Self-Control: The Epitome of Libertarian Freedom



(The FreeThinking Theist)


May 13, 2020

Does God cause and determine all things all the time? Do humans possess libertarian freedom? Christians have been debating these questions for centuries. 

What does the Bible teach? 

Before answering that question, another question must be answered: What is meant by libertarian freedom? 

A person possesses libertarian freedom if they are ever free to think or act apart from the causal deterministic forces of something or someone else. That is to say, if one is ever in control of the self (the thing one refers to as “I”), then one is free in a libertarian sense. The Bible contains many passages calling Christians to exercise self-control and self-discipline.

Consider a few:


2 Tim. 1:7: For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.

Prov. 16:32: Whoever is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he who rules his spirit than he who takes a city.

2 Pet 1:5-7: For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love.

Gal 5:22-23: But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.

If self-control is the epitome of libertarian freedom, then the Bible clearly implies that humanity possesses libertarian freedom. If the “self” is in control, as opposed to something or someone else, then one is free in a libertarian sense.  


On a related note, the Bible also commands us to practice “self-examination”:

1 Cor. 11:28-32: Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself. That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died. But if we judged ourselves truly, we would not be judged. But when we are judged by the Lord, we are disciplined so that we may not be condemned along with the world.

2 Cor. 13:5: Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you fail to meet the test!

Gal. 6:3-5: For if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself. But let each one test his own work, and then his reason to boast will be in himself alone and not in his neighbor. For each will have to bear his own load.

1 John 4:1: Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world.

These passages shows the absurdity of exhaustive divine determinism (EDD) which is commonly affirmed by Calvinists (See my interaction with an EDD Calvinist here). For if God causally determines all things all the time (either directly or indirectly), then a human stands in no epistemic position to test or evaluate anything — including the ability to test if a spirit is from God or not. This is the case because God would ultimately cause and determine all of the human’s evaluations of such things.

Those who supposedly “tested” the spirits and evaluated them as “from God” and those who supposedly “tested” the spirits and evaluated them as “not from God” were all ultimately caused and determined to come to their conclusions by God if EDD is true. We would stand in no position to know who God has caused to evaluate correctly and who God has deceived. 

This is a good reason to evaluate EDD as false and reject this Calvinistic view. 

With evaluations in mind, also consider the absurdity of “examinations” apart from libertarian freedom. The Berean Jews were praised as “noble” for exercising their God-given libertarian freedom to read and interpret Scripture correctly. 

Acts 17:11: Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so.

Similar commands are echoed throughout Scripture. For example:

1 Thessalonians 5:20-21: Do not despise prophecies, but test everything; hold fast what is good.


These verses only make sense if humans are free to evaluate their own actions and thoughts. If the “self” is truly the one doing the testing, the examining, the evaluating, and the controlling (as the Bible commands) — as opposed to something or someone else — then one is free in a libertarian sense. 

Stay reasonable (Isaiah 1:18),

Tim Stratton 

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About the Author



(The FreeThinking Theist)

Timothy A. Stratton (PhD, 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 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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