In 2012 my children encouraged me to rent and watch the DVD of “Hugo.” During the movie, I was introduced to something I did not know existed beforehand. There is a device in the show called an automaton. It is a mechanical creation made in imitation of a human being. This machine “performs a function according to a predetermined set of coded instructions, especially one capable of a range of programmed responses to different circumstances.”
I will not ruin the movie for you, but one of the central pieces of the plot revolves around this robot-looking device. It includes getting the correct pieces, the proper key, and discovering the programmed actions.
One part of the theological framework of the Church I serve is that we believe God did not create us to be an automaton. Instead, he made us free-willed individuals with the power to choose. Each one of us is not acting on some predetermined script written by God.
You see, once Hugo gets the automaton working, it will not suddenly become a child to him. Even if it could write or say, “I love you,” it would be empty as it does not have the choice to do anything to the contrary. Robots do not express any meaningful emotions, no matter how sophisticated they might be.
The downside is obvious; if someone has the opportunity to choose, then they can also reject returning the love that is desired. Yet, God, in his enormous power, decided to limit his control over our will so that we could love him without strings. He was out to build a family of love, not a collection of automatons.