Date of Award
Doctor of Ministry (DMin)
Ron Clark, DMin
Karen Claassen, DMin
Leonard I. Sweet, PhD
This research offers a semiotic interpretation of Daniel’s prophetic 'mixed iron and clay feet' interpretation from Nebuchadnezzar’s dream. This prophecy may be used to predict a potentially mixed Human-AI culture and its impacts on Christian faith in the age of AI and cyborgs. The Christian faith traditionally has not applied Daniel’s iron-clay feet metaphor to a potentially mixed Human-AI reality. However, I will argue that by employing this semiotic interpretation, we can inform and guide Christ’s Church, which continues to remain grossly unprepared for the questions and challenges raised by a burgeoning Human-AI culture. Knowledge of this topic will prepare the church better to navigate its future.
In a potentially blended Human-AI culture, a significant opportunity exists for the Church to define what it means to be fully human and to provide a redemptive, ethical, and theological framework for the benefit of humanity in the new AI technological age. This dissertation suggests how effective Christian faith can be communicated to a blended Human-AI culture with openness, with loving mission, and maintaining the belief that God—the Alpha and the Omega—is always in control no matter how advanced our technology gets.
Chapter 1 presents a semiotic analysis of the metallic human statue from Nebuchadnezzar’s dream through Daniel’s interpretation in Dan. 2. This leads the reader into a historical journey through the earthly kingdoms represented by the different metallic portions in that human statue—the gold head, the silver chest and arms, the bronze belly and thigh, the iron legs, and the mixed iron-clay feet.
Chapter 2 provides 1) an overview of Biblical scholars’ interpretations of the mixed iron-clay feet metaphor through the historical lens of humanity and 2) a view of the metaphor as a potentially mixed culture between humans and humanoid AI beings, as seen through my own semiotic lens. I will explain why I chose the clay metaphor for human beings and the iron metaphor for humanoid-AI beings and will suggest how this metaphor can be helpful to us today in contemplating our own current and future culture.
Chapter 3 discusses the traditional Christian belief in God’s creation and the rise of humanoid-AI beings through the two most applicable stories controversially debated in our time—the story of the Garden of Eden and the story of the computer lab. This chapter supports my traditional Christian belief in the image of God, the matter of flesh, and the matter of the soul in responding to the question of ‘what does it mean to be fully human in the mixed Human-AI culture?’
Chapter 4 further explores the analysis of what it means to be fully human and asks how the ethical framework, the redemptive framework, and the theological framework of Christianity’s rethinking effectively might work in a mixed Humanoid-AI culture.
Chapter 5 suggests how Christians can turn cultural challenges into opportunities in order to communicate Christian faith and the gospel with openness and with loving kindness by affirming what it means to be human in responding to the question “Are ‘these’ us?” The chapter will also affirm our faith in an Alpha and Omega God, who is always in control no matter what will happen in a future full of mysteries and brokenness.
Chapter 6 will conclude with insights into what I have learned from both science and Christianity that could help us affirm the humanness of humanity in the midst of a potentially mixed Human-AI culture. This chapter will be an open invitation for people to continue discussion into this important area of research and will invite people within the Church today to seek answers for themselves not through human political power, nor through scientific and technological supper intelligence, but through the only Person— the Son of Man and the Son of God—“Jesus Christ who is the same yesterday and today and forever” (Heb. 13:8 NRSV).3
Nguyen, Hoa Huu, "Are "These" Us? A Semiotic View of Mixed Iron-Clay Feet From Daniel 2 in the Age of Artificial Intelligent Technology" (2020). Seminary Doctoral Programs. 382.