Paul L. Caron

Sunday, March 12, 2023

Was The Sermon You Heard At Church Today Written By ChatGPT?

Axios, Religious Leaders Experiment With ChatGPT Sermons:

Bible ChatGPTReligious leaders are dabbling in ChatGPT for sermon writing, and largely reaching the same conclusion: It's great for plucking Bible verses and concocting nice-sounding sentiments but lacks the human warmth that congregants crave. ...

  • Early sermon-writing experiments have shown that ChatGPT can pull together cogent and relevant thoughts from religious texts and eminent theologians, plus turns-of-phrase that seem stirring and poignant.
  • A consensus seems to be emerging that ChatGPT can alleviate some of the religious leaders' more routine or repetitive tasks — such as explaining particular holidays — while freeing them for more meaningful spiritual counseling.

What they're saying: "It's really impressive — it's kind of amazing," Ken Sundet Jones, a Lutheran pastor and theology professor in Des Moines who posed the Lazarus question, told Axios.

  • Yes, but: While "Pastor ChatGPT" can do "an adequate job of assembling a string of facts and propositions about a topic," it's a "bit of a didactic bore" and "no real preacher," Jones wrote.
  • Plus "it can't do visitation, like meat-and-potatoes pastors do," he tells Axios. ...

Todd Brewer, managing editor of a religious publication called Mockingbird, had a similar take after asking ChatGPT to write a Christmas sermon "based upon Luke’s birth narrative, with quotations from Karl Barth, Martin Luther, Irenaeus of Lyon, and Barack Obama."

  • "The AI sermon is better than several Christmas sermons I've heard over the years," Brewer wrote in an essay.
  • "Devoid of any obvious heresy, the AI even seems to understand what makes the birth of Jesus genuinely good news."

Los Angeles Times, Can Religion Save Us From Artificial Intelligence?:

Sometimes Rabbi Joshua Franklin knows exactly what he wants to talk about in his weekly Shabbat sermons — other times, not so much. It was on one of those not-so-much days on a cold afternoon in late December that the spiritual leader of the Jewish Center of the Hamptons decided to turn to Artificial Intelligence.

Franklin, 38, who has dark wavy hair and a friendly vibe, knew that OpenAI’s new ChatGPT program could write sonnets in the style of Shakespeare and songs in the style of Taylor Swift. Now, he wondered if it could write a sermon in the style of a rabbi.

So he gave it a prompt: “Write a sermon, in the voice of a rabbi, about 1,000 words, connecting the Torah portion this week with the idea of intimacy and vulnerability, quoting Brené Brown” — the bestselling author and researcher known for her work on vulnerability, shame and empathy.

The result, which he shared that evening in the synagogue’s modern, blond wood sanctuary and later posted on Vimeo, was a coherent, if repetitive talk that many in his congregation guessed had been crafted by famous rabbis.

“You’re clapping,” Franklin said after revealing that the sermon he’d just delivered was composed by a computer. “I’m terrified.” ...

Franklin ... said that his experiment with ChatGPT has ultimately left him feeling that the rise of AI could have an upside for humanity.

While artificial intelligence may be able to mimic our words, and even read our emotions, what it lacks is the ability to feel our emotions, understand our pain on a physical level, and connect deeply with others, he said.

“Compassion, love, empathy, that’s what we do best,” he said. “I think that chat GPT will force us to hone those skills and become, God willing, more human.”

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