The Martin Luther Chatbot

The Martin Luther Chatbot March 27, 2024

Around this time last year, a 20-year-old Muslim student in India named Raihan Khan loaded the Quran into an AI chatbot program.  The result was QuranGPT, which has since attracted hundreds of thousands of users seeking guidance from Islam’s holy book.  This has inspired a host of other so-called “Godbots” that purport to give religious guidance based on Artificial Intelligence.

So reports Webb Wright in the Scientific American, no less, in his article God Chatbots Offer Spiritual Insights on Demand. What Could Go Wrong?

He writes about the religious use of Artificial Intelligence technology, including how it greatly facilitates Bible translation.  As for the Godbots, he gives the perspective both of their programmers and their critics, both theological and technical:

Chatbots trained on religious texts “are going to carry some of the same defects that all large language models have at the moment, the biggest of which is hallucinations,” says Noreen Herzfeld, a professor of theology and computer science at Saint John’s University in Minnesota. “They’re going to make stuff up. And if people then believe that what these models are spouting is actually in the Quran or in the New Testament, they could be severely misled.”. . .

“A chatbot is just a correlation machine,” says Beth Singler, an anthropologist specializing in AI and an assistant professor of digital religions at the University of Zurich. “It takes the corpus [of text], remixes the words and puts them next to each other in terms of their probability of what word follows the next…. That’s not the same as understanding and explaining a doctrine.”

Muslims have Quranbot, Buddhists have Buddhabot, Hindus have GitaGPT, and Christians have Bible.Ai, Apostle Paul AI,  and a host of Jesus chatbots.  And yes, there is a Godbot in which you can chat with Martin Luther.

So I had to try it out.  Having just read Sasse’s This Is My Body–which I’ll blog about tomorrow on Maundy Thursday–I asked this cyber-Luther “how is the body and blood of christ present in holy communion?”

The body and blood of Christ are truly and substantially present in the bread and wine of Holy Communion. This is not mere symbolism or a spiritual presence, but a miraculous reality that occurs through the power of Christ Himself during the consecration of the elements by the priest. When we partake of the sacrament, we are partaking of the true body and blood of Christ, which brings us closer to Him and nourishes our souls. This is a mystery of the faith that we must accept with humility and reverence.

Not bad, though it says nothing about the connection of the sacrament to the Word, the Gospel, or the forgiveness of sins, though I suppose my question just focused on Christ’s presence.  So I asked, “What happens in holy communion?”

In Holy Communion, we believe that the true body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ is present in, with, and under the elements of bread and wine. This is not a physical or material presence, but a spiritual and sacramental presence that is received by faith. When we partake of the bread and wine in the Lord’s Supper, we are communing with Christ himself, receiving his grace, forgiveness, and the strengthening of our faith. It is a sacred and holy meal in which we are united with Christ and with one another as members of his body, the Church. Through this simple act of eating and drinking, we are reminded of Christ’s sacrifice for us on the cross and the eternal life he has won for us through his death and resurrection. Holy Communion is a gift from God, a means of grace, and a source of comfort and assurance for all who partake in faith.

Better.  The chatbot avoids the common mistake of saying “consubstantiation,” which non-Lutherans insist on using, even though the Lutheran confessions reject it.  I then asked, “Why wouldn’t you compromise with Zwingli at Marburg?”

I, Martin Luther, could not compromise with Zwingli at the Marburg Colloquy because our theological differences on the doctrine of the Lord’s Supper were too significant. Zwingli held to a symbolic or memorial view of the Eucharist, believing that the bread and wine were only symbols, while I maintained a belief in the real presence of Christ in the sacrament. The issue of Christ’s presence in the Lord’s Supper was a crucial point of disagreement between us, and I could not compromise my convictions on this essential doctrine. I believed that the true body and blood of Christ were truly present in, with, and under the elements of bread and wine, and I could not waver on this central aspect of the faith. For me, the doctrine of the real presence in the Lord’s Supper was a matter of great importance and significance, and I could not compromise on it for the sake of unity.

That sounds like Luther all right!  These are admittedly softball questions.  You try it.  See if you can trip it up.

 

Illustration:  Given the topic, I could not resist generating an AI image.  This is via DeepAI, which hosts the Luther chatbot, to the prompt “Martin Luther Using a Cell Phone,” using the “Surreal” style.  

 

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