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Using AI with Authenticity and Integrity

Artificial Intelligence (AI) has emerged as a significant technological development globally. Within this context, Christians have the potential to harness AI effectively, provided they maintain a commitment to biblical Authenticity and Integrity (the other AI). This was the overarching theme of this year’s annual Bible College Consultation, held by the Theological Education Association of Southern Africa (TEASA).

The TEASA Consultation was held from 11 to 13 June 2024 in Kempton Park, for the first time at the comfortable eMseni  Christian Conference Centre. It was attended by about 120 delegates from across Africa, some coming from as far as Uganda and South Sudan.

Once again this annual event proved to be the ideal occasion for networking of representatives of more than forty reformed and evangelical Bible seminaries, colleges, and churches. Altogether nine keynote papers were presented and eight afternoon workshops were held.

None of the speakers spoke against the correct use of artificial intelligence. The negative effects of AI can indeed be overcome by embracing Christian authenticity and integrity. Many presentations and discussions mentioned conditions such as the necessity to keep steadfast adherence to moral and ethical principles, to take additional steps to contain plagiarism, to use AI as a tool only and not as a glorified idol, and to guard against thinking of AI as a panacea to human problems.

Hence AI must be used with extreme caution. It cannot be a substitute for hard work. It may even be a poison that deceives readers, infiltrates unbiblical values or facilitates doctrinal distortion. On the other hand it can make Bible resources more accessible to a wider audience or save time which can be used for more valuable activities.

Technology through the ages has benefited God’s people. Think of David’s sling used to defeat Goliath, Paul’s use of Roman roads to plant churches, and what the printing press did for the Reformation. However, modern AI, while useful, lacks true intelligence (the skilled use of reason), abstract thought, wisdom, and insight.

AI is just another technology which certainly can be helpful in theological education. It can translate, get information quickly, answer factual questions, and can make images. But it should not be asked to do anything requiring intelligence or spiritual wisdom.

According to Rev. Neil Henry, the TEASA Consultation was a resounding success. The collective wisdom and insights garnered from the various keynote addresses and workshops, underscored the progress being made in this crucial area. “As both an educator and pastor confronting the implications of AI,” he said. I find that a consultation of this nature compels us to engage with the ethical and beneficial development of AI. Returning from this event, I am deeply committed to staying abreast of the rapidly evolving technology, ensuring I am better equipped to guide students immersed in this digital age.”

“Maintaining authenticity and integrity remains paramount as we thoughtfully navigate the complexities and challenges posed by AI. It is heartening to see the theological education community unite for these significant discussions., The emphasis on piety, doctrinal purity, and authentic discipleship emerged as essential hallmarks of our ministries, while we use AI capabilities to serve God’s Kingdom more effectively. All this should only be for His glory and the benefit of His people.”

Rev. Antonio Coppola echoed these sentiments, emphasising the relevance and engagement of this year’s focus on authenticity and integrity in relation to artificial intelligence. His remark was: “All the speakers made invaluable contributions. The consultation helped theological educators consider the numerous ethical implications of AI and chart a path forward in this uncharted territory.”

The event this year has been instrumental in fostering a deeper understanding of AI’s role in theological education. The discussions and insights shared have reinforced the importance of upholding authenticity and integrity while navigating the opportunities and challenges presented by AI. As we move forward, the commitment to doctrinal purity and authentic discipleship will guide our efforts, ensuring that we serve both the Lord and His people with excellence.

At the end of the three-day event, all the delegates and institutions went home with a stack of free books, compliments of Mukhanyo Theological College and some international publishers.

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