Yancey on the need for an absolute standard


Vanishing GraceI want to share the following passage from Philip Yancey’s book Vanishing Grace:

The poet W. H. Auden, who left Europe in the 1930’s to escape the looming war, found his entire outlook shaken as he sat in a Manhattan theater watching newsreels of German atrocities. His belief in the goodness of human beings collided with the evidence of appalling evil flashing before him. He concluded, ‘If I was to say that was evil, I had to have a standard by which to do so. I didn’t have one . . . I’d spent all my adult life was an intellectual, destroying the absolutes, and now suddenly I needed one to be able to say that this was wrong.’

Auden left the cinema in search of some absolute, one stronger than liberal humanism, that would condemn the Nazis as well as defend their victims. He soon made his way to Christian faith. Only God could ask human beings, as he later said in a poem, to ‘love your crooked neighbor with your crooked heart.’

I like the last line. Not only does Christianity provide an answer to the evil that surrounds me, it provides an answer the evil that resides in my own heart.