Ep 9: Unraveling AI Myths: Sci-Fi, Theology, and the Future of Churches with Professor James McGrath
The AI for Churches Podcast
Ep 9: Unraveling AI Myths: Sci-Fi, Theology, and the Future of Churches with Professor James McGrath

Episode Overview

Join host Cassandra Robinson and Professor James McGrath, an expert in biblical studies and religion, as they delve into the crossroads of science fiction, theology, and artificial intelligence within the context of churches and unravel the dynamic interplay of these realms, shaping the future landscape of spirituality.

The Sci-Fi and Theology Connection

James shares his journey of discovering the convergence of science fiction and theology, sparked by Frank Herbert’s “Dune”. This led him to explore the future of religious traditions and trace the evolutionary trajectory of the church.

AI and the Church

Cassandra and James discuss the potential of AI within the church, from AI-generated sermons to robot choirs. Amidst acknowledging potential ethical considerations, James passionately advocates for embracing change, urging the utilization of tech to address societal needs and foster connections with younger generations. 

The Double-Edged Sword of AI

They also touch on the pitfalls of AI, particularly when it comes to fact-checking and discernment. While AI can mimic human conversation and provide quick responses, their conversation underscores a vital reminder: AI should never replace the foundations of the Word of God, prayer, and fellowship. 

Sci-Fi, Religion, and the Future

James will be discussing the science fiction franchises, Doctor Who and Star Trek, at the upcoming Theology Camp, emphasizing the importance of looking at older science fiction media to understand past visions of technology and its anticipated role in society’s future.

Bible Translations and Technology

Cassandra and James discuss the importance of cross-referencing various Bible translations for a deeper understanding. They underscore the role of technology, such as apps, in facilitating this. However, they also highlight the potential pitfalls of relying solely on a single translation for interpreting scripture. 

Notable Quotes

  • James at [06:36] – “The perception of science fiction as incompatible with Christian faith is a misconception. It can enrich our understanding.”
  • James at [06:58] – “Imagining the future of our religious traditions is crucial. We must anticipate and adapt rather than react in hindsight.”
  • James at [09:15] – “Speculating about the distant future is much safer. Titles like 1984, 2001, they really missed the mark. It’s safer to speculate tens of thousands of years from now than just five years ahead.”
  • James at [15:59] -” I think it’s important to remember the history of technology because that helps us, I think, approach new and future technology in a more positive way
  • James at [21:04] -” It’s very easy to mistake what kind of artificial intelligence we’re dealing with. And to fail to recognize that this is still a system that is designed to imitate human speech
  • James at [46:01] – “I am naturally optimistic and would like to think that the church can embrace the potential good and avoid the pitfalls of new technology.”

Episode Highlights

  • (04:21) James’s journey through the intersection of AI, science fiction, and theology
  • (07:06) Imagining the future of religious traditions
  • (08:58) A futuristic outlook of the church in the age of AI
  • (09:54) James’ short story on the impact of artificial intelligence on the church
  • (15:15) The historical role of technology in the church
  • (23:24) Addressing the challenges of misinformation about AI
  • (31:23) Navigating the potential dangers of AI reliance
  • (35:04) AI’s role in future religious landscapes
  • (43:06) Cross-referencing different Bible translations for a deeper understanding
  • (45:15) Embracing the potential good of technology
  • (52:09) How to participate in the upcoming theology camp

Join us as we delve into the fascinating intersection of theology, artificial intelligence, and the future of the church.

Resources & Links

Cassandra Robinson
Professor James F. McGrath