Facts and Ideology

Author Greg Koukl Published on 03/04/2013

Greg utilizes the Los Angeles riot to discuss getting accurate views of social problems.

I want to share some comments at the opening today that are somewhat mitigating comments, in other words, comments that will help to put my reflections of the last couple of weekends into a little bit more perspective.

I talked yesterday about how I had been vilified on another major radio station by a major talk show host who happens to be a psychologist. It strikes me that it’s a little unusual for a psychologist to chop to pieces someone on the air; they’re supposed to be the kind, loving, accepting types, it seems to me. But I was called some nasty names, two of which didn’t apply, it seemed to me, when given the dictionary definitions. And the third one was a judgment call so I have to grant him his right to his own opinion.

I realize that some of you may have pegged me as you listened to me the last couple of weeks. I have had people call me racist and assume that I’m prejudiced—I have my head in the sand; I don’t know the facts; I live in a dream world. These are all different things that were offered to me.

I think there’s been a underlying assumption that because I don’t agree with someone else’s solution, I must not agree that there is a problem. Well, let me go on record to say that yes, I think there are problems. I think there are serious problems. As I’ve been wont to call it the last couple of weekends, the conflagration of two weeks ago, the consuming fire, both literally and figuratively. What’s happening in the inner-city is proof positive that we do have serious problems.

My concern is how we understand those problems and how we resolve them. This is why I, for one, offer you a public forum here every Saturday and Sunday from 3-6 to talk with me about these issues so we can get some facts on the table, we can explore some ideology and we can come up with some answers.

My fundamental questions regarding what has happened in the last few weeks are: what is the source of the problems? And how do we solve them?

Now, by and large it seems to me, the issue of source is a factual one. The issue of solution is an ideological one. This is what, for example, separates Democrats from Republicans, liberals from conservatives. Ideology. They have different views about how to go about solving particular problems and, given the exact same facts, those different groups are going to have different solutions because they view the process of problem solving and the goal of problem solving differently.

So, part of our conflict as we are trying to resolve these issues together, friends, is getting our facts right. The other part of the concern is applying an appropriate ideology to bring the facts to bear on a system to solve problems.

I’ll tell you frankly, I’ve pretty much lost confidence that any of us will be able to accurately grasp the facts in their entirety on the most critical and crucial issues. The fact is that we don’t have access to all the facts. And by the time we do the in-depth work to get a handle on things, the crisis is long past us and other crises have replaced it. That’s just the problem with the nature of the beast, so to speak. It’s just the problem with the problem. And it’s a problem we all face.

I think for anyone to get up and speak dogmatically as if they had a very clear picture of all the issues is just simply fooling themselves. Friends, if I ever appeared to be that way on this program, you have my sincere apologies because I don’t have all the answers, I don’t have all the facts. Therefore, I can’t always make a clear judgment on everything. In addition, one must wade through the misinformation, the disinformation, the partisan interests, the rhetoric. We’ve got to deal with our own inherent biases. No one is untouched by these variables, neither you nor I. Therefore, none of us has a fully accurate view of things.

Whenever we go to solve the problems we have to be at least honest enough with ourselves and with our opponents, our ideological opponents, to admit that. I think in that atmosphere we can begin to sort through some things and then come to some conclusions because I don’t believe it’s a toss up. I believe it is possible to identify some things that are fruitful and worthwhile on the one hand and some things that are absolutely worthless on the other. And you don’t have to know all the facts to spot something worthless, either a worthless argument or a misapplied fact or a worthless approach to something.

Part of the problem we have is that the facts just don’t stand by themselves, in a sense. They are not brute facts. Facts must be interpreted. That interpretation we do of facts is always influenced by our ideology—sometimes more, sometimes less, but there’s always that element. They are interpreted based on our larger view of what the conflict or the problem represents.

Let me give you an example. Some will interpret facts in light of what they believe the driving force in the process is. Marxists see a class struggle relating to a redistribution of wealth. Radical feminists will see a gender struggle. And they will define the problems in terms of that particular conflict. Certain minority leaders will see a race struggle.

The point I’m making here is this: in these more extreme factions that is the overwhelming and overriding issue. Everything is gender to radical feminists. Everything is class to Marxists. Everything is race to certain minority leaders. By the way, I would call that racist myself by my understanding of the definition, at least the more popular current functional definition of the word racist.

Now there’s nothing inherently wrong with any of those particular views. That’s not my point. What I’m saying is that our ideology influences how we see the facts and we have to ask ourselves which view merits our belief?

I’m not a relativist. I don’t believe that every single view has equal validity. I think the Marxists could be right and they could be wrong. If they’re wrong it is not worthy to believe the Marxist/class struggle view if it doesn’t accurately and adequately define the issues and the struggle. The same is true of the racial issue and the gender issue and any number of ways that one can look at a problem.

We must be alert to our ideology and ask ourselves: is our ideology worthy of being believed and worthy of being used as a grid, so to speak, to define the problems, understand the facts and come up with solutions?

So a great deal of conflict that you see in our culture today in resolving these problems and some of the conflict that you hear about right here on the station and with me involved has to do not only with a different view of the facts—sometimes they’re different facts entirely—but a different view of what the facts represent and a different idea about how to use those facts to change society.

I will tell you up front the ideological grid that I interpret this conflict with. I’m going to put my cards on the table. And any of you who have listened to this program for any length of time know what that grid is, to a great degree. But I’ll just define it for you.

I believe that man is created in the image of God. Okay, that sounds like a religious statement. Well, it has very, very significant ramifications for our discussion.

Man is created in the image of God. He has transcendent value. If he is not created in the image of God He, has no transcendent value. This is why I argue for justice and human rights as opposed to animal rights. Animals don’t have transcendent value. Man does. That’s why man has transcendent rights. Animals don’t have transcendent rights. I see man as something special.

This is why I’m against racism of any kind from any quarter. Any racism is despicable because it dehumanizes people, whether it comes from whites or so-called people of color. (I say “so-called” because whites aren’t exactly colorless.)

I also believe man has a measure of autonomy. I don’t think he’s completely autonomous. He’s influenced by factors in his own being and in his own culture that push him in certain directions. A man can’t choose to fly for example, he’s not capable of it. I can’t choose to have a baby because I don’t have the right plumbing. But I can exercise certain choices and because I can I have some responsibility for those choices.

So man has transcendent value and a measure of autonomy. Yet man is also desperately fallen. He’s broken. He’s twisted. And thus, as the late Dr. Francis Schaeffer put it, man has both dignity and cruelty—dignity by virtue of being made in the image of God and we can see that in the many of the wonderful humanitarian things man produces. Yet at the same time we see his desperate cruelty. For example, even people put in the position of helping the poor and given money for same, even people of color will misuse that. That tendency crosses all racial boundaries. Because of this I don’t believe man can be trusted. I don’t think he can be trusted to solve his problems or the problems of others.

That’s why we must not rescue people fully from the consequences of their actions. That’s what molds behavior—consequences. And if man is twisted and broken, the only thing that will control him is consequences. If we reward unproductive or immoral behavior that’s what we’re going to encourage. If we reward productive moral behavior and allow negative consequences to accrue for the others, then we are going to get quality.

So I believe people are ultimately responsible for their own lives. And when I deal with problems I deal with a foregone conclusion, an a priori, a sentiment that I bring to the discussion, that man is valuable, uniquely valuable in himself, but he is cruel and broken and not to be trusted.

Because we live in a fallen world, I don’t think it’s sound to expect life to be fair. And I don’t think it’s sound to give restitution of some sort when life is not fair. It’s a false view of the world.

I personally don’t want to foment racial strife. Quite the opposite. I want to become color blind. Why? Because I believe that all men have innate dignity. I want to deal with people as people, as significant human beings made in the image of God, of infinite value regardless of whether they are black, white, red, yellow, green, handicapped, liberal, conservative, unborn, terminally ill, inconvenient, fat, ugly, smelly. People have value.

Though I can’t solve all the problems it doesn’t mean I can’t identify some of them and that’s what I’ve been trying to do these last few weeks. I’m interested on this show in coming to a more accurate view of the problem by getting my facts straight and by employing the most sound, the most reasonable, the most valid, the most worthy belief or ideology to begin finding some answers.

Now, help me out. Help me out.

At least that’s the way I see it.