About the Author
Arthur C. Custance was born and educated in England and moved to Canada in 1928. In his second year at the University of Toronto he was converted to faith in Christ. The experience so changed his thinking that he switched courses, obtaining an honours M.A. in Hebrew and Greek. In his 13 years of formal education, he explored many facets of knowledge and was particularly interested in anthropology and origins. He completed his Ph.D. at the University of Ottawa in 1959 while serving as head of the Human Engineering Laboratories of the Defence Research Board in Ottawa (Canada) and was engaged in research work for 15 years. During that time he also wrote and published The Doorway Papers, and in retirement in 1970, he wrote 6 major books. His writings are characterized by a rare combination of scholarly thoroughness and biblical orthodoxy.
Biography of Arthur C. Custance
1910 - 1985
Arthur Custance was born in Norfolk, England. Upon completion of his primary and secondary education, he failed the Oxford and Cambridge Entrance Examinations (three times!). Just at this time the British Government had a scheme to “bring culture to the Colonies”, and offered to send him to the Canadian province of Ontario with the promise of 800 acres of land to build laboratories to bring improvements to farming.
So in February, 1929, he was sent out as a hired farm hand (he, who had never even had to polish his own shoes!) to learn about farming first hand. The promise was never fulfilled due to the disastrous financial crash of 1929. He spent 3 rigorous years on 3 farms and in the bush, acquiring many basic skills which served him well throughout his life. Then, in the fall of 1931, the way opened to go to the University of Toronto. He was the first student to be awarded a scholarship established that year in Canada by the British Medical Society.
Though life as a student was a welcome change from the farm, yet at age 22 life still seemed pointless, disconnected unlike some students he had met who seemed to have a purpose in life. He was an indifferent student, always near the bottom of the class. Then, in the fall of his second year, he was converted to Christ and this experience so changed his thinking and his capacity for study that he took courses in the Arts and Literature, Archaeology, Anthropology, Architecture, History everything! It was, he said, as if God had placed him in the hub of the wheel and now all the spokes connected. It was from this vantage point that he now pursued his studies and life.
In the spring of 1933 he was sent out by the Anglican Church as a summer supply preacher to small communities in northern Saskatchewan in Western Canada where the effects of the Depression had brought life to a virtual standstill. But his ministry, and that of Lillian Misner who was with the Canadian Sunday School Mission, was fruitful with several conversions. They married and remained, teaching the new converts.
During that winter Arthur read the Bible through eight times, and framed his theology. Unable to find work (the Depression was very severe), they returned to Ontario and Arthur resumed his studies. He became involved in the formation of the InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, spending the summers in Muskoka, north of Toronto, building InterVarsity’s famous Pioneer camp sites. Even in Toronto there was little work and at one particularly low point, he was forced to join the bread lines.
But he was able to continue University studies . He had switched courses, receiving an honours M.A. in Middle East Languages (Hebrew, Greek, and Cuneiform) in 1941. His studies were interrupted by World War II. His application to the Royal Navy (following a family tradition) was denied. Because of his metallurgic knowledge, he was appointed materials control at Otis Fensom (in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada), a crown corporation manufacturing firing control instruments for the Bofors anti-aircraft gun. When the war ended he joined a group of consulting engineers, and later was Design Engineer for a Lighting Company in Toronto, designing the first flourescent lighting for banks.
However, his continuing biblical studies led to a deep interest in archaeology and anthropology, especially as related to human origins. Believing that the Word of God could sustain the keenest scrutiny, he returned in 1951 to the University of Toronto for a Ph.D in Anthropology, becoming the department’s first applicant for such a degree. Three years later, having completed the comprehensives with honours, his thesis approved, and with the degree in sight, he was asked whether he believed Adam and Eve were real people. He answered in the affirmative, with the consequence that he was not permitted to complete the required thesis. He had now come to a dead end and for sometime he was at a loss as to direction in his life. That fall he became a University Missioner, speaking at campuses in week-long campaigns.
Then in the spring of 1955, on the recommendation of the Anthropology Department of the University of Toronto two years previously, the Defence Research Board of Canada offered him a position requiring a background in engineering and physical anthropology. He became Head of the Human Engineering Laboratories in Ottawa. As his work became increasingly oriented towards physiology, he took some courses as a guest of the Physiology Department in the Medical School of the University of Ottawa. Subsequently, at the urging and the approval, of his Department to complete his Ph.D., the University of Ottawa accepted work already done. Upon completion of his thesis, “Does Science Transcend Culture?”, he was granted a Ph.D. (in Education) in 1959.
During the 15 years with the Defence Research Board, he worked briefly on the respirator mask programme, developed a mask-sizing meter and an anthropometric facial countour measuring device. He then pursued, until his retirement, an active research programme into physiological stress under combat operations, using voluntary military personnel as subjects. He held several patents in the area of applied physiological instrumentation, including the Custance Sudorimeter which permits exceedingly accurate measurement of levels of sweating (caused not only by heat stress but by emotional and mental as well). He presented numerous classified papers before scientific and military audiences, and his significant research in physiological heat stress resulted in a score of government reports as well as publishing in scientific journals. His was recognized as the authority on human thermoregulation.
Dr. Custance was a member of the Evangelical Theological Society, was elected a Fellow of the Royal Anthropological Institute, made a Member Emeritus of the Canadian Physiological Society, a member of the New York Academy of Sciences and, in 1971, was listed in American Men of Science.
At the same time, his biblical interests developed into an avocation. Between 19571972 he wrote and published The Doorway Papers 62 monographs covering a broad spectrum of knowledge, dealing particularly with the interface between Faith and Science, as well as Christian experience and theology.
His interests and accomplishments were varied. He was a portrait artist, had designed and personally built several houses, including The Terraces on the St. Lawrence River at Brockville, Ontario, where he enjoyed sailing and canoeing. In retirement (in 1970 at Brockville), he gave several public lecture series on Explorations of the Christian Faith in the light of Science as well as holding a number of seminars on theological matters in his home. He taught a course in Anthropology at the local Community College. And at the same time he also wrote six major books.
In addition to his research and writing and omnivorous reading (he subscribed to a number of journals), he carried on an active correspondence and his home saw a constant stream of visitors. Though he enjoyed music and art and literature, perhaps his greatest joy was spending evenings before the fire sharing his faith with others.
Having lived a full and active life, on October 22, 1985, Arthur Custance made that journey out of time into eternity and is now in the presence of his Lord and Saviour with whom he walked by faith for over fifty years.
From the very beginning of his Christian life, he made careful notes on all his reading and studies. While he was, in some respects, a generalist (as seen from the subjects covered in formal studies of some 13 years), as a research scientist he became a specialist in the field of physiology, an authority on thermoregulation in humans. Yet the study of Scripture (in its original languages) was his one absorbing interest throughout life. Though he did not have formal studies in theology, he read widely: Reformed, Puritan, Medieval writers, the Church Fathers. In retirement he regularly read a half dozen scientific journals, but his interest had shifted more to biblical themes. It was these meticulous notes (which are archived) that provided much for his subsequent writing.
It could be said that his life had three rather distinct phases. The early years were spent acquiring knowledge and working out a framework for his theology and worldview.
Then in the forties and fifties this framework was tested and ‘adjusted’ through a number of avenues: teaching Bible classes, with his work (for some 12 years) with the young people (60 on average) aged 18-22 years at North York Anglican Church (Toronto), as a popular speaker at university retreats and for one year as a missioner with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship.
Perhaps it could be said that the conflicts with the ASA (American Scientific Affiliation) and the Creation Society were most significant in hammering and forging his worldview. For in this conflict he moved from the anti-intellectual attitude of the evangelicalism of the thirties to a more balanced appreciation of the role of reason and of faith, of the relationship between revealed truth and acquired knowledge. He was not comfortable with the stance of either the ASA or the Creation Society: for he did not feel that Truth resided only in Science nor only in Scripture but that both were necessary, each contributing to and receiving light from the other.
It wasn’t until the sixties that his writing career, the third phase, began. His writing skills were honed by the discipline of scientific publishing which taught him accuracy and precision, developing that sound scholarly thoroughness characterisitc of his later works written in the 15 years after retirement.
His writings reflect his own intellectual and spiritual development: for he draws together into an organic whole the Christian Faith and the results of research in many fields of knowledge since he held that “an established fact is as sacred as a revealed truth”. Thus his writings interweave the sacred and the secular naturally and easily. He had the ability to express complexities in language understandable to both the layman and the expert. His insights and clarity of thought have been compared with that of C. S. Lewis, while the scope of his writings have been compared with that of Francis Schaeffer. His books are characterized by a rare combination of biblical orthodoxy and sound scholarship.
Yet how is he to be classified? Although he had worshipped in many denominations, he preferred to worship as an Anglican. He was never “attached” to any school of thought (either scientific or theological) for he was indeed an independent thinker, driven by a great need to understand and find answers to the vicissitudes of life which may account for the ecclectic nature of his writings.
While it would be appropriate, perhaps, to classify his work as Apologetic, yet it is not in order to provide proofs of Christianity (as in the previous century) but rather to defend the Faith in the face of a new kind of attack: the “implacable offensive of Science”. He demonstrated the reasonableness of the Christian Faith which, because it is an organic whole, has an compelling logic and inner consistency that is defensible. Indeed he points to how the assured findings of science actually support that inner consistency and logic, thus making it so defensible in its connecting links.
Still, Custance is more than an apologist: he is a biblical scholar and a theologian. But more importantly, he is also an analyst, seeing new relationships (a mark of a researcher) which results in a new synthesis, providing a worldview that is meaningful and satisfying.
His writings form a bridge between Science and Theology, for he was concerned about the wide chasm between scientists and theologians. As he put it, “Nothing quite equals the ignorance of the average scientist about theology, except perhaps the ignorance of most theologians about matters of science”. For him, the hallmark of Christian scholarship is not that it merely states the Truth (which it certainly ought to do) but rather that it faces up to the Christian implications of the truths presented.
Above all else, there are, I think, three things that are basic to his writings indeed, to the man. He believed in the plenary and verbal inspiration of Scripture, and so he took the words of Scripture (in the original languages) seriously and in the most literal sense. The Bible was, for him, the touchstone of truth, holding that “an established fact is as sacred as a revealed truth”: God spoke as clearly in his handiwork as in his Word, and both are necessary for understanding.
And he believed that it is “by faith we understand”: not that we must understand in order to believe (as Abelard said) but we must believe in order to understand (as Anselm said). He was very clear about the roles of faith and of reason that reason and knowledge must always minister to, not be master of, our understanding of the things of God.
But Dr. Custance would go one step further: to know the truth and yet not be overwhelmed by a sense of worship of the One who IS Truth is really not to understand, after all. Study, whether of theology or of nature, in its deepest and fullest sense becomes a Devotional Exercise. For paramount is a personal relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ: this is what underlies his writings, as it did his life.
Curator, Writings of Arthur Custance
ABOUT THE BOOKS
By taking the words of Scripture seriously and in their most literal sense (in the original languages), keen and refreshing insights are provided. “I make no apology for taking the words of Scripture seriously . . . and marvel at the precision with which the truth is spelled out and hedged against error”, he said, and underlined that “the tense is important, the gender does matter, the meaning is crucial, attention to small cues in the Word of God is fundamental to understanding its message”.
The words of Scripture are for children,
but the thoughts are for men.
Being fully persuaded that Scripture has nothing to fear but everything to gain from the closest examination possible, his purpose in writing was not in order to prove what we believe, nor to defend our Faith, nor even to rationalize it, but by a bridging of the scientific and theological to increase our understanding. The role of reason and humanly acquired knowledge is to minister to (ministerium), not to be master of (magisterium), of our understanding of the things of God. “An established fact is as sacred as a revealed truth”.
Faith is not a conclusion
but a starting point!
By drawing together into an organic unity both revealed and natural knowledge to form a truly comprehensive Christian World View that is meaningful and satisfying to heart and mind. We should not depend upon the findings of Science to confirm our Faith, though this may well happen; but it is certainly proper to use their findings to explore that Faith.
We do not simply decide to believe, having been convinced by factual evidence. We first grasp the truth, being enabled by the Holy Spirit, and then the external evidence for the truth suddenly takes on new significance. Thus we ‘understand’ by faith. Anselm said, “I believe in order that I may understand” whereas Abelard said, “I seek to understand in order that I may believe”
Reason without Faith is materialism
— and therefore incomplete.
Faith without reason is superstition
— and therefore wrong.
Custance asks: “Why is it that the theologians are just as unwilling to incorporate the data of science into their theology as the scientists are of incorporating the data of theology into their science? These data in both cases ultimately rest upon foundations of a similar nature, namely, on the logical extension of the implications of premises which have been accepted by faith.”
As an illustration of the failure to do so, he spells out the end result in the evolution/creation controversy as follows:
“While I greatly admire those who have so ably defended creation against evolution, I cannot help but feel that to do this by deliberately divorcing the issue from the Christian Faith is to treat the case as though it were merely a matter of ‘scientific evidence’. It would seem humanly wise but I fear it is really a spiritual surrender to secularism.
“The issue has to be fought on our grounds, not theirs. If it is won on their grounds and the teaching of creation is allowed, it will be a victory of the intellect but will have lost its spiritual significance entirely. The theory of creation can never be presented faithfully as an alternative to evolution by divorcing it from its spiritual implications.”
Since the temporal order is framed within the eternal,
only by a measure of comprehension of the eternal can
a man hope to interpret the temporal correctly.
Once upon a time Theology was known as the Queen of Sciences. And once upon a time the centres of learning were known as uni-versities that is, that all branches of enquiry were related to and found their significance within that “Queen”, the Revelation of God. Today we now have multi-versities, each branch of enquiry going its own way without reference to any other and leading to meaninglessness.
For Custance Redemption, the theme from Genesis to Revelation, is the ‘rallying point’ about which all other knowledge finds meaning and integration. Thus since Redemption is accomplished through the substitute sacrifice of a Redeemer’s life, this determined the kind of body the First Adam must have. And this kind of body, being human and not angelic, requires a certain kind of environment to be maintained which in turn determined the character of this world, which in turn demanded a certain kind of universe!
“All things linked are
thou canst not stir a flower,
without the fluttering of a star”.
Thus there is no subject exempt all find ultimate meaning in Redemption. These Papers and books touch on such a wide variety of subjects but all will be found to illuminate, or be illuminated by, this central theme: the love of God in the redemption of mankind.
A Brief History of the Doorway Papers and the Arthur Custance Library
The Doorway Papers, a series of 60 scholarly monographs, written and published privately by the author almost singlehandledly , was commenced in 1957 (“after hours” while doing research work at Defence Research Board of Canada) and completed in 1972, with Indexes to the whole series. Some 25,000 Papers were sold.
An agreement was then made with the Zondervan Publishing Company who produced, between 1975 and 1980 The Doorway Papers Series in a ten volume set. The Papers in these volumes were arranged as far as possible according to subject matter, with some volumes being simply a miscellany of essays. In late 1985 publication of the series was discontinued.
However, due to constant requests, in 1988 the Papers were again made available, in their original monograph format by a method which allowed production-on-demand. This had the advantages of requiring little capital and very low inventory, though it did increase the retail cost of papers a little. This undertaking was possible only because of the guidance and dedication and encouragement of three Brockville men: George Hudson, with his vision and marketing skills; Hal Lochrie for his support and business experience; and George Verbaas, our electronics expert with an eye for detail. It was George who, with the “ordering” of his health and his time, did the printing and binding until his death in 1989. With the move to Hamilton in 1990, Papers were still produced upon demand, but using commercial services.
The six books were mainly written after his retirement in 1970 at The Terraces on the St. Lawrence River near Brockville. Without Form and Void was published privately in 1970. In 1976 Arthur Custance was commisssioned by Probe Ministries International (Texas) to contribute a book for their Christian Free University Curriculum Series which was titled The Mysterious Matter of Mind and published in 1979 jointly with Z