Challenges to Humanity

Three Ways for Students and Pastors to Use ChatGPT

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Editor's Note:

For a different take, read Jordan Steffaniak's response, Three Reasons Students and Pastors Shouldn't Use ChatGPT.

I can remember the moment at each step in my academic journey when I encountered a piece of technology that revolutionized my workflow. Microsoft Excel. Logos. Siri. OneDrive. iPad and stylus. And now, ChatGPT.

For those unfamiliar with ChatGPT, ChatGPT is an AI chatbot tool. ChatGPT has been “trained” by having access to data on the Internet to provide a text response to a prompt or question. You can almost think of it as a powerful search engine like Google. However, ChatGPT differs from Google by being able to not only answer questions but also complete tasks. ChatGPT can be used to create content such as summaries of long documents or turn your bullet point thoughts into a coherent email.

Maybe you have only heard of ChatGPT as a way to pass off a robot’s work as your own. To be sure, ChatGPT can be used as an unethical shortcut. While such concerns are valid, ChatGPT is first and foremost a tool, which means that it can be harnessed to serve the kingdom or undermine it. Here are three ways you can think about using ChatGPT in your workflow to better steward the responsibilities the Lord has placed before you.

1. Idea Generation

Sometimes creativity can be the hardest part of a sermon or paper to engineer. Instead of staring at a blank screen for hours, you can hound ChatGPT for a nearly unlimited number of ideas. While you can always Google generic ideas, ChatGPT allows you to provide context in order to get an idea customized to your specific situation.

Want to know what a good title slide for your sermon or presentation could be? Ask ChatGPT, “Give me ideas for a graphic on my title slide on my sermon on Matthew 8:1-17 titled ‘Jesus the Healer.’” As a bonus idea, you can take the ideas that ChatGPT generates for you and plug them into Bing Image Creator in order to get an image generated specifically for that prompt!

Can’t think of an illustration for a particularly confusing theological point in your sermon? Ask ChatGPT to provide a couple of illustrations. You can even be more specific with your queries if you want to specifically ask for a historical anecdote or an inspiring missionary story.

ChatGPT can also be used for event ideas. Within five minutes, I was able to have ChatGPT provide ideas for different outing ideas in Wake Forest for a hypothetical group of 20 students with a budget of $500. After I selected an idea, I asked ChatGPT to generate an hourly schedule for me to modify later.

Pastors and students have benefitted throughout the years from technology such as Microsoft Word and Logos. Done properly, ChatGPT and other AI tools are the next step.

2. Research and Analysis

Last semester, I took a Philosophy of Religion class and decided to write on God’s relationship to time. I quickly became mired in discussions about different theories about how time works. I also did not have a background in philosophy, so the style and vocabulary of the journal articles quickly became difficult to decipher.

That’s when I thought about using ChatGPT. When I encountered a difficult section of text, I would paste the text into ChatGPT and ask for a summary. If I had any specific questions about technical terms, I could quickly and easily ask ChatGPT to define a term or elaborate on some relevant background to the discussion. Then, if I wanted to use an argument from that article, I would paste my summary of the argument into the ChatGPT and ask if I had appropriately summarized the argument.

Of course, when using ChatGPT as a dialogue partner or research assistant, you have to be careful as ChatGPT can make mistakes or fail to precisely communicate an idea. Another shortcoming is that ChatGPT only provides the opinions of the data that it has been trained on. For hotly disputed issues like “What is Barth’s view on election,” you will simply get ChatGPT’s opinion on Barth’s view on election. If you ever need to go deeper, you can always ask questions like, “What are the most prominent positions about Barth’s view on election?” or “Where does Barth comment on election?” to research further.

3. Critique and Editing

ChatGPT can also be used in a couple of different ways in the editing phase of research and writing.

After completing your rough draft, you can ask ChatGPT to provide suggestions to improve your work (I actually did that for this article!). I’ve had ChatGPT advise me to add headings, provide more clear definitions of terms, integrate more illustrations, and more.

I’ve also found the tool helpful in fashioning sentences. If you are trying to make a couple of sentences more concise, ChatGPT can compress them for you. If something isn’t quite right, you can ask ChatGPT to rewrite the sentence and specify whatever tone, style, or vocabulary level you would like.

Pastors and students have benefitted throughout the years through technology such as Word and Logos. Done properly, ChatGPT and other AI tools are the next step. These tools have nearly an unlimited amount of uses that can help pastors and students steward all of their responsibilities. The three categories of idea generation, research and analysis, and critique and editing are just the tip of the iceburg. The more that one uses ChatGPT the more integration into one’s life will become apparent. So, whether you are thinking of a sermon or trying to understand a journal article, just ask, “How could I ChatGPT this?”

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Photo Credit:

Photo by Emiliano Vittoriosi on Unsplash.

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The Master of Arts Ethics, Theology, and Culture is a Seminary program providing specialized academic training that prepares men and women to impact the culture for Christ through prophetic moral witness, training in cultural engagement, and service in a variety of settings.

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Jacob Haley

Dancer Fellow

Jacob serves in the Center for Faith and Culture as the Dancer Fellow while pursuing an Advanced M.Div at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. If Jacob isn’t tucked away in the library, you can find him running, rock climbing, or playing chess.

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