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The Internal Crisis The Gnostic

In the second century the Church passed through an internal crisis even
more trying than the great persecutions of the following centuries and
with results far more momentous. Of the conditions making possible such a
crisis the most important was absence in the Church of norms of faith
universally acknowledged as binding. Then, again, many had embraced
Christianity without grasping the spirit of the new religion. Nearly all
interpreted the Christian faith more or less according to their earlier
philosophical or religious conceptions; e.g., the apologists within the
Church used the philosophical Logos doctrine. In this way arose numerous
interpretations of Christian teaching and perversions of that teaching,
some not at all in harmony with the generally received tradition. These
discordant interpretations or perversions are the heretical movements of
the second century. They varied in every degree of departure from the
generally accepted Christian tradition. Some, like the earlier Gnostics (
21), and even the greater Gnostic systems ( 22), at least in their
esoteric teaching, show that their principal inspiration was other than
Christian; others, as the Gnosticism of Marcion ( 23) and the
enthusiastic sect of the Montanists ( 25), seem to have built largely
upon exaggerated Christian tenets, contained, indeed, in the New
Testament, but not fully appreciated by the majority of Christians; or
still others, as the Encratites ( 24), laid undue stress upon what was
generally recognized as an element of Christian morality.

The principal source materials for the history of Gnosticism and other
heresies of this chapter may be found collected and provided with
commentary in Hilgenfeld, Ketzergeschichte des Urchristenthums, Leipsic,

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