I’ve just dipped my toe into ChatGPT
. I’ve certainly not dived in, not yet even waded. But what I’ve found so far is amazing, troubling, and also promising.
In case you’ve missed the buzz, ChatGPT is a free Artificial Intelligence (AI) chat bot that can
“answer your questions, write copy, draft emails, hold a conversation, explain code in different programming languages, translate natural language to code, and more.”
I first asked ChatGPT, “Tell me about the Disciples of Christ denomination,” the denomination in which I am ordained. The answer was largely accurate and helpful. There were some curious details – and omissions – but someone who’d never heard of the Disciples would have gotten a pretty good sense of where we fit into the religious landscape. I followed up with a question about differences between the Disciples and the Independent Christian Churches (a more conservative branch of the Disciples tradition). Again, the answer was fairly accurate, although lacking nuance.
I next asked ChatGPT to “write a poem about the Annunciation.” Within seconds the software produced five rhyming stanzas, concluding:
Let us then, like Mary, be open and ready,
To receive the Lord's message, strong and steady,
And to follow in faith, wherever he may lead,
Knowing that in him, we shall find all we need.
No, it’s not great poetry, and its piety is superficial. But poems of similar quality have been quoted in sermons and appeared in print. (And a quick Google search gives no indication these lines are simply plagiarized.)
Finally, I instructed ChatGPT to “write 350 words about AI and Christian faith.” (I was hoping I could get it to write this column for me!) Like most writers, it’s first draft was too long (369 words). It spelled out some obvious issues, before concluding, “Overall, the relationship between AI and Christian faith is complex and multifaceted. It requires thoughtful consideration of the ethical implications of AI development and use, as well as a deep understanding of the nature of human beings and our relationship with God.”
Deep understanding. Although I’ve just dipped my toes in the AI waters, I doubt that ChatGPT will ever be the source of such deep understanding. Prayer and scripture, worship and contemplation will take us closer to the heart of such holy mysteries.