Can you Trust ChatGPT to Teach You about Grace?

When Skynet starts writing sermons

ChatGPT, an A.I.-based chatbot that was released in November 2022, may be the biggest technological breakthrough to affect the church since the invention of the printing press.

What does it do?

It answers questions and writes essays. It also writes sermons, lessons, prayers, lyrics, dissertations, movie scenes, blog posts, poems, recipes, computer code – you name it.

ChatGPT may be bad news for school teachers but it’s terrific news for busy preachers, bloggers, and worship leaders. At least that’s according to pastor and leadership guru Carey Nieuwhof. In a recent article entitled, “5 Future Technologies the Church Isn’t Prepared For,” Nieuwhof writes:

Let’s be honest: Will you really be able to tell the difference between an A.I.-composed worship song and one mass-produced by the Christian music industry? Would it matter? If your pastor got up on Sunday morning and delivered an A.I.-written sermon to the congregation, would you notice if they didn’t tell you beforehand? What about an A.I.-generated prayer or homily?

There is no doubt that ChatGPT has the power to make creative people more productive. It’s also handy for personal Bible study. Consider how ChatGPT answered my question: What is the gospel of grace?

The gospel of grace is the message that salvation and forgiveness of sins is available to all people through faith in Jesus Christ, without the need for works or human effort. It teaches that this grace is a free gift from God, and cannot be earned or deserved. This doctrine is a central tenet of Christianity, and is based on the teachings of the New Testament.

That’s a great explanation of grace, and it was written by an algorithm. A machine!

So you can understand why social media has lately been buzzing as people have been quizzing ChatGPT about all sorts of grace-related topics. What is the new covenant? What is righteousness by faith? Are we under law or grace? To these sorts of questions, the A.I. behind ChatGPT typically generates grace-based answers.

Which means I may be able to quit writing about grace.

Or maybe not.

Be careful what you ask for

If you ask ChatGPT a grace-based question (e.g., are we under law or grace?), you will get a grace-based answer (e.g., we are under grace, not law). But ask it a more generic question, such as, should Christians live by the Ten Commandments?, and you will get an answer that mixes grace with works:

Christians believe that the Ten Commandments are still applicable today as they provide a moral foundation for the believer’s life… The Ten Commandments serve as a guide for believers to live according to God’s will and to understand what is right and wrong, and to understand the nature of sin…

Jesus said the Holy Spirit would guide us into all truth (John 16:13), but the greatest artificial intelligence ever created says we need the law to guide us. To be fair, ChatGPT clarified that we are saved by faith (that’s grace). But then it insisted that “the Ten Commandments still have a place in the believer’s life” (that’s mixture).

I challenged ChatGPT to write a movie about two people discussing hypergrace. (Yes, ChatGPT can write dialogue!) I asked this question a few different ways and got different scripts each time.

In one version Jessica and Mike were in a coffee shop discussing the dangers of hypergrace. They both thought hypergrace was a bad teaching and it sounded like the sort of thing Michael Brown might write. But in another version, Jessica was trying to convince Jason that hypergrace was not the evil doctrine he had been led to believe.

Out of curiosity (or job insecurity) I peppered ChatGPT with questions such as: Are all my sins forgiven? What does God require of me? Will Jesus blot out my name from the Book of Life? Do Christians have a duty to serve the Lord? Should Christians tithe? Does God teach us with sickness? If I give will God bless me?

The answers generated by ChatGPT were all over the place. Some had bits of grace; some had no grace at all. It was a mess.

(The full list of questions and answers along with a couple of hypergrace scripts generated by ChatGPT can be found in the bonus materials on Patreon that accompany this article.)

Sermons by Skynet

To sum up, ChatGPT is a neat tool, but like any tool its usefulness depends on who is using it and how it is being used.

If you want answers to questions that are longer than what Google will give you, ChatGPT is helpful. It’s just like talking to another person, someone who is well-read and concise.

But can you trust ChatGPT to write a sermon, article, or lesson about the gospel of grace? Definitely not. Sure, it’ll throw up some quotable nuggets, but it will also mix in a little law while calling for dead works. Do not be fooled. If you drink from the well of artificial intelligence you will be imbibing a toxic cocktail of grace plus works.

Which means my job is safe – at least until they release the next version of ChatGPT later this year.


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20 Comments on Can you Trust ChatGPT to Teach You about Grace?

  1. John Kenneth Cheeseman // January 27, 2023 at 3:41 am // Reply

    I know this question has been asked before but what about Matthew 5:17?

  2. This is very interesting, but ministers of grace can relax, your role is safe. The best any AI can do is expound on the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Hopefully grace ministers are pointing people to the tree of life out of their own relationship with God.

    • Amen! Exactly!

      • Thanks jason b. This drove home the point for me that it’s not our intelligence or knowledge that makes us special. People tend to make celebrities out of preachers in the church and put them on a pedestal because they have knowledge. That would make computers more valuable than people. The value that God put in us and even making us part of the Trinity and sharing His life with us, is more then we could ask or imagine.

      • You’re on to something LJP. For sure, we were meant to be partakers of the tree of life. But we bite the forbidden fruit daily, and it leads us into a broken way of being that is not true to who we are. Knowledge of good and evil puts us in the judgment seat in our conscience, which causes us to search for laws or rules we and others should live by, which causes us to constantly be weighing the scales of good and bad behaviors we observe in ourselves and others, and causes us to keep records of all this in our minds so we can properly size one another up. Oh what a mess we’ve gotten ourselves into. In short, operating from the knowledge of good and evil ultimately causes us to cast aside LOVE for we find it to be an inadequate sole means to live from. Thankfully the Holy Spirit is committed to teaching us otherwise. No AI required… or know it all celebrity preachers. Ha ha!

  3. Karen Commean // January 27, 2023 at 4:30 am // Reply

    I find myself setting my cruise control to the speed limit with the expectation that God wants me to obey the law/speed limit, then declaring that I will have a safe trip and thanking God for said safe trip. Also mixed in there is he will bless my trip if I do my part which is obey speed limit.

  4. Thanks for the update Paul. But was it you who actually wrote this article or am I replying to AI right now? [Hahaha]

    • Haha. I fed your question into ChatGPT and got this reply: “You are currently interacting with an AI language model called ChatGPT, developed by OpenAI. It can generate text based on the input it receives, but it did not write the article you are referring to.”

  5. Believe it or not, I had pursued a Doctorate in Computer Science with an emphasis on Artificial Intelligence at an institution that is in the top 20 in that area. I never got it since I was not convinced it would be viable within the lifespan of my grandchildren, not being founded on a firm mathematical foundation. The field collapsed three years later, and took a while to recover. In the end, it revived when they combined AI with Statistics to give us the search engine that became Google.

    The way modern AI programs work is to (literally) read what’s already out there and base their knowledge on what they’ve read, storing it in a form similar to the way neurons in the human brain are wired.

    Thus, an AI trained this way is limited by what people have already written about the Grace Alone Message, being strictly based on the statistical occurrence of online documents on Grace and works.

    Given this, I’d say all the attempts to jawbone the Grace Alone Message into oblivion have pretty much failed, so the strategy is to kick up enough plausible sounding noise to cancel out the true signal: Surrounding the Truth with a bodyguard of lies, to paraphrase Winston Churchill.

    • Thanks Gerald, that’s really interesting. In the accompanying Patreon note I wrote for this piece I speculated that ChatGPT might be useful as a sort of thermometer taking the temperature of the world’s view of grace. Or it’s a snapshot of what the world thinks at a given point in time.

      In a few years’ time I might ask it the same questions again to see whether it gives different answers. If it swings more toward grace I would interpret that as the internet (and the world) swinging more toward grace. We shall see.

    • Thanks for the insight, Gerald. So this brings into perspective some interesting concepts. It seems AI at it’s best only analyses available information (albeit at lightning fast speed) and renders a response that reflects what information was available. Which begs the question, how are we living beings different? What makes Authentic Intelligence different from Artificial Intelligence? Much could be said to answer that, but I would note that the “god of this world” and the satanic cult that has its hidden hand on the highest levers of governmental, media, & corporate power and is steering this world system towards a dark dystopian nightmare, has every intention to reduce us to the equivalent of artificial intelligence. To turn us into people who don’t have access to truth and live according to programmed responses based only on, as you aptly pointed out, the bodyguard of lies surrounding the Truth. To eliminate care and love from our conscience by squashing our awareness of who we really are and how we are connected. These followers of evil are like ancient master psychologists that know how to manipulate the human mind with ease and at this point seem to be playing society like a fiddle.

      This harsh realistic look at the condition of the world used to weigh heavily on me. But these days I see glorious Hope. I understand now what Jesus has done. He’s rigged the game. Evil cannot win. It will have its run, yes. But it’s collapse into nevermore is coming. The fallen and diseased mind of Adam has been injected with healing dynamite called The Holy Spirit who awakens from within and has no problem getting past those bodyguards. A new Kingdom is Coming forth! Praise God – the author and redeemer of Authentic Intelligence.

      • I was thinking just the same today…I thought that maybe this is a manipulation of satan to equiparate humans to npc, because as you pointed out satan is like a psychologist good at playing with the subconscious and the hive mind. But this is good news for the unbelievers because less and less work will be needed so people will now be “forced” so to speak to reflect about important questions in mind. Peace

  6. Mark Kosierowski // January 31, 2023 at 12:23 pm // Reply

    Thanks Paul! I appreciate your experiment both because it saved me the time of doing it myself and because your results confirmed my hypothesis. It’s funny to think that ChatGPT answered your question about grace by scraping your posts off the Internet and parroting your words back. Funny, and yet also encouraging, as you point out.

    It seems to me that ChatGPT will never be able to write effectively about grace alone because it cannot gain the broad perspective of God’s redemptive plan. It can only read about that broad perspective from different writers.

    A more interesting experiment would be to limit ChatGPT’s source material to the Bible (sola scriptura). My hypothesis is that the answers it provides would be so completely based on grace through faith that the Christian community would dismiss the program altogether.

  7. I totally say AMEN to Jason. I see what the WEF and all want. Robots with not holy spirit. But only does any Artificitial intellegence have inspiration? Not buy the Holy spirit for sure. Keep preaching Paul with and let the holy spirit speak. The only thing I can see A.i. DO is be inpired by a spirit of error at least and the spirit of Anti-Christ at worse. But The light is has already won! And is still winning one soul at a time to build an Eternal Kingdom. The enemy is soon done. We are seeing people who are lost worshipping the A.I. and the all the internet can feed them. They are only worshipping an idol. A.I. is a god made in the image of faulty man, not the Creator. These atheists can be one for the Kingdom of God one by one. The Light of the holy spirit and the fruits of it….love Joy Peace will overcome and shine to them. They need to see Jesus today not A.I. Because we all will be seeing Jesus sooner that we think.

  8. I’m pretty sure what ChatGPT is doing is like a Google search of everything on the topic and then using it’s algorithms to produce sort of consensus view on the topic. What fascinates me is that, while you may not get truth, you will get a sense of what people out there are saying on the topic. For instance, just from what you wrote here it would seem that the consensus on the definition of grace is pretty solid, but the application of that knowledge produces a the mixed grace you talk about. In other words, that’s where the Christian world is at. We know the definition of grace, but can’t seem to let go of our legalism in how we apply it to our lives. ChatGPT isn’t true AI, because it isn’t thinking; it’s a grand sociological experiment that sums of where we are collectively.

  9. The problem is most people today are going to AI or google to get information and treat technology as if it were God because they do not know God. If it is the idol of today there is an OT is full of warnings of what the results are replacing the Holy spirit with something else. AI cannot teach Grace. AI maybe can think but it cannot be inspired like Grace can inspire the human brain. AI is not so dangerous if people would stop replacing God and the inspirtation He can only give, If it is what we worship it is not inert either. There is a systematic plan of the devil to lead us away from God and His Son. A.I, and the internet were created by men and it serves the spirit that replaces Gods Guidance…. If we replace Christ with it then it is working well as a spirit of Anti Christ. Eph 4:14-15 ESV

  10. rubberhammer666 // February 7, 2023 at 12:35 am // Reply

    Dear Paul. That was a great article about Chat GPT and Grace. It illustrated both the problem we all face in abandoning works for grace – we try to claw it back a little here and there, when we get scared or forget – and the fear of being replaced by a bot… which I had to try and contextualise for myself this morning. As a writer I constantly have to check up on AI, to compare, to see if I still have value. Then I have to remind myself, my value is not in what I can do, but in Who has been revealed in me. And because I am valuable – having much more value than the flowers in the field and the birds in the air – He will take care of me, more so than He takes care of them.
    Thanks for the cool insights.
    Regards, Michael

  11. If I head to the local Golden Arches or similar to grab a meal with no time cost in planning or preparation and of questionable nutritional value, I am likely to respond the same way chatGPT does, per Mssr Ellis: [I]’ll throw up some … nuggets.

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