Christmas is not canceled

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Photo credit: Adoration of the shepherds – Matthias Stomer (Wiki)

Christmas is not postponed or canceled. With the upsurge of COVID-19 cases in recent weeks all over the world, countries, and cities which have been gradually relaxing their pandemic restrictions for the Christmas season are restricting their prevention measures again. This has been a roller coaster year where the pandemic plays a game of ups and downs with the nations. Countries that have declared themselves pandemic free a few months ago are experiencing an upsurge of cases. The emergency rollout of the new vaccines is a light in an otherwise dark year. The restriction of preventive rules will result in churches holding services for a smaller number of members or only having online services. The normal Christmas cheer of frenzy shopping, partying, and caroling will be restricted or dampened. This has led to some news media to report that ‘Christmas this year is canceled’.

Christmas which derived from the Middle English word of Christ’s Mass is actually a celebration of an event that happened more than two thousand years ago. It celebrates the birth of Jesus Christ to Mary and Joseph in Bethlehem. This is a fact and cannot be canceled, no matter how much spin we apply to it. The celebration of Christmas cannot be canceled. Christmas celebration is not the holiday merrymaking, shopping, Christmas trees and presents, caroling, special church services, or family gatherings. It is a celebration because many years ago when the shepherds in the field heard that the savior was born and found that it is true. This savior, named Jesus is God incarnate. He is fully God, yet fully human. This is a step in the redemption of all human beings to do what we cannot, but made possible by God; the salvation of all humankind. The celebration of Christmas happens in the reconciliation of the relationship of all of mankind and God, and all of mankind with one another. Hence the refrain: ‘Peace on earth and goodwill to men’. This type of celebration cannot be canceled or postponed, not even during a pandemic. This pandemic has shut down the cultural trappings of the Christmas season, leaving with us only the basics in lockdown. However, the basics are more than enough. Christian celebration is Immanuel, roughly translated as God with us.

We are not the first generation to be shut down by a global pandemic. There have been many pandemics in the past, and many more will come until Jesus comes again. The second coming of Jesus is the other reason we celebrate Christmas. Jesus’ second coming will bring to an end all suffering and tears. In the meantime, let us be grateful that we survived the pandemic so far. As we slow down to the end of the year, let us reflect on the year with gratefulness. There is always something to be grateful for. And we shall bring this gratefulness into the New Year. We shall enter the New Year with gratefulness and high expectations. We shall carry on and adapting to the new circumstances. Human normalcy is adapting to change. Hence there is no new or old normalcy. A wise man once said, “What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun.” We shall learn to cope and even to thrive in this Christmas season.

Julian of Norwich, an English mystic, encouraged us with “But all will be well, and all will be well, and every kind of thing will be well.” It was not some idealistic saying but one born of experience and pain. Julian lived during the times of the Black Death (1348-1350). According to her book Showings (the long version), Julian spent 15 years and more walled up in her cell against a church wall, immersed in a deep, faithful struggle to understand the meaning of these words. Her conclusion was that human beings will survive and thrive, not because of their own efforts, but by the Love of God. Such is the message of Christmas.

Finally let us not forget the poor, the sick, and the marginalized amongst us. It is too easy to forget them as we strive to be safe and to survive. They are the ones who suffer the most in any pandemic. The socio-economic consequences of the pandemic have driven many people below the poverty line. Financial giving to many non-governmental agencies and faith-based organizations have nose-dived. The need is greater than ever. If you have survived or even thrived in this first year of the pandemic, be grateful, and think of giving to those who have not. Christmas is not canceled.

Christian Considerations on the COVID-19 Vaccines

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After almost a year of socio-political disruption caused by the SARS-CoV-2 RNA virus, some vaccines have received emergency approval for use in the vulnerable and general population. Some countries have received and have begun to vaccinate their people, while others are anxiously awaiting the arrival of the vaccines. Christians and Christian faith communities are facing a new dilemma. Should they and the families receive the COVID-19 vaccination? This is not about being anti-vax or vaccine resister. This is about making a choice.
Firstly, helping and protecting the sick, the poor, and the vulnerable has always been part of the Christian mandate. In the past few months, most Christians have been part of the public health program acting to contain the spread of infection and treating the infected by participating in lockdowns, hand washing, social distancing, and wearing face masks. These measures in some countries have managed to control the spread of the infection and prevent healthcare facilities from being overwhelmed. It bought time for health care measures to be put in place. Though not all Christians agree to these measures, by and large, most are involved and some have sacrificed their lives. Christians count among the numerous deaths among the healthcare workers. Pre-COVID-19 pandemic, vaccination is one of the most effective forms of public health measures and has achieved a drastic lowering of childhood death rate in the last few decades. Smallpox has been eradicated and polio almost. The COVID-19 vaccine should be perceived as something helpful in public health measures in protecting the vulnerable and the community.


Secondly, the rapid development of the vaccine is a testimony to international scientific collaboration and funding. There are four categories of COVID-19 vaccines: (1) Vaccine virus (inactivated virus), (2) Protein-based virus (viral particles), (3) Viral vector vaccines (non-replicating viral vector), and (4) Nucleic Acid Vaccine (RNA vaccine). The first three vaccine types are not unknown and are the reasons for the successful vaccination program in primary healthcare. What most Christians and others are concerned about is the RNA vaccine.

The RNA vaccine is produced by totally new technology. One of the concerns is about the short time in development. Research on vaccines for SARS, H1N1 Influenza, and Ebola is quite advanced for many years. The search for the RNA vaccine did not has to start from scratch. The scientists just used the SARS-CoV-2 virus with existing technology to produce the vaccine. So counting existing templates, the development of the vaccine is a few years, not a few months.


The RNA from the RNA vaccine acts outside the nucleus to produce proteins for the body to react and develop immunity against. The RNA does not enter the nucleus and interacts with the DNA and cause mutations. The RNA degenerates in the body after a few minutes.

The safety and efficacy of the RNA vaccine are yet to be fully established. In the phase 3 trials of a large number of people, so far it is shown to be safe and has remarkable efficacy (more than 95%). These trials are less than 3 months old so data on long term immunity, prevention of spread in the community, and long term safety is not available. Lacking any measures to adequately protect the vulnerable such as those above 60 years old and the frontliners, the RNA vaccine seems to be an acceptable risk.


Thirdly, the distribution cold chain of the RNA vaccine is a major concern. The Pfizer/BioNTech RNA vaccine needs to be stored at -70° C. There a few places on this planet with facilities to store at this temperature. Dry ice does not work. Any temperature above -70°C even for a short time will inactivate RNA rendering the vaccine useless. Unless there is in place the facilities to maintain the cold chain from the manufacturing plants to the distant rural clinics, there are concerns about using this vaccine. Giving people an inactivated vaccine will create a false sense of security and may do more harm than good.

Fourthly, there should be equitable distribution of the vaccine. In the past, high and middle-income countries tend to get the vaccine first before the lower-income countries. COVAX is a consortium of middle and lower-income countries formed to ensure fair distribution of vaccines. It effectiveness remains to be seen as we see already see the rollout of RNA vaccines in the high-income countries but not the low-income ones.


Finally, there are some who teach that receiving the COVID-19 vaccine is receiving the Mark of the Beast. There are numerous ways these teachers arrive at this conclusion, least of this is that CORONA is 666, and Bill Gates of Melinda and Gates Foundation has incorporated microchips in the RNA vaccine. In the Book of Revelation in the bible, the Mark of the Lamb (Rev.7:3) preceded the Mark of the Beast. In context, receiving the Mark of the Beast is a conscious choice to turn away from God. It is inconceivable anyone would associate the COVID-19 vaccine with the Mark of the Beast.


Christians are to act well, protect the weak and vulnerable, help the poor, and love their neighbors. The COVID-19 vaccine seems to be a light in a dark COVID year. Christians have one more measure for healthcare and that is prayer. Christians should not neglect the most powerful of these resources. While praying for the vulnerable and concerns about the vaccine, Christians should also consider whether they will choose to be vaccinated and if so, with which vaccine. Furthermore, churches should be considering getting vaccines for the poor and vulnerable in their communities if their government is not providing the vaccine free.

I AM Gate

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What does Jesus means when he said: “I AM the gate to eternal life”? Exploring this concept with glimpses of Celtic Christianity. And lots of information about sheep.

When You Are Old

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This is the best quote I have heard about growing old

When they asked her to reveal her beauty secrets, Audrey Hepburn wrote this beautiful text that was later read at her funeral.

To have attractive lips, speak kind words. To have a loving look, look for the good side of people. To look skinny, share your food with the hungry. To have beautiful hair, let a child cross it with his own fingers once a day. To have a beautiful poise, walk knowing you’re never alone, because those who love and loved you accompany you. People, even more than objects, need to be fixed, spoiled, awakened, wanted and saved: never give up on anyone. Remember, if you ever need a hand, you’ll find them at the end of both your arms.

When you become old, you will discover that you have two hands, one to help yourself, the second to help others. The beauty of a woman is not in the clothes she wears, in her face or in her way of fixing her hair. The beauty of a woman is seen in her eyes, because that is the door open to her heart, the source of her love. The beauty of a woman doesn’t lie in her makeup, but the true beauty in a woman is reflected in her soul. It is the tenderness that gives love, the passion that it expresses. The beauty of a woman grows over the years ′′

As I meditate and think about growing old, here are four movements of the Holy Spirit that will help us.

Bread of Life

The seven “I AM” statements of Jesus is a series of most profound statements in the Bible.

1.Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty. (John 6:35)

2.When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”(John 8:12)

3.I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. He will come in and go out, and find pasture. (John 10:9)

4.“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.”(John 10:11)

5.Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die.”(John 11:25-26)

6.Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6)

7.The Vine “I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5)

I will like to share a sermon I preached on the bread of life.

Seven Ingredients of the Bread of Life for Kingdom Living

  1. Forever Young (Eternal Bread)
  2. Keeping in Touch (Spiritual Bread)
  3. EnJOY your Makan/Food (Physical Bread)
  4. Freedom from Fear and Anxiety (Emotional Bread)
  5. Rich Dad, Poor Dad (Financial Bread)
  6. One Anothering  (Social Bread)
  7. Sharing Good News (Sharing Bread) • •

Intimacy with God is Painful

The heart of Christian spirituality is the Presence of God with the Love of God. The narratives of the heroes of faith in the bible are full of examples of the intimacy of men and women with God. Abraham and Sarah had a meal with God under the oaks tree in Mamre. Moses spoke to God face to face, and even got a glimpse of God from behind! Jacob wrestled with God and was handicapped. Joseph visited with God in his dreams. Samuel was awaked by God’s voice calling his name, and Elijah on the mountains, a quiet voice. David danced, sung, and played music for God. These people and the prophets shared an intimacy with God that is astonishing. God, the creator, enjoying intimacy with his creatures is a great mystery; one even angels seek to understand.

Is this intimacy for these chosen few or is the intimacy available for all of God’s people? Jesus, in using the metaphor of a vine plant and it branches implies that this intimacy is for everyone. The precondition as the metaphor taught is how attached the branch is to the vine. Elsewhere, Jesus talks about grafted branches. Hence, we can deduce that the Presence and Love of God is for all God’s people. Unfortunately, nowadays, many understood this intimacy and love as grace. Grace is a free undeserved gift from God. It is one way, from God who loves and forgives, to us. Intimacy with God is two way. That is why the biblical writers use sexual union between a man and a woman as the metaphor of intimacy with God. The Song of Songs is a key book in the bible on this.

Intimacy with God is not romantic love. Romantic love is often just lust. Intimacy with God is opening and sharing with God our innermost being which is our souls. Christian spiritual teachers taught about union with God. That is why intimacy with God may be costly and painful. Of this deeper aspect of the spiritual life, Teresa of Avila, both in her autobiography and her book The Interior Castle described it well. In her autobiography, Teresa of Avila recorded her vision of an angel with a golden arrow which tip seems to be on fire. She shared, “It was as if he bored into me several times with the arrow, through my heart, and when he withdrew the arrow again, it was as if the most inner part of my heart was drawn out. He finally left me, on fire with a fervent love for God. The wound was so great that it caused me to moan in pain; but the joy caused by this pain was so effusive that it was impossible for me to want to be free of it, or that I will be content with anything less than God”. Teresa commented on the pain was joyful as the arrow was withdrawn taking a piece of her heart with it. What is more is that she described the pain as a longing for more of God; that the piece of her heart that is stuck on the flaming arrowing is crying out for more and more of God’s love.

Ecstasy of St. Teresa of Avila, marble sculpture by Gianlorenzo Bernini (1647-52). (Rome, S. Maria della Victoria)

photo source: Wikipedia

We often think of intimacy with God as bible reading, praying, and serving God. We treat these activities as transactions we do to repay God for his grace. That is not what true Christian spirituality is. True Christian spiritual is falling in love with God. Sometimes this intimacy is painful as all true intimacy are. We cannot truly give of ourselves unless we allow ourselves to be vulnerable. That means to feel the pain that intimacy with God may bring. C.S.Lewis wrote about our yearnings as if distinct music from behind a closed door stirred memories of a distant land which is our real home. It is more than that. It is the yearning for the love and presence of a loved One who is far away which is sometimes painful with loss. Moses, Sarah, and others enjoyed their intimacy with God. It must be appreciated that this intimacy also come with pain for each one of them.

Intimacy with God is not for mystics only. As Karl Rahler noted long ago, all Christians are mystics. Intimacy with God is for all Christians as we grow deeper in our spiritual lives. There is a tendency to trivialize intimacy with God in our churches today and replace it with activism. The sad consequence of that is that we will end up with very shallow Christians with deep spiritual hunger for God that is not satisfied.

HALO universe

I love exploring shared world-building universes. HALO is a series of award-winning video games on X-Box. In fact, it is one of the only two reasons why I bought an X-Box. The other being The Gears of War. Otherwise, I will stick to my PS4. Other than the games, which are being released way too slowly, there are numerous novels, comics, and fan-based Youtube events to keep us occupied.

I especially love novels that expand the events before and after the games itself. Just finished the latest, HALO renegade which leaves me hungering for more.


Here is a list of HALO books in their reading order

https://wottaread.com/halo-books-in-order/

Honor and Shame in Paul’s Message and Mission

Review: Reading Romans with Eastern Eyes: Honor and shame in Paul’s message and mission by Jackson Wu. Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic Press, 2019

Eastern culture is a high context culture. What this usually means is that Eastern culture is very relational and communal, often described by the honor-shame framework. Within this framework, people in the East interacts with one another through the context of ‘face’ which is reciprocal and debt relationships within a power structure of hierarchy, loyalty, sacrifice, ascribed and achieved honor, and shame. This is often contrasted to the Western guilt-innocence framework. Jackson Wu (not his real name), a Westerner who have lived two decades in East Asia, examined Paul’s message and mission in Romans through the Eastern honor-shame framework. Jackson seeks to find “[h]ow did Paul’s theology serve the purpose of his mission within an honor-shame context?”(p.3).

Recent scholarship in ancient Near East (ANE) studies, and the new perspective on Paul (NPP) have placed Paul solidly in the Eastern honor-shame cultural context. East Mediterranean cultures are closer to the eastern cultures than to the present day Western cultures. The bible is rich with honor and shame narratives. Jackson’s project was to place Paul’s Romans into this honor-shame narrative. He identifies numerous passages that Paul’s overview of sin carries “far more honor-shame overtones than is often recognized.” (p.3). Jackson argues that it is the communal aspects of the Roman church that Paul is appealing to. And that in salvation “God’s reputation is at stake…if Christ did not die, God will be dishonored.” (p.3). Jackson argues that Christ is the filial son who restores honor to God’s kingdom and remove the shame from the human family.

While much of Romans can be understood from the aspect of relationship and community, and many passages do support that, the main concern is how Jackson deals with justification in Romans. Jackson suggests that justification may be explained by relationship as in the loyalty due to a king and to be justified means to restore back into the kingdom. However, in Romans 4-6, Paul’s understanding of justification was based on covenant keeping. Covenant is a metaphor more for a law court rather than a honor-shame setting. It will be difficult to understand justification in Romans without legal concepts of guilt and punishment. Credit must be given to Jackson for his attempt to explain justification as the process by which Christ regains God’s honor and glory. The honor-shame framework is based on privilege and power. To explain justification using the honor-shame framework is imply that Paul’s understanding of justification was just a process of manipulating privilege and power. Scot McKnight, in his contextual reading of Romans in Reading Romans Backwards, argues that Paul’s gospel was to deconstruct privilege and power in the lived theology of the church in Rome at that time.[1]

Jackson has contributed much to help the West to understand the Eastern worldview of honor-shame framework and his insights are invaluable. To study Paul and Romans through cultural and worldview perspectives are challenging.  Paul, though a well-trained Pharisee, grew up in a Greco-Roman world. He moves through both these totally different worlds with ease. The former are closer to honor-shame culture while the latter, guilt-innocence one. Paul addressed Romans to both Jews and Greek/Gentile. Jackson is helpful in guiding us to view Romans though the Eastern honor-shame lens. However, Paul’s message and mission in Romans, perhaps may be best understood only if we read it through both Eastern and Western eyes.


[1] Scot McKnight, Reading Romans Backwards: A gospel of peace in the midst of empire, Waco, TX: Baylor University Press, 2019 p.68-76.

Bondage of Fear During the Pandemic

We are living in fear. One tiny RNA virus named SARS-CoV-2, averaging 0.125 micron in length, brought our civilization as we know it to its knees and caused great health and socio-economic disruptions. With the COVID-19 pandemic infecting 35 million people with more than a million deaths, all of us irrespective of our social status, ethnicity or country’s healthcare level of care are at risk. Especially vulnerable are those who are over 65 years of age with co-morbidities. Countries, states and cities are forced into lockdowns where everyone is confined to their homes to prevent the spread of the virus. The economic ramifications of the lockdowns with retrenchments, closing of companies and millions falling below the poverty line is a sad unfolding drama. For many of us, our fear is our constant companion in these times. We are fearful of our health, our safety, our future and of the future of our communities. After about seven months, this fear has permeated into our subconscious and is manifesting as irritability, anger, anxiety and depression. Often we do not know why we are feeling the way we do. Some people have cleverly named it “Covid-19 fugue” but it is actually a bondage of fear. This bondage of fear kept us blind to the very thing we need – hope.

Zephaniah, a minor prophet speaking at a time of great socio-economic disruptions caused by the Babylonian conquest (death, pestilence, famine), noted, “The LORD your God is with you, the Mighty Warrior who saves. He will take great delight in you; in his love he will no longer rebuke you, but will rejoice over you with singing” (Zephaniah 3:17 NIV). While we are in bondage, it is easy to lose sight of the Lord who offers hope. Instead, we are drawn into the downward spiral of fear, anger and anxiety to deep depression. This depression is different from the medical condition depression which needs expert psychiatric/psychological help and sometimes medications. This depression caused by the bondage of fear is caused by our present circumstances, the resilience of our spirits, and the power of principalities and power that hold sway in this fallen world.

Paul writing to the Corinthian Christians who lived in a world similar to ours with its natural and socio-political disruptions explained how to break the bondage of fear in 2 Corinthians 10:3–5 (NIV)

3 For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. 4 The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. 5 We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.

With the spiritual weapons supplied by the Holy Spirit, we can take responsibility for our mental health by breaking the bondage of fear. There are three steps we can take to break this bondage of fear.

First, we name the fear. Naming, in the biblical sense, is knowing. We have many fears so it is helpful for us to ask the Holy Spirit to help us identify or name them. Then we subject each of these fears to the following rubric.

  1. A fear situation where we have control and can act – situation mastery

This is a situation where we have the ability to control and to take action. One example is washing hands, wearing masks, staying at home, social distancing and attending services online. Here we have situation mastery. There is no need to fear being infected by the virus.

2. A fear situation where we can’t control but can act – ceaseless striving

A situation where we can do something but are in a situation where we have no control over. One example is a person suffering from cancer. That person has no control over the cancer in his/her body. However, the person can do something about seeking treatment. Often, many people are not satisfied with sticking to the treatment of a medical oncologist. They will try alternative medical treatments, faith healings, herbs and even some obscure claims from the internet. This is ceaseless striving. Our fear drives us to keep striving, often in vain.

3. A fear situation where we can control but can’s act – accepting

Here is a situation where we have control but can’t act. This is often a very fearful situation as our natural instinct is to do something. Not being able to do anything is very stressful and anxiety provoking. One example is if we own a hotel, we have total control over the total operations of the hotel. Unfortunately, our hotel is in a country or city under pandemic lockdown. We cannot act to get guests because of the movement control order. We fear that we will lose the hotel to the bank. Millions of business owners, especially the smaller ones, live with this fear. It is also likely that many churches will be closing because of the pandemic.

4. A fear situation where we can’t control and can’t act –letting go

There are situations we find ourselves in that we have no control over and there is nothing we can do about it. Some of us live in fear for our loved ones who live in another country or city. We not only worry for their safety but we fear for them too. These are very fearful situations but if we are able to name them, we can break the bondage of these fears.

Second step after naming our fears is to befriend them. If our fear falls under the category of situation mastery, do something about it. We will find that the hold fear has on us, as we do something about the situation, lessening. In the ceaseless striving category, we should choose to be realistic and not just act to do something. In the last two category, it is about accepting and let the Lord do what He has purposed for our lives. This is where trust and hope come in.

The third and final step is to continue praying. Fear will always try to keep us in bondage and away from our trust and hope in God. We have to be vigilant in our thinking. Do not be distracted and let our thoughts be drawn to where our fears dwell, especially in ceaseless striving and areas where we must let go and let God. It is so easy to be drawn back into the bondage of fear. Paul has the antidote for us in Philippians 4:6–8 (NIV)

6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. 8 Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.

We are living in difficult and fearful times. Frederick Buechner in Beyond Words: Daily Readings in the ABC’s of Faith writes, “Here is the world. Beautiful and terrible things will happen. Don’t be afraid.” It is easy to let our fears take control of our lives. We may be living in bondage to fear without knowing it. God has given us the means to break this bondage and the freedom to live with our fears. The key is trust and hope in the Lord. May we live in freedom from fear. Reinhold Niebuhr’s Serenity Prayer is a good guard against living in bondage of fear.

God, give me grace to accept with serenity

the things that cannot be changed,

Courage to change the things

which should be changed,

and the Wisdom to distinguish

the one from the other.

Living one day at a time,

Enjoying one moment at a time,

Accepting hardship as a pathway to peace,

Taking, as Jesus did,

This sinful world as it is,

Not as I would have it,

Trusting that You will make all things right,

If I surrender to Your will,

So that I may be reasonably happy in this life,

And supremely happy with You forever in the next.

Amen.

Intelligent Thoughts on Artificial Intelligence (AI)

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source: economictimes.indiatimes.com

John Wyatt, pediatrician and research scientist, conducted an excellent webinar on “Artificial Intelligence and the Future of Healthcare”. This webinar is part of a helpful series of webinar by International Christian Medical Dental Association (ICDMA) which has been held weekly since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Focusing on healthcare, Wyatt highlighted the rapid progress Artificial Intelligence (AI) has made in healthcare. Initially using machine learning on algorithms and pattern recognition, it improved much since them. AI now appears in the real world as Babylon, a phone app that diagnoses medical conditions better than general practitioners (GP) in the UK and Woebit, another phone app that talks and courage the depressed. This is only the visible part of the iceberg. Thousands of AI is already embedded in medical devices and robotic machines in the hospitals and is actively engaged in diagnosis, ensuring patient safety, and even in surgery. Wyatt’s Christian response to AI in healthcare is that AI do not provide the human solidarity that face to face with another human being provides.

John Lennox, apologist and mathematician, wrote in his 2020 book 2084: Artificial Intelligence and the Future of Humanity about the rapid rise of AI especially since 2012 with deep learning, the evolving of neural networks seems to be beyond human understanding. While acknowledging the use for AI in a wider perspective in general especially in our social media, surveillance, big data, and self-driving cars, Lennox is careful to point out:

It is clearly one thing to try to build AI systems that seek to mimic aspects of what the human mind can do; it is an entirely different thing to try to recreate what it feels to be human. Consciousness bars the way (kindle 153, 2020).

Lennox made the argument that (1) AI can mimic the human mind in thinking but (2) AI cannot have what we call consciousness. AI with pattern recognition and algorithm needs a lot of data input before it can ‘think’. Even in deep learning, it will need to be programmed with millions of possible outcomes before it provide an outcome of its own. Hence AI ‘thinking’ is different from human thinking. As one AI expert pointed out, a young child can be taught what an elephant is by giving that child one picture of an elephant. An AI will need input of millions of photos of elephant just to be able identify the animal. The other argument is that an AI cannot have a consciousness or a soul no matter the type of programming it receives. Consciousness is what distinguish a living human brain and a dead human brain.

One discussion that Lennox gave a lot of space to is whether AI can evolve into a superintelligence like God. Lennox argues against that stating the created cannot surpass the creator. In my article Artificial Intelligence and God I offered a different argument. A superintelligence, if it is even possible to build, cannot transcend space and time. Whether it will possess the will to power and dominate like human beings is best left to science fiction writers and their dystrophic futures.

AI is an emerging technology and as responsible stewards, we are to control and guide its development. Like any technology, AI has the potential to improve human flourishing. It also has the potential for human destruction. Therefore, like any technology, it should be use to serve human beings