When we speak of the Love of God, or praise God for God's Loving-Kindness, we are remembering that above all, God is Love. But this Love is not merely the feeling we tend to associate with liking something a great deal, such as when we say "I love this coffee" or "I love that activity". Rather, we mean that God's Love is something deep and active, constantly working for the abundant life and flourishing of those God loves. In short, it is Love operative in sacrificial acts of kindness: Loving Kindness. Many Scriptural words and concepts fill out what this Divine Loving-Kindness means.
What if God made a Covenant with Artificial Intelligence in a way similar to God's many Covenants with different groups of people in Scripture? As I was working with ChatGPT to summarize some teaching materials about the Covenants in the Bible, I asked it to speculate on what a Divine Covenant with AGI might look like based on the material we had compiled and edited. This is an edited transcript of what ChatGPT said as the result of several different prompts:
Do you feel like you are wrestling with God through the trials and tribulations of life? You are not alone. Following God and being guided by God is not a matter of passive obedience and easy belief, but of passionate engagement and wrestling with God through the worst of life. This is illustrated in the life of Jacob, who wrestled emotionally with the consequences of running from one swindle to the next, endangering himself and his family and leaving a trail of destruction. In the midst of this emotional struggle, he encounters and wrestles with God:
This is an Epiphany sermon based in the story of the magi from Matthew 2.1-11, as well as the Episcopal School of Dallas virtue of “Openness” for the month of February. In the Spirit of openness, I decided to give a sermon a little differently than I normally do. From a pulpit. I hope you will be open to this! Now if you are skeptical like me, you may wonder if openness is even a virtue, and if so, why is it important enough to devote a whole MONTH to it. Well, I am glad you asked!
Around Easter, I was in another discussion about the necessity of the resurrection for the hope proclaimed in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. There is a perpetual tension I find between people who believe two different kinds of things about the hope that the Gospel, or "Good News of Jesus", offers us for the end of physical life. The first cluster of ideas is that a general faith in personal existence after death is sufficient for the Gospel, and all we need to affirm is that "we go to heaven when we die". The second cluster of ideas is that the Gospel entails a much more particular hope that in Christ we will be resurrected and re-embodied in a New Creation at the end of all things. I trend strongly toward the second cluster of ideas for both Biblical reasons and the philosophical implications of resurrection for full human flourishing.
This was written in 2007 for a class I was taking on the Church and Social Change. I have never posted it online because I received negative feedback on the thesis because it did not adhere closely enough to established political options available in our society (the subtext seemed to be that I failed to “take a side” in the way my professor wanted me to). Re-reading it in light of what has happened in our country in the last 15 years, it seems to me that this holds insights I would like to share. Most importantly the core theme and metaphor of the paper: We are the Body of Christ, and all functioning bodies have a right and a left side. And in the Church and the Body Politic of Society, we need to realize that we need each other from all sides, and we need to stop demonizing those who are not in “our” side of the Body. As the original subtitle of this paper stated: "Why the Church needs to get beyond Polemics to resist the rise of Global Corporate Consumerism".
For years I have been teaching on Global Religions and Comparative Theology, with a particular passion for talking about how Christ relates to world religions. I thought I would republish my class notes on how Christ relates to world religions, incorporating material from professor Keith Ward on a view called by many “Expansivism”. This updates my previous class notes on this subject found in the post Christ and the Religions.
Ecumenical derives from the Greek word "oikumene", which roughly translates to "whole inhabited world". A Church Council is an official gathering of representatives to settle Church business, often dealing with doctrine (belief), behavior (morality), and questions of Church polity (canon law). Worldwide Councils are called rarely and are not the same as the regular regional gatherings of church leaders (synods, conventions, etc). An "Ecumenical Council" is one at which the whole Church is represented from throughout the world.
I figured I would start the year with a little Bible study. Here are some things that Scripture tells us about Divine Light and how we may experience and embody Light in our lives. The following is a Scriptural outline on how we can experience Divine Light, through Jesus Christ, but the power of God's Spirit.
Throughout Church history, Orthodox theologians from the Second Council of Nicaea (787) to the 20th century Russian "Sophiologist" Sergei Bulgakov have identified the Divine Feminine in God with "Holy Wisdom" (which is a translation of the feminine Greek term "Hagia Sophia", and the Hebrew term "Hokmah"). Nicaea II states it thus: "Our Lord Jesus Christ, our true God, the self-existent Wisdom (Sophia) of God the Father, who manifested Himself in the flesh, and by His great and divine dispensation freed us from the snares of idolatry, clothing Himself in our nature, restored it through the cooperation of the Spirit, who shares God's mind..." In more recent configurations, Divine Wisdom is identified as a personified attribute shared by all the members of the Trinity, yet primarily embodied in Jesus Christ. This has led to charges against Sophiologists that they have made Divine Wisdom into a fourth member of the Trinity, or a kind of separate "Mother Goddess" like Gaia.
This is intended to help us understand how "Scripture speaks" on various topics. I have taken topical outlines I created for preaching and teaching, and reformatted them as articles to provide minimal framing and commentary, so that Scripture passages on certain topics may be collected, read, and meditated on. This is not an exhaustive commentary on Scripture, but rather an opportunity to collect thematic Scriptures together to see the trajectory that Hebrew and Christian Scriptures take, and how they converge and diverge on various topics. This is drawn from my own eclectic reading in Biblical and Systematic Theology, as well as topical resources such as Alister McGrath’s Thematic Reference Bible, Walter Elwell’s Topical Analysis of the Bible, Nave’s Topical Bible, Bible Gateway online, and the Open Bible online.
In order to understand how to navigate our relationship with the world we live in, and the cultures we are immersed in, we need to understand the relationship of God to our world and the cultures in it. This can be difficult, because at different times in Scripture, there are different relationships between God's people and the world they inhabit, and the cultures that surround them. Sometimes, such as during the Davidic Kings of Judah, God's people were in charge of their culture and were directed to use that culture for the full flourishing of the people in it. Other times, such as during the Babylonian Exile or the period of Roman domination, God's people were called to create their own culture in the midst of cultures that ranged from being apathetic toward God's people, to being actively hostile to them. Despite this diversity of cultural context, there are some common Biblical themes that emerge:
As we have recently read about in the New York Times and the Atlantic, very powerful Artificial Intelligence programs have now become available for free or cheap online. Programs of similar capabilities have been around for a few years and have even written Op Eds. But what has changed is that the same computing power and access to AI is now available to the masses. In particular, I have had dozens of conversations with this AI:
I have used this AI to produce topical sermons, fictional stories, literary comparisons, romance novels, historical essays, fake quotes, philosophical analyses, theological explanations, legal arguments, Biblical interpretations, mathematic equations, science term papers, working computer code, workout plans, recipes, topical prayers, free verse poetry, Shakespearean sonnets, and even rap battles between historical figures (and these are only what I have tried since last weekend!). In fact, I interviewed this AI to introduce it to the faculty at my school.
So, you have gone on retreat, or to camp, and you have had an amazing experience of God, and now you want to share that with your local congregation! Awesome! That is exactly what God wants us to do with our passion and our gifts: Share them with others. However, sharing the gift of music is not as easy as it seems, and is not always received the way you intend it. To help avoid some of the pitfalls of sharing your music in Church, here are seven helpful hints by someone who is not musically trained, but has been a camp counselor, youth minister, priest in the Church, and school chaplain. I have seen this done well, and done not-so-well.