Rationalizing Sin


God designed us to be seekers of good, seekers of glory. Sin distorts and corrupts this seeking, but it does not obliterate or remove it. This is why human beings cannot do an evil act unless we convince ourselves that what we are doing is good. In other words, to be a fallen human is to be a rationalizer of sin. We invent reasons to justify our wantings.

Now God has given us a conscience, which acts as a check on this kind of rationalization. But the conscience can be calloused, suppressed, even seared. This often occurs with the aid of other people. “If everybody’s doing it,” we think, “then it can’t really be evil.” This is one of the reasons why sin seeks partners in crime, why we seek to enlist others to join us in our evil acts.

We make a deceptive agreement with each other in order to suppress our conscience and continue with our desires: “Let’s join one another in sin. It doesn’t even have to be the same sin. You do your sin. I’ll do mine. But neither of us will call it sin. I will not condemn you, if you will not condemn me.” Portions of contemporary American society are built on this devil’s bargain. It’s part of what animates the modern notion of tolerance. Our refusal to judge or condemn someone else’s actions is an attempt to protect ourselves from the same judgment. It’s a perversion of “Judge not, lest ye be judged.”

But, as one author notes, in order for this deception to work, there can be no dissent. Everyone must get with the program. Everyone must acknowledge the rationalization. No one must stand out from the crowd.

For the time that is past suffices for doing what the Gentiles want to do, living in sensuality, passions, drunkenness, orgies, drinking parties, and lawless idolatry. With respect to this, they are surprised when you do not join them in the same flood of debauchery, and they malign you…(1 Pet. 4:3–4).

The need for total rationalization accounts for society’s anger at faithful Christians. We refuse to make the bargain. We won’t join them in the debauchery, and so they malign us. We continue to preach the reality of sin and call for repentance, we seek to live upright and godly lives, and this punctures the fantasy world they have rationalized into existence.

This explains the peer pressure of a junior high locker room and a workplace lunchroom at Disney. This is why bakers and florists must be compelled to join celebrations that are an offense to God. Their public refusal threatens the societal rationalization. It’s why, no matter how kind and winsome you are, you may lose friendships simply because you seek to follow and obey Jesus. An upright and godly life is a reminder of God’s design and a visceral challenge to the fantasy world. 

And, most importantly for us at Bethlehem College & Seminary, it’s why we are seeking to graduate from our college mature adults who are ready to witness for Christ with wisdom and wonder for the rest of their lives. It’s why at our seminary we aim to produce mature leaders who are ready to shepherd God’s flock with biblical clarity and Christ-exalting affection. We know that churches and communities that accommodate one sin inevitably begin to accommodate many more. If we begin to slide down the slope of rationalization, we will increasingly pick up speed. 

And so, with your help, we are committed to cultivating Christian maturity and resilience rooted in an Education in Serious Joy. 

Clinging to Jesus with you,

Joe Rigney, PhD


Prayer Requests:

  1. Pray that we each would be faithful Christians obeying Christ and reflecting him to the world.
  2. Pray that the class of 2022 would finish their educational course well—with perseverance and joy.
  3. We have three months remaining in our fiscal year. Currently, 89 Serious Joy Scholarships remain to be funded. Our streamlined operations depend upon God’s provision through contributions to the Serious Joy Scholarship. Pray that God would supply our needs in Christ Jesus. And then perhaps consider whether you or someone you know might resonate with our vision for Education in Serious Joy and be led to contribute.
  4. Pray that God would bring us full cohorts of the students he intends to grow and use for his glory at Bethlehem.