Sabbath school commentary for discussion alongside the Adult Bible Study Guide for May 27, 2023.
This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/12371
Sabbath school commentary for discussion alongside the Adult Bible Study Guide for May 27, 2023.
Bringing these “angels” forward to our day, how might the rapidly up-and-coming AI figure into our Christian experience?
Purportedly, Geoffrey Hinton, British-Canadian “cognitive psychologist” and computer scientist, working for/with Google has resigned, fearing where the Google execs are trying to steer AI. Apparently, the goal is to set up a kind of “digital god” - an official arbiter of “truth”. We don’t need too much imagination to see where this will lead.
It’s becoming obvious, that instead of a specific church/denomination/religion taking over the world’s religions as a combination of “church and state religion”, it most probably will be technology combining with the power of government that will set itself up as alternative to religion of any current kind - a “digital god”.
There is no man-made technology that’s been invented that has not been used - and ultimately mis-used: explosives - nuclear energy - communication technology - computer technology, among just a few, being initially a positive to human existence , but ultimately becoming a negative. And now, AI.
“The attribution in the text assumes an agent, an ideology, and an entity greater than ancient Babylon, greater than imperial Rome, greater than the wayward Christianity that became violent and oppressive whether in Roman or Protestant iterations, and greater than all other proposed referents and yet including all of them.”
Excellent insights from Sigve Tonstad in our considerations of the three angels’ messages. It ultimately transpires from the arch-deceiver of heavenly origins.
For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. (Eph 6;12).
It is refreshing to recognize deception as broader than the traditional prophetic and limiting interpretations applied within Adventist teaching. Thus in every generation with corresponding exploration and development any such advances will be used against the knowledge and truth of the God of creation. That is not to say that the technology itself, eg AI, is necessarily evil but the motives of darkness that employ these means, have the same goals of asserting power and influence that usurps God, the lordship of Christ along with exploitation of the masses.
This is what I have been thinking about, as well. The church has historically been so focused on Spiritualism, but who needs Ouija boards when you’ve got AI?
Isn’t many-perhaps even most-people’s “intelligence” already artificial in the sense that what they “know” is simply made-up and manufactured from bits and scraps that they’ve gathered at random, as if this were a substitute for organic thinking they do for themselves?
For example, who needs to question US policy on anything when “fact-checkers” all over the internet all assure us that the government is always doing the right thing?
So if machine-generated “wisdom” replaces what is currently called “intelligence” I’m thinking it might just be a “meet the new boss same as the old boss” scenario where everything is different but nothing much has changed.
IOW, I still won’t be able to routinely break 40 on the either the front or the back nine.
“Everything new is old again”; or “There is nothing new under the sun” . Or, “Garbage in, garbage out”. This AI craze forgets that humans, with agendas are going to have to enter data into these computers - as if that can’t be corrupted. What we have is human nature on steroids.
My index is 22 and change, which is why I probably don’t think a world with unfettered AI is going to be business as usual. I agree with Sirje…it’s going to be human nature on steroids and we already saw where that got us during the COVID crisis with so much misinformation and conspiracy theories.
I only know that I’ve lived through at least a dozen “end of the world” scenarios in the past 68 years, all of which weren’t that.
So maybe AI, Trump, Biden, Ukraine, COVID-20, thawed ice caps, etc., etc., etc., really will be The Big One.
Or maybe all of my concerns about doomsday are just the vestiges of a devout SDA upbringing and EGW terrorist tactics.
Either way, if my god isn’t reliable enough to make The Real Thing work out for the best, he doesn’t deserve my respect, much less merit being worshipped or loved.
You keep saying stuff like that, but if “your god” was willing to manipulate us to make “the real thing work out” we would only be puppets and it wouldn’t be “the real thing”, only a semblance of it. That’s what the churches end up doing, programming the semblance “of it”. There has to be choice and consequences to choice, otherwise what’s the point… “The real thing” seems to be dependant on “love your neighbour”. Can anyone, even God, make you do that?
Back to the angels…
Traditionally the Adventist interpretation is that God’s remnant are forwarding the message, not to the world, but other denominations to come out of other churches, which are supposed to be in Babylon.
(BTYW - I grew up in Babylon, LI, NY ). But, is it not a call to God’s people who have drifted into Babylon.
If the question isn’t rhetorical, my best guess is to go with Shakespeare and say “The play’s the thing.”
But the direction of the story depends on a choice of a path; and different directions imply different destinations. Or, were we meant to be just dust blowing in the wind.
According to some religious traditions this is definitely the case.
But not so much for others.
Some say that even though we all seem to be on different paths, and are apparently even headed in opposite directions, there’s really only one place to go.
To paraphrase Paul Simon sang, “I have reason to believe we all [eventually] will be received in Graceland”.
The concept that God will never interfere with our ‘free will’ (a term never used in the Bible) is a pillar upon which Adventist theology is constructed. I hear and see it repeated over and over again in sermons, lectures and comments in places like this. This assumption is taken as unquestionable truth. It is not Biblical.
Yes, we have a degree of freedom in this life and in this age because there will be a judgment at the end of this age based on our works. And yes, we will be rewarded or chastised for what we have done with this freedom. But I now believe that one is mistaken if one thinks that any human being’s will is stronger than that of God. But that is ultimately a good thing because Paul told Timothy, God’s will is that ‘all men come to the knowledge of the truth and be saved.’ If you believe God is sovereign over His creation then you must believe God will eventually get His way. God is love; love never fails. Surely the day when His plan for us is complete will be the most wonderful in our planet’s difficult history.
It seems to me Adventism assumes that each of us has such a complete comprehension of God and His plan that it enables us to make a fully informed decision about whether or not to follow Him. Yet the book of Hebrews says only the spiritually mature are even capable of distinguishing good from evil.
We know very little about how God is implementing His plan for humanity. The ongoing difficulty posed by theodicy illustrates the fact that we do not now understand why He initiates or allows many things we consider very bad to happen.
Adventism sees our relationship with God much like that of two adults when, in reality, we are as children and He is our parent. Like children, right now we must accept much we don’t understand based on our faith in His love and goodness toward us. For example, if your ten year old son said he wanted the keys to the car to go to the store and get some candy, would you, as a responsible parent, agree because it would be wrong to violate the child’s ‘free will’? Of course not, the loving thing would be to reject this foolish request. Has the child been ‘manipulated’? No, he has been protected and also hopefully learned something about appropriate age-dependent levels of trust and responsibility. Does a child become a puppet or robot when the parent overrules him when he wants to do something against the will of the parent for him or would impede the plan of the parent for his other children? Of course not. So it is with God and us.
So, in my view, in Adventism there is an inaccurate view of the relationship between God and man (which implicitly limits God’s power), and an inaccurate view of the scope of His plan for each of us and all of humanity (which implicitly limits His love). Because Adventists believe the chance for salvation is over at the end of this current age (or for an individual at the time of one’s physical death), there is also an inaccurate understanding of the way God’s plan is unfolding (which implicitly limits His patience). Because of all the above inaccurate suppositions, Adventism has concluded that our choice for or against God must be entirely up to us and it must be made now. Adding a human supposition about fairness means it wouldn’t be right of God to influence some more than others so the Adventist conclusion is we must all have completely unfettered ‘free will.’
One thing I have learned is that for most people their suppositions, not the Bible, define the parameters of their theology.
I find it fascinating that people (myself included) largely see what we want to see (or perhaps are only capable of seeing, meaning only what God, in His wisdom and kindness, allows us to presently see) in the Bible. And maybe I’m not even supposed to relate what I understand is the truth to you now. (If not, my prayer is that you will reject this comment as nonsense.)
A radically different understanding is really only for those who are open to questioning basic suppositions about their faith (and that can be frightening) which in turn only comes from a dissatisfaction with their current comprehension of God and His plan for us.
I think God manipulated my life circumstances several years ago such that He pushed me into a complete reexamination of my theology.
I am now grateful He did so.
I totally agree with most if not all, of what you have said.
A couple of points - Watching a program about the limitlessness of space, a comment got my attention. The “science guy” said, “There is more we don’t know about space than what we know.” And I thought, … even after sending probes to Mars and men to the moon, and who knows what else!..You’re not going to find any one in the SDA church (at least) saying that about our knowledge of God and the Bible. If we admitted that, we might get along better, and gain more understanding over all - through some modicum of humility.
Your comment about God’s patience resonates as well. The SDA message is that at some point His patience comes to an end ,followed by judgement. Even we are asked to forgive 70X7 (which is interpreted as infinity) - Surely if we are expected to forgive our “enemies” endlessly, God will do no less.
Finally, not any of us have a full picture or experience with God - some, none at all, and through no fault of their own; yet, we are told, “every knee shall bow” in the end. A good parent will not punish for the sake of punishment, surely God doesn’t either. Once every knee bows (understands), there is no need to punish.
Of course, to remind us of our current situation, there are lots of verses on contrition and humility:
In Isaiah, God says, ‘I dwell in the high and holy place and also with him who is of a contrite and humble spirit,’
and Jesus said, ‘Therefore whoever humbles himself like this little child is greatest in the kingdom of heaven.’
I like your thought about punishment and the bowing in allegiance really meaning finally understanding the truth about God. I believe every judgment rendered by God has our restoration to Him as its ultimate aim. Paul thought so highly of the passage about every knee bowing (Is 45:23-25) that he used it twice in the writings we have of his (Rom 14:11 & Phil 2:10-11).
In the Isaiah passage God actually states it as a vow that He swears upon His Holy Name that it will one day be true. He doesn’t get more serious than that.
Many churches say this bowing down and sworn allegiance by all is feigned and the last act God forces from the rebellious unsaved before He sentences them to eternal hellfire (most denominations) or incineration (Adventism and a few others).
Yet the Greek word translated as ‘confess’ in the Philippians passage is ‘exomologeō’ (Strong’s 1843) which means to joyfully acknowledge, profess and celebrate.
Just like Newton’s Laws and quantum theory, EGW and Adventism aren’t specifically mentioned in the Bible.
So none of these are essentially “biblical”.
But these aren’t the only or main reason I stopped going to church.
That happened when I realized that in all my direct interactions with my creator, there’s been no mention of the Bible, either.
Indeed, and thus His wise interference with our ability to choose. Like a wise Parent, God is active in continual attempts to save us from ourselves. His is not coercion, but persuasion with a touch of discipline to direct us to “choose this day whom we will serve.”
Well expressed. I appreciate your perspective on this.
By not Biblical I meant that Adventism ignores or distorts the many passages that speak of God overruling the wills of people in the Bible. Every time I read through the Bible I find more of them. George Müller the famous 19th century German evangelist who started and ran many orphanages in England relying solely on prayer was once asked to compare the number of passages that favoured the Arminian (man’s free will) view with the Calvinist (God determines) view and he said he found 4x as many supporting Calvinism. Adventism cannot acknowledge what these verses say because they contradict Adventist theology.
On another note, I have been thinking about a recent comment on another thread in which you wrote:
“…I also didn’t say I reject the Holy Spirit.
I only said I’d have nothing to do with a god who says, “Love me or die.”
As a statement of fact, and while this seems to be an all too familiar motif with the god of the Bible, I’ve never received such an absurd and irrational ultimatum from Divine Consciousness.”
If I am correctly understanding your thinking, I agree with what you are saying.
My belief is that you will freely, unreservedly and joyfully one day love God. In fact, you will do so because you have died. Or to put it more bluntly God will have finally destroyed the old, sinful you (who, like the rest of us, was inherited from the first Adam) who is naturally antagonistic toward God and replaced him with a new creation, immortal you (given to us by the last Adam, Jesus Christ).
So, I think it would be more accurate to say God’s plan is for you to “Die and love Me.”