Doctor of Leadership in Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

AI: the Bad, the Good, and the Purpose of Humanity

Written by: on September 4, 2023

Much is written on the Diffusion of Innovation (DOI) Theory. There is a curve with five kinds of people distributed. They are the innovators, the early adopters, early majority, late majority, and the laggers.[1] Everything inside of me wants to think of myself as an innovator or early adopter. My track-record says late majority or lagger. The reality is when there is something new that I do not understand, I simply don’t like it, don’t trust it, or could not be bothered with changing. When it comes to generative AI, this is also the case. When I imagine the how this can negatively harm humanity, I fear.

However, when the initiate fear subsides, my imagination goes to how this can be used for the flourishing of humanity.

In this post, I will reflect on the potential dangers, limits, and possibilities of AI. I will particularly focus on how this relates to education.

Dangers and Limitations 

There is has already been much distress on the effects of AI in education. With students submitting AI generated papers, the reason for concern is valid. The potential for disinformation is immense. Generative AI uses statistical language matching. It regurgitates information from the web by a rapid output of sentences based on what words most likely go together. This can create disinformation and confusion. This is problematic when using AI for education.

Another danger I see is not a new danger. It is the latest installment of an ancient problem, and that is settling for what is easy. Challenge is good for us. The building of grit by pushing through difficult tasks is critical for growth. If students do not relocate the grit that comes through writing thoughtful research papers into another way of developing grit, their growth will be compromised.

Possibilities for Human Flourishing

But that is not the whole story behind AI and its effects on education. Sal Khan in his brilliant TED talk highlights the exponentially positive impact AI could have (and, as he demonstrates, already has) on education.[2] Students having equal access to a career coach, tutor, and academic counselor at a one-to-one ratio through AI will have profound implications for good for human intelligence.[3]

Purpose of Humanity

But there is one more possibility when it comes to AI. It is the possibility of Gospel engagement with the human existential crisis when many human tasks get outsourced to AI. There will be a crisis of purpose. Who am I when what I produce is better done (and more quickly) by AI? What is our purpose if we are not contributors to the bottom line?

What is humanity? What does it mean to be a part of this species called “humans”? Are we simply more intellectually advanced beings with a learning capacity far superior to other living organisms?

There is an assumption here that I want to highlight. It is the assumption that to know the parts, the elements, the components of a machine or organism is to “know” it in its entirety. If I know the components that go into making a car, do I know everything about it? If we know every organ and system in the human body, do we know everything about what it is to be a human?

The 20th-century missiologist and pastor, Lesslie Newbigin, wrote about the dialogue between science and Christian faith in his book Foolishness to the Greeks: The Gospel in Western Culture.[4] He pointed out that this assumption of knowing the essence of a thing simply by knowing all of the parts is an absurd idea in a Western, secular culture.[5]

In other words, I can understand the pieces that go into a car. I may even know how they function together. But if I, having never encountered a car before, know all that goes into making a car, I still do not know what the car is used for. I do not know why the car exists. Maybe I figure out that it is used for moving people and items from one place to another. But what people, and what items? And what if there are two cars, but they look different? One is a pickup truck. One is a Prius (shout out to all my fellow Prius drivers). Who’s to say their purpose for existence is the same or different?

Here is the point I wish to make: These are exciting advances in technology and knowledge. But, if reduced to the sum total of their parts, we are still left with the question of what it means to be human. The question of purpose is not, I would argue, something that can be arrived at through knowing the sum total of human intelligence and developing that same intelligence artificially. Rather, it is through knowing we are made in the image of God, and our purpose is to be in communion with the Trinitarian God, with one another, and co-reign with God in taking care of the good creation entrusted to us.

[1] Wayne W. LaMorte, MD, PhD, MPH, “Diffusion of Innovation Theory,” Boston University School of Public Health, November 3, 2022, accessed September 4, 2023, https://sphweb.bumc.bu.edu/otlt/mph-modules/sb/behavioralchangetheories/behavioralchangetheories4.html.

[2] How AI Could Save (Not Destroy) Education | Sal Khan | TED, 2023, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hJP5GqnTrNo.

[3] Ibid. 00:45 – 4:21.

[4] Lesslie Newbigin, Foolishness to the Greeks: The Gospel and Western Culture (Grand Rapids, Mich: W.B. Eerdmans Pub. Co, 1986).

[5] Ibid. 73.

About the Author


David Beavis

David is Australian by birth, was raised in Southern California, and is the Youth and Young Adults Pastor at B4 Church in Beaverton, Oregon. David and his wife, Laura, live in Hillsboro with their dog, Coava (named after their favorite coffee shop). M.A. Theology - Talbot School of Theology B.A. Psychology - Vanguard University of Southern California

6 responses to “AI: the Bad, the Good, and the Purpose of Humanity”

  1. Kristy Newport says:

    You are raising some fantastic points! I think this quote is true:
    “He pointed out that this assumption of knowing the essence of a thing simply by knowing all of the parts is an absurd idea in a Western, secular culture.”

    Thank you for taking this perspective in your blog. I was able to relate to the car analogy.

    I am wondering how AI may, (potentially)help people to see their value in who they are in Christ…what it means to be human?
    I am curious-Have you had the opportunity to use ChatGPt? I have not. I am so accustomed to the rigor that I think I need to apply to my work.

    Great discussion, David.

    • mm David Beavis says:

      Hi Kristy,

      Thank you for the feedback. As far as AI being used specifically to “help people to see their value in who they are in Christ” I don’t have anything solid come to mind. However, my hope for good usages overall with AI is centered around climate change. I believe the possibilities for using AI for dealing with pollution – and overall working with humans to come up with more solutions for reversing climate change – is very exciting to think about.

      And yes, I have used ChatGPT a few times. Once to outline a sermon series (which I’m mostly using)!

  2. mm Shonell Dillon says:

    Great post,
    Is the lagger in the five different types of people seen negatively? I would think that a person that takes a moment to decide if he/she wants to adopt a concept is quite smart. What would the world be if we all just bought into everything immediately?

    • mm David Beavis says:

      Good point Shonnell! I think as Americans, there’s a bent towards being poineers and innovators. There’s a bias for being an innovator and early adopter. But you’re right to point out that taking one’s time to decide on whether to adopt a new innovation or not is wise. For example, I felt like I was really behind the times when I didn’t get into TikTok like many of my friends. Looking back now, I am glad I didn’t due to the amount of information the Chinese company behind TikTok has on its users.

  3. Hi David,
    A great post on AI and education. I liked your post, “Challenge is good for us. The building of grit by pushing through difficult tasks is critical for growth.”
    How would you respond to those who advocate for working smarter not harder in relation to these new systems?

  4. Alana Hayes says:

    What AI tool do you find that you gravitate to? Are they all the same? Do you pay for a service or do you find a free version that is helpful?

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