A Whole Village…Really? A Nockian observation in memory of Pr. Jim Stone

As advice to middle aged reactionaries, Dr. Bruce Charlton has written, ‘Don’t read: re-read. (You have already read what you need to know.)’

A recent experience put into mind Mr. Nock’s memoirs.

I recently got news about a small village of which I had fond recollections. In years past, this village was the home of an elderly mendicant who had been trained in the highest arts of his rebellious Christian sect. He had taken his position and its responsibilities seriously. However, as time pasted and the dragon’s breath of Gresham’s Law took its toll on his rulers, he was pastured without pasturage. Thus, when we met his teeth were long in the mendicancy that was his burden.

While he lived in this village and took part in the villager’s lives, he continued to ply his vocation, abet in a more degraded state. In his wisdom he knew the results of his kind of work were difficult to measure. But the villagers were kind, the conversation congenial and the weather mild. This is as it was when I found him.

As I sat at his feet, we would sharpen each other. He found great pleasure in tempering my steel. Our conversations would range over much territory and occasionally on the situation in the village. From him I learned that the villagers had some religious leanings. However, as he noted, it was indeterminate at best and down right bestial at worst.

He has sense gone on to better things and although I have much to say about this grand old man, it is the village that concerns me today. It seems that the entire village has been converted to Christianity. The news about the village was enthusiastically exclaimed by a villager with whom I am acquainted. As with Mr. Nock, a chill coursed through me at the proclamation.

Mr. Nock continues,

“If it meant one thing, it was such an enormous pretension that I could hardly imagine a person of any delicacy who knew its implications would dare to advance it. If it meant another, on would hardly know how seriously to take it… a better informed person might find that the statement pointed at something mostly meaningless or even largely stultifying.”

Like Mr. Nock’s character, my villager was serious enough. Again, following Mr. Nock, I thought the question whether a village is or is not religious is hard enough to answer; and given that things have degraded since Mr. Nock’s time, the question of whether and entire village is or is not Christian is impossible to answer categorically; “the answer might mean anything or nothing.”

Defining terms has never been high on the list of important qualities found among enthusiast. So, I not dwell on the embarrassing truth. Suffice it to say that the villagers feel good about themselves, they remain kind and congenial and everything continues as it was. Because they are a very prosperous and secure village, they have never considered what Jesus has said and St. Mark recorded at the end of his eighth chapter.

And when he had called the people unto him with his disciples also, he said unto them, Whosoever will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it; but whosoever shall lose his life for my sake and the gospel’s, the same shall save it. For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul? Whosoever therefore shall be ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation; of him also shall the Son of man be ashamed, when he cometh in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.

It may be said that I am being too hard on these modern villagers. Perhaps that is true, but that complaint was lodged against my Master as well. Never the less, there it is. As Professor Daniel Deutschlander says about Jesus; “He asks and he insists on it: Deny yourself, and take up the cross and follow me. He asks and he insists on it: Be a Christian!”

That is all well and good. And yet, as Mr. Nock notes, if a person “took these matters as stated, and he faithfully followed out their prescriptions …in the first century and probably in the second, he would have passed muster as a Christian.” He continues by writing, it “has been done and is being done; mainly, as is natural, in an inconspicuous way by inconspicuous persons…”

They are there as a substratum of right thinking and well doing, but as the Old Testament prophets found, they are difficult to find and impossible to know. Except that they are despised and persecuted since they have no substance in this world. They can not be found in villages where prosperity and security is the main. Suffer they must and suffer they will, until Judgment Day.

Yes, there are Christians in the world and they form the hidden church, the saving remnant. I am glad for it. The villagers in question have not yet arrived. I do wish them well.


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