Longing for the Divine

Artificial or Divine Intelligence?

I recently listened to a music clip sung in Jay-Z’s voice that was reportedly generated by artificial intelligence (AI). It sounded genuine to me and may have even surpassed the artist’s vocal skill in creating music. Perhaps computers will someday become so advanced that they will entirely remove the human element from songwriting. Might robots and other technology take over human jobs, leaving many people useless and unnecessary?

In 2014, Cambridge University scientist Stephen Hawking warned that “the development of full AI could spell the end of the human race.” (The Oxford Handbook of Ethics of AI, 2020, p. 72). Elon Musk has gone so far as to speak about the potential of connecting AI to our brains. It seems that we are living in a world that is utterly gearing up to inform the biblical end times. With all that is happening, it is not hard to imagine the proverbial beast whose work includes branding every citizen with a mark of sorts to track their operation within the new economic system:

It causes all, both small and great, both rich and poor, both free and slave, to be marked on the right hand or the forehead, so that no one can buy or sell unless he has the mark, that is, the name of the beast or the number of its name.

Revelation 13:16–17

I remember that when the internet first emerged years ago, it promised a universal information system linked through the World Wide Web. At the time, Christians warned me that every time I typed the prefix “www” into a web browser, I was displaying the number 666 in the Hebrew language. Technology has long been considered related to the mark of the beast. Microchips, credit cards, barcodes, tattoos, medical implants, and now AI have changed the world faster than we realize. The new reality we live in may be scary, but I do not think such technology is the mark of the beast. Yet given all the talk about the dangers of AI, what does technology mean for humanity, and how might it evolve into the events depicted in the Book of Revelation?

The mark of the beast cannot be machine or computer technology unless it links with religion to force people to worship. I don’t think we have to fear an android or cyborg takeover, as the beast described in Revelation is lamblike—enough like Christ to deceive Christians. As I read the biblical warnings, the mark of the beast does not stand alone but is a counterfeit of the seal of God. God wants His impressions of love on our hearts and activities. Divine insight and intelligence is to be mediated by the Word of God:

You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes.

Deuteronomy 6:5–8

Many consider AI technology a good thing, as it can be used to develop data-driven strategies and improve scientific techniques to open a much brighter future for us. The right-wing businessman Andrew Torba, however, recently announced that he is building a religious AI that he and others can use to flood the media with Christian nationalist propaganda to counter the liberal worldview for the glory of God.

In my opinion, a form of Christianity bereft of Jesus’s lamblike principles and bent on coercing others into following its religious ideas and practices reflects the very spirit that will eventually lead to the mark of the beast. Revelation describes the beast as having a mouth that speaks exceedingly big words and blasphemies (Revelation 13:5), and perhaps an interpretation would be using big data as a means of influencing the masses. This prophesized beast speaking great words sounds to me like it would include a big propaganda machine that will recklessly promote false narratives. The beasts fake character is in its misrepresentation and false claims about speaking for God, which lead people astray (Revelation 13:6).

As the end times near, I think we must remain attuned to the ways deception and manipulation are fed though the channels of speech and propaganda. Manipulation, deception, and exploitation are the earmarks of the beastly system. If our minds become susceptible to manipulation, worldwide deception will become entrenched, and we will basically lose our abilities to choose and think critically. People will then easily succumb, accepting coercion as a way of life, for if one cannot buy or sell without identifying with a certain system, they will become unemployable, socially unacceptable, and obsolete. This type of coercion poses a great threat to humanity, for according to Revelation, those who do not go along with the system will eventually be disposed of (Revelation 13:15).

In the Book of Revelation, everyone is marked, and God’s seal is antithetical to the mark of the beast. This tells me that God refuses to put His name on any manipulation or coercion, for He does not want to be represented by such actions in this world. Both the mark of God and the mark of the beast come with a kind of identity, but these identities are not implanted computer chips or other technologies specified by the latest technology-related conspiracy theories. We don’t have to be afraid of such technologies, for we are simply called to change our identity to become what we are intended to be. So, while our faces are buried in smart devices, computer programs, and social media, we need to ask ourselves what it means to be truly human. What is human identity? I think the antidote to losing human identity and fearing the mark of the beast is looking at the seal of God.

The seal of God is first and foremost about being loving. While the beast will create its own image, God already has an image and is looking for human beings to reflect it. Sealing is about receiving the mold of God’s character and reflecting Jesus’s true human image and thus becoming a unique human being. As Rabbi Johnathan Sakes said, “That uniqueness is at the heart of our humanity. And it exists not in intelligence, which can be artificial, but in loving and being loved.” The seal of God is about following the principles of God’s law of love. It is also about being loved by God and knowing that God cares for us and that we are valuable. That a personal God who knows everything about us and loves us so incredibly that He lay down His life for us because He could not be without us is an amazing revelation of our value. Knowing that we are counted among those God loves gives us a deep sense of significance and meaning. Nothing can replace that.

The seal of God is also the protective counterpoint to the mark of the beast (Revelation 7:2). Those sealed will be protected because God is present among them in a special way. The Book of Revelation illustrates that everything will be okay as God brings things to a final consummation. There will be hardships and trials to be sure, but those sealed are said to pass successfully through the chaos and trouble.

If you think human beings now face the threat of becoming worthless or obsolete, know that it’s nearly time for God to pour out His Spirit, allowing us to see some amazing things that no AI could produce or even compare to. It will be amazing to see God’s presence fully reflected in human beings. Scripture promises special work done by God as He pours out His presence at the end (Acts 2:17). As partakers of the divine nature, humans will receive divine power that will enable them to do works even greater than those of Jesus (John 14:12). I am certain these powerful works will reflect Jesus’ character of love, empathy, and compassion. When God’s image of love is reflected in humans as they are given access to unlimited divine power and intelligence, we will see some amazing things that no one will be able to resist (Luke 21:15)

So, I think we should not only expand the warnings of the mark of the beast to include the manipulation and coercion of the propaganda machine but also look forward to what God will do in humanity. We should rejoice in Him as we look for every occasion to represent His character of love in the world.

Craig Ashton Jr.

4 Responses to “Artificial or Divine Intelligence?”

  1. Joy

    Wow, some VERY insightful points! Especially how humans who love Christ will become even more like Him and receive divine power to do good and represent Him and show others His love. Also, by having His seal, we are protected during some rough end times because His presence will be among us! What a beautiful way of seeing or understanding what He will do for us during horrific last day trials!! I’ve wondered about that and if He would surround us and protect us with His love.
    Many ….more good points, especially about this newly touted AI! “Artificial Intelligence,”ugh!
    Good read! Thx Craig! Hope I understood it correctly! Correct me if I didn’t! Thanks.


    • Craig Ashton Jr.

      Thanks Joy. You got it. I am not worried about various conspiracy theories about technology. I think God has something special in store for us at the end that will be amazing.


      • Joy

        I think you’re right! I think Our Heavenly Father, Son and Spirit, like doing special things for their “humans!” 😁 They really love us, that We know😍🙏


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