"Can a prayer written by artificial intelligence, in some way, communicate truth?"
Fire and Brimstone
Everything's bigger in Texas — including, it seems, the enthusiasm for artificial intelligence.
In an interview with Austin-based broadcaster KXAN, pastor Jay Cooper of the city's Violet Crown City Church discussed using ChatGPT to help him write a sermon he delivered this past Sunday.
"ChatGPT kicked out about a 15-minute service, like a shotgun sermon, an outline," Cooper said before admitting that it was "very clear" that "a human element is still needed."
"I had to fill out the service with additional prompts," the pastor continued, "and add a couple prompts to the sermon to kind of beef it up."
However, reviews of the delivered sermon remained reserved. One of the church's members told the local NBC affiliate that although he was still able to get something out of the service, the AI-written sermon lacked the emotive and expressive qualities of one written by a human.
"I’m not sure that AI can actually express the emotions of love and kindness and empathy," the parishioner said. "I think that we must practice love and express that. Not only feel it, but we must express it."
Protest Too Much
The Texan churchgoer's sentiments echoed comments made by some attendees of a Protestant convention in Germany earlier this year who were subjected to a ChatGPT-written sermon — though in that case, the sermon was not only written by bots, but also delivered by them as well.
As the Associated Press reported in June, four AI avatars with expressionless faces and monotonous voices delivered a sermon about "leaving the past behind, focusing on the challenges of the present, overcoming fear of death, and never losing trust in Jesus Christ." Though folks who attended the sermon, which was held at a convention in Feurth, Germany, said it could have been worse, the robotic preachers had "no heart and no soul."
Back in Texas, Cooper seemingly agreed with the German churchgoers when noting that the "human touch is critical in life and in ministry" — which was why, he said, he edited the AI's work.
All the same, the pastor posited an interesting question: "Can a prayer written by artificial intelligence, in some way, communicate truth? Can you experience God through that?"
As for right now, it seems that it can't — but with AI applications becoming rapidly more common, it may not stay that way for long.
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