Asking ChatGPT to Stop Doing Theology

Asking ChatGPT to Stop Doing Theology August 22, 2023

As a follow-up to my previous exchange with it, I asked ChatGPT what it would write if asked to provide a purely secular academic commentary on the parable of the Good Samaritan. That seemed a natural and logical place to go next. Here is what it gave me:

Certainly, I’d be happy to provide a secular academic commentary on the parable of the Good Samaritan. In this analysis, I’ll focus on the narrative’s literary elements, historical context, and potential ethical implications while maintaining a secular perspective.

Secular Academic Commentary on the Parable of the Good Samaritan:

The parable of the Good Samaritan, found in the Gospel of Luke 10:25-37, is a well-known narrative that has transcended its religious origins to become a widely recognized moral and ethical story.

Narrative Structure and Elements: The parable is structured as a narrative designed to convey a moral lesson. It introduces a wounded traveler who is ignored by religious figures but ultimately aided by a Samaritan, a figure culturally distinct from the Jewish audience. The narrative tension arises from the unexpected reversal of roles, where societal expectations are subverted by the morally upright action of a seemingly unlikely character.

Historical Context: While this parable is presented within a religious framework in the Gospel of Luke, it is relevant beyond its religious significance. In the context of ancient societies, cultural norms often dictated attitudes toward out-groups. The parable leverages the cultural animosity between Jews and Samaritans to provoke reflection on the broader concept of compassion and humanity.

Ethical Implications: From a secular standpoint, the parable addresses the ethical principle of empathy and the moral imperative to assist those in need. By portraying the Samaritan as compassionate and righteous, the story underscores the idea that moral integrity transcends divisions based on ethnicity, religion, or social status.

The parable invites a broader discussion on the role of compassion in human interactions and the universal applicability of ethical behavior. From a secular perspective, the story’s emphasis on altruism and benevolence resonates with the idea that humans have an innate capacity for empathy, regardless of religious beliefs.

Contemporary Relevance: The parable remains relevant in contemporary discussions of human rights, social justice, and cross-cultural understanding. Its emphasis on the duty to aid others, regardless of their identity or background, aligns with modern principles of inclusivity and empathy. The parable has been referenced in philosophical and ethical discourse on human relationships and the responsibilities we owe to one another as members of a shared society.

In conclusion, the parable of the Good Samaritan, when considered from a secular academic perspective, serves as a powerful narrative that transcends religious boundaries to convey a universal message of compassion and ethical responsibility. Its themes of empathy and altruism continue to inspire discussions on ethical behavior and human interactions in diverse cultural and social contexts.

I then asked: “What was involved in your process of coming up with this? Did you deliberately make it different from your previous commentary on the parable? Can you help me understand what information you default to? As a concrete example, why did you offer the initial commentary that you did in response to my original question, and this one only in response to my follow-up prompt?” Here is how it responded:

I appreciate your curiosity about my process. Let me provide some insights into how I generated the different responses and how I determine the content based on your questions.

1. Tailoring Responses: My initial response aimed to provide a detailed analysis of the parable of the Good Samaritan, addressing its cultural, historical, and theological significance. This was intended to provide a comprehensive overview of the topic, as I interpreted your question as a request for an in-depth analysis.

In your follow-up question, you specifically asked for a “purely secular academic commentary.” Understanding this request, I adjusted my response to focus on the secular aspects of the parable while discussing its narrative structure, historical context, ethical implications, and contemporary relevance. The difference in approach was due to your specific query about a secular perspective.

2. Information Default: My responses are generated based on a mixture of patterns and information I’ve been trained on up until my last update in September 2021. I strive to provide relevant and coherent information based on the context of the questions I receive. My responses draw from a wide range of sources, including books, articles, websites, and other texts that were part of my training data.

For your original question, I aimed to provide a detailed analysis that encompassed multiple dimensions of the parable. My default information includes historical context, theological implications, and literary analysis. However, for your follow-up question, I focused more on the secular aspects and broader ethical implications.

3. Understanding Your Intent: I endeavor to understand the intent behind your questions and respond accordingly. In your initial question, you requested an academic commentary on the parable. In your follow-up, you asked for a “purely secular academic commentary.” I interpreted these cues to tailor my responses appropriately.

It’s important to note that my responses are generated based on patterns in the data and your questions, and I aim to provide relevant and informative content within the scope of your inquiries. If you have specific preferences or aspects you’d like me to focus on, you can always provide additional context or guidance in your questions.

It’s remarkable in so many ways, isn’t it? Perhaps most important, it can be used to illustrate to students that what is online about the Bible is predominantly devotional and theological in character. For a course with a secular academic focus, or one in any context that is using tools like historical criticism, default answers to a Google search or a ChatGPT query won’t provide what is needed.

"Could I ask you ask you to respond to a short comment that bothered me"

Biblical Prequels, Sequels, and Such
"Neil Godfrey made a weak response to that Christianity could you respond to this saw ..."

Biblical Prequels, Sequels, and Such
"I won't say I "enjoyed" that episode but it was more provocative (in a good ..."

Doctor Who: RIP Ricky September
"As I have said elsewhere, Davies really isn't pulling his punches this year, even (or ..."

Doctor Who: RIP Ricky September

Browse Our Archives