Dr. Otto J. Helweg, P.E.
Dean Emeritus, College of Engineering and Architecture, NDSU
U.S. address: 33 Crystal Lane, Maumelle, AR 72113
Over Seas address: PO Box 2343, Kigali, Rwand

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Closure to the Responses
Dr. Otto J. Helweg

I understand the concern both responders have to defend the inspiration of the Bible. I can also understand the difficulty they have believing I accept the Bible as God's Word when our hermeneutical approaches are so different. I do appreciate the editor, Dr. Snelling, placing the disagreements into perspective by saying, "... we nonetheless accept and treat one another as brethren in the Lord, our salvation not being dependent on what we believe about the days of Genesis..." There are so many people who need to hear the Gospel, that we need to be careful not to allow minor controversies absorb too much of our time and effort. Of course what one person may consider minor another may consider major.

Having said this I will address some of the responses of Dr. Shackleford. First, he believes I use "liberal hermeneutical approaches to undermine Biblical Authority." The basic issue is how to interpret the various passages of the Bible. I believe we should look to the Bible as much as possible to see how it interprets itself. Consequently, I attempt to use a Biblical Hermeneutical approach that enhances the authority of the Bible,; even though Dr. Shackelford believes it does the opposite.

Dr. Shackelford believes both the how and who are important in the creation narratives. I maintain that there is NO how statement in Genesis One. I would also argue that there is no how in Genesis 2-4, but to deal with that would go beyond the scope of this response.

Dr. Shackelford writes that my approach "has the distinctive hollow ring of liberalism." Depending on how one defines the theological spectrum, I would classify myself as "Biblical." Others have called me "conservative-evangelical." Dr. Shackelford uses "liberalism" as a pejorative term which introduces the logical fallacy of petitio principii (begging the question) into this argument.

The accusation that I have "succumbed to the temptation of seeking to retain the façade of an authoritative science at the expense of an authoritative Bible" depends, again, on one's hermeneutical approach. As I concluded in my article, I subscribe to the "two book" hypothesis. That is, the Bible is the book of God's Word and the universe is the book of God's works. Both of these have the same Author and do not contradict each other. I would argue that unless Dr. Shackelford believes the earth is flat, he also uses this approach. I believe the Bible itself hints at the possibility of creation interpreting the Word in Psalm 19:1 and Romans 1:20. This position also has the support of many Christian scholars through out the history of Christianity.

We clearly disagree on how Augustine would treat this matter. Dr. Shackelford writes, "Augustine would never have supported a science that was hostile to the Biblical revelation." However, neither would he have supported an interpretation of a Biblical passage that was opposed to the obvious facts in science. For example, in Augustine's, The Literal Meaning of Genesis {1} (Certainly, as Dr. Shackelford states, before the scientific era), he wrote:

"Now it is a disgraceful and dangerous thing for an infidel to hear a Christian, presumably giving the meaning of Holy Scripture, talking nonsense on these topics [cosmological issues]; and we should take all means to prevent such an embarrassing situation, in which people show up vast ignorance in a Christian and laugh it to scorn." {2}

Moreover, Augustine explicitly rejected interpreting (yÔm) as meaning a 24-hour day in Genesis 1, though for different reasons than given in my article.

While Augustine, like most of us, would not leap into allegorizing a passage, nor would he, like most of us, accept some "fact" of physical science that was contrary to Scripture, he would interpret Scripture in the light of scientific facts where appropriate.{3}In fact, this hermeneutic did not originate with Augustine, but he quotes Tertullian{4} and is, in turn, quoted by Thomas Aquinas in Summa.{5} Augustine shows a refreshing tentativeness in his interpretation of the whole creation narrative. It seems he is not dogmatic on any issue that is not central to salvation and faith.

What Dr. Shackelford calls "the plain sense of Scripture" I would call "superficial sense of challenging passages that require analysis in greater depth to fully grasp their meaning." Following Dr. Kaiser and others,{6} we should approach God's Word as a target where the Gospel is like the bull's eye, clear and not requiring any sophisticated analysis in any language. However, as we more toward Genesis and Revelation, the sense becomes less clear and the rules for hermeneutics more important.

My sense is that Dr. Shackelford still believes I take the Daniel 8:26 passage out of context. I argue that I was explicitly quoting it in context, as I had to use the whole vision of Daniel in order to show the singular nouns referring to a long period of time. The fact that they are also possibly used to refer to 24-hour days in verse 14 only strengthens my argument that the phrase "evening and morning" refers to different periods of time in different contexts. In fact, it has been suggested that Daniel had the Genesis use of "evening and morning" in mind when he wrote his pericope.

Dr. Shackelford writes that "these modifications" to orthodox Christian interpretation were never given credibility until Darwinism and the Age of Reason." This statement does not stand the test of historical analysis. The writings of Tertullian, Augustine, Aquinas, and others clearly demonstrate otherwise. Moreover, the misinterpretation of the Bible has been occurring since the writings of Paul (cf. II Peter 3:16).

Finally I do not understand Dr. Shackelford's concluding statement, "There seems to be something about the prideful heart of man that seeks to force reconciliation between the Bible and science..." Omitting the word "force," the work of the Christian apologists consists (to a large extent) in doing just that. If the heavens do, indeed, tell of the glory of God (Psm. 19:1), we should use this truth to reach non-Christians for Christ. If God is BOTH creator of the world AND giver of His Word, we should work to understand how they fit together. This is the calling God has given to Dr. Hugh Ross and his organization, "Reasons to Believe." Even if some articles do not exactly agree with our theology, we should not label this endeavor "Reasons NOT to Believe." While I might disagree with some of the aims of the Creation Science Foundation, I would not accuse it of undermining the faith.

It is important for creationists (those who support the young earth and/or the 24-hour interpretation of in Genesis One) to understand that their discomfort with old earth creationists and theistic evolutionists is matched by a reciprocal discomfort (embarrassment) on the part of the vast majority of Christian scientists. While this may not change our hermeneutical approach to Scripture, it may enable us to disagree in love (Jn. 17:21-23).

Dr. Fouts's response is more technical with the exception of his opening paragraph. In it he hypothesized that the editor of Facts and Faith did not publish his response to my article because it disagreed with my thesis. This is not the case. It is not the policy of Facts and Faith to decline articles just because they disagree with their beliefs. In fact they have published articles by young earth creationists as well as others. The purpose of the publication is to reach a broad audience and highly technical articles or articles they do not believe informative are usually not accepted.

The first technical point of Dr. Fouts is that the Genesis One narrative is not poetic. He did mention the NIV which does interpret it as poetic, so there obviously are many scholars who would disagree with Dr. Fouts on this account. Remember that the NIV required that the translators be evangelical Christians, one of the few translations to do so. This was not the case for the KJV.

However, I would point to Egyptian poetry of that period and give examples of similar poetic structure.{7} The repetition of phrases IS a main characteristic of Egyptian poetry and it would be logical for Moses to use this as not only was he trained in the literature of Egypt, but the people of Israel, who had lived in Egypt for centuries, would be familiar with it. Even then, I would not classify it as pure poetry, but narrative in a poetic structure. If this is correct, we cannot read the creation narratives as mere historical accounts. They are much more significant than that.

Concerning the interpretation of we will have to "agree to disagree." Dr. Fouts claims the construction "often is simply translated idiomatically as 'when.'" While this may be, according to Brown, Driver and Briggs,{8} when the is followed by an infinitive it may form a periphrasis for the gerund, though in English, it is commonly rendered by a verb and conjunction. They gave no instances of the prefixed to a noun assuming temporal significance.{9} We both can find scholars to support our respective translations. I would cite Gleason Archer for one who would support my exegesis.{10}

The third technical point concerns the "evening-morning" phrase. While Dr. Fouts agrees it is in the singular (and I apologize for the mixed up transliteration of the Hebrew in my article, which he correctly pointed out) he disagrees that it can point to a long period of time. While I agree that the singular phrase is used as a collective, does this not prove my point? I fail to see why this precludes the phrase in Genesis One to refer to an indefinite period. I would further argue that my thesis is strengthened precisely because the Daniel 8:26 passage does refer to Daniel 8:14 where the phrase is prefixed by 2300. That is, the phrase may refer to 24-hours days OR a long period of 24-hour days. Finally, while not offering Augustine as a Hebrew scholar, even he interprets the evening-morning phrase in Genesis One as other than referring to a 24-hour period.{11}

Both responders have referred to "the simple meaning" of scripture. Having lived in the Middle East for over ten years, I can see, perhaps better than most, that we, in the "West" tend to read the Bible from our narrow cultural perspective. It is one thing to study the Greek and Hebrew languages, but it is quite another to understand the culture in which these words were given. I have seen many examples of Westerners (American, Europeans, etc.) come to the Middle East on business, know the language, but completely miss the meaning of conversations because they did not understand the cultural matrix underlying the communication. Again, while the Gospel is so clear that one does not have to know any Jewish culture nor original languages (unlike the Koran, for instance), when we deal with the more obscure or difficult passages, we must use the more powerful tools and insights. Even then, we must often be tentative in our interpretations and can ill afford to be dogmatic.

There is no doubt that God could have created the universe in one second, let alone six 24-hour days. The issue is, DID HE, or DOES THE BIBLE REQUIRE that interpretation. I believe the answer to both questions is "No!" Because God did not tell us how He did it, but gave that as part of our task (to subdue the earth, Gen. 1:28), we look to science for the answer (God's works). This approach, in no way, weakens the inspiration and authority of God's Word, but, on the contrary, strengthens it.

{1} Augustine, 1982, The Literal Meaning of Genesis, J. H. Taylor (transl.),Newman Press, Ramsey, New York, p. 43

{2} Ref. 1, pp. 9, 103 ff, 134 ff.

{3} Ref. 1, p. 45.

{4} Tertullian, De iciunio, 10.5 (CCL 2.126B:ML2.1017A).

{5} Aquinas, Thomas. 1952, The Summa Theologica, Vol 1. From: The Great Books Series, Fathers of the English Dominican Province, rev. Daniel J. Sullivan (transl.) Encyclopaedia Britannica, Chicago, Part 1, Question 69, Art 1. p. 359

{6} Kaiser, W.S. and Silva, M., 1994. An Introduction to Biblical Hermeneutics, Aondervan, Grand Rapids, Also, Dr. William LaSor, Fuller Theological Seminary, verbal communication.

{7} Allen, J. P. Genesis in Egypt, Yale Egyptological Studies 2:New Haven, 1988, pg 33, Appen. A, etc.

{8} Brown, F, S. R. Drive, and C. A. Briggs, A Hebrew and English Lexicon of the Old Testament, Oxford: London; 1962, pg 91

{9}ibid. BDB translate the infinitive verb , which precedes in Gen. 2:4 "when they were created," rendering as a temporal conjunction.

{10} Archer, G. L. A Survey of Old Testament Introductions, Moody Press:Chicago; 1964 and personal communication.

{11} Op. Cit. Page 135

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