Art: created by dream.ai (artificial intelligence)
Written by Dan Kim, Pastor, Gum Spring United Methodist Church
Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, left the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness, where for forty days he was tempted by the devil. He ate nothing during those days, and at the end of them he was hungry.
The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, tell this stone to become bread.”
Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone.’”
The devil led him up to a high place and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world. And he said to him, “I will give you all their authority and splendor; it has been given to me, and I can give it to anyone I want to. If you worship me, it will all be yours.”
Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God and serve him only.’”
The devil led him to Jerusalem and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down from here. For it is written:
“‘He will command his angels concerning you
to guard you carefully;
they will lift you up in their hands,
so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’”
Jesus answered, “It is said: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’”
When the devil had finished all this tempting, he left him until an opportune time.Luke 4:1-13
What you see before you is an AI (Artificial Intelligence) generated art from the website dream.ai. All I did was go to the website, input Luke chapter 4, verses 4, 8, and 12 separately into the query, and within a few seconds, a completely unique, one-off, image was produced by a computer program. If you’ve been following the news lately, you will have noticed some headlines that read like “ChatGPT passes Bar exam” or “These jobs are most likely to be replaced by chatbots like ChatGPT” or “AI Generator can turn any subject into a Drake-like song.” Just to explain a few terms here, ChatGPT stands for “Chat Generative Pre-trained Transformer” which uses the principles of AI and can mimic human language in both written and spoken form so well it passes the Turing Test, the gold standard of benchmarks measuring whether a computer program has reached human-level intelligence. In short, Artificial Intelligence has come so far as to being indistinguishable from human-being-created work in the areas of music, poetry, narrative, conversation, and even art. In this devotion, I try to put that to the test.
But this devotion isn’t about AI. It’s about God. It’s about Lent. It’s about the Temptations of Jesus. It’s about Picturing God, a meditation on how an image can help deepen our experience of Lent and our spirituality. However, the reason why I chose to have AI create an image of these passages of scripture is because I wanted to know if I could tell that it was a computer-generated piece of art. I even arranged it into a triptych to try and mimic historical Christian art. I thought for sure this self-proclaimed art critic (I’m not) could tell. Moreover, I presumed that because it wasn’t “handmade” so to speak, I wouldn’t be able to have a prayerful, meditative, and spiritual experience with it. I asked, what, if any, experience of the divine can I have while meditating on what is obviously an artificially created image? Does it even matter?
Here is what happened. I noticed my own humanity being called into question as I mentally down-spiraled into the oblivion that is the anxiety-ridden space of conceiving an AI ruled world. These images were incredible. Each piece was extraordinary. So…human. And then, I thought, could AI preach a sermon? Or write a devotion? Better than me? Yikes! And will AI replace the jobs of the future? How will this new form of intelligence change our workplaces, our home-life, social-life, economies and livelihood? I got lost in these images, not because of the image itself, but because of what they might represent. Kind-of like noticing a piece of graffiti sprayed on an overpass as I drive under it. I’m thinking “How in the world did someone get up there?” And then, as I’m trying to figure-out how, and/or what it says, it becomes a fleeting observation lost within a myriad of distracting thoughts that potentially puts my own life at risk because I’m not paying attention to the road. And then, I realized I was resonating with Luke 4 in a way I had never before.
The temptations of Jesus are attempts to test his humanity. As the devil (tempter) acknowledges the divinity of Jesus and therefore how powerful he really is, the devil instead goes after his humanity; namely his hunger, pride, sense of security and control, and loneliness. The devil presumes Jesus’ humanity as his “weaker” side. Turns out, being human isn’t a weakness to be exploited, but rather due to Jesus’ hypostatic nature, a choice to exhibit the strength and grace of God. In other words, God, in Jesus, does not become weak and temptable because God chooses to be human. Rather, God chooses to become human so that being human might be for us an exhibition of strength in the “imago Dei” and prime example of grace.
Lent is a season that oftentimes reminds me of my humanity, fragility, weakness, and mortality. Funny thing is, the process of writing this devotion did the same thing. It reminded me of my humanity; maybe even a test of my humanity. A humanity that can seem so frail, fragile, weak at times so as to be easily copied by clever programing and call to question God’s firm grip of grace upon me. How can I be so susceptible by the temptations of our world that is constantly offering me an artificial God, when the truth is, I know the authentic incarnation in Jesus, the definitive word of God, who in the beginning said, “Let us make humans in our image…and it was so. God saw everything that he had made, and indeed, it was very good.” (Genesis 1, NRSV). I didn’t expect to have such a wilderness experience with this (does anyone?), but here I am. While I don’t wish such wilderness experiences upon anyone, I hope and pray that you experience such things in light Jesus the Christ found in our Lenten wilderness. Jesus Christ, who has gone through it all the more and comes out choosing to go through it again because that’s what it takes to be with us, always. May the wilderness experiences of our being human be an invitation to surrender to the need of God’s divinity, God’s strength, God’s love, God’s grace. Amen.
Oh, by the way, this whole devotion was written by ChatGPT.
Find previous “Picturing God” entries here:
Art: “Resurrection Icon” Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons Available online at: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Resurrection_(24).jpg Written by Brian Johnson, Pastor of Haymarket…
Art: “Crucifixion of Jesus” drawn by Gustave Doré, engraved by J. Gauchard Brunier. Scanned by Michael Gäbler with Epson Perfection 4490 Photo., Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons Available…
Art: “Madonna and Child with St. Anne” by Caravaggio, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons Available online…
Art: “The Flight Into Egypt” by Ki-chang Kim Written by Hung-Su Lim, Associate Pastor at Trinity United Methodist Church in Richmond, VA “The Flight Into Egypt” by Ki-chang Kim “When the magi…
Art: “The Taking of Christ” by Caravaggio, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons Available online at: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:The_Taking_of_Christ-Caravaggio_(c.1602).jpg …