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Facts, Interpretation, and Reality

July 14, 2017

The boys over at Westminster Seminary are fond of saying that there are no brute facts. They are correct. That does not mean, however, that there is no reality to which all truth claims are corrigible.

And now comes a reflection from Arminian theologian Roger Olson. He rejects the suggestion that we can know brute facts. He also rejects anti-realism. He favors a version of critical realism.

If these are unfamiliar categories to you, then you owe it to yourself to read Olson’s piece. He’ll give you a bit of recent intellectual history. Then he’ll apply it.

Here’s the point and the “rub.” My own experience and observation of my culture—North American academia—leads me to believe that many people with tremendous influence—even where their names are never heard or known outside of academia—have adopted the belief that because of the sociology of knowledge, critical realism or even anti-realism (belief that “knowledge” never even comes close to matching reality-as-it-is if such even exists), because of the “social construction of reality,” all that’s left to us is rhetoric. The traditional ideas of “facts” and “arguments” are simply “old school thinking.” Since that is the case, many movers and shakers of culture believe, there is really no “line” between argument and rhetoric.

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