In my latest stint on social media (unsure how many stints I have had), I have had the privilege of connecting with some outstanding theologians. One of them is Michael Huskey. Recently, I had the opportunity to review his book Huskey’s Study Notes On Historical Theology, a book released on Amazon on October 8, 2020.
Containing twenty-two unofficial chapters (nothing was listed as a chapter per se), an introduction and a whole wealth of information throughout the book (so much information it took a little over 3 weeks to read at thirty minutes a day), Huskey’s study notes, which use the NASB Bible translation (an excellent translation), are what he uses to “teach small groups and Sunday School classes” (p. ix). Huskey gives a “how-to” for using the notes for either Sunday School/small groups or personal study (pp. x-xii). Huskey also clearly and effectively communicates the subject matter of his study (pp. ix-x; bolding done by me):
This study will be concerning the history of theology and how it was forced to better define biblical doctrine as well as heresies that crept into the church.
Some of the resources used in this study are from Dr. Nathan Busenitz. Others will be mentioned as we progress.
There are basic notes, questions, and expositions throughout this study. The intention is to either bring to remembrance the things you have already studied in order to expound upon them, or to help engage conversation among those you are teaching…. I cannot stress the importance of learning and using critical thinking when going through a study like this. You must learn to compare all things to what Scripture says, including the comments made by myself on various expositions. A secondary intention of the study is to help you learn how to critically think. Keep this in mind as questions are presented. Some of the questions have basic answers and some have no answers at all. This is intentional to help you learn to think critically.
I appreciate Huskey’s emphasis on critical thinking. I have written often about modern evangelicalism’s disgust for discernment in various book/movie reviews. Critically thinking (i.e., judging things) is not a bad thing.
It’s also not a bad thing to not read one’s self into the biblical texts. Under the section of using the guide for Sunday School/small groups, Huskey gives the following directive (p. x):
Stay God centered. In today’s self-absorbed world it is easy to get people to insert themselves into the Scriptures and make it all about them. When conversations turn to personal matters, that is okay, sometimes people need to get something out that they are struggling with. Make sure you take the focus back to God and how that all Scripture is about him and the work he has done.
I have written often about some very self-absorbed, narcissistic heretics that are prevalent in modern evangelicalism (i.e., Henry Seeley, Christine Caine, Tony Evans, Steven Furtick, etc.). Sadly, many people do insert themselves into Scripture. I’m convinced if more Bible studies/study notes had the right idea about how to read the Scriptures (like Huskey’s and also Andrew Doane’s have the right idea), there would be less narcissistic nonsense behind the pulpit present-day.
Finally as it pertains to the introduction, I appreciate Huskey’s stating that the Gospel is both “the most important thing for us to understand” and something that needs to be heard “daily” (p. x). I personally think it is so important that I try to include it in all my blog posts. I never know who may be reading my articles. I want all people to know that by default, people are born dead in trespasses and sins.
Ephesians 2:1-10 explains:
2 And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, 2 in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience. 3 Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest. 4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), 6 and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; 9 not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.
The Bible is clear that people are born dead in trespasses and sins (2:1-3). God’s being rich in mercy makes one alive in Christ (2:4). Furthermore, it is by grace through faith that one is saved (2:5-9). It is not based on works (2:9).
If you do not believe what Ephesians 2:1-10 states, I would ask you please look at the Ten Commandments in Exodus 20:1-17. Have you ever told a lie? Have you ever stolen something, even if it was small? Have you ever used God’s name in vain? Jesus said that whoever looks upon a woman to lust after her has already committed adultery in the heart (Matthew 5:27-28). Jesus also said that if you ever get angry at someone, you’ve committed murder in the heart (Matthew 5:21-26). Just the mere thoughts of adultery and murder make you guilty of the very acts themselves.
Please understand that it only takes one murder to be a murderer, one lie to be a liar and so forth. David said in Psalm 51:5 that he was conceived in sin. Genesis 6:5 states that every intent of the thoughts of man’s heart is only evil continually. Clearly, man has a sin problem. Romans 3:23 states that all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. Man is in big trouble with God because of his sin. This is more amplified by the fact that perfection is the standard (Matthew 5:48).
Now, some people try to justify their sin by trying to balance it out with the good deeds that they have done. However, if you were to try that in a court of law, the judge would throw the book at you. A good judge would not accept a bribe. He would cast you off into jail. God likewise will not accept a bribe, for there is no partiality with Him (Deuteronomy 10:17; Ephesians 6:9). Revelation 21:1-8 states the following (NASB):
21 Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth passed away, and there is no longer any sea.2 And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is among the people, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them, 4 and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be anymourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.”
5 And He who sits on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” And He *said, “Write, for these words are faithful and true.” 6 Then He said to me, “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give water to the one who thirsts from the spring of the water of life, without cost. 7 The one who overcomes will inherit these things, and I will be his God and he will be My son. 8 But for the cowardly, and unbelieving, and abominable, and murderers, and sexually immoral persons, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, their part will be in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.”
The Bible is clear that all liars will have their part in the lake of fire. No adulterer, no murderer, no idolater, no unbeliever (among others) will inherit the kingdom of God (see also 1 Corinthians 6:9-10). Sin has a very serious consequence.
Thankfully, Jesus Christ came to solve the sin problem over 2000 years ago (Isaiah 53:1-12). You and I broke the law. Jesus paid the fine (Matthew 26:14-28:20). This means that the judge can do what’s legally right in dismissing your case. He can say, “This person has broken the law, but someone has paid his fine. He’s out of here.” This is good news.
There are two things a person must do. He must repent. This means to turn from his sin (Mark 1:16; Luke 24:36-49; 2 Timothy 2:19-26; Acts 17:30-31). He must also put his trust in the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ (Acts 16:31, 17:30-31; Romans 4:1-25, 10:1-17; Galatians 3:1-14; John 6:26-29). These gifts of repentance and faith are granted by God (Ephesians 2:8-9; 2 Timothy 2:22-26). If you repent and put your trust in the Savior Jesus Christ, He will forgive you of your sins and grant you everlasting life (John 6:47).
Huskey’s emphasis on how the Gospel should be both heard everyday and understood helps his book get off to an outstanding start.
As for the content post-introduction, Huskey’s book runs in a rather chronological order. The book starts with the first century (pp. 7-35). The last unofficial chapter (22) somewhat jumps the tracks chronologically by about a century compared to the prior unofficial chapter (although that is entirely subjective). Its’ slightly jumping the tracks in that last chapter is not necessarily a bad thing. It’s just something I noticed because I was expecting something other than what I saw (more on that later).
STRENGTHS OF THE BOOK (POST-INTRODUCTION)
I’ve already elaborated on some good qualities in the book’s excellent and important introduction. What I do now is elaborate on three strengths I found in this book (there were more).
First, Huskey asks good questions in this book. He does not ask the nonsensical and narcissistic “what does this verse mean to you” garbage. In the past I have commented on how people like Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth and Karl Vaters have fallen into this narcissistic abyss. Huskey, thankfully, does not do that. Instead, he asks thought-provoking questions like this (bolding done by me):
When you are exegeting Scripture and come to an understanding of what you are studying, it is best to look at what others have taught throughout all of church history in order to be sure you are correct. Don’t only look at modern commentaries or a study Bible, look at how the church fathers understood the passage, how the reformers understood the passage, how the Puritans understood the passage, etc. If your understanding is different from the collective historical view, who is in error?p. 2
Pastor Chris Rosebrough of Fighting For The Faith, when doing biblical critiques of bad sermons, will sometimes ask, “Which of the early church fathers taught (insert manmade doctrine)?” Needless to say, Huskey’s question is a good one because it helps one avoid holding to a view of Scripture that is disconnected from church history.
Huskey also asks basic questions. This is good because in doing so, he successfully fulfills his stated intention of bringing to remembrance things already studied. For example, on the same page as my other cited quote, Huskey asks the following:
What is exegesis (exegeting Scripture)? Drawing the true meaning out of the verse using proper context. This is the opposite of eisegesis.
What is eisegesis? Reading your own ideas or what you have been taught into the text.p. 2
Before I read this book, I was already very familiar with the terms “exegesis” and “eisegesis.” I’m still glad Huskey asked this because assuming the reader knows the answers to those questions is not the best assumption to make. Given the plethora of error and nonsense that exists today (from people such as Todd Smith, Max Lucado, Joseph Prince, Jefferson Bethke, Bob Goff, Craig Groeschel, Rick Warren, etc.), you never know what people do or do not know until they know.
A second strength in the book is that Huskey shares a plethora of outstanding quotes from church fathers and other resources. I’m convinced some of the modern-day exegetical practices for Christians stem from church fathers. For example, when giving information on John Chrysostom, Huskey cites this quote (p. 98):
“For we ought to unlock the passage by first giving a clear interpretation of the words. What then does the saying mean? We must not attend to the words merely, but turn our attention to the sense, and learn the aim of the speaker, and the cause and the occasion, and by putting all these things together turn out the hidden meaning.”John Chrysostom, Selected Homilies, p. 157
Chrysostom lived from 347-407 AD. The fact the practice of asking (essentially) “What does this text mean?” is roughly 1,600 years old is incredible.
I also appreciated two quotes from Richard Baxter that Huskey shared. Baxter, a nonconformist who lived from 1615-1691, had these two amazing quotes (p. 222; bolding done by me):
“I preached as never sure to preach again, and as a dying man to dying men.”
“Remember the perfections of that God whom you worship, that He is a Spirit, and therefore to be worshipped in spirit and truth; and that He is most great and terrible, and therefore to be worshipped with seriousness and reverence, and not to be dallied with, or served with toys or lifeless lip-service; and that He is most holy, pure, and jealous, and therefore to be purely worshipped; and that He is still present with you, and all things are naked and open to Him with whom we have to do. The knowledge of God, and the remembrance of his all-seeing presence, are the most powerful means against hypocrisy.”
As for the second quote, one of the many reasons I left the seeker-driven movement was because of its lack of reverence and seriousness. There’s nothing reverent about singing songs by cults (specifically the Heretical Quartet: Hillsong, Jesus Culture, Bethel and Elevation “Worship”). Those bands do not even worship the God of the Bible. There’s also nothing reverent about singing a song by Lady Gaga, a satanist, during an Easter service. I’m glad Baxter recognized the seriousness of worshiping God.
A third strength of this book is the knowledge I learned. While this strength could be viewed as subjective, I’m convinced this book has so much information (over 100 cited sources and quotes from over 60 different people) that anyone who reads this book is bound to learn something.
One piece of information I found interesting was the section on Keswick Theology (pp. 284-287). Apparently Billy Graham, Hudson Taylor and Oswald Chambers held to that theology (p. 285). I had no idea that its motto was, “Let go and let God” (p. 284). While I did not see a primary source of Keswick Theology that stated that verbatim, I do have to keep in mind that Huskey’s book is a book of notes. Not every note taken is going to have a primary source cited. Huskey’s notes, however, are on the right track (pp. 284-285):
The founders of the Charismatic movement were influenced by this movement. Being filled with the Spirit is the next level or class of Christian.
The Keswick motto was “Let go and let God.”
Have you ever heard this motto? What are its implications?
It indicates that God can’t do anything unless you let go, which renders him powerless against the human will. Some believers think of this as letting go of worry.
Sanctification is accomplished by letting go and letting God rather than praying for God to give you the grace you need to become more holy and applying that to action.
It promotes a type of passiveness or quietism.
What is quietism?
Quietism is a type of mysticism that attempts to achieve peace and spiritual perfection by thinking of God and divine things.
What should a believer do with their worry, let go and let God? No, we should pray and read Scripture about the sovereignty of God.
I’m glad Huskey points the reader in the direction of Scripture. Scripture is all-true and all-powerful for many great things (2 Timothy 3:16-17). It equips the believer for every good work.
A second thing I learned from this book (among many things) was the term “indifferentist.” Apparently these people believed in the fundamentals, but they would not separate form the liberals (p. 321). Furthermore, it appears that the late Billy Graham (1918-2018) was the most famous indifferentist (p. 321). Also, as far back as 1957, people that made decisions at his meetings were referred to a “local clergyman, Protestant, Catholic or Jewish” (p. 322). Finally, in the 1990’s, thousands of respondents who made decisions at Graham’s crusades were referred to the Roman Catholic Church (p. 322). This is an issue because the Roman Catholic Church does not teach the biblical Gospel. Growing up, I thought what Billy Graham was to evangelicalism was what Michael Jordan was to the NBA; I thought he was the greatest of all-time in his class. Over the last few years, my confidence in Graham has faded. In light of the information I learned in Huskey’s book, that fading confidence is justified. Referring respondents at a crusade to the Roman Catholic Church is simply not wise. Needless to say, Billy Graham is far from the greatest evangelist of all time for evangelicalism.
Finally, a third thing I learned from this book was when chapters, verses and study notes got added to the Bible. Apparently this started in 1560 with the Geneva Bible (p. 218). This would mean that human history has had more time without chapters, verses and study notes in Bibles than it has with those things. I believe this fact amplifies the gross errors committed when heretics and false teachers rip verses out of context. Moreover, knowing this kind of information is all the more reason to both study church history and read the Scriptures in context.
WEAKNESSES OF THE BOOK?
Because this book has quite a few strengths, I find it hard to state that this book has a weakness. I could gripe about page formats and potentially (if not outright) misspelled words, but that in no way takes away from the excellence of this work.
I will say this; since the book followed a rather chronological format, I was expecting to see some information on the seeker-driven movement near the end of the book. I was a tad bummed to not find information on some of the apostates in that movement (Rick Warren, Bill Hybels, Dan Southerland, Andy Stanley, Mark Driscoll, etc.). Nevertheless, I do have to keep in mind that I am rather biased because I came out of that movement. Huskey states that he spent thirty-five years in the Charismatic Movement (p. 290). That is a substantial amount of time, and he rightfully devoted a substantial amount of space to that movement. Perhaps he was not really influenced much by the nonsense of the seeker-driven movement. Nevertheless, since these are study notes on historical theology, I would have expected the seeker-driven movement to have some kind of place in that history. However, considering I learned some stuff I did not expect to find in this book, I suppose learning that new information instead of more information about the seeker-driven movement is a fair tradeoff.
Michael Huskey has constructed an excellent work here: it has a wealth of information, it shows Christianity throughout the centuries, and it helps the reader engage in good critical thinking. This is certainly a great work for either personal study or group study. Huskey put a lot of work in this book, and it shows. I both recommend this book and would be interested in reading any other works Huskey has done.
NOTE: I messaged my review to Michael Huskey.