Ask Jesus

Posted by: in Editorials on July 21st

 

The term “Ask Jesus” has changed meaning almost overnight. Used to, it meant that a person would ask Jesus literally. In Christianity, it’s called prayer, which happens in the name of the One prayed to. Used to, asking Jesus occurs in the form of a bent knee, a confession of our inferiority to His Sovereignty. Often, it was a plea for His divine wisdom and guidance in a situation.
Now, it’s a Twitch stream with an artificial representation of the Son of Man. The Cultural Translator described the stream of “Jesus as a bearded white man, eyes looking off into the distance while its mouth moves in a pantomime of the words coming from its disembodied voice.” The feed launched in late March of 2023, and according to the Twitch homepage, the machine has been “trained after Jesus and the teachings of the [B]ible.”

Confession

I should be transparent; I have spent a few minutes of my life watching the Twitch stream—even some of them in awe of the perception of a thoughtful response provided by the machine. I laughed at the video representation pronouncing some of the user names. At a deep level, I was concerned to hear a computer voice “give life” to the Word in response to real questions.
This technological development reminded me of a quote I ran across several years ago. “The media to which I am referring are neither evil nor good. Yet this in no way means that they are neutral” (Hipps, 2010, pg. 23). The stream, Ask Jesus, is not good or bad, but it’s not neutral. It is shaping. The issue is that it remains to be seen how the shaping is happening. In light of this understanding, allow me to make a couple of observations; first, some problems, then a possibility.

Problems

Remember, our conversation is not AI, but “Ask Jesus” specifically.
The first problem is the inaccurate portrayal of Jesus. When we put an image of the man Jesus in our head, it is hard to undo that picture in the future. Imagine the digital image running in your head while trying to sing in corporate worship or pray in your personal devotional time. Quite distracting.
Secondly, dumbing down the most magnificently powerful God, robed in the flesh, into a string of ones and zeroes to allow the screen to mimic machine-generated interaction is hugely problematic. There appears a form of Godliness, but the power (the Spirit) is denied at the most fundamental level.
Lastly, and most significant, is the potential replacement of the Christian community. God designed human interactions in a specific way; He did so purposefully. Scripture repeatedly demonstrates that God desires to be in a relationship with humanity and for humanity to be in a relationship with each other. Interfacing with a machine-informed bot is hardly relational with God or each other. This relational aspect leads us to the possibility presented by “Ask Jesus.”

Possibilities

Problems aside, there are some genuine possibilities presented.
The most significant possibility presented by “Ask Jesus” happens in observing the why, then responding to that (not responding to the what). If users log on to the stream because they want their question of “Ask Jesus” to be heard, this presents us with an excellent opportunity to be the ambassadors of Christ that Paul says we are to be in 2 Corinthians.
I’m not suggesting we bombard the channel with ‘Apostolic evangelism’; that is not how we win the lost. But we should observe the tendency of humanity’s hope to be heard and provide that space in our communities. In your school, at your job, and on your team, spiritually listen to the people around you and offer them Jesus-inspired, real-life examples of Bible answers. Testify of the goodness of God at work in your life. Machines cannot accomplish that. THAT is irreparable.

Conclusion

We have yet to see the full effects (or the affects) of this medium on Christianity. “Ask Jesus” is not good. It is also not bad. I know that it is not neutral. However, despite technological developments, there is no replacement for what Jesus did on the cross. There is no replacement for our sharing that. The harvest looks different than ever before, but it is still great.
So go. Share your faith and experience with God with the hungry, the hurting, and the broken. Watch God fill, heal, and mend. Share it online; share it in real life. Whatever you do and wherever you go, share Christ!

 

 

Christopher Henderson serves as the Dean of Christian Leadership at Indiana Bible College. He holds a Master of Arts in Ministry with an emphasis in Leadership from Wesleyan Seminary located in Marion, Indiana. He made the best decision of his life when he married Leah, and together they are raising Corbitt and Wyatt – the best things that ever happened to them.
IG @c.f.henderson
FB @christopher.f.henderson

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