Clearly Christian, Part 5: Is Christianity Old-Fashioned? Outdated?

By Ricky Beckett, GUG Contributor

This article was edited to Geeks Under Grace standards, and the personal opinions of this author are not necessarily that of Geeks Under Grace.

This is part five of Ricky Beckett’s Clearly Christian series. Be sure to check out parts one, two, three, and four as well!

A person holds a Bible up to the sky

Because Christianity is ancient, it is often viewed as a dinosaur religion —“an extinct collection of beliefs that once thrived in a bygone age” (Sutton, 65). Many believe Christianity is outdated and old-fashioned, and that its doctrines and the Bible both need updating. Ironically, calling Christianity an old-fashioned religion is old-fashioned. This confusion dates as far back as the 2nd century from a Greek philosopher named Celsus who labeled Christianity as a naïve, ancient religion that holds to a story that has been disproved a long time ago (Origen, 408). Similarly, a 3rd-century philosopher named Porphyry mocked Christianity for not being in touch with modern knowledge, even calling it “barbarian recklessness” (Eusebius, 265-266). 

The accusations did not die with these early philosophers, however. The confusion continued during the Enlightenment that made it into a societal sport to mock Christians for being out of touch with modern knowledge, which is similar to the thoughtless invectives launched against Christianity by the LGBTQ community. In the early 20th century, Nietzsche famously quipped, “God is dead,” arguing society no longer needs belief in God to establish morality or values. Thus, in our postmodern age, many groups of people — even some “Christian” churches — believe traditional Christian beliefs about sex, gender, morality, and other values are antiquated and need updating. Some church bodies, then, will confess that the Word of God is not infallible and inerrant since the Bible is ancient. Since it is written by humans, they believe, clearly it can err and be fallible.

However, 2 Timothy 3:16 speaks against such error: “All Scripture is God-breathed and beneficial for teaching, for rebuke, for restoration, for discipline in righteousness” (my translation). God-breathed is the keyword. This word tells us all the Scriptures come through the Spirit of God (what we typically call the inspiration of the Holy Spirit). It should also remind us of Jesus’ promise to the Apostles: “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you” (John 14:26), which we have today in the New Testament. 

The problem with their thinking is they presume God is incapable of overcoming human fallibility and error. If God is not powerful enough to have His Word be written without error on simple matters of morality and other temporal issues, we cannot trust His Word when it speaks of eternal salvation. In other words, they don’t believe God is God at all; instead, they make themselves god by placing their own words over the Word of God, just as our first parents did in the Garden.

A woman in a church prays

Such confusion should not surprise us, however. Jesus entered a world that was hostile to Him. He wasn’t yet weaned from His mother when Herod tried to kill Him (Matthew 2:13-18). He encountered opposition everywhere He went, culminating with His death on a cross. Jesus warned His disciples they would face the same opposition. Matthew 5:11-12 states, “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on My account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you,” and John 15:18-19 says, “If the world hates you, know that it has hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.

As Rev. Sutton explains, “Christianity is a threat to the status quo of the world… Those who are in positions of power in the world are often deeply suspicious of Christ Jesus [and by extension, Christians]. This is not limited to formal positions of power such as government officials and wealthy business leaders. Rather, anyone who stands to lose power and control is often resistant to the Gospel of Jesus Christ” (Sutton, 71). The world scoffs at Christ’s message that says to deny yourself — that is, to die to sin — and to live to Christ (Matthew 16:24-25; Romans 6).

Yet we must also examine the log in our own eye (Matthew 7:1-5). When we repent, one of the questions we should ask ourselves is, “How have I resisted Christ’s Word when it’s threatened my sense of power and control?” After all, we sin because we want things to be done our way, not the way of Christ, which means the root of all sin is pride. We sin because we are prideful in our own ability. We think we know more than God, whether it’s on matters of sex, gender, morality, taking God’s name in vain, stealing, lying, etc. 

A woman stands in nature, arms outstretched

First Corinthians 6:9-10 lists the many sins the Christians at Corinth suffered from: “neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor catamites, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor the abusive, nor robbers will inherit the kingdom of God” (my translation). But then Paul continues, “And such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God” (v. 11; my translation). Paul reminds the Corinthian Christians, and us, of our Baptism — that because you died to sin and now live to Christ by virtue of your Baptism (Romans 6:1-11), these sins no longer define you. Instead, what defines you is what God did to you in your Baptism — He washed all your sins away, sanctified you (made you holy), and justified you (made you right with God). What defines you is being a child of God, and this shapes and forms everything else about you.

Unfortunately, though, the incessant accusations of being outdated or out of touch with modern knowledge have led many Christians to seek ways of being relevant or “cool.” For example, most churches have traded “old-fashioned,” roughly 1,700-year-old divine liturgy for contemporary worship that is hardly distinguishable from a Taylor Swift concert. Much of worship no longer looks like the Church, but worldly. Others, as discussed above, will compromise on God’s Word (doctrine) for the sake of relevance. Yet Christianity never needs to seek to be relevant because it is inherently always relevant. 

Christians are saints (“holy ones”) — set apart — and they do holy things, which means we fundamentally look, act, and speak differently. The Church, from the word ἐκκλησία (ekklesia), literally means “called out ones” (assembly, congregation), which also looks fundamentally different than the rest of the world. If Christian talk (theology, doctrine) sounds like the rest of the world, if Christian behavior looks like the world, and if our worship sounds like the world’s music, are we truly being the Church? If the Church seeks to be relevant by looking like the rest of the world (which is no different than the Israelites desiring their own king to be like the rest of the nations), how are we any different? Why go to church at all? Or why be the Church?

A woman sings into a microphone in front of a congregation

Christianity is always relevant because of what the Good News of Salvation — the Gospel — entails. As long as there is death, sin, brokenness, guilt, shame, cancer, miscarriages, suffering, and despair in the world, the Gospel of Jesus Christ will always be relevant. Because of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, our music sounds churchly rather than worldly. Even the Church smells different (e.g., incense, or that old church smell). We behave differently — humility instead of pride, honor instead of selfishness, chastity instead of promiscuity, soberness instead of drunkenness, love instead of hate, and so on. We also speak differently — how we do theology (which literally means “God talk,” meaning how we talk to, for, and about God), how we speak to one another (kindness instead of rudeness), talk that builds up the brethren instead of obscenity (Ephesians 4:29; Colossians 3:8), and so forth. Christ has designed His Church to look and sound so different that it’s almost like stepping into an alternate dimension. Indeed, in a way, we are, for the kingdom of God is not of this world, and Christ rules His Church with the Gospel instead of Law, which is totally unlike the rest of the world.

Everyone has a “third place.” Third places are “social spaces that facilitate community building… These places are contrasted with the first two places people frequent—home and work. A third place can be any sort of communal gathering location such as a bookstore, pub, barber shop, or coffeehouse” (Sutton, 73). What third places do you have? For example, for me there are bookstores I frequently visit, every now and then I like to get lunch at a local pub while I work on a sermon, one of my favorite restaurants in town is Cheers, and my wife’s favorite third places are the public library and the horse stables.

The best third place for us Christians is the local congregation. As explained in part four of this series, in Lutheran liturgy we call our worship Gottesdienst, which is German for “Divine Service.” We call it that because it is God who is doing His divine service to us, just as Christ said of Himself, “The Son of Man came not to be served but to serve” (Matthew 20:28). Although we offer Him our worship and praise, it’s God who initiates our praise in His divine service to us in the Word and Sacraments where He delivers to us forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation. You can’t get this anywhere else. Not at any concert, political debate, or any other worldly thing, but only in God’s service of the Word.

An open Bible with flowers on it

Every third place also has some homogeneity to it — they’re places for people “just like us.” We go to the same coffee shop because there are people there who also like coffee. Or the local bar because there are also people there who like the same beer and food. Even an online gaming community because there are people there who like the same games. Yet the Church is for people who are not “just like us,” except in the fact that we’re all saints and sinners (simul justus et peccator). The Church is for all people, young and old, rich and poor, powerful and destitute, black and white, healthy and disabled, etc. The Church is multigenerational, multiethnic, and multifaceted. I learned a phrase from one of my seminary professors that we are Romans 7 saints and sinners with a Romans 8 God (take some time to read those two chapters).

Though we are all saints and sinners, each of us has our own thorns in our sinful flesh, each of us is given unique gifts from God as His saints in the Church, and we all have the same Lord and God who no longer condemns us but justifies us through Christ our Lord. The prostitute and virgin bow before Christ’s altar; both are made pure in Christ. The depressed and the jovial kneel before the cross; the joy of the Lord is the strength of both of them (Nehemiah 8:10). Poor and rich come before the Lord; both are given eternal riches from the Lord. Young and old sing praises unto the Lord; both are given eternal life by the power of His name. Gay and straight trust in Christ; to both the Lord says, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more” (John 8:11).

So, no, Christianity — and by extension, the Church — is not “old-fashioned” and outdated because as long as there are sinners in this world, the Gospel of Jesus Christ will always be relevant on this side of the eschaton, which He has called His Church to proclaim. What is truly old-fashioned and outdated is the incessant notion that the Church is no longer relevant. The ancient Greek philosophers thought so, and Rome persecuted the Church for it, but she only flourished. Those who think the Church is outdated need to get with the times that the Gospel of Jesus Christ is for them, during such a time as this, so they “should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16).


Eusebius. “Church History.” A Secret Library of Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church. Volume 1. Edited by Philip Schaff and Henry Wace. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1952.

Origen. “Against Celsus.” Ante-Nicene Fathers. Volume 4. Translated by Alexander Roberts and James Donaldson. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1956.

Sutton, A. Trevor. Clearly Christian: Following Jesus in This Age of Confusion. Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 2018.

About the Author

Rev. Garrick Sinclair Beckett, also known as Pastor Ricky, is Associate Pastor at Zion Lutheran Church in Mt. Pleasant, Michigan, and is also campus pastor at Christ the King Lutheran Chapel located on the Central Michigan University campus. He is a graduate of Concordia Seminary (M.Div.) and received his bachelor’s degree from Concordia University-Ann Arbor in Christian Thought and Theological Languages. He served three years in the Army prior to seminary and is married to his wife, Emilia, who emigrated from Finland. What makes Pastor Ricky a “geek” is his affinity for video games, literature, and anime. 

This article was edited to Geeks Under Grace standards, and the personal opinions of this author are not necessarily that of Geeks Under Grace.

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