Secondly, the last two decades have seen the unearthing of ancient evidence of real Christian debate and division in the early church. The discovery of the so-called Gnostic Gospels and the more recent discovery of the Gospel of Judas, has helped ordinary Christians see that the doctrinally correct history of the church as an unbroken arc of orthodoxy from St Peter to Benedict is historically false. ~Andrew Sullivan

Our familiarity with early disputes in the Church can be found in such strange and obscure sources as the Acts of the Apostles and the Epistles of St. Paul, in which there is a fair amount of recording disputation, confusion and disorder. These were not, however, Good Things, and the successful condemnation and refutation of the more ludicrous heterodoxies were vital to the defense and perpetuation of a secure and true account of the Gospel. This might throw a wrench in works of Andrew “But now we know the truth” Sullivan.

Update: Amy Welborn made a similar point very nicely here.

But Sullivan marches bravely on:

But once you realize that even those who knew Jesus offered radically different interpretations of what he meant and said, your faith shifts a little.

What can this statement mean? Who are these folks “who knew Jesus” that he is discussing? Not the Gnostics, that’s for sure. Those folk are a second century phenomenon, pure and simple. I suppose the Pharisees and Sadducees knew Jesus in some superficial way and had a different take on Him, but normally we don’t credit them with a lot of authority on the matter. Does it matter to Sullivan that no one on any side of these debates thought wild doctrinal diversity to be desirable?

But here’s a question: why are the canonical Gospels the most authoritative accounts for Sullivan? The Church affirmed that they were authoritative, which involves all sorts of claims about the Spirit’s presence in the Church and the continued inspiration of the successors of the Apostles and so on, but what about all those folks with the different interpretations??Doesn’t Mr. Sullivan want to give them their due? If not, why not? Because they are heretics? Then why banter on about the falsity of claims in support of the continuity of orthodoxy, if orthodoxy remains a decisive standard? The problem with playing cute games with heretical material and making it seem so very “interesting” is that you prepare the way for your brethren to fall into the ditch. In this respect, Christians who toy around with Gnostic Gospels and give them much serious consideration are doing more damage than Dan Brown’s ludicrous deceptions.