AI Jesus in Forward in Christ

So it has been found out that Forward in Christ has been using stock AI photos for the last few covers of their magazine. You can find a vigorous discussion on the WELS Discussions Facebook page. The following two images are from the March and April covers. I made an account with Adobe Stock to download the full resolution images. My license limits me to 500k views, so don't go blowing this post up :)

So let us take a closer look at these photos. March has Jesus praying in what ostensibly appears to be the Mount of Olives. But look at those hands. I think there are three of them - maybe it's a hidden message of the Triune nature of God, but most like it's the fact that AI has yet to successfully traverse the uncanny valley

April is more interesting. Let us start with the obvious - the resurrected Christ has no nail marks in His hands or feet. The AI could not contextualize that the risen Christ was also the crucified Christ. But then let's take a closer look at His hands and feet. The fingers are pointed and almost alien-like, and crooked. And I think I count six toes.

But it gets even weirder. What's that thing behind Mary? It has the shape of a dog but the texture of a plant. A Google Lens search on the image of the cropped creature returns cats, dogs and monkeys.

And in the background of the scene, it almost looks like a shadowy crowd of people in long robes, but the AI textured it in such a way as to blend into the scene - but clearly it isn't the flowers and plants we see to the left and right. The neural network may have had had an association between Jesus and the crowds He often preached to, but the input of being in a garden weighted the texturing such that it bends into the background. It's hard to know - that's kind of the thing about AI. 

And finally, human aesthetics. Forward in Christ clipped the image. Do you see what I see? Yes, it's aesthetically pleasing, following the form of the Fibonacci spiral - but the focus in on Mary, not our Lord and Savior. 

In light of this, it's unfortunate that a memorial on Artificial Intelligence and the Church which was submitted to the synod convention last year did not make the floor for consideration. It is only a matter of time before we move beyond artwork into articles and sermons generated in large part by AI. Maybe we have, already? There are certainly depths to be plumbed in how we as children of God, as logos-beings, interact with an extra-nos "intelligence." What does it mean to vocation when we turn to AI for something that in years past would have been not only generated by a human but would have put food on their table? Is this love for neighbor? What does it mean when we who have the indwelling of the Holy Spirit turn to AI, which has no indwelling of the Holy Spirit but could very well be influenced by forces demonic and otherwise? We confess that God's Word is a performative word when spoken by Pastors in their office and in general by Christians in their vocation. What does it say then if we use AI to try and make our sermons, articles and other means of confessing Christ smooth and palatable or "relevant"?

If the WELS is too cheap to commission artists for their covers, then instead of turning to AI, perhaps they could turn to the riches of our Lutheran heritage. Wikicommons has a large selection of Cranach woodcutsLutheran art, and such. Instead, they have gone the same route many of our churches have gone with the fluff of contemporary worship and modern hymnody replacing the sturdy liturgy and hymns of our heritage.

But it's very convincing? Right?