The media has a fascination with Gnostic myths (the latest being the false "Gospel of Judas") that date to the early centuries of Christianity, as if these heresies are something new--which they definitely are not. Princeton Professor Elaine Pagels adds fuel to the fire by making ambiguous and superficial comments to the media that may mislead unwary readers into thinking that somehow the fact that the early Church struggled with heretics from day one is a new or even significant discovery.
In one comment, she celebrated how Gnostic documents undermine the so-called myth of a monolithic Christianity (see N.Y. Times Op-Ed article, April 8, 2006). That is an absurd comment. Everyone who reads the New Testament and the early Church Fathers knows that the Church was faced with heresy from the very beginning. The true Church is indeed "monolithic" (if you care to use that term) in a deeper, non-trivial sense: the Church is built on the one rock of Peter ("monolithic" literally means in Greek "one stone") which rests, in turn, on the cornerstone that is Jesus Christ. But, from the very first, some within and many more on the edges of the Church rejected the true faith, the one cornerstone of the Church. By such rejection, they separated themselves from the cornerstone which is Jesus Christ (cp. Ephesians 2:20; 1 Peter 2:1-8). Individuals and sects come and go throughout Christian history, but the Church remains "monolithic" in the deepest sense of the term. The superficial use of "monolithic" by Prof. Pagels trivializes the reality.
Here are some New Testament excerpts that illustrate the reality of heresy in the early Church which in no way breaks the one deeply "monolithic" truth preached by the Church (all excerpts are from the English Standard Version translation):
1.) In 1 Timothy 4:1-5, we have a direct hit against the spirit of Gnosticism (the heresy based on private revelations of secret knowledge and which tended to condemn the human body and the rest of physical creation as evil):
"Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons, through the insincerity of liars whose consciences are seared, who forbid marriage and require abstinence from foods that God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth. For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, for it is made holy by the word of God and prayer."
2.) In 2 Timothy 4:3-4: "For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths."
3.) In 2 Corinthians 11:13-15: "For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. So it is no surprise if his servants, also, disguise themselves as servants of righteousness. Their end will correspond with their deeds."
4.) In 1 John 2:18-19: "Children, it is the last hour, and as you have heard that antichrist is coming, so now many antichrists have come. Therefore we know that it is the last hour. They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us."
5.) 2 John 7-11: "For many deceivers have gone out into the world, those who do not confess the coming of Jesus Christ in the flesh. Such a one is the deceiver and the antichrist. Watch yourselves, so that you may not lose what we have worked for, but may win a full reward. Everyone who goes on ahead and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God. Whoever abides in the teaching has both the Father and the Son. If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not receive him into your house or give him any greeting, for whoever greets him takes part in his wicked works."
6.) 3 John 9-10: "I have written something to the church, but Diotrephes, who likes to put himself first, does not acknowledge our authority. So if I come, I will bring up what he is doing, talking wicked nonsense against us. And not content with that, he refuses to welcome the brothers, and also stops those who want to and puts them out of the church."
7.) Jude 16: "These are grumblers, malcontents, following their own sinful desires; they are loud-mouthed boasters, showing favoritism to gain advantage."
There are many more instances in the New Testament that you yourself can find of the true "monolithic" Church marking herself off from heretics. But I doubt that most reporters can challenge or even desire to challenge the ambiguous, misleading superficialities and banalities of Prof. Pagels. The ratings require superficiality.