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Endurance: A Conversation with Pastor Ben’s Historical Theology Professor



Join us as Pastor Ben Stuart sits down with Historical Theology Scholar Dr. John Hannah and his wife, Carolyn, addressing topics such as church history, struggle, and revival. We leave this conversation encouraged to see the beauty of Christ and how we can be a light to those around us.

Key Takeaway

We are in a better position today to share the Gospel than most have been in the past. We get to stand on the shoulders of those who have gone before us. Our past speaks to our present and gives us a future.

Dr. John Hannah has been teaching at Dallas Theological Seminary for over 40 years and has been married to Carolyn for 56 years. He is a scholar in Church History, and one of his greatest joys is watching his students learn and grow in their walk with Christ. Ben Stuart asked Dr. Hannah and his wife questions about Church History, enduring struggles, and revival.

1) Why take on an interest in Church history?

Most people learn about Jesus and the Apostles and then jump straight to modern times knowing nothing that happened in-between the two. It matters because if a person doesn't have a past, you do not have a present. If you do not have the security of a past in the present, you don't have a future. There are really two needs in the world. We need to be forgiven, and we need to be loved, and that meets in Jesus, for He is altogether beautiful. Church history and theology help us see His love.

2) What is an overview of the history of the Church from the birth of the Church through now?

  • Acts 2—Birth of the Church.
  • Birth of Church-300—persecution of the Church.
  • 300—Constantine becomes the Emperor and tolerates Christianity. Theodosius IV made it the state religion later on.
  • 300-1750—Christian Era
  • 1200- Christianity began to decline as it lost its way. It became more focused on self-help rather than the proclamation of the Gospel. This caused unrest. Two movements formed.
  • 1500—The Great Renaissance, the birthplace of learning. At this time, no one doubted the teaching of the Bible, but people wanted to figure it out by themselves. The Great Reformation was the good side of the Renaissance (Luther. Calvin, Zwingli, etc.) Epistemology is the theory of knowledge; people constantly approach life by the principle of "how you know determines what you know."
  • 1650-1960—The bad side of the Renaissance was a turn from outward authority from the Bible to inward. The Enlightenment, with Locke, Descartes, and others, turned inward toward intellect, science, and technology.
  • 1906-Present—Postmodern/Ultramodern
  • We thought that more Ph. D.s and advances in science and technology would accomplish peace. The prosperity of this movement became a problem. The worldview that placed an emphasis on linearity, progress, and a better tomorrow has collapsed. We rejected the Holy Scriptures and put our faith in science and technology, but after 350 years, it has failed us. The era we are in now is beautiful because people know they don't know. It's a glorious time to share the Gospel.

3) How do you see revival?

Revival is a stirring of God to remind the Church to do what it should have been doing all along. Our nation has a Christian foundation, with the founding fathers believing the essence of Christianity is morals. Without religion, there could be no nation and nothing to guide us. They separated the message of Christianity from the fruit of Christianity, which is morals. Because of that. we've lost both. Yet, the Church will not fail. In the history of our nation, there have been 5-6 little awakenings. The hallmarks of revival are God's people taking an interest in God and being aware of their responsibility to share the Gospel. It leads to evangelism which leads to compassion, this changes the culture.

4) What are the causes of concern and hope for the current generation?

At the seminary, Carolyn works with the wives of the seminary students and has noticed a move back to being involved with their husbands' studies and ministries. They realize they will be called upon, too. God has kept His remnant to proceed until He comes, and they know they are a part of that.

The generation as a whole is zealous and committed to the Lord. They really want to pour out their lives to serve Him. The disadvantage is the baggage they bring with them from growing up without church or unhealthy churches and increasingly fractured homes from divorce. Many students convert in college, giving them less of a foundation and background in the faith before they get to seminary. They need anchors. They will do well and be fine; it will just take them longer.

5) How can a marriage and relationship survive 50+ years of marriage?

Commitment. People change their lives when they find something more beautiful than what they are experiencing. A lot of our joys are expectations that don't come true. You have to show people something that is more beautiful than what they are experiencing, and that's Christ. People seek joy and pleasure, which is a legitimate search, but they are looking in the wrong place.

6) How do you endure and struggle well?

We are all struggling; that's the normal Christian life. Walking with God comes down to two things: the battlefield of the mind and taking the dark side of your life seriously. See Romans 8:13. What is in your mind will influence your choices. Garbage in, garbage out. The essence of good input is the Holy Scripture. the fellowship of the saints, sacraments, and memorizing Scripture. etc. There are things we need to imbibe and things we need to exorcise from our lives.

You are not alone; you are part of the Body. Talk with people. Walk with Jesus, don't run. We make mistakes when we run, like trying to shove the Gospel onto someone. Walking keeps us steady. We are ordinary people. Averageness + Longevity + Perseverance = gathering many more with you.

You endure by having something in mind more beautiful than your failures. Grit your teeth, recognize your sin, ask for help, and ask for forgiveness. As you walk with Him, He will daily point out your flaws. You don't get to Heaven until you're there, but you work at it daily. You need to know 3 things.

  • Know God
  • Know Yourself- we're all different, and the enemy solicits everyone differently.
  • Know Your Circumstances

There's comfort in knowing God has forgiven you. You can come with your flaws day after day.

We all walk with God in different ways. You don't need to be a clone of others. There are universal ingredients but no universal method. You will change as the decades pass. You learn meditation as you get older. It's a journey with a wonderful end.

7) What are the basics?

There's something twisted about human nature. None of us were taught to sin. It's our blight; we are nature bound for wrath. God, in His grace, gave us His Son, who entered time, space, and history. He lived among us and was crucified on a tree. He was cursed by the empire, the people, and by God. Why? He was cursed for each of us as He bore our sins. He rose to life three days later. The proof Jesus died for the sins of all of us is that He is living now because He conquered death. The resurrection proves that Jesus accomplished what He came to do: to give His life as a ransom for many.

Through the written Word, we have come to an understanding of the Living Word.


"If a person doesn't have a past, then you do not have a present. If you do not have the security of a past in the present, you don't have a future."

Dr. John Hannah

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Scripture References

  • Hebrews 13:7
Ben Stuart Ben Stuart is the pastor of Passion City Church D.C. Prior to joining Passion City Church, Ben served as the executive director of Breakaway Ministries on the campus of Texas A&M. He also earned a master’s degree in historical theology from Dallas Theological Seminary. He and his wife, Donna, live to inspire and equip people to walk with God for a lifetime.