David Baggett and Marybeth Baggett
The Morals of the Story: Good News about a Good God
Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 2018.
Available at Amazon.com
By reverend Andrew Esnouf
On a recent interstate holiday, my wife and I had dinner with an old friend and her partner. The food was lovely, the location was beautiful, and all was going along well until a disagreement emerged over God and morality.
My wife and our old friend both become tense, fearing that our pleasant evening was about to be ruined by this disagreement between a priest and an atheist. The argument continued and intensified though, our partners valiantly tried to divert us to another topic, but our horns had already been locked and this battle would not be postponed. They continued on in their own conversation without us.
We argued for over an hour, each set in our ways, each engaging arguments philosophy, ethics, history, literature, the discussion finally came to a ceasefire when a free dessert was placed in front of us. Our companions had absolutely no interest in our debate, but we were in our happy place.
It is a strange kind of beast that enjoys arguing over apologetics, and examples are found in both Christians and atheists alike. We enjoy the contest, we strive nobly to defend our cause. Not all people are like us.
A large portion of the apologetics material currently available is written for people who are already invested in the hard work of understanding the issues involved in apologetics, and therefor is beyond the grasp of all but the most dedicated reader, and much of it is very dry in style. In The Morals of the Story, husband and wife team David and Marybeth Baggett provide a book which is both insightful and accessible, focussing on the moral argument for the God’s existence.
David Baggett is a professor of philosophy at the Rawlings School of Divinity at Liberty University, and has previously honed his craft as the founder and executive editor of moralapologetics.com, and has previously written both Good God: The Theistic Foundations of Morality, and God and Cosmos: Moral Truth and Human Meaning. Marybeth Baggett is a professor of English at Liberty University, as well as an associate editor at moralapologetics.com, and she previously authored, alongside David, At the Bend of the River Grand. Their combined experience is on show in the book, which aims to equip its readers not only for apologetics, but also for evangelism more broadly. It is a book which combines of academic rigour with light hearted humour and an approachable style, which serves as a wonderful counterbalance to the dry state of the average work of apologetics.
The Morals of the Story is structured according to a theatrical theme, beginning with a playbill (introduction), followed by three acts, with an intermission after the first act to tackle to Euthyphro dilemma, and concludes with an encore and a curtain call. The three acts are distinct in their focus, the first act is entitled ‘Setting the Stage’, and contains chapters that define the authors understanding of God, establishing the philosophical framework and terminology of the debate, and act as an introduction to the history and current context of moral arguments for the existence of God’s. The second act, entitled ‘The Main Characters’, is the central argument of the book, with chapters arguing that God is the best explanation for the existence moral goodness, moral obligations, moral knowledge, moral transformation, and moral providence. The third act, entitled ‘Enacting the Comedy’ contains only the chapter ‘The Gala Performance’, which assembles the individual issues outlined in the second act into the cumulative conclusion that best explanation of moral goodness, obligations etc. is the existence of God.
The only disclaimer needed for this book is that it openly builds its case on natural theology, and whilst the scriptures often appear throughout the book, the arguments finds its foundation squarely on general revelation and not special revelation. If your own method of theology and apologetics is at odds with such an approach, this book may not be for you, otherwise I recommend it.
The Morals of the Story is engaging, accessible and will prove useful to many kinds of readers, from those who themselves engage in apologetics, to those seeking to further their own discipleship or skills for ministry or evangelism.