among those who write sermonsthere is fascination—and some concern—with the growing capacity of artificial intelligence programs, such as ChatGPT. For now, the consensus among clergy is that yes, those programs can write a sermon. moderately convincingbut they can’t replicate the passion of a real preacher,
“They lack soul, I don’t know how else to say it,” he explained. Hershael Yorka pastor in Kentucky who is also dean of the School of Theology and professor of Christian Preaching at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.
Sermons are meant to be the focus of a worship service and are often religious leaders’ best weekly opportunity to engage their congregation to impart theological and moral guidance.
York admits that some lazy clergy might be tempted to use AI for this purpose, “but not the great pastors, the ones who love to preach, the ones who love their people.”
A rabbi from New York, Joshua Franklinrecently told his congregation at the Hamptons Jewish Center that he was going to give a plagiarized sermon, dealing with topics like trust, vulnerability and forgiveness.
At the end, he asked the faithful to guess who had written it. When they were puzzled, he revealed that the author was ChatGPT, after he used that program to write a 1,000-word sermon related to the weekly Torah lesson.
“Now, they’re clapping…I’m scared to death”Franklin commented as several congregants applauded. “And I thought truckers were going to be gone long before rabbis, as far as losing our jobs to artificial intelligence.”
Rabbi Joshua Franklin uses the Chat GPT artificial intelligence program (AP Photo/Robert Bumsted)
“ChatGPT can be really good at sounding smart, but the question is, can you be empathetic And that, at least, not yet. It can’t,” Franklin added. He said that AI has yet to develop compassion and love, and that it cannot build community and human relationships.
“Those are the things that unite us,” the rabbi concluded.
rachael keefe, a pastor at the Living Table United Church of Christ in Minneapolis, conducted an experiment similar to Franklin’s. She posted a short essay in her online pastoral notes in January, addressing how to care for one’s mental health amid the stress of the holiday season.
Was nice but a bit blandand in the end, Keefe revealed that the essay was written using ChatGPT, not by herself.
“While the facts are correct, something deeper is missing,” he wrote. “AI can’t understand community and inclusion and how important these things are in creating a Church.”
Several members of the congregation responded to him in similar terms.
“It’s not terrible, but yes, I agree. Pretty generic and a bit creepy,” wrote Douglas Federhart. “I like much more what you write. It comes from a really living being, with a big brain and a compassionate, beating heart.”
Todd Brewera New Testament scholar and managing editor of the Christian website mockingbird, wrote in December about an experiment of his own: he asked ChatGPT to write a Christmas sermon for him.
He was very specific: he asked for a sermon “based on the story of the birth of Lucas, with quotes from Karl Barth, Martin Luther, Irenaeus of Lyon and Barack Obama.”
Brewer wrote that he was “unprepared” when ChatGPT responded with a play that met his criteria and was “better than several Christmas sermons I’ve heard over the years.”
“The AI even seems to understand what makes the birth of Jesus genuine good news,” Brewer added.
Among sermon writers, there is a fascination—and some trepidation—with the growing power of artificial intelligence programs like ChatGPT
However, the ChatGPT sermon “lacks human warmth”, wrote. “The preaching of Artificial Intelligence cannot convincingly empathize with the difficult human condition.”
Mike Glennsenior pastor for 32 years at Brentwood Baptist Church, Tennessee, wrote a blog post in January after a computer-savvy assistant joked that a Glenn AI program could replace him.
“I don’t think so,” Glenn wrote. “AI will never be able to preach a decent sermon. Why? Because the gospel is more than words. It is the evidence of a changed life.”
“When listening to a sermon, what the congregation looks for is evidence that the pastor has been with Jesus,” Glenn added. “AI will always have to literally take someone else’s words…it will never be a sermon that convinces anyone to come and follow Jesus.”
Someone who also decided to experiment with an online essay was Rev. Russell Mooreformer head of the Public Policy division of the Southern Baptist Convention and now editor-in-chief of the evangelical magazine Christianity Today (Christianity today). He confided to his readers that his first sermon, delivered at age 12, was a well-intentioned disaster.
He confided to his readers that his first sermon, delivered at the age of 12, was a well-intentioned disaster.
“Preaching needs someone who knows the text and can pass it on to the people, but it’s not just about passing on information,” Moore wrote. “When we hear the word preached, we are not just hearing a word about God, but a word from God.”
“Life-altering news must be delivered by a human being, in person,” he added. “A chatbot can investigate. A chatbot can write. Maybe a chatbot can even pray, but a chatbot cannot preach”.
Southern Baptist’s department formerly led by Moore, the Religious Liberty and Ethics Commission, has been monitoring developments in artificial intelligence for several years under the direction of Jason Thacker, its chair of technology ethics research.
He shares the view that “wise and virtuous pastors” will not let new technology deter them from personal immersion in sermon writing. “But I can also see that it will be misused or used unethically,” he added.
“Some young herders may become overly dependent on these machines.… and not see the imperfections of these tools,” Thacker told the news agency. PA. “Many pastors are overworked, exhausted, full of anxiety… One can see why a pastor might say, ‘I can’t do everything I’m supposed to do,’ and start passing off ideas as their own.”
Hershael York, a pastor and teacher in Kentucky, argued that some of the best sermons contain elements of heartbreak.
“Artificial intelligence can mimic that to a certain extent, but I don’t think I can convey the same feeling of suffering, grief and pain as a human being“, he claimed. “That comes from the depths of the heart and soul, that’s what great preachers have, and I don’t think you can get that by proxy.”
(With information from AP)