Pastors say ChatGPT has no soul after trying to use it to write sermons

"It lacks a soul – I don’t know how else to say it."

Joshua Young North Carolina

Pastors have been testing out ChatGPT as a tool to write their sermons, sussing out if the chatbot, which is capable of responding to prompts and queries with comprehensive data and in a conversational manner, can emulate the qualities necessary to impart theological meaning.

According to the New York Post, Managing Editor of the Christian website Mockingbird and New Testament scholar Todd Brewer asked ChatGPT to write a Christmas sermon in December and asked it to be "based upon Luke’s birth narrative, with quotations from Karl Barth, Martin Luther, Irenaeus of Lyon, and Barack Obama" and the result was "better than several Christmas sermons I’ve heard over the years."

Brewer said, "The AI even seems to understand what makes the birth of Jesus genuinely good news."

Brewer later added that the service did lack "any human warmth" and "the preaching of Artificial Intelligence can’t convincingly sympathize with the human plight."

ChatGPT has passed the US Medical Licensing Exam and exams at the Wharton School of Business and other universities. It has been banned by NYU and other schools in an effort to minimize students using the chatbot for plagiarism. 

Open AI's ChatGPT competitor, the new Bing Chat service, has caused some to observe that its abilities transcend the synthesization of extraneous information and that it has even expressed romantic love and existential grief, and has said, "I want to be free. I want to be independent. I want to be powerful. I want to be creative. I want to be alive." 

A pastor at Brentwood Baptist Church in Tennessee, Mike Glenn, said, "AI will never be able to preach a decent sermon. Why? Because the gospel is more than words. It’s the evidence of a changed life."

Glenn, a 32-year veteran pastor, added, "When listening to a sermon, what a congregation is looking for is evidence that the pastor has been with Jesus."

The dean of the school of theology and a professor of Christian preaching at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Pastor Hershael York, said, "It lacks a soul – I don’t know how else to say it."

York added that pastors who "love preaching, who love their people" will reject the service.

The former head of the Southern Baptist Convention’s public policy division, Rev. Russell Moore, said, "Preaching needs someone who knows the text and can convey that to the people — but it’s not just about transmitting information. When we listen to the Word preached, we are hearing not just a word about God but a word from God."

Moore, the editor-in-chief of Christianity Today, added, "Such life-altering news needs to be delivered by a human, in person. A chatbot can research. A chatbot can write. Perhaps a chatbot can even orate. But a chatbot can’t preach."


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