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Forgive me if this has already been discussed ad-nauseum on some Times and Seasons post I was too lazy to wade through...

But is Mormonism currently in the tricky position of being obliged to defend early Gnosticism against the charges of heresy (leveled by early Christian heresiologists such as Irenaeus) in order to secure it's own claim as being a "legitimate Christian faith?"

Basically, in defending Mormonism's birthright as "Christian," are we required to debunk the idea that Gnosticism was actually ever "heretical?"

Seth, from my own reading it isn't about defending them as not heretical. Plenty of Mormons who have talked about them have already agreed they were heretical. Only a few who take apologetics too far (and a few who have criticized the Church) have compared the two as equals.

Interesting enough, it has been the more intellectual and academic who have argued the Gnostics were NOT heretical. Their argument is fair, if not agreeable, and that is Orthodox Christianity was no more popular and extant than any of the other movements until Constantine. The others were not abnormal, just losers in the battle over Christianity.

In fact, it is along those lines that Mormons should express themselves. The First and Second Centuries were filled with far more acceptance of differences in Christian beliefs than today. In other words, as has been said long before the Gnostic interest, doctrine is the least important definition of Christianity beyond the belief in Jesus Christ as Savior (whatever that might mean). A good read on this is "The Lost Christianities: The Battles for Scripture and the Faiths We Never Knew" by by Bart D. Ehrman. In other words, Christianity has the possibility to be a much more open tent than the current closed one. You can always declare yourself the TRUE Christianity, but more as a personal viewpoint than a definitional proclamation.

Did this book on vanished Christianities deal with the Christianity that spread east? In The Travels of Marco Polo, there are reports of Christian communities all the way to China. Nestorians are one particular group that Marco identified, and he recounted some tales of Moslem antagonisms against Christians. While the Tartars remained the ruling power, though, varied religions were unmolested, at least by any central authority. (Whatever resentments any Moslems hold against Europe for the Crusades and explusion from Spain ought to be fairly minor compared to remembrance of what the Mongols did.) Kublai Khan was reported to think well of Christianity, but I didn't come away with much idea what he knew of it. He hoped it could free him from the court astrologers.

At any rate, Marco Polo gave me a glimpse of a vanished branch of Christianity.

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