Dr. Stewart Custer – 1931-2017

I’ve been thinking about Dr. Custer a lot these last couple of days. Many accolades coming from other grateful students, and well deserved. I was thinking back over the many hours of instruction I had from him, so took a look in my files to discover which classes he taught me. Methods of Bible Exposition is always mentioned, it was perhaps his signature course, but here is my list:

  • Methods of Bible Exposition (OT Semester)
  • Contemporary Theology
  • New Testament Word Studies
  • History of New Testament Times
  • Eschatology

I think that’s all of them, 15 credit hours of classroom instruction. To say Dr. Custer had a huge impact on my ministry would be an understatement. He contributed much to my understanding, but most of all to my method. The Bible first, last, and always – it is always our authority and trumps every argument raised against it.

The first three courses listed above are memorable to me as I had them all in one semester: A paper due every Monday, every Friday, and every other Wednesday. My wife (at that time my girlfriend) won accolades as well, as she typed almost all of them. Our dates, that semester, were often at her mother’s house where she would start typing one paper while I started writing the next.

The value of most of his courses came from his prodigious reading. He once quipped in class, “You have heard the rumor that I read a book a day. That’s not quite true. It’s more like a book a night.” And he took notes as he read, making those books useful and accessible to us. My notes are full of references to many books, a few of which I have now read myself, but I would need a couple of more lifetimes to read them all. (And I wish I could!)

A few gems from my notes, the first from the History of NT Times:

“Goals of this Course:

  1. A sense of the reality of Scripture (not cunningly devised fables)
  2. Determine to pass this on to others”

He, along with the rest of the professors at BJU, were more interested in equipping servants for the church than getting published to puff their resumes.

From Methods:

On a piece of advice from Sangster, who said “Don’t preach at, under, or over the congregation,” he warned against “being the Holy Spirit” (preaching at), being “too simplistic” (preaching under), and “feed the sheep, not the giraffes” (preaching over).

Also: Spiritual Qualifications for an Interpreter of Scripture

  1. Must be a born again believer (Jn 3.3)
  2. Must be surrendered and obedient (Jn 7.17)
  3. Must be honest (Ac 20.6-7) [willing to change your opinions if the text demands it]
  4. Must be taught by the Spirit
  5. Must be diligent (Jn 5.39)

He probably had a scripture reference for point 4, but I missed it, diligent student that I am.

On this passage:

Deuteronomy 31:12 Gather the people together, men, and women, and children, and thy stranger that is within thy gates, that they may hear, and that they may learn, and fear the LORD your God, and observe to do all the words of this law:

He offered the “Sequence of Study”:

  • “that they may hear” – 1st step – hear what God says
  • “that they may learn” – 2nd step – going farther, making it part of you
  • “fear the Lord” – 3rd step – change your heart toward God
  • “observe to do” – 4th step – obedience, put the word in your life

Well, I could find more, but I will stop there.

As a pastor for thirty-two years, I have to say that I owe Stewart Custer a great deal of gratitude for what he taught me and surely any fruit my ministry has had owes some to his influence as well.

What a blessing to have known him and sat under his feet.

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