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#166 Love and Justice in the Trinity

June 21, 2010

Dear Dr. Craig,

In the debate you had with Shabir Ally about "The Concept of God in Islam and Christianity," you said that love is part of God's perfect nature. You went on to explain how the triune concept of God is more plausible than the unitarian concept of God in Islam taking this into account. Because love involves the giving of oneself to another, a unitarian concept of God falls short. The Trinity, however, does make sense of love as an essential property of God's perfect nature. This brings me to the question I want to make: why not understand love as we understand God's other perfections? For example, I take it that God's perfect justice is not expressed until some moment after His creation rebels against Him. Now, unless God's justice is expressed somehow within the three divine persons, why claim that God is perfectly just before the creation of any other being who can rebel? If we can claim that God is just without having to express it until creation, then why not claim that a unitarian God can be loving without creation (later expressing it towards created beings)?

I hope my main question made sense. I'd like to thank you for your ministry. It has certainly been a blessing and an inspiration. God bless you and your family!

in Christ,


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Dr. craig’s response


Very good question, Juan! One could respond that justice, like love, is expressed between the persons of the Trinity. We mustn’t think of justice as simply the punishment of sin, though that is required by justice. Justice is a broader concept than that. Justice requires that we treat other persons fairly, that we not show favoritism, that we treat other persons as ends in themselves rather than as means to some end. The persons of the Trinity exhibit all those virtues. It would be absurd to imagine the persons of the Trinity involved in favoritism or partiality in their relations with one another! (Note that the subordination of one member to another in the so-called “economic Trinity” for the sake of our salvation is not a case of some sort of favoritism.)

More fundamentally, however, my argument is that it’s not enough to think of love as a mere dispositional property, the disposition to love if some other person were to exist. Being loving is not merely the disposition to give oneself away to another if that other existed. Being loving involves actually giving oneself away to another. So this disposition cannot lie merely latent in God and never be actualized. It would follow, then, that a unitarian God would have to create other persons necessarily, which is what your suggestion implies. But that contradicts what both Christians and Muslims believe about God’s freedom in creating. Therefore, God must be a plurality of uncreated persons, which is what the doctrine of the Trinity affirms.

So my argument comes down to this: love cannot be reduced to a mere disposition. Though it is at least that, it is far more than that. Therefore, the unitarian concept of God is inadequate.

- William Lane Craig