The Briefing, Albert Mohler

Friday, September 1, 2023

It is Friday, September 1, 2023.

I’m Albert Mohler, and this is The Briefing, a daily analysis of news and events from a Christian worldview.

Part I

Artificial Intelligence and the Morality of Knowledge: AI Creators Are Clambering for Government Regulation, But Pandora’s Box Has Already Been Opened

Artificial intelligence, AI, all you have to do is invoke those particular labels, and frankly, you’re confusing most people. But nonetheless, it has already become a rather grave and important issue of national and global conversation and even policy. One of the interesting things is that it’s something of a modern Pandora’s box. Even the creators seem to be saying that. The Wall Street Journal’s been running articles, and other newspapers and news sources have been revealing the same saying that even the founding, pioneer fathers and mothers, so to speak, of artificial intelligence are now saying to the United States government, “You need to find a way to regulate this.” And furthermore, they’re saying to global authorities, “You need to find a way to regulate this.” One of the issues that Christians have to think about is the morality of knowledge.

That means that, as the Book of Genesis makes abundantly clear from the very beginning, knowledge is an inherently moral issue. You can’t separate it from a moral, even a theological context. Remember that the fruit of the tree that Adam and Eve were forbidden to eat was the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. As soon as they sinned and ate from that tree, remember what the Bible says, “Their eyes were opened and they saw what they were not supposed to see.” Thus, since we sent in Adam, we see also things we should not see and were never meant to see. The morality of knowledge is something that Christians have to take very, very seriously, and it just reminds us that also, given the fact that we’re rational creatures made the way we are, once we see something, we cannot unsee it. Once we know something, we cannot really unknow it.

In some cases, we may forget it, but that doesn’t reduce the moral responsibility that is inherent in most cases. We can’t forget what we want to forget. This is why the issue of pornography is so important, and Christians understand it because once you’ve seen it, you cannot unsee it. Seeing it is itself a moral act, and this is also why we understand the problem of evil speech, even of gossip, and certainly the power of a lie. Once you hear it, it’s very difficult to unhear it. The problem of the morality of knowledge comes down to the fact that knowledge is never neutral. It’s not a neutral fact of the inverse to say that two plus two equals four. Indeed, the entire moral health of the cosmos itself depends upon the fact that two plus two equals four.

That means that when someone says that two plus two equals something other than four, they’re not just wrong. If they insist upon it in the face of all evidence that two plus two equals four, they’re actually, in their own way, unraveling the entire cosmos. That’s just what sin does, and that’s a part of biblical theology. It’s the unraveling of the cosmos that God has made, and you say, “That’s a lie. That’s adultery, that’s murder, that’s genocide.” But that’s also lying in such a way that you lie about math. How’s that for giving you a new moral perspective on your kid’s math test?

But the Christian worldview also reminds us that our sin and the realities of human nature, that means also, the created realities of human nature, they follow us everywhere we go. So we can go, say, on a trip, and our morality goes with us.

We go from this country to that country. You might say there are different laws, but the morality goes with us. The moral truth goes with us. You could put human beings in outer space, and you know what? They are not free from all moral considerations just because they are outside the atmosphere of planet Earth. They’re still a part of the cosmos that God made for his glory, and the moral truth that is rooted in God’s holiness is displayed in the heavens.

All right, so I mentioned artificial intelligence. What’s all this got to do with that? The big problem with artificial intelligence is that it has already become the most important example of human beings developing things they don’t even understand and can’t control. You are talking about what is actually labeled as artificial intelligence. The problem there is not so much the intelligence as the artificial, because intelligence God created–you’re talking about artificial, you’re talking about something that human beings created beyond nature. This is not a natural intelligence. This is an artificial intelligence.

Now, by the way, one of the things Christians have to say right up front is, it took human beings to develop artificial intelligence. One of the fears about artificial intelligence is that it’s going to somehow escape human control. Indeed, there are at least some rather responsible observers of technologies like artificial intelligence who believe that might already have happened. You’re talking about the fact that these technologies can get out of control. That was true of atomic physics. It’s also true when it comes to artificial intelligence. What exactly that means, how it’s going to play out in real time, we don’t know yet, but it does tell us something that the very creators of artificial intelligence are now clamoring to politicians, legislators, congress, parliaments and saying, “You better regulate this thing.”

Okay, here’s another problem about the morality of knowledge. If you know it and you say, “Okay, that needs to be kept within these moral bounds,” someone else can know it and decide to operate outside those moral bounds. That’s exactly the problem the humanity faced in the 20th century with the atomic technology, especially when it comes to nuclear weapons. It could be used for good, it could be used for evil. The same knowledge is the same knowledge that could be used for good here could be used for evil there. Just because these countries say, “We’re going to operate by these rules.” It doesn’t mean that other countries are going to operate by the same rules. Already, we have nations including North Korea, Russia, and China who are basically saying, “We’re not going to be bound by those rules or those laws, or at least by your reading of those rules and those laws.”

In some cases, like North Korea, they’re just basically saying, “We’re going to do whatever we want to do, and we dare you to try to stop us. We will use the technology and the knowledge of nuclear weapons against you if you try to stop us.” That’s why countries like North Korea are no longer conducting secret nuclear weapons tests. They’re doing it in public because they’re intending to send a message, “We’ve got the knowledge. We’ll use the knowledge.” There’s a lot to the morality of knowledge that Christians need to keep in mind.

Part II

Where Humans Go, Their Sin Patterns Follow: Report Reveals ChatGPT Shows Biases of Its Creators

But another principle is the fact that when you are talking about human beings doing anything, then everything that human beings are eventually shows up everywhere. What’s the point of raising this? For example, the Washington Post recently ran a report with the headline “ChatGPT has a liberal bias, research on AI’s political responses shows.”

So we’re being told that this new artificial intelligence is not politically neutral. It has a bias. That bias is liberal when it comes to politics. Now, at the very same time, the Biden administration, the Biden White House, is announcing that it has concerns about artificial intelligence and entities like ChatGPT, saying that there might be opportunities for hate speech or what they see as racist speech or might label as wrong speech to end up as a part of the architecture of artificial intelligence, even products such as ChatGPT. The article in the Washington Post looks at the fact that there’s a liberal bias when it comes to how ChatGPT is operating. The article says, “A paper from UK-based researchers suggests that open AI’s ChatGPT has a liberal bias, highlighting how artificial intelligence companies are struggling to control the behavior of the bots even as they push them out to millions of users worldwide.”

The reporter Garrett Dink tells us, “The study from researchers at the University of East Anglia asked ChatGPT to answer a survey on political beliefs as it believes supporters of liberal parties in the United States, United Kingdom, and Brazil might answer them.” They then asked ChatGPT to answer the same questions without any prompting and compared the two sets of responses. The results showed, “a significant and systematic political bias toward the Democrats in the US, Lula,” (that’s the liberal president in Brazil), “and the Labor Party,” (that’s the liberal party in the UK.) The researchers wrote, now, “The paper adds to a growing body of research on chatbots showing that despite their designers trying to control potential biases, the bots are infused with assumptions, beliefs, and stereotypes found in the reams of data scraped from the open internet that they are trained on.”

Okay, this is just really interesting. In other words, again, you go back to that biblical principle that where human beings go, all of humanity goes with them. That includes the fall, that includes sin. That means when you go online, guess what shows up online? Human sinfulness, big surprise there, right? Not. When you go, say, from one country to another, you find sinners there, you find opportunities for sin there. Surprised? Of course not. When you go into the realm of ChatGPT or you go into artificial intelligence, you look at these programs, you lead these platforms, guess what? Human biases, in this case, a liberal bias or a bias to liberalism, shows up. Then you find out that the data, the reams of data, were,, “scraped from the open internet.” Then who in the world can be surprised that all kinds of bad stuff is scraped up there? Who could be surprised by that?

But there’s actually more to the story, as other analysts have pointed out, and that is that these are not neutral, even if those who create them try to say they’re neutral. Christians understand that’s just a fundamental principle, but there’s another reason they’re not neutral. That’s because the people who are trying to check them for biases have, now, you’re beating me to it, I think, they have biases. They don’t understand their own biases. They are simply planted in as something like normal, declared to be something like neutral. I want to say that you, every one of you listeners to The Briefing, you are not unbiased. You can’t be. I, on the other hand, no, nevermind, I’m biased. The honesty is in admitting our biases and seeking, as Christians, to check our thoughts by the objective standard of the Word of God.

In other words, we are not unbiased. We’re trying to be Christian. We’re trying to think Christianly. We’re trying to think in ways that are consistent with Scripture. When you look at artificial intelligence, guess what? Everything bad in the way human beings think is going to show up in artificial intelligence. That’s because even though artificial intelligence might be, by some definition, intelligence, I’m saying, by some definition, it may be intelligence. Guess what? It did not create itself. It did not assemble itself. It is not advertising itself.

Human beings using, you know this, human intelligence, they use human intelligence to create what they call artificial intelligence. To the extent that it’s artificial, it might not be intelligence, but that doesn’t mean that it won’t be dangerous.

By the way, as we leave this and turn to questions, it’s also of interest to note that there are people who are saying maybe a bit more quietly than they would say to a microphone. They’re saying, “It might not be a bad thing that we just acknowledge there’s bias in artificial intelligence. We need to make sure it’s the right bias.” That’s a game, and it’s good that we know also how that game is played.

Part III

What Explains the Unusually High Number of Roman Catholics on the Supreme Court? — Dr. Mohler Responds to Letters from Listeners of The Briefing

Next, we’re going to turn to questions. I appreciate all of them. I wish I could get to all of them on the program. Jason writes in asking, “What explains the unusually high number of Roman Catholics on the court, meaning the Supreme Court versus Protestants, political connections, or do they tend to make better judges?” He’s just asking the question. He mentions his respect for justices Antonin Scalia, the late justice, and Justice Clarence Thomas, and he says he was surprised to learn they were Catholic and then that much of the conservative majority is Catholic. The key to the question here is, what explains the unusually high number of Roman Catholics on the court as compared to Protestants?

There’s a long story here. It’s an important one. Jason, I appreciate the fact, you asked the question because this really points to some very fundamental issues. So when it comes to so much of what’s coming before the Supreme Court, you have conservative Protestants, conservative Roman Catholics, and conservatives of other stripes as well who have common hopes for how these cases will be adjudicated. So there’s a very common concern about so many of these cases, whether it be abortion or issues related to sexuality and marriage, religious liberty. You could get on a long list, and if you have Roman Catholics and conservative Protestants who are basically together here, then what’s the difference? Part of the difference is history, and that’s not insignificant. So Jason, here’s a part of the issue.

Catholics have been at the business of trying to think through many of these issues you might describe as legal now, even some of the moral questions coming up with giant comprehensive arguments. They were at that while Protestants were up to other things. I think that’s a Protestant problem. Let me just say, I think Protestants have neglected dealing with many of these intellectual areas for far too long. I think a lot of Protestants have awakened to that, but what you’re looking at by the time you get to the Supreme Court, it’s something like a half century of work to get anyone there.

I’m not saying they’re all 50, but basically most of them are. But in any sense, the conservative recovery of the Supreme Court was something that took 60 or 70 years to take place. What you see now is the fruit of that, and it’s not an accident that so many justices who are Roman Catholic. There’s more to it than that, though. For one thing, on the Catholic side, you have a very long tradition of Catholic lawyering, and in particular, even canon lawyers within the church, and in particular forms of legal reasoning, legal argumentation that have a lot to do both with law as in statutory law and also natural law.

All these arguments are based when, for instance, Roe v. Wade was handed down, pro-life Protestants were appalled, heartbroken, offended, outraged, and wanted to counter it, but the only existing counterarguments were basically Catholic counterarguments. A lot of the lawyers who were ready to talk about this were basically Catholic lawyers because they were lawyered up on it, so to speak. Protestants had been slower to get there. There’s even more to it than that. When you look at the Catholic tradition, you are looking at a tradition that puts a lot of energy into particular kinds of intellectual concentration. That’s not just to say the law. It’s to say producing lawyers. So you have an awful lot of support for a young Catholic looking for, for instance, a career in the law. There are going to be a lot of Catholic patrons, there are going to be a lot of Catholic thinkers, there are going to be a lot of Catholic law professors, very glad to have conversations.

This is a social reality. It creates a vast social movement. Evangelicals are way behind, and evangelicals are way behind for some good reasons and for some that aren’t so good. We’re way behind, first of all, because, for good reason, we don’t have a magisterium. We don’t have the infrastructure that Roman Catholics have like this, and that’s a good thing. That’s a theological conviction thing. On the other hand, what we also lack are many of the thick support systems that Roman Catholics have developed, and frankly, we should as well. We need to put a lot of energy, and many of us are trying to do just that thing, into the development of a Protestant, Christian intellectual tradition to counter the ideologies of the modern age and to help to ground Christians in sustained moral and intellectual argument consistent with Scripture and glorifying to God. There is a dramatic, dire need for that development in our age.

We need to encourage the way that Catholics have been encouraging promising young people to go into law for a very long time. Protestants need to be doing the very same thing, and then we must create support systems because it’s not enough to get them into law school in one sense. That’s handing them over to the enemy, depending on the law school. So what we really have to do is build support systems, societies, legal associations, academic meetings, and think tanks that help to support law students during their career in law school, to understand what we believe are the permanent things and how it is that Christians should approach the law. So there’s a lot going on here. Jason, you asked the right question. This has been building for a very long time, and by the way, it’s to the consternation of Protestants who need to be prodded, and it’s to the consternation of liberal Roman Catholics who are vexed by the fact that it is the conservative wing of the Supreme Court that is actually not only Catholic but operating in ways that are consistent with Catholic principles.

Part IV

If God Doesn’t Change His Mind, Why Does the Bible Say He Regrets Things? — Dr. Mohler Responds to a Letter from a 14-Year-Old Listener of The Briefing

Next, I’m going to turn to a very smart question from Caroline, who’s 14 years old, and she says, “I listened to your show with my dad and my sister on the way to school.” Thanks to all three of you, Caroline. “I have a question,” She says, “About God’s character. I understand that God can’t contradict Himself, but I’m confused where God says He regrets something, like when He said he regretted making man and sent the flood. If God doesn’t change His mind, then why would He regret something?” Very kindly, she says, “Thank you for your time.” Thank you for your letter, Caroline, and that’s a great question. This gets to a basic issue we have to keep in mind with Scripture and how we read Scripture. So it’s a bigger question, but what a good time to consider this. The Scripture also speaks of God as He stretches out His arm or as He stretches out His hand.

But we know that God doesn’t have a body, He doesn’t have an arm, and He doesn’t have a hand. But you know what? When we speak of God’s body or read about God’s arm or His hand in Scripture, we understand really exactly what it means. We don’t really believe that what Scripture is telling us there is that God has a physical arm or He has a physical hand, but we understand this is what’s called an accommodation, and this is necessary, Caroline, because an accommodation is what happens when a parent dealing with, say, a two-year-old, gives an explanation of reality, and that requires an accommodation. It’s also right to use the theological word here, condescension. That means God condescends. He more or less bends over in one sense. Again, that’s a physical metaphor. God doesn’t have a body, but what it means is like a parent leans over to speak kindly to a child, to condescend, to say, “You’re not going to understand the entire picture behind this.”

The parent is probably not even going to say that to the child. The parent knows it. So the parent condescends to use language the parent wouldn’t use with another adult to describe the same thing, but uses words the child can understand to express what is nonetheless absolutely true. So we’re talking about the parents speaking absolute truth. There’s still condescension to a very young child, and there’s still accommodation to a very young child. When it comes to the distinction between the creature and the creature. It’s infinite accommodation and infinite condescension. God, for example, as one of the reformers said in the Scriptures, leans over to speak baby talk into our ears. Because that, as frail human beings, is all we can take. If God spoke in the lofty terms with which the Father speaks to the Son, they’re eternal. They’re infinite. We can’t even know them by definition because we are finite.

But it’s just a sweet metaphor to think that in Holy Scripture, it’s as if God leans over and quietly speaks to us because if He spoke with His full voice, we’d be destroyed. He speaks to us in a language we can understand. That’s a part of his grace and a part of His mercy. Remember that the Holy Spirit inspired every word of Scripture. So where the Scripture says that God repented of something, that’s true, but you’re absolutely right, the Bible also says that God doesn’t change His mind and that God’s omnipotent, omniscient, and sovereign. So what does it mean? It means God is very displeased. It means that that is an incredible statement of the strength of God’s displeasure. It is as if He repented. He regretted ever having created man. So Caroline, I appreciate you asking the question, and let’s be very thankful that God does accommodate. God does condescend.

You might put it this way, God so loved the world that He speaks to us in Holy Scripture in ways that we can understand. Sometimes we just need the comforting picture of God’s outstretched arm and of His mighty hand. We know He doesn’t have an arm and a hand, but we know what it means when we are told that God’s assurance of His grace and mercy to us is demonstrated in an outstretched arm, in a mighty hand. That’s what held Israel to Him then that’s how God holds us to Himself. The same thing’s true with some of the other language of Scripture. This is why we need very carefully to read the Scripture so we don’t mistake what is in this case a form of a metaphor for what is not. And that’s why serious Christians about the ages have sought on the basis of the total truthfulness of the word of God to understand these things. For that, I’m very thankful, even as I’m thankful for your question.

Part V

What Are We to Make of the Morality of Risk in the Development of New Technologies? — Dr. Mohler Responds to Letters from Listeners of The Briefing

Next, I’m thankful for a question sent by a pediatrician, and he’s raising the issue of the progressivism of technology and risk, saying, “How exactly should Christians think about this?” He was raising this question because of my conversation, which was intended to be serious but a bit lighthearted about these driverless cars and in particular the one that got stuck in wet concrete in San Francisco. I was very clear, there are deep issues that are involved here. He asked the question not only as a pediatrician but also as a father, he asked the question, “What about the ethics of the progress of technology?” And so, in order to get to say some advanced medical technologies, an awful lot of people had to die on the way to the development of the successful use of those kinds of technologies.

Doctor, I deeply appreciate your question. This is a question that relates immediately to medical ethics but, quite frankly, goes far beyond. This is where we understand that, throughout human struggle with many of these technologies in their development, whether it’s, say, a heart transplant, the first person who received a heart transplant frankly didn’t live very long. They didn’t fully understand the process of the rejection of organs by a healthy body, and lots of other things. I’m not going to play a medical doctor here. I’m not one. You are, but you could think of vaccinations. I think of Jonathan Edwards, who’s vaccinated against smallpox and basically dying because they put too high a concentration. But that was in the 18th century. They were just learning how to do this. I’m very thankful when it comes to diseases like polio. I’m very thankful that they are now able to prevent the spread of that disease by that technology.

I saw an iron lung a few months ago, and I knew they weren’t used very often. I wasn’t sure they were used at all, and still they are used some, but those iron lungs also led to other technologies that are better and more efficient, at least for many patients. Yet there were patients who died along the way. Doctor, I’ll simply say this, I think in a fallen world, the way Christians look at this is that it is not wrong that it takes time for us to learn some very hard lessons, and it takes time for us to develop new technologies and even to understand them. Again, you’re the doctor, and you know that in the field of medical ethics, a lot of this has to do with informed consent and coming to an understanding of what is moral and immoral in the use of some technologies and experimentation.

So for instance, right now, there are hot controversies about whether or not there should be experiments authorized in some areas where there are people saying, “Look, we just simply don’t know enough even to approve beginning those kinds of experiments. We’re dealing with real human beings here and so real human lives.” So I’m thankful for all the people who, basically, through their own struggle with the disease, help doctors to understand better ways of treating those diseases. It would’ve been morally wrong if the doctors had held back treating those patients when they knew what to do.

We know a whole lot more of what to do now, and so we understand some of these things better backwards than we do forwards because that’s basically the way human beings are. But I appreciate you asking the question, and I agree with the point you’re making in asking it. There are moral issues involved with technology in the beginning, in the middle, and in the end, and sometimes it’s very hard in the middle to understand exactly all the moral issues that were involved in the beginning, much less the end. Christians are to pray and to seek to be found faithful all through the process. No one told us it was going to be easy.

Part VI

Even as Cultural Christianity Has Decreased in the United States, Is the Number of Serious, Committed, Pious Christians Actually Higher Than It Was 50 Years Ago? — Dr. Mohler Responds to Letters from Listeners of The Briefing

Finally, for today, Edward wrote in asking, “What do you think of the notion that while cultural Christianity has decreased, the number of serious, committed, pious Christians in the United States is actually higher than it was 50 years ago?” Edward, I think there’s some people looking that would say, “That’s one of the most foolish questions I’ve ever seen.” I’m not saying that. I am saying that I don’t know how you would account for this or come up with a number at this point, but what I like about your question is this.

I can honestly say that at this point in my life, I know of more healthy gospel churches than I knew, say, 30, 40 years ago. I think there’s more gospel being preached in many churches. I think there’s more Scripture being preached in many churches. I think there’s been a resurgence of spiritual health in many churches, a new seriousness with which Christianity is taken in many churches and among many Christians. I don’t know how to account for that in numbers, but I think you’re pointing to the right thing Christians need to think about, the evaporation and the erosion of cultural Christianity.

That’s basically a cultural thing, not so much a Christian thing. With the state of the church and the true believers who are regenerate believers in the Lord Jesus Christ and faithful Christians, the question is whether there are more now than in the past. I don’t know right now how to answer that question, but I can say, I think we’re going to find out pretty soon where they are. Who’s really going to take a stand for the gospel, for biblical truth, and be faithful and who is not? So I think it’s a great question. We may have to wait for a while to have a clue about the answer, but I do share with you a hopefulness that even in the midst of the secularization and the loss of so many cultural Christians, there may well be more authentic Christians seeking to live faithful Christian lives than, say, secular observers would ever imagine or, for that matter, fear.

Thanks again for all the questions. You can send your questions to

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Monday is Labor Day in the United States, so I’ll meet you again on Tuesday for The Briefing.

R. Albert Mohler, Jr.

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