Most Christians think AI isn't good for the Church: study

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(CP) As some pastors experiment with using artificial intelligence to generate a church sermon, a new study released by Barna shows that the majority of Christians don't believe AI is good for the Church.

Artificial intelligence, according to IBM, "leverages computers and machines to mimic the problem-solving and decision-making capabilities of the human mind."

And ChatGPT, a large language model-based chatbot which understands and generates humanlike text is one of the most popular examples of AI in the public space.

In a survey of 1,500 U.S. adults conducted online by Barna in partnership with Gloo, from July 28–Aug. 7, researchers found that a majority of Christians disagree with the statement, "AI is good for the Christian Church." Some 30% of respondents said they strongly disagree with the statement, while another 21% said they somewhat disagree. Another 27% reported that they don't know.

Only 6% of Christians said they strongly agree with the statement, while 16% said they somewhat agree.

In general, a majority of U.S. adults in the survey said they were still getting familiar with AI. Just 10% said they used AI for work often or personal business.

Some 29% of U.S. adults said, "I don't trust it." Thirty-five percent said, "I am curious about it," while 21% said, "I am fascinated by it."

In survey published earlier this year by Gloo looking at what ministry leaders think about AI and the Church, 63% of leaders were found to be comfortable in their understanding of AI, while 28% of church leaders said they are only slightly or not knowledgeable at all. Just 9% considered themselves very knowledgeable.

Some 62% of leaders said they rarely or never use AI in their work. Nineteen percent said they used it occasionally, while another 19% reported that they use AI on a weekly or daily basis.

More than half of the ministry leaders, 54%, said they were both extremely concerned about ethical or moral issues related to using AI in the Church and the technology's emergence in the world.

"The data reveals that church leaders are quite split in their opinions on the role of AI in the Church and how they are reading the terrain," Savannah Kimberlin, associate vice president at Barna Group, said in a statement on the study.

"Forty-three percent of respondents admitted to feeling uncomfortable or anxious about AI being used in churches, and one in four went so far as to say the Church should resist or condemn the use of AI," she added. "However, one in three enthusiastically shared they believe AI will improve their efficiency or effectiveness. Stats like these show that the time is right to come together and have meaningful conversations on the topic."

Jay Cooper, pastor of the LGBT-affirming Violet Crown City Church, recently spoke with The Christian Post about his decision to experiment with an AI generated service in September.

"The idea to create an admittedly unorthodox AI-generated worship service came from my belief that the church should not only be aware of the most pressing issues of our world, but also to actively engage in them," Cooper told CP.

In the end, however, Cooper found the AI generated service deficient.

"In short, it was boring," he said.

Cooper explained that even though ChatGPT did not "generate anything overtly heretical," it's not a "thinking sentient being."

"It is a program that we have created and it's doing what we've programmed it to do," he said. "Therefore, in many ways, what it generates is a reflection of who we are, meaning it's often wrong, misguided, prejudiced, and broken."

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