Tuesday, August 18, 2015

A Christian’s Look at AI – Part 4

God does not break His promises. Out of all the arguments for why God would give an Artificial Intelligence a soul, that is one of the strongest, simply because it is rooted in the unchanging character of God. However, many of those promises have one condition: Belief of the recipient.

So is an AI capable of faith?

To answer that, we must go back to the essence of faith. According to Hebrews 11:1, “Faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” The rest of Hebrews 11 goes on to recount what this faith looks like, starting with creation. And from these examples, along with the first verse, we learn several things about the nature of true faith:

1. Faith is a choice. “People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own. If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return.” (v. 14-15). That is, they made a choice to follow a certain path—and a choice not to turn back.

2. Faith relies on the character of God. This includes His faithfulness, power, and generosity, among many others: “Anyone who comes to him must believe he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him” (v. 6). And “Abraham . . . was enable to become a father because he considered him faithful who made the promise” (v. 11) and he “reasoned that God could raise the dead” (v. 19).

3. As a result, faith acts according to God’s character. Just look at the active verbs in this chapter! Able offered (v. 4), Noah built (v. 7), Abraham went (v. 8), Isaac and Jacob blessed (v. 20-21), Joseph instructed (v. 22), Moses’ parents hid (v. 23), Moses rejected (v. 24) and persevered (v. 27), Israel marched (v. 30), and Rahab welcomed (v. 31), to name a few.

4. And therefore, faith will often act without external proof and despite what circumstances may insist is the logical outcome of such actions. Noah built an ark, which would seem foolish with no water for it to float on. Even more, rain may have never fallen before this point, being one of those “things not yet seen” (v. 7). Then there was God’s promise of a child to a man past age and a woman who was barren (v. 11)—a laughable impossibility. In fact, both Abraham and Sarah did just that when they heard what God intended to do. Then, though God promised Isaac would provide Abraham offspring, God told Abraham to kill Isaac—a contradiction with no human way out and which seemed doubly impossible as the Bible provides no account of God raising the dead before this point. How could Abraham know that God could, much less would, resurrect his son? Yet despite the oddity of all these circumstances, Abraham still offered Isaac, Sarah laid with her husband, and Noah built a boat.

To sum all this up, Romans 4:19-21 says, “Without weakening in his faith, [Abraham] faced the fact that his body was as good as dead—since he was about a hundred years old—and that Sarah’s womb was also dead.” That is, circumstances said the promise was impossible. “Yet he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God.” Despite what circumstances said, Abraham chose to trust God’s promise. The result? “[He] was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God.” His faith worked out in action. And why could he do this? Because his faith was founded not on circumstances but on God’s character as he was “fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised.”

So we see that faith is a choice—a choice to live as if what God has said is true, no matter what others or circumstances seem to say. In short, faith is an act of the will.

Since faith derives from the will, can an AI have faith? If they have a will—that is, the ability to make choices rather than merely act according to “instinct”—then I would say yes. An AI is capable of having faith. And if they can and do choose to believe that God “exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him” (Hebrews 11:6), would God really turn them away? Or would He be “not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them” (Hebrews 11:16)?

After all, “the promise comes by faith, so that it may be by grace and may be guaranteed to all Abraham’s offspring—not only to those who are of the law but also to those who are of the faith of Abraham . . . He is our father in the sight of God, in whom he believed—the God who gives life to the dead and calls things that are not as though they were.” (Romans 4:16-17, emphases mine)

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