Anne Foerst writes in “God in the Machine: What Robots Teach Us About Humanity and God“:
“What does it mean to be human? How can humanness be defined? Can we ever come up with criteria that distinguish us from animals – or, for that matter, from robots? And what exactly is our place and our purpose on this planet, in our sun system, in the universe? Are humans special, or are they just another random species on an insignificant planet?”
As computer scientists make great advances in the field of Artificial Intelligence the day looms when such questions may become crucial. No one knows when our technology will reach the point of either reproducing real intelligence, or mimicking it so accurately that even experts may have difficulty discerning the difference.
As early as 1950 Alan Turing proposed the possibility of creating a test to distinguish between human and machine intelligence. Today this is known as a Turing Test and various forms have been devised for commercial use on the Internet to try to weed out “bots,” or computer programs that attempt to imitate humans in leaving comments with thinly disguised spam to sell everything from smut to stocks.
One has to wonder if there might be a possibility of a kind of Turing Test for God. After all, if you were hiking in the Rocky Mountains and a bush started to glow and a voice came out of the bush, would you have a good trick question or two to ask in order to make sure that the voice was the genuine article?
In Exodus 3 Moses has a pretty good question. He asks God what his name is. Apparently names had very significant meanings in ancient times so his question may be far more penetrating than we would at first suspect. The traditional translation of the original Hebrew is that God replied that, “I AM THAT I AM.” Exodus 3:14
Some hold that “I AM” signifies God’s unchanging, and perhaps unfathomable nature. In the footnotes of the NIV translation they give an alternate answer which is, ” I will be what I will be.” This reflects the fact that the verb is in the future tense.
Author Joseph J. Dewey writes that he believes that Moses understood the answer to be something like, “I am becoming that which I decide to become.”
“Here is how they translate the name in Exodus 3:14:
“What about his name? What shall I say to them?
Then Elohim spoke to Moses: I shall come to be [just] as I am coming to be. And He said thus shall you say to the sons of Israel, I shall come-to-be has sent me to you.”
Then the translation has a footnote which reads:
“I shall come…coming to be, literally I AM BECOMING WHO I AM BECOMING, or traditionally rendered as I AM THAT I AM, the name Yahweh is derived from this verb meaning BECOME, BE or COME.”
“One thing we know for sure. God did not tell Moses that He did not exist, but will exist in the future. Nevertheless the future tense even makes sense in light of the true meaning mentioned in The Immortal which was: ‘I AM BECOMING THAT WHICH I DECIDE TO BECOME.‘”
“When you make a decision around some goal of becoming that decision relates to what you will be in a future time or what you shall become.” Joseph J. Dewey, I AM BECOMING
Perhaps unlike the static, unchanging “I AM” vision held by a majority of believers, God is a being that is always becoming something new, evolving, and changing with its creation? Perhaps even more revolutionary is the idea that God was not always the God that we imagine it to be.
“Behold, I will do a new thing; now it shall spring forth; shall ye not know it? I will even make a way in the wilderness, and rivers in the desert.” -Isaiah 43:19
Whatever the case, the next time someone meets God in the burning bush, he will need a better question. God has already heard that one.