenty of suggestions.

But Americans are skeptical that artificial intelligence, or AI, has much to offer in the way of reliable religious guidance.

Sixty-eight percent of people don’t think AI could help them with their spiritual practices or “promote spiritual health,” according to the latest research from American Bible Society (ABS). Fifty-eight percent say they don’t think AI will “aid in moral reasoning” and only one out of every four people say they feel optimistic about the impact the technology will have.

“Americans are more fearful than hopeful about artificial intelligence,” said John Farquhar Plake, an ABS program officer and editor-in-chief of the State of the Bible series. “People don’t know how AI will change the culture—but they’re mildly uneasy about it.”

ABS surveyed about 2,500 people for its annual report on Scripture engagement and related topics. While technology has been a regular part of the survey, this is the first year ABS dedicated a set of questions to the topic of technology that performs tasks traditionally associated with human intelligence.

AI is rapidly evolving, and currently includes everything from Amazon’s “virtual assistant” Alexa to chatbots running large language models that can pass the bar exam. People are pushing the technology further every day, and some Christians who work in tech are excited about the possibilities—dreaming of algorithms that might one day help people grow, learn, and go deeper in their faith.

“It is not difficult to imagine how pastors and ...

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Don’t Skip Chronicles in Your Bible Reading Plan

What we can learn from the chronicler’s stories about the kings of Israel.

To the dutiful Bible reader, Chronicles might seem a bit baffling. As we read, we might find ourselves wondering, Haven’t I read this before? The short answer is yes and no .

The books of 1 and 2 Chronicles retell some of the same stories of Israel and Judah that appear in the books of Samuel and Kings. But the chronicler also offers a fresh perspective on those years by incorporating new material and leaving other stories aside. His decision about what to keep and what to add is not arbitrary but intentional. And if we’re paying attention, we will find that the chronicler has a distinct message that we can learn from today.

First, only 50 percent of Chronicles is repeated material from Samuel and Kings. On the one hand, that’s a lot of overlap. But on the other, that also means that half of Chronicles is brand new material. Which means we cannot afford to overlook it!

And while the content of Chronicles overlaps with previous material, it emerged over 100 years later—giving the chronicler the benefit of hindsight and the opportunity to address a new set of challenges for his generation. The people of Judah had just returned from exile and were facing the massive task of rebuilding the temple of Yahweh in Jerusalem, which King Nebuchadnezzar had destroyed. This task profoundly shapes the backdrop to the books of Chronicles.

If you set Chronicles side-by-side with Samuel and Kings, you’ll find that the new material focuses on two primary topics: David and the temple. The chronicler spends extra time on the genealogy of David’s family and the details of David’s legacy. And although Kings focuses on the northern kingdom of Israel, Chronicles highlights the southern ...

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The Church Fathers Belong in Creation Debates. But Handle Them with Care.

We can humbly seek their wisdom without treating them as mascots for one position or another.

On September 11, 2020, I found myself under a large tent, where 51 ministers of the Reformed Presbyterian Church had assembled for a COVID-era presbytery. They gathered to receive charges against me, initiating an ecclesiastical trial. I had published a book that affirmed the possibility of theistic evolution—a view regarded by some as dangerous.

Through that process, I became personally (and painfully) aware of how heated Genesis 1 controversies continue to be. My trial was ultimately dropped, but I was compelled to resign my pastorate and leave that denomination.

I still love the Reformed Presbyterian Church and am grateful for my decades as a student and minister among its people. But I grieve that such passions for certain interpretations of Genesis 1 lead to damaged relationships and truncated ministries. It should not be so.

There are already plenty of Genesis 1 studies on offer (including my own, called The Liturgy of Creation). But what the church really needs are more resources to help us engage these discussions more responsibly. Andrew J. Brown’s latest book, Recruiting the Ancients for the Creation Debate, is just such a resource.

Brown, an Old Testament lecturer at Melbourne School of Theology, takes no sides on the question of whether the six days of creation are literal or figurative days. Recruiting the Ancients is not an attempt to solve creation controversies. Instead, it surveys what historic church authorities had to say on the subject, arguing that they shouldn’t be enlisted as straightforward allies of this or that contemporary position.

The book is based on Brown’s earlier book on the same topic (The Days of Creation: A History of Christian Interpretation of Genesis 1:1–2:3), ...

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A New Era of AI Is Here, and the Church Is Not Ready

In the uncanny valley of the shadow of data, we should fear no evil—and prepare for a very different future.

This piece was adapted from Russell Moore’s newsletter. Subscribe here.

In the past several weeks, two events occurred that are going to change our futures. One of them was the launching of OpenAI’s new artificial intelligence program, GPT-4o, just ahead of several competitors who will do the same in a matter of weeks. The other was the defrocking of a robot priest for teaching that baptisms could be done with Gatorade. I’m afraid the church is not ready for either.

The more talked-about happening was the OpenAI announcement, complete with videos of the AI program laughing, seeming to blush, telling jokes, seeing and describing things in real time, and even singing songs made up on the spot (to whatever degree of emotion and enthusiasm was demanded).

Far less culturally noticed was the fact that just a few weeks before, the Roman Catholic apologetics platform Catholic Answers reined in an AI chatbot called “Father Justin,” which was designed to help people through questions of doctrine and practice.

People started to get upset when Father Justin started claiming to be an actual priest, capable of hearing confession and offering sacraments, and when it started giving unorthodox answers to questions, such as whether baptizing a baby with Gatorade would be all right in an emergency (the magisterium says no).

Now Father Justin is just “Justin,” a “lay theologian.” Catholic Answers acknowledged to critics that they are pioneering a new technological landscape and learning—as the whole world will—just how difficult it is to keep an artificial intelligence orthodox. If my Catholic friends thought Martin Luther was bad, wait until the robots start posting theses to the ...

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Billy Graham’s US Capitol Statue Unveiled

The late evangelist is one of just four Americans who have received the nation’s three highest congressional honors.

Salvation in Christ Jesus was offered in National Statuary Hall May 16 at the unveiling of a statue of the iconic late global evangelist Billy Graham, which has John 3:16 and John 14:6 carved in its base.

“Friends, God’s grace is undeserved, but through Christ it is freely given. And it is by trusting in God’s sacrifice that we are saved,” US Sen. Ted Budd (R-NC) said in the unveiling ceremony. “If you’ve not made a decision for yourself, I hope, I pray, that you will.”

US House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-LA), North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper and members of Graham’s family joined the North Carolina Congressional delegation in unveiling the statue that replaces that of early 20th-century North Carolina governor and staunch white supremacist Charles Aycock.

“Today, we acknowledge that he is a better representation of our state than the statue it replaces, which brought memories of a painful history of racism,” Cooper said. “Not that Rev. Graham was perfect—he would have been the first to tell us that. … But he believed, as many of us do, that there is redemption, and he gave his life to remembering that message.”

US Sen. Thom Tillis (R-NC) honored Graham as a trailblazer in race relations.

“During an era in the 1950s when leaders in the South openly embraced segregation, it was Billy Graham who spoke out against it,” Tillis said, describing Graham as having been a staple in the Tillis family. “He insisted in his sermons that they be integrated. He shared his platform with Black ministers, including one named Martin Luther King Jr.

“Rev. Graham was blessed with the gift that bridged differences,” Tillis said, “and brought ...

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Police Officers Are Burning Out. Can Chaplains Help?

Spiritual care is essential as stressors among law enforcement rise.

Sitting in the front row of a supervisor training in 2016, Stamford Police Sgt. Sean Boeger raised his hand every time the instructor asked who had dealt with a particular experience, including homicides, fatal accidents, and child deaths.

During his nearly 30 years as a police officer, 48-year-old Boeger had helped with body recovery efforts at Ground Zero after 9/11. When 20 children were killed by a lone shooter in 2012 at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, just 40 miles from Stamford, Boeger volunteered to help the small Newtown police department. He covered midnight shifts as officers took time to recover.

The instructor at the training triggered something in Boeger. Until that class, he had never dwelt much on the effect of witnessing so much trauma. Driving home that evening, he also thought back to another incident, when he responded to a report of a small child falling out of an eighth-story window.

“I felt overwhelmed, kind of panic-stricken,” he recalled of that evening. “I think I was more in shock from the stuff I’d never contemplated and the trauma impact it had on me. Because you don’t stop to think about it.”

So Boeger did something he had never contemplated previously: He sought help from John Revell, a chaplain who had recently been spending time with his department.

“I don’t know what’s going on with me, but I feel like I need to talk to you,” Boeger recalls telling Revell, whom he calls “the Rev.” Revell invited him over, interrupting his family dinnertime, and the two spent an hour or so talking. It opened the door to a longer-term relationship, and an eventual appreciation for the Rev’s consistent presence around ...

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The Caregiving Boom Needs Spiritual Support

By calling or circumstance, millions in the “sandwich generation” feel the weight and cost of tending to aging relatives.

Shanoah Bruner is among the quarter of American adults who find themselves in the “sandwich generation,” raising children under 18 and supporting aging parents.

At her home in the Indianapolis suburbs, the 40-something mom lives with her husband, tween and teen daughters, mother-in-law, and biological father.

The caretaking role comes naturally to Bruner. She was raised in a family that regularly opened their home to others and served their church and community. Plus, she worked in assisted living, memory care, and skilled nursing for over 20 years.

“I grew up in a very Christian home where, you know, people meant more than possessions,” she said. “So that’s just how I look at it, and it’s definitely rewarding for me, though that’s not the case for everybody.”

As baby boomers descend into their twilight years, their kids are taking them in or helping manage care from afar. Sixty-six percent of caregivers are women like Bruner, most of them in their mid-to-late 40s, who also work outside the home.

The demanding needs of caregivers and their loved ones offer believers a chance to provide support and gospel hope. Churches, nonprofits, and government and parachurch organizations have resources, and individual Christians can provide personal, tangible love in action.

In 2022, the first Bible study specifically for dementia caregivers was published. Some churches are implementing caregiver workshops. The Caregiving Support Network hosts a program to “sponsor a caregiver,” and there’s even a dedicated “Caregiver’s Prayer.”

Richard Gentzler Jr., an expert in ministry for aging adults, paraphrased former First Lady Rosalynn Carter when he wrote that ...

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The Miracle of the Ear

Speech was not God’s only miracle at Pentecost. The Spirit also gave the gift of understanding, overcoming division and contempt.

Tongues of fire, everywhere. In this loud and furious age, a time of protests and counter-protests, words come burning, singeing, scalding, stinging.

“Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry,” James wrote, “because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires” (1:19–20). But few of us—even those of us who follow Christ—seem to believe that listening more than we speak could possibly meet the reality of these days.

We give into the temptation of “thinking the times require using the tools of the enemy,” as Michael Wear says in The Spirit of Our Politics. We justify our tongues of fire as “just the way you play the game,” disregarding our trail of destruction—great forests put to waste by the sparks from our lips (3:5–8).

Of course, there’s nothing new under the sun. Rage travels more quickly by gigahertz than messenger, but our era is not uniquely chaotic or tumultuous. The church has lived through worse, not least the dangerous early days after Christ’s resurrection and ascension.

“[I’ve] been jailed … beaten up more times than I can count, and at death’s door time after time,” recounted the apostle Paul of his ministry in that time. “I’ve been flogged five times with the Jews’ thirty-nine lashes, beaten by Roman rods three times, pummeled with rocks once. … I’ve had to ford rivers, fend off robbers, struggle with friends, struggle with foes. I’ve been at risk in the city, at risk in the country, endangered by desert sun and sea storm, and betrayed by those I thought were my brothers” (2 Cor. 11:23–27, MSG). ...

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The Sustaining Breath of God

As a physician, I witness countless first and last breaths. As a Christian, I am constantly reminded of how God breathes life into us through his Spirit.

The scalpel sliced through the uterine wall. The amniotic sac ruptured, and fluid flowed across the blue surgical drapery toward me. The obstetrician’s fingers curled around the baby’s head while my gloved hands pressed firmly against the mother’s abdomen. The baby was larger than we had expected. I shifted my full body weight against the mother’s belly, and, at last, the newborn’s head slipped through. Her shoulders quickly followed, and there she lay, eyes taking in the bright world for the first time.

Before she could cry, she took her first breath. Air rushed in, pushing aside fluid that had filled her lungs from six weeks of gestation. The oxygen diffused through the blood vessels of the alveoli, tiny air sacs within her lungs, relaxing the pulmonary arteries and allowing blood to course through her lungs for the first time. The short vessel connecting her lung arteries and heart began to close. Pressure built in her heart, causing the tiny hole between its chambers to snap shut.

She breathed more vigorously than anyone else in the operating room, her purple hue softening to a rich pink. Squinting against the glaring light above, she cried again. What a foreign world this is—where air becomes breath, and then breath returns to air.

Ruach is a Hebrew word meaning breath, wind, or spirit. (In the Septuagint, an ancient Greek translation of the Old Testament, it is rendered as pneuma or pneumon, the roots from which we get many English words pertaining to lungs.)

In Genesis, ruach is both the Spirit of God bringing light and order into an unordered world (1:1–4) and the breath of life that God breathes into Adam (2:7). Psalm 33:6 says, “By the word of ...

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Would Tim Keller Care If We Weren’t Still Talking About Him? Probably Not.

For all his greatness, we should most seek to imitate the late pastor’s humility and indifference to fame.

In spring of last year, many of us saw a photo of the late Timothy Keller sitting on a park bench. The photo was used on the cover of Collin Hansen’s biography of Keller, and it circulated around the internet in May when he passed away—on social media, blogs, and even Keller’s personal website.

What most of us didn’t see, however, was the banana peel lying on the bench only a couple feet from Keller. The peel has been cropped from most versions of the photo, and understandably so. Who wants to see an ugly brown bit of organic waste in an author’s photograph?

I confess that if I were a world-famous pastor and best-selling author having my picture taken by a professional photographer, I would most certainly have moved the banana peel before someone took my picture. Who wouldn’t? But Keller didn’t seem to care.

I believe this points to a deeper character trait of Keller’s, which many observed during his lifetime of ministry: an indifference to fame and to curating an image—something many of us struggle with in the social media era. This is also part of why, I believe, he finished his race so well.

Finishing well in life and ministry has been historically difficult for believers, especially for those in positions of leadership. Think of Gideon or Solomon in the Old Testament, Demas in the New Testament, or, of course, the many church leaders today who have infamously failed to persevere.

The esteem that leaders receive from the Christian community can allow for hidden flaws to grow like rust on the hull of a ship, unnoticed and unaddressed at first. But as these leaders reach greater influence, greater weight is placed on these flaws—which can reach ...

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