Robots in the pulpit
By Paul Bawden
I read an interesting article the other day entitled, “Robots In The Pulpit.”
It was from Breakpoint Daily published by the Colson Center. The article pointed out that one of the Buddhist temples in Kyoto, Japan, is now featuring a new robotic “priest” known as Mandar. Designed to look like Kannon, the Buddhist deity of mercy, the $1 million machine is an attempt to reignite people’s passion for their faith in a country where religious affiliation is on the decline. His sermons are limited at this point where the same sermon is delivered repeatedly. Eventually, its creators hope to use artificial intelligence to enable the robot to offer other options, such as counseling. I understand a few other religions are trying robots as well.
A temple steward told Vox News that, “Buddhism isn’t a belief in a God; it’s pursuing Buddha’s path. It doesn’t matter whether it’s represented by a machine, a piece of scrap metal, or a tree.” In Buddhism, chanting sacred mantras are not prayers to a personal deity. Instead, they are recited for psychological or spiritual benefit.
Don’t miss what the temple steward said, that the “God” of Buddhism isn’t a personal deity. In fact Buddhism believes, along with other Eastern religions, that salvation means being released from the prison of material existence.
I trust, though, that such information should cause all of us to realize that if God isn’t personal and eternal, He isn’t the true God. Any other “God” is only a concoction of man’s reason or a smattering of man’s reason and perhaps something from the Bible or another man’s religion. That’s why the Psalmist understood that the biblical God is the personal eternal God (Psalm 90:1-2). That’s why the biblical God is unique and separate from all other gods.
Sure, one can deny that reality, but denying it doesn’t do away with the existence of the biblical God. It is clear from the Scripture that the personal and eternal God is our Creator and Redeemer through faith in Jesus Christ. The believer in Jesus Christ has forgiveness of sin and eternal life, and through His Word and prayer, he has the privilege to get to know Him personally (Phil. 3:10-14), with the opportunity to serve Him with eternal purpose here, regardless of the task (I Cor. 10:31), while having that eternal hope of someday being with Him forever (I John 3:1-3).
Since the biblical God is the personal eternal God, this means, as well, that the believer’s Savior, Jesus Christ, identifies with him regardless of what he may be experiencing in life. That’s why the writer of Hebrews tells believers that their High Priest, Jesus, sympathizes with them in their weaknesses for He was tempted like they are, yet without sin. That’s why God promised through the prophet, Isaiah, “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; And through the rivers, they will not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be scorched, nor will the flame burn you” (43:2).
Such promises from our the Lord, believers in Christ can claim because of what suffering their Lord went through before and on the cross, being made sin for them who knew no sin. Knowing what believers are experiencing, He identifies with them, encouraging them on to trust and rest in Him.
Michael W. Smith put it this way in his lyrics, “Sovereign Over Us.” “There is strength within the sorrow. There is beauty in our tears, and you meet us in our mourning with a love that casts out fear. You are working in our waiting. You’re sanctifying us. When beyond our understanding, you’re teaching us to trust . . . . You are wisdom unimagined, who could understand your ways. Reigning high above the Heavens, reaching down in endless praise. You’re the lifter of the lowly, compassionate and kind. You surround and You uphold me, and Your promises are my delight. You’re plans are still to prosper. You have not forgotten us. You’re with us in the fire and the flood. You’re faithful forever.”
I trust you know personally the personal and eternal God revealed to us in Jesus Christ (cf. Romans 10:9-13). If He is your Savior, count on His presence being with you at all times (Hebrews 13:5), and be sure to thank Him for His eternal love for you!
Paul Bawden is married and served in the pastoral ministry for 45 years, retiring in 2011. He graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison with a B.A. in Speech and attended Dallas Theological Seminary, receiving a Master of Theology. He has taken counseling courses at Trinity Evangelical Seminary in Deerfield, Illinois. Paul is a lifetime member of the Evangelical Free Church of America, as well as being a member of Interim Pastor Ministries (IPM), which serves churches during their time of transition in searching for a new pastor. He writes for Union Gospel Press, as well as being a volunteer writer for GotQuestions.org. Paul likes to write, read, bike, and work in the yard. The Bawdens have had the privilege to travel to Mexico and Romania on mission trips and visited various countries in Europe.