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Four Christian Practices for Surviving Artificial Intelligence

January 17th, 2024 | 6 min. read

By JD Tyler


What the Model T was to 1908, artificial intelligence is to 2023. Let me explain.

It’s the latest in a long line of innovations with the potential to drastically reorient our lives, changing the way we work, communicate, express ourselves, and live. And it’s something I never thought I’d have an interest in. 

A few years ago, while I was a seminary student fumbling my way through classes on theology, church history, and biblical studies, if you were to mention artificial intelligence in a conversation, I would have looked at you the same way I looked at a Greek verb I needed to parse: foggy-eyed and more concerned with finding my next cup of coffee. 

Now, I spend my days working for one of these notorious AI startups. Tasked with growing it as quickly as possible. I’m no longer up to my neck in Greek participles and Augustine; I’m swimming in the currents of digital waters. So whenever I come across someone who approaches the challenges of AI with an eye to what it means for our humanity, my ears perk up. For me, that someone is Dr. Radhika Dirks.

Dirks holds a Ph.D. in quantum computing and was an early pioneer in the world of artificial intelligence. The title of her talk at a recent conference I attended immediately grabbed my attention: The Human Implications of Generative AI And What It Means for Our Future.

Dirks spoke of the three waves of AI development. Along the way, she prescribed core skills needed by humans in each wave to endure them. Keenly aware of the impact AI has on our personhood, this scientist didn’t shy away from the big question: Who am I? What does it mean to be a person in the waves of AI? 

The three waves she described are:

  1. Explosion of Creativity,
  2. The World of Illusions, and
  3. A Race to Intimacy.

The first wave, Explosion of Creativity, has already happened; it’s been marked by the democratization of artistic creation. With the rise in ChatGPT, Midjourney, and other tools, anyone with internet access can create logos, generate images, and write blog posts. What used to take years to master now takes minutes. I consider it the most exciting—and least harrowing—of the three waves. It’s also the wave that we’re currently in the thick of, so it won’t take up much room in this article. 

It’s the other two waves—the ones that are just now reaching the shoreline of our lives—that present the greatest challenges to our personhood. For this reason, I want to share Dirks’ remarks regarding The World of Illusions and A Race to Intimacy and then offer four core practices for Christians to flourish within them. 

The World of Illusions

In March 2023, unprecedented photographs began circulating across the world. 

These photos documented Donald Trump’s arrest on the steps of a Manhattan courthouse. They showed a former United States president fighting off a group of NYPD officers attempting to detain him. With an aggressive scowl on his face and a sea of blurry onlookers, it was the kind of photograph that would one day make it into history books. Except it was completely fake. The product of AI.



This is the second wave of AI development, which Dirks refers to as The World of Illusions.

In this second wave, artificial intelligence grows more sophisticated in fabricating dreams, making them seem like reality. The lines between truth and falsehood reach a new level of blurriness. “Wars and rumors of wars” (Matt 24:6) takes on a new meaning when video footage of combat can be doctored up or created out of nothing in a matter of minutes. 

In this wave, Dirks shared, “We will be living in the hallucinations of machines.” 

A Race to Intimacy

After this world of illusions, the next wave gets far more personal. Dirks calls this third wave A Race to Intimacy. 

We can see this most clearly in Meta’s new AI bot, “Billie.” Billie looks like Kylie Jenner and invites people to “message me for any advice.” Billie is the first in a wave of what’s coming soon: humanoid, interactive, highly personalized AI bots that tell you what you want to hear, recommend products you’ll love, and appear to know you as well as anyone. That’s why Meta is marketing Billie as like having an older sister you can talk to, but who can’t steal your clothes.” 

Intimacy is the goal of AI in the coming phases. 

Companies like Meta want bots that can finish your sentences and fulfill your desires. They want their bots to be your companions, confidants, and first source of information. The victor in this market isn’t the one with the most money to spend. It’s the one who provides the most intimacy and lures you in. 

Personalization and intimacy are the new market movers. 

Core Christian Practices in Our AI Age

The AI tidal waves are coming quickly. How can Christians stay anchored and avoid being swept away? How can they know what is true in a world of illusions and take up their cross in a world where our convenience and preferences are front and center? 

I want to offer four core practices, four ways of reorienting our lives and rehabituating our hearts. Practices that are intentionally human, not mindlessly taking our cues from AI algorithms. None of these practices are revolutionary. In fact, they’re all ancient. They’ve been practiced by Christians since Christ’s resurrection to help us on the path of righteousness, and they’re more important now than ever. 

Practice #1: Practicing the Presence of God

How can Christians know what is real in the world of illusions? The same way bank tellers learn to identify a fake dollar, by being intimately familiar with the real one.

In this world of illusions, we need Christians that are connected to what Howard Thurman famously termed the “Really Real.” That is, God himself. Perhaps more than ever, we must cultivate our own connection to the life of God. We must learn to practice the presence of God, to grow in intimacy with him. When you are intimately familiar with the “Really Real,” you can spot falsehood a mile away. 

This makes the call for the classic spiritual disciplines more important than ever. Silence, solitude, scripture reading, fasting, and prayer—all of these practices have carved out a path to communion with God for saints through the centuries. They’re well trodden and keep us abiding in the “Really Real” in a world of computer-generated smokescreens and illusions. 

Practice #2: Cultivate Community

But these disciplines aren’t meant to be enacted in silos. They’re fueled by Christian community. 

As Cyprian famously quipped, “You can’t have God as your father without the church as your mother.” To be in Christ is to be in Christ’s family. It’s around our siblings in the faith that we’re formed and shaped into something we can’t achieve on our own: full humanity. In community, we are known, challenged, forgiven, nurtured, and encouraged. 

Without the strong currents of the church blowing in our direction, we’ll quickly drift into the storms of our increasingly artificial world. 

Practice #3: Inconvenient Generosity 

Another core practice for Christians to embody in the coming waves of AI development is inconvenient generosity. 

When AI bots at retailers are tailoring everything we encounter toward our preferences and desires, we need a practice that reminds us we aren’t the center of the universe. We need to remember there’s a world beyond our browsing history, and that the way of Jesus—the way of true humanity—was never meant to be convenient. We need to practice inconvenient generosity. 

This could involve volunteering at your local Boys and Girls Club once a week, serving your church’s ministry to shut-ins, watching your friend’s children so they have a much-needed night out, or helping plan a baby shower when you’d rather be resting from a long day at work. It could even be as simple as carving out an hour to check in on a friend who is struggling when you don’t really have an hour to spare. 

It’s generous. It’s inconvenient. It’s powerfully formative. 

Practice #4: Confession 

A surprising practice for us to enact in order to follow Jesus and embrace our humanity in a digital age is that of confession. 

This is because artificial intelligence challenges how we perceive our humanity. It can give us the subtle sense of being limitless and keeps us at the center of attention. We can streamline our workflows, polish out our blemishes, and stretch the bounds of reality. But in confession, we pause to take a hard look at our enfleshed life, not our digital one, sober-mindedly facing what we discover.  

Confession forces us to see our faults and failures, our sins and shortcomings. To be committed to the reality of our fallen humanity. To see our real selves, not the self AI bots and algorithms think we are. But then something extraordinary happens. “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9 NIV). 

Upon confession, God himself forgives us of our sins and purifies us from unrighteousness. Then we become who we were meant to be: humans in loving fellowship with the living God. No longer do we look in the mirror and see our fractures. We see the Son of God’s faithfulness on our behalf. Like the practice of generosity, this one isn’t convenient, nor is it immediately attractive. It involves carving out time to look at your life and confess your sins to another. That other could be a close friend, priest, pastor, or spiritual director.

It’s hard, inconvenient, initially unpleasant, and deeply restorative.  


In his masterful volume Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places, Eugene Peterson makes a simple observation. 

Our core identity, he maintains, is not what we do for work, the clothes we wear, the followers we have, or the preferences AI algorithms place before us every time we land on YouTube’s homepage. Our core identity “according to the Scriptures” is that “we are persons-in-relationship.”  

We are made in the image of God, which means we’re created for relationships. Relationship with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, as well as relationship with others. Adam was created for fellowship with God and Eve, not for a false intimacy with Meta’s Billie or a reality shaped by false information and narratives that rip relationships apart. 

That is why the goal of these four practices is singular: to entrench us in our core identities. 

They’re meant to open our eyes to reality, to tether us to the Really Real, and to entrench us deeply in human relationships. With our friends, family, and neighbors. To recalibrate our humanity day after day. 

I’m excited by the possibilities of artificial intelligence. After all, I spend my days at a company where our goal is to use it to increase human connection and productivity. But, like any innovation, its great potential for good is equally matched by its potential to distort our world for ill. 

Our responsibility is not to blindly go along with the waves of AI development but to ensure we’re forming ourselves rightly and rooting ourselves intentionally so we can stand true in the coming tides.

JD Tyler

JD Tyler (MDiv, Princeton Theological Seminary) lives in Nashville, TN. His writing interests include spiritual formation, with a particular focus on reading Scripture, faithful living in the workplace, and artificial intelligence. You can find his writing primarily via his newsletter, CrossTalk. When he’s not writing, JD works at an AI startup and is a member of Ethos Church with his wife, Hollie.

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