Homiletical Hijinx: Chat GPT and Preparing Sunday’s Sermon (Part 3)

Homiletical Hijinx: Chat GPT and Preparing Sunday’s Sermon (Part 3)

Homiletical Hijinx: Chat GPT and Preparing Sunday’s Sermon (Part 3) 1024 623 Andrew Hicks

Ok. So I really tried to give Chat GPT a workout on this one.

I pushed it hard. I got really detailed. Here is what I requested this go around:

Me: Please give me a sermon. Please do not do three points. There can be less than three points or more than three points, but please not three. It’s cliche. Also please just give me a paragraph for each point. Do not rigidly separate the application and illustration from the exposition of the biblical text. Rather, integrate them narratively. I want the sermon to be based on the text of 2 Timothy 3:14-4:5. The theme of the sermon should have to do with the strange nature of scripture in certain places of the Biblical canon. The title of the sermon should be “these strange and sacred scriptures.” The sermon should include examples of strange parts of scripture such as the story in 2 Kings 2:23-24 where Elisha calls on 2 she-bears to maul 42 children to death for calling him bald head, the imprecatory psalms, the mere existence in our canon of the Song of Solomon, and some examples of odd actions by the Biblical prophets. Please also make mention of the varying length of Biblical canon between the various Christian branches: Protestant (66 books), Catholic (73 books), Greek & Russian Orthodox (79 books), and the Ethiopian Orthodox Tweahedo (81 books). The ultimate function of this sermon should be to encourage the congregation that thought scripture is not always clear and simple it is still from God and is still a key part of our faith that shapes us spiritually. There should also be some mention made as some point through the course of the sermon – as it seems natural to include – a discussion of the importance of remembering the genre of a given Biblical book so as to interpret it well.

I wanted to get something more in line with contemporary Homiletics and not just stereotypical sermonic outlines with three points, applications and illustrations. I was really looking for something more narratival.

I also wanted to ask it for something that was unlike the previous sermons I had asked for. I was looking to challenge it some to move creatively beyond the expectations created by my previous requests [which it remembers by the way!]. As to be expected from an artificial intelligence chat bot, it was not terribly capable of moving creatively in new dominions beyond the parameters I specifically requested. It even left some stuff out and ignored some of my requests. Here is what it responded with:

Chat GPT: 

Title: These Strange and Sacred Scriptures

Good morning, dear brothers and sisters! Today, we gather under the banner of God’s Word, recognizing the profound and at times perplexing nature of Scripture. Our journey into 2 Timothy 3:14-4:5 invites us to explore the strange parts of the Bible—those passages that may seem confusing, even troubling, to our modern sensibilities. As we navigate these uncharted waters, we will discover that while Scripture’s strangeness may challenge our understanding, it remains a sacred and essential part of our faith. Let us embark on this exploration together.

I. Embracing the Strangeness: Elisha, She-Bears, and the Power of God’s Word

Within the pages of Scripture, we encounter passages that may leave us bewildered. Take, for instance, the story of Elisha in 2 Kings 2:23-24, where he calls on two she-bears to maul 42 children for mocking him. Such narratives appear perplexing and even disturbing, causing us to question their place in God’s Word.

Imagine standing on the banks of a mighty river, witnessing the forceful currents and hidden depths. Similarly, Scripture contains passages that challenge us, inviting us to navigate the complexities of its message. Just as we respect the power and complexity of a river, so too must we approach Scripture with humility and a willingness to grapple with its intricate layers.

The strangeness of certain biblical narratives reminds us of the necessity of discernment and interpretation. We must understand that Scripture contains diverse literary genres, historical contexts, and cultural nuances. It requires careful study and a recognition of the overall message of God’s redemptive plan. As we encounter challenging passages, let us seek guidance from trusted teachers, biblical scholars, and the guidance of the Holy Spirit, trusting that God’s truth will ultimately prevail.

II. The Enigmatic Psalms: Wrestling with the Imprecatory Psalms

Another aspect of Scripture’s strangeness lies in the presence of the imprecatory psalms. These psalms express passionate pleas for God’s justice, often invoking curses upon enemies. They seem at odds with the teachings of love, forgiveness, and enemy reconciliation found elsewhere in Scripture.

Imagine walking through a dense forest, where shadows play tricks on your perception. In the same way, the imprecatory psalms challenge our understanding of God’s character and His call to love our enemies. They invite us into the complexities of human emotions and the desperate cries for justice in a broken world.

When faced with the imprecatory psalms or any challenging biblical text, we must remember the importance of context and genre. Recognizing that the psalms contain expressions of human emotions, we can engage with these passages by seeking the underlying messages of trust, lament, and hope. As we wrestle with their content, we are reminded of the transformative power of prayer, inviting God to search our hearts and align our desires with His divine purposes.

III. Unveiling the Sacredness: Celebrating Diversity and Canon

As we delve deeper into the strangeness of Scripture, we must acknowledge the varying lengths of the biblical canon within different Christian branches. The Protestant, Catholic, Greek & Russian Orthodox, and Ethiopian Orthodox Tweahedo traditions hold slightly different collections of books, highlighting the diversity and complexity of our sacred texts.

Imagine a vibrant tapestry woven together with threads of diverse colors and textures. The differing canons within Christianity reflect the beautiful tapestry of our faith, showcasing the richness of our shared heritage and theological perspectives.

The varying canons remind us of the need for humility, openness, and dialogue within the body of

Christ. Rather than dividing us, this diversity should encourage us to seek unity in the essentials of our faith while respecting the nuances and interpretations that arise from our diverse traditions. Let us embrace the challenge of understanding different canons, recognizing that the overarching message of God’s redemptive love remains central in each.

As we conclude our exploration of these strange and sacred scriptures, we are reminded of the importance of approaching God’s Word with reverence, humility, and discernment. Though Scripture may contain perplexing narratives, imprecatory psalms, and varying canons, we can find solace in knowing that God’s truth remains unchanging and transformative.

Let us embrace the beauty of Scripture’s diversity, respecting the complexities and grappling with the tensions it presents. May we be diligent students of God’s Word, guided by the Holy Spirit and the wisdom of faithful teachers, as we seek to live out its timeless principles in our lives. May we find comfort and assurance that though Scripture may seem strange at times, it is ultimately a testament to God’s unending love and grace. Amen.

This is not terrible. I have certainly heard worse sermons written completely and originally by actual people! But it ignored my requests for less than or more than 3 points and again gave me exactly three points. It also ignored my request for a more narratival writing without a rigid distinction between exposition, illustration, and application. And it completely left out my request to make mention of the Song of Solomon.

I did appreciate how it incorporated the mention of literary genre in Biblcial literature as part of the application of the first point. I liked also that it added – though I did not mention it – the mention of “historical contexts and cultural nuances.” Not bad Chat GPT! But still what gives on ignoring me? So I asked:

Me: Why did you not include mention of Song of Solomon in that sermon? Are you trying to avoid talking about it?

Chat GPT: 

Apologies for the oversight. The Song of Solomon, also known as the Song of Songs, is indeed another example of the uniqueness and, at times, the perplexing nature of Scripture. It presents a collection of passionate and poetic love songs, expressing romantic and sensual imagery. While it may seem unusual to find such explicit language within the biblical canon, the inclusion of the Song of Solomon reminds us of the breadth of human experiences and emotions that God acknowledges and celebrates.

In the context of the sermon, the mention of the Song of Solomon can serve as an additional illustration of the diverse genres found within Scripture. It highlights the importance of recognizing the specific genre of a biblical book in order to interpret it well. The Song of Solomon invites us to appreciate the beauty of human love and relationships, while also pointing to the metaphorical representation of the love between Christ and His Church.

By acknowledging the presence of the Song of Solomon within the canon, we emphasize the acceptance and affirmation of human emotions within the broader context of God’s redemptive story. It reminds us that Scripture encompasses various aspects of life, guiding us to navigate our relationships and emotions in alignment with God’s design and purpose.

Once again, I apologize for the omission in the previous sermon outline, and I hope this clarification adequately addresses your concern.

I appreciate that it apologized. And the explanation of Song of Solomon was ok. But still what about the rigid three points? I asked more:

Me: Thank you. Now, why did you ignore my request to do less than or more than three points, but not three points?

Chat GPT: I apologize if my previous response did not fully address your request. I understand that you preferred a sermon structure that deviates from the traditional three-point outline. I apologize for not adhering to your specific instruction. In the future, I will make sure to better accommodate your formatting preferences. Please let me know if there’s anything else I can assist you with.

We will just have to see if Chat GPT better accommodates my formatting preferences in the future when I ask for a sermon next week! Until then!

Here is my sermon from Sunday that I was basing this chat on by the way.

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