“Machines, Too, Surrender to the Infinite Intelligence of God”

By Porsha Williams Gates ’15 M.Div.

As an Afro-futuristic podcasting public theologian, I engage the whirlwind of conversation about AI from many perspectives. Amongst my colleagues in podcasting, a large number have found AI to be frightening when it comes to voice replication. Is it possible to use someone’s voice to create a conversation that never happened? Yes. But others have embraced AI as an opportunity. AI tools have significantly reduced the labor required to edit podcasts, for example. 

Listening to the youth, teens, and young adults of Alpha Gen and Gen Z, I hear a different narrative. I hear a chorus of hope and opportunity. These digital natives are approaching AI with a sense of wonder and possibility.

As a person involved in media, I understand the various viewpoints. Yet as a practitioner of faith, I wonder how technology has been exalted to become a new god. Given the polarizing perspectives, where does AI leave us as Christians and people of faith? It is disturbing sometimes to witness the constant desire and demand to have information instantly available at our fingertips. This is not to demonize AI, but it does caution us to pause and reflect on how our attention has narrowed and shortened because of it. 

Divine Timetables

Creating and generating well-produced content takes time. If we need reminding of this, all we need to do is go back again to Genesis, when God first created the world. We find two creation stories when we read the text, yet each depicts a God who took their time and created with intention. And so, what I hear from the elders of my local congregation is worry for future generations. The elders perceive a youthful disregard for time, care, and intention. At the core, I hear a deep groan from what appears to be a lack of connection between the generations. 

However, listening to the youth, teens, and young adults of Alpha Gen and Gen Z, I hear a different narrative. I hear a chorus of hope and opportunity. These digital natives are approaching AI with a sense of wonder and possibility that leads to efficiency and effective time management. AI is an opportunity to ignite their interest in local youth ministries, revealing new ways to connect and serve. With the right AI prompting, it could be effective with worship planning, also as a conversation partner and an idea generator. I even notice aging Millennials talking about how AI has improved their daily tasks by creating schedules, templates, and itineraries. As I perceive it, there is a collective agreement that AI does not replace humanity, but some good can be drawn from it.

For the purposes of ministry, the goal is to embrace it as a tool for the enhancement of community, not the destruction of community. Consider this notion: such tools are only equipped with information that is available on the internet. They are not freethinking devices and cannot generate original ideas in the same way that a human being can. AI is not a substitute for the human imagination. We are a wonderful creation by God, and AI is a creation of humanity. Our creativity, empathy, and ability to connect on a deeper level are irreplaceable, and AI can never take that away from us.

Lessons from a Pandemic

Our collective consciousness and creative powers allow AI tools to thrive. We must build and resource these tools, understanding that they are our helpmates, not our enemies. AI has introduced a space where we can broaden our collective curiosity—and our gospel reach. With skillful programming and an ethical witness, we can use these tools to transform our ministry contexts for the greater good of humanity. We know the impacts of the pandemic widened the gap of our communal disconnections, deepening traumatized self-isolation in many cases. Yet technology has given us new connections through Zoom and other digital video platforms. This serves as a powerful reminder that AI, for all its capabilities, finally relies on our human intelligence and programming. It cannot replicate the unique qualities and contributions that we, as humans, bring to the table. 

This puts a serious responsibility on us: it is critical to continue assessing our relationship with AI. We cannot allow it to become a place for “anti-human” engagement.[1] We should be concerned when children are so deeply connected to their devices that they rely on their technology to communicate with their parents in the next room rather than respond to their human voices.[2]

“The Blueprints of God’s Imagination”

Ultimately, I urge us in the church to be open to the unfolding of technology. We, our divine essence wrapped in human flesh, are always our own first form of technology and communication. To say that the spirit of the living God dwells within us affirms that our souls hold the blueprints of God’s imagination. Machines, digital comms, and gadgets do not function without our intelligence and our programming—they, too, surrender to the infinite intelligence of God. 

The Rev. Dr. Porsha Williams Gates, ’15 M.Div. is an interdisciplinary healing artist, theologian, and social entrepreneur from Bridgeport, CT. She is also the host of the award-nominated Porshanality Podcast and founder of Porshanality Media, LLC.

1. Dr. Itihari Touré, “Sacred Memory, Mending the Calabash,” a community conversation on Zoom hosted by Mount Aery Baptist Church, Bridgeport, CT, April 2024. See her online curriculum publication Mending the Sacred Calabash: Survival, Recovery, Development, Self-Determination (2022).

2. Touré, Zoom event.