A Grateful Tribute for Dr. Stewart Custer

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Aaron Blumer's picture

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As a student, I much enjoyed Dr. Custer as well. He wasn't a "high energy" speaker, but he was a high value speaker. I enjoyed figuring out his dry sense of humor. He had a kind of shy geekiness about him in the pulpit/classroom, and I enjoyed that as well. From where I sat, it was always clear that his heart was in what he was doing; it was equally clear that he had done his homework--his output was always characterized by precision and discipline, and that was--and is--a challenge to me.

G. N. Barkman's picture

I was blessed to take the two Bible Exposition classes from Dr. Stuart Custer.  They were transforming.  I had acquired a passion for expository preaching by listening to various expositors through the years.  I recognized an important distinction between topical and expositional sermons, but was not well equipped to prepare them until I took these classes at BJU Seminary in 1971 and '72.  I would usually go to the library stacks, find the section of commentaries related to the assigned text, set up one of the available card tables, spend several hours studying, and then type my paper for Dr. Custer on an old manual portable typewriter that I rescued from a trash bin in one of the men's dorms.

These were truly ministry formative years, and I often thank God for allowing me to receive this excellent training.  I have even made the statement at times that these two classes were worth as much as all my other classes combined.  That's an exaggeration, but not by much.

G. N. Barkman

Don Johnson's picture

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.

(Also posted at oxgoad)

Note: As I look at my notes, I think I only had one semester of Methods, we were required to choose either the OT or NT semester, I chose OT.

 

Maranatha!
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

Ron Bean's picture

I had Dr. Custer for two beneficial classes in seminary that are still paying benefits.

The first time I heard him preach was at a BJU Bible Conference in 1975 or 1976 titled "Fractured Fundamentalism". It was both pertinent to the time then and prophetic of today.

"Some things are of that nature as to make one's fancy chuckle, while his heart doth ache." John Bunyan

Mike Harding's picture

I had Dr. Custer for many classes at BJU, including all the ones listed by Don.  Dr. Custer was a gentleman and a scholar.  Since I was a Greek minor at BJU I appreciated Dr. Custer's defense of the UBS Greek text (2nd edition Nestle-Aland).  I use it (4th edition) to this day.  I well remember Dr. Custer debating the text issue at the church I was saved in, Marquette Manor Baptist Church.  Custer did a masterful job defending the use of the Eclectic text over-against an exclusive use of the TR. Custer highly recommended the NASB to us as did Dr. McCune. We will miss him.

Pastor Mike Harding

AndyE's picture

I am also grateful for Dr. Custer.  I only has one class with him -- Ethics -- but what I really appreciated were his book reviews on commentaries that he wrote for Biblical Viewpoint and his Tools for Teaching and Preaching the Bible.  He played no small part in the development of my library.

My Dad tells a funny story of going over to Dr. Custer's house and finding the Custers playing Scrabble in Greek. 

Dr. Bob Wood also passed away a month or so ago.  He also had a large impact on my life.  I am so grateful for these godly influences that God placed in my life.  

Ron Bean's picture

I had the privilege of attending Dr. Custer's funeral service today and reflecting on his profitable ministry. I was also surprised to see how many of the attendees had dyed their hair gray.

"Some things are of that nature as to make one's fancy chuckle, while his heart doth ache." John Bunyan