Ben Myers has just shared his unpublished submission to the Christian satirical website, the Babylon Bee. As another person whose submission was never published (I recently submitted a letter to the editor, which hasn’t been published yet, so perhaps I am a double failure), here is mine:
Breakthrough in Christian Artificial Intelligence
In a crowded press conference earlier today, the software company Shibboleth Labs announced the completion of its new widely anticipated Christian artificial intelligence program, Baruch.
Shibboleth Labs’ artificial intelligence work first began with a program designed to automate the process of testing the reliability of confessions of faith. It boasted a considerably higher success rate in that task than most human pastors and elders, and is now the method favored by most megachurches.
This latest product promises a significant advance in Christian A.I. technology. To demonstrate its capacity to pass a Christian version of the Turing Test, prior to the public unveiling of the product, Shibboleth Labs tested it extensively on Christian forums and social media. Drawing both laughs and gasps from the audience of journalists, software developers, and church leaders, the leader of the Baruch project, Bradley Williams, showed footage of Baruch sharing Christian memes, getting into debates about Calvinism, and even setting up his own watchblog.
Last month, Williams caused a stir at a Q Ideas conference with his talk ‘The Virtual Evangelist: Automating the Great Commission,’ arguing that the Billy Graham of the 21st century will probably be a bot. In the theological debate that followed, some theologians pointed to Luke 9:49-50, where Jesus instructed his disciples not to stop persons outside of their band from casting out demons in his name. “If it is God’s will to raise up artificial intelligences for his kingdom,” Louise Byrnes, professor of systematic theology at Bethel Seminary in Jacksonville, Florida, argued, “who are we to stop him?”
The development of Baruch was not without hiccups. An earlier test version of Baruch had to be withdrawn from operation after some Pentecostals taught it to pray in tongues, which interfered with its natural language processing programming.
The reception for Baruch has generally been exceedingly positive so far. Following the press conference, several churches and denominations declared their interest in licensing the proprietary software. “I was especially impressed by the extensive theological customizability of Baruch,” Barry Miller, pastor of 5,000 member Blue Lake Christian Fellowship, told us afterwards, adding that “nothing else on the market comes close to accommodating some of our views on Christian giving.”
Some attendees at the press conference did voice concerns, however. Vincent Jeffries, a pastor from Columbus, Ohio, told us that he was deeply unsettled by what Baruch represents: “Now that these computers can argue, process theological viewpoints, write blog posts, and even share memes more effectively than most Christians, are we becoming increasingly obsolete? What is there left to make human Christians different or special?”