Where Were You, and Where Are You?

  • Steve Hatter
Building Rubble

This week, we remember a genuinely historic day that happened twenty-two years ago. My family and I were living in the United Kingdom on 9/11, 2001, the fateful day of attack on New York City and Washington D.C. by Islamic terrorists. I was serving on active duty in the U.S. Air Force as a member of the 48th Fighter Wing at RAF Lakenheath, U.K. Lakenheath is a British air base near London where U.S. F-15 Fighter assets were forward deployed in support of the post-WWII NATO alliance.

To say the brute reality of the most impactful strategic attack on the United States in all its history dramatically affected me personally is a gross understatement. Indeed, there were intense short-term impacts as the nation ramped up for war. There were slower-to-materialize intermediate effects that eventually led me to an assignment in Alaska, where I ultimately retired from active duty. But as I look back, some two decades later, I think it essential to consider the long-term impacts, especially as they relate to my Christian faith. Had 9/11 not happened, I probably would not be in Alaska writing this, which means I would not have brought my family to Anchorage Grace Church, nor would I be in seminary as I now am. You might say the tragedy of 9/11 was something God used to call me to full-time ministry eventually.

As I consider where I am now, I can see that over the last twenty-two years—the bulk of which have been here at Grace—I have solidified two positions in the faith: I hold a high view of God and a high view of Scripture. These have become non-negotiables in my personal walk with Christ and my church leadership role.

A High View of God 

God is immanent—which means He is accessible to us, even as intimately as to call Him Abba Father. However, Scripture also teaches He is transcendent, meaning He is “other” than us. He is to be exalted. He must be treated with utmost reverence and respect, which demands we hold a low view of ourselves in relation to Him!

God’s transcendence is captured in his attributes, specifically, those attributes that theologians call incommunicable. Incommunicable is an adjective that describes something that cannot be communicated to others. Other words that help us consider God’s incommunicable “otherness” are incomprehensible, indescribable, unfathomable, inexpressible, unutterable, and undefinable. God’s holiness is one such incomprehensible attribute that gives me pause daily because holiness describes Him as transcendent in His moral purity. He is perfectly pure! He cannot look upon any sin! He is also transcendent in His majesty, making Him, as one writer put it: “separate or distinct from and exalted above everything else in the universe.”

My greatest prayer must always be that God’s transcendence—His holiness—is seen and known in the worship of my own heart and the worship of Anchorage Grace Church. God must be loved, but He also must be feared. Only in understanding His transcendence can we fully grasp the magnitude and beauty of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

God is Sovereign

A high view of God compels us to emphasize several necessary implications. The first and foremost is that contrary to any theological perspective in which man (or even Satan) is functionally in control; we must believe God is absolutely sovereign over everything that happens in His universe—even, and especially, 9/11.

Psalm 103:19 says, “The LORD has established His throne in the heavens, and His sovereignty rules over all.” God is utterly free to act, and He is all-powerful in doing so. It has been said that Sovereign is what God is—by virtue of being God, He rules. Providence is what He does—He carries out His rule by administrating every detail within His creation.

God is sovereign in salvation.

A high view of God also compels me to believe and teach that God alone acts to affect a person’s spiritual rescue, which is the most critical reality regarding our existence. Salvation is accomplished by a sovereign act of God alone. At the precise moment we are saved, God initiates and fully accomplishes a miracle of new spiritual life. This miracle is called regeneration. I’ve come clear on my regeneration while attending Anchorage Grace, and my clarity is wholly in keeping with the 16th-century Reformers who characterize the miracle of saving faith by virtue of the five solas of the Reformation. The Reformers courageously distinguished themselves from the teachings of Rome by saying salvation comes through faith alone (sola fide), in Christ alone (solus Christus), by grace alone (sola gratia), according to the Scriptures alone (sola scriptura), to the glory of God alone (soli Deo Gloria). 

A High View of Scripture 

Since we are to have such profound respect for God, we also must hold—and fight for—a deep respect for His Word. Church history, among other things, is the story of God using called men and women to fight against those who would undermine a correct view of Scripture. The battles have centered on the following correct assertions: 

Scripture is Inspired

In 2 Tim. 3:16, Paul asserts that “Scripture is breathed out by God,” meaning it is of divine origin. Scripture—every word and punctuation mark—is the product of the breath of God. The mysterious process of inspiration is also captured by 2 Peter 1:21: “or no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.”

Scripture is Inerrant

Because the Bible is indeed and, in fact, God’s Word, we must consider the ancient manuscripts inerrant and that God protected and blessed the compilation and preservation of the 66 books of our Christian canon so that we would have confidence we genuinely have His perfect and special revelation regarding all truth—spiritual, historical, and scientific—in our hands today. Opening the Canon of Scripture to charges of even minor errancy operates like a loose string of yarn in an apparel. A pull on that loose thread begins the utter unraveling of the entire garment. If anything could be wrong, all could be wrong. The term infallible is also crucial because if inerrancy means there are no mistakes, infallibility means there cannot be mistakes. God’s Word emanates from Him, who alone is wholly trustworthy, making His inspired, blessed, and protected Word, infallible. 

Scripture is Sufficient

In 2 Tim. 3:15, the Apostle Paul describes Scripture as “able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.” This means we come to Christ practically through His Word. In verse 17, Paul adds that the Scripture is sufficient to make us adequate, which means “capable, proficient, able to meet all demands.” Finally, Scripture fully equips us for every good work—it completely outfits us for spiritual service. Theologically, Scripture is THE sufficient resource for God the Spirit to use for both our salvation and sanctification.

Scripture is Preached and Received as Authoritative

In 2 Tim. 4:1-2, Paul demands that pastors and elders “preach the Word.” There is an explicit exhortation for those handing the Word to speak with authority, with the corresponding warning for all who hear correct exposition to submit under it. Biblical preaching is a proclamation from God Himself that believers must hear and obey.

Scripture is Relevant

In 2 Tim 3:16, Paul also insists that all Scripture is profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness; thus, it is relevant to today; it is valid, applicable, and beneficial.

Scripture Must be Interpreted with a Proper Hermeneutic

Hermeneutics refers to the principles that drive one’s interpretation of Scripture. At Anchorage Grace, we interpret Scripture using a literal, grammatical, historical hermeneutic. This means we hold firm to the notion that every biblical text has only one unchangeable meaning determined solely by the human author’s intent and, ultimately, the Holy Spirit. That single meaning is expressed in letters, words, and grammar.

However, Scripture’s meaning can sometimes be challenging to understand, requiring careful exegesis. Therefore, at Grace, we strive to discern the meaning of every passage in Scripture by examining original language, grammar, words, culture, geography, and history. This process is called the grammatical-historical method. We consider figures of speech, allegories, symbols, and word pictures in the Bible, just as found in other literature. Yet, we interpret the Bible in its simplest, most literal sense, unless there is apparent reason to do otherwise found in authorial and contextual evidence.

Consecutive Expository Preaching Should be How We Rightly Handle God’s Word

Timothy’s chief assignment when the church gathered publicly was to 1) read the Scripture, 2) teach or explain the Scripture, and 3) apply the Scripture. This was in keeping with the patterns of the Old Testament as well. Expository preaching follows the progression of the text as it was written, taking care not to skip over controversial topics or cherry-pick selected passages to make a topical point. I’ve seen in my time at Grace that expository preaching is how we best come under the Word, which is why it is a core distinctive at Grace.

Contemporary Applications

A high view of Scripture demands courage in the face of cultural resistance to truth. When, as so often happens these days, Scripture disagrees with prevailing opinions, we must hold firm to the unchanging truth grounded in God’s Word. Some examples of modern controversies thoroughly treated in Scripture are the creation account, manhood and womanhood, human sexuality, marriage, spiritual gifts, and eternal security, to name a few. Anchorage Grace holds conservative positions in all these areas because Scripture directly addresses them.

Twenty-two years ago, I had no idea I would be writing these things to you today. Praise God for His sovereignty and Word!