By Canon Gerry Conroy

There has been a lot of interest recently in the press about Artificial Intelligence and the threat that it may or may not pose to humanity. Even the recent G7 meeting put the issue on its agenda starting discussion about whether or not legislation was needed to control its development. It is quite a startling development because any technological advance was until recently greeted with cries of unreflective approval. Technological advance was seen as progress; now perhaps for the first time since the Luddite riots technological advance is questioned as being inimical to progress.

I find that interesting because also for the first time in many a year, the question of values seems to have an opening into the arena as a serious player when it comes to discussing the nature of progress. And if values themselves again become a subject of discussion about progress then the question of sin also might not be too far behind. If the question of value has any place in the discussion about our future, then we must also discuss what it means to be human and that discussion must surely include a discussion about God who has been for a long time barred from any public discourse, it must include God and his place in our understanding of what it means to be human. When we talk about God we must also talk about the nature of sin because we must talk about our relationship with God. That is to understand that to talk about sin isn’t simply to talk about our actions, it is to talk about where we stand in the world, where we as human beings fit into the universe. To understand what that means from a faith perspective we must go back to the story of Adam and Eve who wanted to arrogate to themselves the Truth, they wanted to decide what was right and what was wrong, to say what was sin and what was not. In other words they wanted their independence even from reality as God created it. When Christ gave the power to forgive sins to the Church, he was entrusting to them the guardianship of the Truth. Christ was not giving the power to decide what was right and what was wrong to the Church, he wasn’t allowing them to create Truth; the Church was merely to be the voice of the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Truth. In its teachings the Church is to guide us to understand more fully that Truth that gives life, that Truth that sets us free.

But this is not to be only a Truth that is spoken, it is also to be a Truth that is lived. Our lives must be lived consistently, according to the Truth and when it isn’t that is sin. One big problem with our modern way of life is that we live our lives not according to what is True , but that we claim the only truth we can know is in how we choose to live our lives; we create the truth for ourselves. So people give importance and value to their life by what they choose to do. Often these things are good in themselves but they are limited to themselves, they lack an openness to the Infinite, to God; they give themselves to such things as their family or their work and think that is the only place to find meaning and purpose. These things are not bad, but to say that these things are the only truth we can know, to turn such things into the Truth is to deny the Truth which is greater than these and to which these things should lead us.

Christ gives us the Spirit of Truth so that we may keep God before us. God’s Spirit has been given to us to open our lives to the infinite and to God; so that we can come to know the full wonder and beauty of God and what he has created; that is where we come to know and live the Truth.

Canon Conroy is parish priest of St Patrick’s and St Peter’s in Dumbarton and is soon to move to the University of Glasgow as chaplain.

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