Reading the news, you might well conclude that the 2010s are the decade of cheating. Dozens of runners allegedly broke the eligibility rules to enter the 2015 Boston Marathon. In 2012, 125 of the students in a Harvard University government class—with 279 students total—were accused of cheating, and 70 were eventually forced to withdraw from Harvard altogether. In 2015, the hacking of Ashley Madison’s website (“Life is short. Have an affair”) uncovered 37 million users worldwide.

The world of sports has provided seemingly endless examples. In 2013 Lance Armstrong admitted that he had cheated, for decades, while bicycling. Alex Rodriguez missed the whole 2014 Major League Baseball season for cheating. Russian weightlifters were banned from the 2016 Rio Olympic Games—and though Russia’s Olympic delegation barely escaped a blanket ban for that nation’s history of cheating, the same was not true for the Paralympic Games that followed the Olympics, where the entire Russian team was banned.

And lest we Christians congratulate ourselves, in recent years various Christian leaders have spent money given for disaster relief on their own property (the pastors of Glad Tidings Tabernacle in New York City), signed contracts to inflate their apparent book sales (Seattle pastor Mark Driscoll), and betrayed others’ trust (too many times and in too many ways to name).

The sheer volume of these cases is enough to make us despair about human character—even if we didn’t have ample evidence from our own, more or less spectacular, moments of dishonesty. Maybe we are all, deep down, just dishonest people.

But we don’t just have to speculate. We live in the age of social psychology, ...

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