Writing sermons using ChatGPT?

On the capabilities of artificial intelligence for preaching

von Johannes Justus Jr.

The business magazine Business & People asked the well-known AI “ChatGPT” to write a sermon in my style and asked me what I thought of the result.

Sentences of the AI like “In God’s presence we may find the happiness that knows no bounds. It is a bliss that will never leave us.” I have never used in my life. The magazine has recognised this very well.

The result is not wrong from a theological point of view, but it comes across more like a string of empty phrases. A sermon is always connected to the person – and the question of what what is said means for my life. As a pastor of an evangelical free church, I do not find myself in the AI text. One reason regardless of the pastoral nature of the language: a sermon is not meant to inform, but to transform. The spoken word is meant to bring about change.

Change means, for example, how do I manage to live in the face of death. I think that is the origin of all religions. And certainly not a question that an AI asks itself. Man cannot give himself the word he needs in times of need. And neither can the AI. Because artificial intelligence cannot build a relationship. So it can’t write or speak on a relational level either. As a pastor, I love to share things from my life, make Christian content tangible and ‘pick up’ people in worship. ChatGPT has not experienced anything, nor does it have a goal. The Jewish religious philosopher Martin Buber emphasises relationship when he says: “Only in the You do I become the I. AI is not a you – and therefore cannot be a counterpart.

In other words, artificial intelligence, such as ChatGPT, can produce texts that are correct on a grammatical and semantic level. Yet AI lacks personal experience, emotion and the ability to understand or feel complex human relationships. A sermon that is meant to bring about profound change and strengthen people in their faith requires more than just information. That is precisely what AI cannot do.

But if you ask my colleague Pastor Daniel Schließburg about it, he thinks it’s only a matter of time before AI will also have the ability to imitate that. That remains to be seen.

Click here for the German article:


„KI ist kein Du“

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