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Penn State: the death of truth

Dr. Jim Denison is a cultural apologist who helps people respond biblically and redemptively to the vital issues of our day. He is also the co-founder and Chief Vision Officer of the Denison Forum, a Dallas-based nonprofit that comments on current issues through a biblical lens.

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A statue of former Penn State Football coach Joe Paterno stands outside Beaver Stadium on the Penn State campus Wedneday, July 11, 2012, in State College, Pa (Credit: Gene J Puskar / AP)

“Our most saddening and sobering finding is the total disregard for the safety and welfare of Sandusky’s child victims.  The most powerful men at Penn State failed to take any steps for 14 years to protect the children who Sandusky victimized.”  This accusation headlines the Penn State sexual abuse investigation that was made public yesterday.

Louis J. Freeh, a former federal judge and director of the F.B.I., led the investigation at Penn State’s request.  His work took seven months, involving more than 400 interviews and a review of more than 3.5 million documents.  It accuses former head coach Joe Paterno, the university’s former president, and others of deliberately hiding facts about Sandusky’s behavior over the years.

According to the investigation, Paterno knew as far back as 1998 that there were concerns Sandusky might be behaving inappropriately with children.  Paterno, through his family, insisted that he knew nothing about the 1998 case.  But Freeh’s report claims that the coach followed the investigation closely and participated in later cover-ups as well.  Freeh’s study concludes that “in order to avoid the consequences of bad publicity,” university leaders “repeatedly concealed critical facts related to Sandusky’s child abuse from the authorities, the board of trustees, the Penn State community and the public at large.”

Truth is negotiable in today’s culture.  For instance, Mike Tyson, the disgraced boxer, entertained late-night talk show viewers this week with his admission that he’s broke but living in a mansion.  “Only in America” can bankrupt people do that, he stated.  He described Real Housewives of New Jersey star Teresa Giudice and her husband in similar terms: “They look so good doing so bad.  The Giudices live in a $1.5 million mansion, but owe creditors nearly $11 million.

For decades our society has embraced the belief that all truth claims are personal and subjective.  Ethics are relative—no one has the right to tell you what to do, or so we think.  Now this substitution of appearance for truth is affecting and afflicting our culture in disastrous ways.

Christians today are like Noah of old.  He spent 100 years building the Ark that would save those willing to trust its provision.  All that time, he was “a preacher of righteousness” (2 Peter 2:5), warning his fallen culture of the judgment to come.  It has never been more important for Christians to speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15), speaking out for biblical morality and demonstrating its relevance in our personal lives.  Sandusky’s victims are just the most public examples of a dark world in desperate need of the light we alone possess (Matthew 5:14-16).  Will those you meet today see that light in you?