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By Tim Stratton


Dear Dr. Stratton,

In your interview with Jorge Gil on Cross Examined’s Hope One, you attempted to answer “all the problems of evil” by appealing to love. In fact, you said that “the best kind of love requires libertarian free will.”  Surely this is false, for I can think of a counter-example that clearly shows this to be false.

After all, the members of the Trinity are the epitome of perfect love and they do not have libertarian free will. They cannot do otherwise. They must love by necessity. So how can “the best kind of love” require libertarian free will?

– Phillip

The Best Kind of Love

Tim’s Response

I am thankful for your question, Phillip! When I read it I could have kicked myself for not providing this vital clarification in my interview with Jorge Gil. Your question provides this opportunity.

Contrary to your assertion, the members of the Trinity (God) do possess libertarian freedom. This is easy to demonstrate when considering creation. The vast majority of theologians agree that God possessed the ability — the power — to create the universe or to refrain from creation. This is the epitome of libertarian freedom. Moreover, if nothing other than God causally determined Him to create the universe, then God possesses libertarian freedom. In fact, this conclusion can be reached by merely thinking about the rational implications of the Kalam Cosmological Argument. The cause and creator of the universe must possess libertarian freedom.

If God possesses the libertarian freedom, for example, to create the universe or not to create the universe, then this is an “ability to do otherwise” kind of freedom. With that said, however, we are not discussing the creation of the universe, but something different. We are discussing the “best kind of love,” or the “kind of love worth wanting.” You aptly pointed out that God does not possess the “ability to do otherwise” when it comes to love — namely the love between the Trinity which you noted is the epitome of the “best kind of love.”

I agree that each member of the Trinity does not possess the ability to NOT love the other members. For example, it is impossible for the Holy Spirit not to love the Son, and it is impossible for the Son, not to love the Father. Does this not “destroy” my claim — that the best kind of love requires libertarian freedom?

Not at all!

Just because God might not have the ability to do otherwise when it comes to love, it does not follow that God does not possess the libertarian freedom to love. This is the case because NOTHING other than God causally determines God to love. Moreover, nothing other than the Father causally determines His love for the Son and the Spirit.

It is vital to remember that there are basically two definitions of libertarian freedom:
1- The PAP/”ability to do otherwise” version.

2- The source-hood version (which simply means that a person is not causally determined by something other than the person).

When it comes to love, God possesses the source-hood version of libertarian freedom. God is not causally determined by something other than Him to love. As 1 John 4:8 makes clear: “God IS love.”

So, with all the data in mind, the best kind of love still requires libertarian freedom to be possessed by each person in the relationship. The best kind of love is when persons are not causally determined to love the other. In fact, it is simply oxymoronic to refer to a relationship where at least one person in the union was causally determined to enter the relationship as a “love relationship.” It is not love at all, rather, it is simply an incoherent combination of words.

Since it would be impossible for God to create a contingent being whose nature is necessarily loving (like God is), without causally determining the nature of the creature, God creates humans with an “ability to do otherwise” kind of libertarian freedom so that a true love relationship with humanity can be attained. Humans, then, unlike God, possess both the source-hood version and the PAP version of the libertarian freedom to love. God only has the source-hood version.

Robots have neither!

Bottom line: The best kind of love, or the kind of love worth wanting, requires libertarian freedom.

Stay reasonable (Isaiah 1:18),

Tim Stratton

Recommended resources related to the topic:

If God, Why Evil? (DVD Set), (MP3 Set), and (mp4 Download Set) by Frank Turek 

Why Doesn’t God Intervene More? (DVD Set), (MP3 Set), and (mp4 Download Set) by Frank Turek

Why does God allow Bad Things to Happen to Good People? (DVD) and (mp4 Download) by Frank Turek 


Timothy A. Stratton (Ph.D., North-West University) is a professor at Trinity College of the Bible and Theological Seminary. As a former youth pastor, he is now devoted to answering deep theological and philosophical questions he first encountered from inquisitive teens in his church youth group. Stratton is the founder and president of FreeThinking Ministries, a web-based apologetics ministry. Stratton speaks on church and college campuses around the country and offers regular videos on FreeThinking Ministries’ YouTube channel.

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