Computers have been around for a long time1. Around 2000 BC the Chinese invented the Abacus board to calculate simple arithmetic solutions. In 1642 Blaise Pascal developed the first automated mechanical calculator. The Differential Analyzer appeared in 1930 as the first electrical computer, able to perform 25 calculations in a matter of minutes. The Electronic Numerical Integrator and Computer (ENIAC) was built in 1946; a general-purpose device capable of adding 5,000 numbers per second. ENIAC had no internal storage, so six women were assigned to write programs each time it ran.
Today, our cell phones have more computing power than these early machines. Computers now drive our cars, calculate the route from one point to another, and even interpret medical X-rays. A new term has been added to our vocabulary, artificial intelligence refers to a digital computer or computer-controlled robot that does tasks usually associated with human intelligence.
Recently, a CBS News program, Sixty Minutes, revealed just how far artificial intelligence has come2. Google unveiled Bard, a machine that can teach itself to think. For example, when programmed with basic chess moves, it played millions of matches per day, coming up with some winning strategies never encountered in human matches. A similar approach was used in robots learning how to play soccer.
When asked to summarize the New Testament, it took Bard only five seconds to answer in 17 words, “The New Testament is the story of God’s love for humanity, which was revealed through Jesus Christ.” It is the kind of reply you might find written on a seminary exam, but not in five seconds. Bard’s artificial intelligence took a word, then searched its databases for the next associated word, and formulated its result into a concise sentence.
The CEO of Google confessed artificial intelligence will only be as good, or as evil, as human nature allows. Therein lies a caveat. How you program a computer will influence the result. For instance, an atheist might input different databases to arrive at a very different summary of the New Testament. A scientific database can account for creation. Disparate expressions of love exist through the ages and cultures. Buddha, Confucius, and Gandhi spoke like Jesus. Thus, the atheist computer states the New Testament is a fictional story.
Christians recognize the Bible as the authoritative revelation of God. Suppose, though, a skeptic used algorithms to locate seeming inconsistencies in the Bible. God’s love is inconsistent; He loved Abel more than Cain (Genesis 4:4) and the Israelites more than the Midianites (Numbers 25:16). Jesus revealed a love for everyone; an adulteress (John 8:4) and enemies (Luke 6:27), but He also told parables about killing unjust tenants and servants (Mark 12:9; Luke 19:27). The skeptic’s computer therefore concludes the New Testament is unreliable.
What would be the response if the atheist’s or skeptic’s viewpoints, mentioned above, were posted in an email or on Facebook? I suspect there would be a few challenges; but many individuals might consider the ideas to be valid because they were generated by computer analysis.
There is little value in debating a computer program; it is, after all, artificial intelligence. A better choice might be to confront the computer programmer, who dwells in a darkness where we once lived (John 1:4, 5). Our story is the story of the New Testament: by God’s love and through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ we have come into the light (John 3:21). It is a story of how God deprogrammed our artificial intelligence, rebooted our spirit, and gave us the storage capacity for the truth. A truth we ought to share with everyone.
Keep the SON in your eyes